2:00PM Water Cooler 6/16/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Still in London. Labor power is expensive here by world standards:

Here, there’s one guy and a lot of heavy-duty scaffolding. In Southeast Asia, there’d be twenty migrant laborers in shorts, flip-flops, and brightly colored contractor T-shirts, and the scaffolding would be airy and thin, maybe even bamboo.

Trade

Massive release of position papers on NAFTA [Public Citizen].

“As part of Dodd-Frank, rules were put in place to address potential conflict minerals (coltan, tantalum, tin, tungsten, gold) and whether they were coming from or near the Democratic Republic of the Congo and benefitting armed groups there. The rules required retailers to disclose any potential conflict minerals in their products. Last week, however, the current administration passed the Financial CHOICE Act, which would repeal Dodd-Frank, taking conflict minerals regulation with it” [Sourcing Journal].

“White House officials on Thursday said [the Administration’s] new [Cuba] policy will prohibit U.S. companies from direct financial transactions with companies controlled by Cuban military and intelligence services. The policy will also tighten travel to the island by eliminating self-initiated tours that all but opened up Cuba to American tourists. Tourism is banned by federal law, but the Obama administration had allowed individuals to plan their own trips, as opposed to group excursions, to Cuba as long as they planned a full itinerary of educational exchange activities, though there has been little to no enforcement of these requirements” [Politico].

“‘You have promised the American people a ‘Buy American’ trade policy and we would urge you to follow through on this commitment and close this loophole by removing the government procurement chapter from NAFTA in order to restore American manufacturing and ensure that taxpayer dollars are used to create jobs in the United States,’ [ Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Jeff Merkley] wrote” [Politico].

Politics

2020

“Bernie Sanders, 2020 frontrunner” [McClatchy]. “But a weekend gathering of several thousand liberal activists served as a reminder that if the independent senator from Vermont runs, he’ll be a formidable contender — one powered by the party’s ascendant progressive class, which thinks a demoralized Democratic Party has nowhere else to turn after choosing and losing with the more centrist Hillary Clinton.” I’m not so sure. Moses didn’t cross over into the promised land, after all.

“Jeff Merkley isn’t on the 2020 radar — and that might be part of the plan” [CNN]. “Jeff Merkley, the soft-spoken Democrat, has a way of sneaking up on people, both in casual settings and more formally in his political career. He may not be the most bombastic personality in the room, but he’s managed to maneuver his way from a blue-collar neighborhood in Portland — where he still lives — to the Oregon House to the US Senate, without losing a race. And as 2020 approaches, he might be quietly mounting a bid to run for president in what will likely be a crowded Democratic primary. ‘If Jeff doesn’t feel that there is a strong progressive voice in the race, it would motivate him to get in,’ said a source close to the senator. ‘He’s committed to making sure Democrats have a progressive choice.'” Sounds good, but Merkely doesn’t support #MedicareForAll, so how is he a progressive?

“McAuliffe looks past the Clintons, toward 2020” [Politico]. “McAuliffe still talks to Bill Clinton every day, sometimes several times a day. They’ve talked in passing about a White House run. … McAuliffe has his own PAC, and his own plans: throwing himself behind the winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary for the job he can’t run for again (which would be an important way of protecting a record he’d want to run on), spending all of next year campaigning for Democratic gubernatorial candidates around the country (which just might give him important beachheads ahead of 2020), urging his party away from the purity-test purge that’s all the rage these days (which would help protect him from the inevitable attacks that he’s not a true progressive, in touch with the presidential base)” [Politico]. Maybe we should add losing the House, the Senate, the Presidency, the Supreme Court, most governorships, and most state legislatures to the purity test list? It would certainly filter out a lot of the riff-raff….

2018

“The oth­er thing to watch on a daily basis is wheth­er con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans are build­ing a port­fo­lio of ac­com­plish­ments that they can sell back home, par­tic­u­larly if they come up short on most of the big-tick­et prom­ises that they had touted so loudly: re­peal­ing and re­pla­cing Obama­care, tax re­form, ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing, and the bor­der wall. If Trump’s ap­prov­al rat­ings are as low in 16 months as they are now, their lists of ac­com­plish­ments will need to be pretty im­press­ive” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. You’d think that after eight years out of power, policy wonk Paul Ryan would have had an entire legislative agenda road-tested and ready to go. No such luck (fortunately for us). To be fair, nuking a lot of state power through failure to fill slots, executive orders, and the rollback of rules and regulations — where the Trump administration seems to be accomplishing a lot, if accomplishing is the word I want — appeals to hates of big gummit, like the Freedom Caucus. But that’s only part of Trump’s base, and at the margin, Trump’s voters wanted him to deliver, which so far he has not done.

The same point in different words: “So much is happening in Washington and yet nothing is happening at all. The investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 campaign continues to get lots of attention (and produce a lot of leaks), but it’s not likely to come to a conclusion anytime soon. Republicans fret privately about the president and publicly lament his lack of Twitter discipline, yet they show no signs of abandoning him. The imminent White House shake-up (Reince is out! Bannon is out!) has yet to materialize. And, the GOP-led government has yet to produce any significant legislative accomplishments. Meanwhile, President Trump’s lack of message discipline continues to undercut his agenda and his own political standing” [Amy Walter, Cook Poltiical Report]. “There’s no border wall. No tax reform. No health care reform. No infrastructure bill. No budget. The House-passed health care bill is wildly unpopular. The travel ban is still stuck in the courts.” So much winning!

2017

GA-06: “Though single-payer health care has become a new rallying point within [some factions of the Democrat –lambert] the party, Ossoff said in an interview that he doesn’t support ‘any move toward single-payer when we need to be focused on what’s achievable’ on health care policy” [Poltico]. Shorter Ossoff: “Never, ever.” And: “‘Sadly, thousands of progressives have given lots of money to someone who opposes a popular program central to progressives,’ said Michael Lighty, the policy director of National Nurses United, on Ossoff’s rejection of a single-payer plan, calling it ‘another example of how corporate Democrats misread voters and align with the health care industry over patients.” Well played, progressives!

GA-06: “As grim confidential polling data circulates among GOP strategists, interviews with nearly two dozen Republican operatives and officials reveal that they are preparing for the possibility of an unnerving defeat that could spur lawmakers to distance themselves from Trump and his already-troubled legislative agenda, and potentially encourage a wave of retirements” [Politico].

VA: “The Northam v. Perriello primary became a contest between the Democratic establishment and progressives (the Sanders/Warren wing). At least that’s how progressives and many in the media portrayed it. There has been much speculation about what Northam’s solid victory means for progressives. The answer is nothing. Yes, Perriello was the more progressive candidate, but his loss had much more to do with campaign fundamentals than it did with ideology” [Cook Political Report]. “Northam, 57 and a pediatric neurosurgeon who served in the state Senate before being elected Lieutenant Governor, essentially announced his candidacy early in 2015 and spent the next two years raising money, putting together an organization and securing just about every meaningful endorsement, including outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe and U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. By contrast, Perriello announced his candidacy in January of this year and started from scratch in terms of fundraising and organization. By the time he got in, the path to the nomination had become extremely narrow. There is little doubt that Perriello wanted to focus on progressive issues, but he drew few real contrasts with Northam.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Rage Is All the Rage, and It’s Dangerous” [Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal (via)]. “What we are living through in America is not only a division but a great estrangement. It is between those who support Donald Trump and those who despise him, between left and right, between the two parties, and even to some degree between the bases of those parties and their leaders in Washington.” (I disgree with Noonan’s binary thinking. She conflates liberals with the left.) And:

[T]he problem is that, for a confluence of reasons, our country is increasingly populated by the not fully stable. They aren’t excited by wit, they’re excited by violence—especially unstable young men. They don’t have the built-in barriers and prohibitions that those more firmly planted in the world do. That’s what makes violent images dangerous and destructive. Art is art and censorship is an admission of defeat. Good judgment and a sense of responsibility are the answer.

That’s what we’re doing now, exciting the unstable—not only with images but with words, and on every platform. It’s all too hot and revved up. This week we had a tragedy. If we don’t cool things down, we’ll have more.

And:

And was anyone surprised? Tuesday I talked with an old friend, a figure in journalism who’s a pretty cool character, about the political anger all around us. He spoke of ‘horrible polarization.’ He said there’s ‘too much hate in D.C.’ He mentioned ‘the beheading, the play in the park’ and described them as ‘dog whistles to any nut who wants to take action.’

‘Someone is going to get killed,’ he said.

That was 20 hours before the shootings in Alexandria, Va.

Of course, Noonan’s expressions of concern are richly ironic (which does not mean that her concerns are unrealistic). They are also incomplete. “Hate” is only appropriate word for what the Republicans engineered for the Clintons in the impeachment saga of the 90s. (And showing that hate, once created, is not destroyed, but is rather an asset to be seized, Democrat strategists in Obama’s faction redeployed the hateful tropes Republicans developed to attack the Clintons in election 2008.) Hate is good for clicks. Hate is good for fund-raising. Hate solidifies the base. Hate demands consultants and mercenaries. Strategic hate management is a self-licking ice cream cone! After all, look at the Balkans! Or Syria. Or Iraq. Perhaps the Democrat Establishment is merely emulating the Republican success, and both have adopted the imperial tactics of The Blob, and brought the war home. After all, why not?

Stats Watch

Housing Starts, May 2017: “The bad economic news keeps building, this time in the housing sector. Housing starts fell an unexpected 5.5 percent in May to a far lower-than-expected annualized rate of 1.092 million with permits likewise very weak, down 4.9 percent to a 1.168 million rate” [Econoday]. “All components show declines.” And: “There has been further evidence that shortages of labour and a limited number of available building plots has curbed construction activity as overall confidence amongst home-builders has remained at historically high levels. If supply issues dominate, then further declines in activity should be limited with upward pressure on costs” [Economic Calendar]. And: “This is a weak report” [Calculated Risk]. But: “The nature of this industry normally has large variations from month to month (mostly due to weather) so the rolling averages are the best way to view this series – and it shows permits growing, and completions also growing” [Econintersect]. “Looking at residential construction employment, the year-over-year growth of employment is almost correlating with housing starts.”

Consumer Sentiment, June 2017 (preliminary): “In the least optimistic reading since the November election, the preliminary June consumer sentiment index fell to a much lower-than-expected 94.5” [Econoday]. “The report notes that this month’s decline reflects easing confidence among both Republicans and Democrats.” And: “There was a significant drop in confidence late in the survey period and overall optimism has faded despite a strong labour market” [Economic Calendar]. “Partisan differences persisted with Democrats generally still uneasy surrounding proposed economic policies while Republicans were concerned over that the chances of tax reforms being passed appeared to have declined.”

Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations, June 2017: “Inflation expectations among businesses are unchanged this month at a modest year-on-year rate of 2.0 percent” [Econoday]. “Price expectations, both in this report and on the consumer side, have been muted which may limit the Federal Reserve’s ability to reinflate the economy.”

Retail: “Amazon to buy Whole Foods Market in deal valued at $13.7 billion” [WaPo]. “”Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue,” said Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)” So is there a reason we can’t get a qualifier like “The Central Intelligence agency has been satisfying, delighting, and nourishing American customers since 1947” under every single WaPo story where access journalists quote anonymous intelligence officials as their sources, given that Amazon, of which Jeffrey P. Bezos is the founder and CEO, has a $700 million contract to deliver cloud services to those famous 17 intelligence agencies through the CIA?

Retail: “How Amazon Buyout of Whole Foods Challenges Wal-Mart” [247 Wall Street]. “Whole Foods Market Inc. shares were halted in early trading Friday after some earth-shattering news hit the market. Amazon.com Inc. is making an incredibly ambitious purchase and buying out the organic grocer. While this is shocking, it is no doubt Amazon’s brick-and-mortar challenge against the likes of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kroger Co…. On Thursday, Kroger reported its most recent quarterly results, which met expectations but guidance prompted an industrywide sell-off. The future of the industry already has been called in to question, namely if there are too many stores out there or if trends with millennials are leading away from buying groceries in stores. Amazon seems to be solving both these problems by helping to consolidate the industry, and with its current model it could potentially ship groceries or even integrate with its Prime service. Either way, this is a huge shock to Wal-Mart, Kroger and other grocers in the space.” I dunno. I don’t see how Whole Paycheck challenges Wal-Mart. Makes me wonder if the real point is Whole Foods real estate, as opposed to their brand?

Retail: “‘Consumer Reports’ Rates Samsung Galaxy S8 as Top Smartphone” [Teen Vogue]. “The Samsung S8 Plus received accolades for its lens that competes with that of a professional camera since it enhances low light. Its thin body (not to body shame the iPhone or anything) means one-hand multitasking with ease. Its extended battery life that has lasted up to 26 hours is a no-brainer necessity during long days out in summer festival season. Going to end up running through sprinklers, too? It’s water-resistant for that.” Wake up, Tim!

Shipping: “The US Coast Guard says there is no longer any threat posed to the port of Charleston by suspect containers on board a Maersk boxship” [Lloyd’s Loading List]. “A one nautical mile safety zone was put in place to cordon off the vessel while law enforcement authorities carried out checks, according to South Carolina Ports Authority, which operates the facilities at Charleston.” Only a mile? That’s a relief. Not that I’m foily.

Shipping: “Mega container ships may not be translating into far bigger volume for U.S. West Coast ports. The growth in container throughput at California’s neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach slowed sharply in May… even as imports at Georgia and Virginia jumped at a rapid rate. The gap opened as the number of megaship arrivals at the West Coast ports has doubled since the beginning of the year” [Wall Street Journal]. The apparent shift in Asia-US supply chain routes comes after two new global shipping alliances launched in April, reducing the number of major alliances from four to three, which are deploying more megaships on major routes. The Georgia and Virginia port authorities hosted their first megaship in May–a 13,000-TEU COSCO vessel that was the largest container ship to transit the Panama Canal since its expansion. The arrival of bigger ships on the East Coast together with the shake-up in the shipping industry may be triggering a new structure in volume flows for the ocean lines and their customers’ supply chains.

Airlines: “The number of complaints filed against airlines rose 70% in April, compared with the same month of last year. This may be due to passenger injuries, a passenger being dragged off a United Continental Holdings Inc., and other very visible incidents that make the industry look cruel and calculating. However, none of this has hurt airline stock prices in the past year. The stocks of large carriers are up 50% to 80%. Why? Mostly low fuel costs and rising seat demand. Investors view bad PR as a small blip on the radar” [247 Wall Street]. And/or investors believe that being “cruel and calculating” is a positive good.

The Bezzle: “But what may hurt most of all is that Uber has lost the sense of inevitability that was its most sustainable competitive advantage” [MarketWatch]. “And that means the people who established Uber’s real edge won’t be there when Apple, Tesla, General Motors GM-Lyft and others are redefining the business to accommodate driverless cars… What Uber is trying is easy to say and hard to do, as the company has proven already…. Director David Bonderman resigned after making a dumb, sexist joke at Tuesday’s event to roll out Uber’s more-civilized workplace. And Bonderman, like every other director, voted for Holder’s recommendations. He just demonstrated how much work remains between talking the talk and walking the walk. That it’s hard won’t be lost on investors called upon to fund the next round of Uber’s losses. That’s particularly so as Uber’s hard-charging ways are reined in and its aura of inevitability shattered, leaving just numbers that point to a company that is fast-rising, but nowhere near fully baked.” Could it be that VCs love founder bros, but founder bros are often bad bets? Never send a butcher to do a baker’s job….

The Bezzle: “A former managing director of Julius Baer pleaded guilty Thursday to a money laundering conspiracy in the DOJ’s prosecution of corruption in soccer’s international governing body” [FPCA Blog].

The Bezzle: “London Finance Workers Describe A Local Culture That Sounds Like A Mashup Between 1980s Wall Street And Dante’s Inferno” [DealBreaker]. ” If the HR manager thinks that The City is a black hellscape, imagine how the traders feel. Or the people trapped inisde the labyrinthine netherworld of eternal torment that is London’s UBS HQ.”

Political Risk: “Qatar crisis a stress-test of the new world order” [Lloyd’s List]. “THE Qatar crisis has confirmed many apprehensions the shipping industry had at the start of this year. That old pillars of geopolitical stability can no longer be counted upon, old alliances that kept the peace are losing relevance, and Washington can no longer be trusted to intervene actively to resolve a global crisis, irrespective of whether it has a 10,000-strong military base in the country or not.”

Fodder for the Bulls: “Don’t Underestimate This U.S. Expansion: It’s Headed to a Record” [Bloomberg]. “Widely disdained for its relatively weak growth and pay gains, the expansion is about to complete its eighth year — and it’s headed to become the longest on record, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists. Respondents put a 60 percent probability, based on the median estimate, on the growth streak running through at least July 2019 and thereby reaching 121 months, topping the 10 years of gains during the 1990s.”

Fodder for the Bulls: “Members of the Lodging Industry Investment Council said there are still reasons for hope around the lodging industry even during what’s presumed to be the late point of the cycle” [Hotel News Notes]. “‘Looking at the big picture, we actually feel pretty good about the way the industry continues to react to overhanging supply issues and economic issues,’ said Robert Leven, chief investment officer for TPG Hospitality. ‘We continue to be reasonably surprised at the strength of the economy and the continued strength of demand.'”

Honey for the Bears: “May 2017 Import and Export Sea Containers Show Slowing Economy” [Econintersect]. “January was great. February was bad. March was good. April is ok. May is a mixed bag. Simply looking at this month versus last month – the growth rates slowed for both exports and imports. Imports did grow year-over-year but exports contracted. Looking at the three month rolling averages this month may be misleading as Febuary and March data were screwed up – and one really needs to average these two months [February was terrible for imports and fantastic for exports – March was the opposite]. The data is too noisy to only look at one month – maybe the year-to-date is the best metric this month [and it shows moderate deceleration in imports and a SIGNIFICANT deceleration in exports]. In general, there is bad news that both imports and exports are slowing – but as exports are slowing much faster than imports, the trade balance will worsen.” We also have the shipping lines consolidation to consider…

Honey for the Bears: “U.S. consumers may be taking a break from propping up the U.S. economy. Retail sales fell 0.3% in May, the biggest decline since January 2016… defying trends including low unemployment, a surging stock market and healthy late-spring imports by retailers. Although some of the decline reflected lower gasoline prices, sales suffered at big-box stores, car dealerships and electronics retailers” [Wall Street Journal]. Weird, considering the greatness of the economy. Could “consumers” be paying down debt?

Honey for the Bears: “The U.S. auto industry is bracing for a long, slow summer. General Motors Co. will extend its traditional seasonal shutdown at certain U.S. factories to deal with slumping sales and bloated inventory…, the latest sign that the industry is shifting into a lower production gear. That’s tough news from a field that’s provided the U.S. industrial sector much of its engine power in recent years but now is clearly pulling back” [Wall Street Journal]. “U.S. car sales, after hitting a record in 2016, have fallen nearly 2% over the past three months and automobiles are piling up at dealer lots. GM, with its inventory almost 44% higher from a year ago, will idle a factory near Kansas City, Kan., for five weeks starting this month, and may face more job cuts. Auto-related shipments at U.S. railroads are down nearly 5% this year through May and the downshifting at factories suggest the traffic won’t pick up anytime soon.”

The Fed: “Five reasons to doubt Yellen and the Fed’s wisdom” [Larry Summers, Financial Times]. “The Fed is not credible with the markets at this point. Its dots plots predict four rate increases over the next 18 months compared with the markets’ expectation of less than two…. The truth is that markets do not share the Fed’s view that inflation acceleration is a major risk. Indeed, they do not believe the Fed will attain its 2 percent inflation target for a long time to come.”

The Fed: “Lousy Pay Raise? That May Be as Good as It Gets” [Wall Street Journal]. “Minimal corporate pricing power, lackluster productivity growth and an aging workforce undercut employers’ ability to increase wages, complicating the Fed’s plans.” Employers to workers: “If only we could raise wages!” Really?

Five Horsemen: ” Amazon pips the pack with its Whole Fools Foods buyout” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Jun16

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 49 Neutral (previous close: 52, Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 54 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jun 16 at 10:46am.

Health Care

“$12 billion HHS budget cut will lead to better care, Price says” [Modern Health Care]. “To emphsize his point, Price highlighted the Medicaid program, which he called an outdated, one-size fits-all program. Converting the program to a per capita cap system as outlined under the American Health Care Act would give state the flexibility to create the coverage program they wish…. Price continued to evade questions on whether the Trump administration would continue to pay billions in cost sharing reductions to help people pay for coverage on the marketplaces. He has refused to answer similar questions from lawmakers during previous congressional hearings.”

“Follow The Money: The Flow Of Funds In The Pharmaceutical Distribution System” [Health Affairs].

Based on the results of our study, we explore a hypothetical scenario in which $100 is spent on prescription drugs acquired at a retail pharmacy using commercial insurance, using estimates of gross and net margins as a fraction of net revenues from companies’ 2015 SEC filings. Of a $100 expenditure on pharmaceuticals by consumers, roughly $58 goes to the manufacturer and $41 is captured by intermediaries. (Numbers do not sum to 100 due to rounding.) Of the $58 received by the manufacturer, $17 is spent on drug production and the remaining $41 is spent on other expenditures (such as marketing and R&D) or kept as net profit. Total net profit on a $100 expenditure is $23, of which $15 goes to manufacturers and the remaining $8 goes to intermediaries including $3 to insurers, $3 to pharmacies, and $2 to PBMs.

Class Warfare

“The Housing Recovery Is Leaving Out Most of America” [Bloomberg]. “For further evidence of the uneven recovery among U.S. housing markets, how’s this: In the 10 most expensive U.S. metropolitan areas, median home values have increased by 63 percent since 2000, after adjusting for inflation. In the 10 cheapest metros, median values rose by just 3.6 percent.”

News of the Wired

Thread (DK):

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here.

And here’s today’s plant (TF):

TF writes:

This is a plant shot in Isham Park on the northern tip of Manhattan (next to my building). The hills in the distance are Inwood Hill Park, beyond which is the Hudson River.

Isham Park was the site of a private residence 100+ years ago with two mansions (since demolished). The descendants of the Isham family ceded the property to the city of NY on condition it remain a park in perpetuity.

Not sure what the plant is. There were sunflowers on that spot last year, but that is not like any sunflower I’ve ever seen.

My sunflowers self-seeded brilliantly this year. The rest, not so much.

* * *

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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.

141 comments

  1. craazyboy

    Yer a workaholic Lambert!

    You should be sightseeing in London on your short vacation. At least take some Brit plant pics.

    Go see some real Royalty stuff, instead of the poseurs we have in America!

    Reply
        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Jim.

          NBC is televising the festival live.

          I am going on Friday and Saturday. The Heath is not far from home.

          Reply
      1. subgenius

        +1 for Kew

        Also check the galleries and museums. Ignore the rest (and take the train to Brighton for a refresher day)

        Reply
    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, CB.

      Trooping The Colour is tomorrow morning, 10:30 London time. The leading royals will be there.

      The Irish Guards are on parade. Their colonel is Prince William. He will be on a white horse.

      Reply
    2. CD

      Wonder if Lambert will look up Maria Gostrey in London.

      He might also get in touch with Marie de Vionnet in Paris. See how her side turned out.

      Reply
      1. subgenius

        Ohh – Apothecaries Garden…!

        DEFINITELY!

        Across the river from Battersea Park, nice and central…

        Reply
    1. doug

      I think common name in Germany translates to ‘king’s candles’? which I always thought was great description.

      Reply
    2. different clue

      If I had read the thread first, I would not have left my clearly-redundant comment at the bottom of the thread.

      Reply
  2. Jim Haygood

    London-based Matt King of Citibank charts the most important thing happening on the planet — central banks’ rampant ramping of markets:

    http://tinyurl.com/ybxrtrcl

    The left chart shows current record-breaking purchases by the ECB and BOJ winding down next year, as they literally run out of stuff to buy.

    In the right chart, the yield spread between investment grade and sovereign debt (blue line) is inverted, to emphasize that when central banks’ footprints are all over the bond market, risky debt gets driven up in price (down in yield) even more than government debt, considered the safest.

    King assails a couple of blind spots on the part of J-Yel, Draghi and Kuroda: (1) central banks tend to presume their impact is concentrated locally; we think it works globally. (2) central banks tend to assume that it is the stock of QE that is stimulative, when all our models suggest that it is the flow (or even the change in the flow).

    Why, then, isn’t the looming reduction in flow cratering runaway equity markets? King: “Our models suggest markets are unlikely to react until the reductions in purchases are actually implemented. This is in stark contrast to the widespread presumption of immediate and full discounting.”

    Well, that’s rather speculative. But no more speculative than J-Yel claiming that inflation is going to turn on a dime and accelerate, when it’s falling now. In the meantime, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is within reach of a new record high. Keep calm and party on.

    Reply
  3. Vatch

    Sounds good, but Merkely doesn’t support #MedicareForAll, so how is he a progressive?

    I visited your link, and I found this:

    Lowe says that one possible supporter of a single payer bill in the Senate is Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.

    “Now that three U.S. representatives from Oregon are co-sponsoring H.R. 676, it seems likely that a next step for Oregon single payer advocates at the national level will be to try to persuade Senator Jeff Merkley to sponsor or co-sponsor a single payer bill in the Senate,” Lowe said.

    “Jeff Merkley is one of the strongest progressive voices in the Senate. =Since he ran for U.S. Senate in 2008 he has consistently treated single payer advocates with respect, meeting with us personally and having staffers meet with us.”

    “In 2009, at a town hall held in a movie theater in Portland, hosted by Ed Schultz for his old radio show on Air America, I personally heard Merkley commit to voting for a single payer bill any time one came before him. He made similar promises around the state in that period.”

    “So I will be working with other Oregonians to persuade Senator Merkley either to sponsor a Senate counterpart to H.R. 676, which would be ideal, or to continue his cooperation with Senator Sanders by co-sponsoring Sanders’ promised Senate single payer bill,” Lowe said. “We will be urging both senators to raise up the visibility of the single payer idea, and to ensure that single payer advocates are included in all future public debates and hearings on health care.”

    It seems like he is closer to supporting it than most Senators. Perhaps he just needs a nudge from his constituents:

    Merkley, Jeff – (D – OR)
    313 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
    (202) 224-3753
    Contact: http://www.merkley.senate.gov/contact/

    Reply
    1. Oregoncharles

      Be serious. He’s not bad, as Democrats go, but he’s still a Democrat.

      (Admittedly, DeFazio appears to have changed his tune on 676 because of pressure at town halls, one of which I attended.)

      Reply
      1. Vatch

        Merkley is the only Senator (besides Sanders himself) who supported Sanders in the 2016 Presidential primaries. That suggests that he is willing to publicly disagree with the Democratic establishment. Plus, he’s not on the HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) committee, so he’s not likely to introduce such a bill. Sanders is on that committee, and waiting for his bill is becoming a bit frustrating.

        Reply
      1. Joel Caris

        Called, got voice mail, left a message urging him to support Medicare For All and asked for a call back to clarify whether or not he does support it. Not sure I’ll actually hear anything back, but will see about giving another call next week.

        I assume if Merkley does end up running, it’ll be because he sees an opportunity to gain the backing of the Sanders wing. If so, I would hope he’d not be so stupid as to think he could do that without supporting Medicare For All. But then, there’s no shortage of stupidity in the Senate, so we’ll see.

        All in all, though, I really like Merkley–certainly far better than Wyden. I’d be inclined to support him in the 2020 primary, depending on who else is in it. We’ll see, though. If he doesn’t support single payer, I won’t support him. It’s more or less a make or break issue for me at this point.

        Reply
    2. different clue

      Well , if he gets into the PrezPrimaries, I will see what he thinks and says about all different kinds of things and stuff. If he rejects Trade Treason Agreements and rejects any changes to Social Security, and supports me on some other important things, I may vote for him in the Mich Primary if there isn’t another runner who offers everything Merkely offers and Single Payer too.

      If Merkley is a Clintonite on war with Russia and supporting the Global Axis of Jihad and supporting the Cannibal Liver Eating Jihadis in Syria, then I won’t vote for him.

      Reply
  4. flora

    [Amy Walter, Cook Poltiical Report]. “There’s no border wall. No tax reform. No health care reform. No infrastructure bill. No budget. The House-passed health care bill is wildly unpopular. The travel ban is still stuck in the courts.”

    Adding to her list: There’s no TPP. No TTIP. No Social Security “grand bargain” (destruction).

    Reply
  5. Altandmain

    In regards to the NAFTA, I don’t like Trump, but he does have a very important point about free trade. They’ve fleeced people. It is not just manufacturing jobs, but also investor dispute (ISDS screws over taxpayers), corporate IP laws, labor laws, environmental laws, and a ton of other laws that screw people over.

    It’s a reflection of how the Democratic Party totally betrayed the New Deal that they are behind these.

    Here, there’s one guy and a lot of heavy-duty scaffolding. In Southeast Asia, there’d be twenty migrant laborers in shorts, flip-flops, and brightly colored contractor T-shirts, and the scaffolding would be airy and thin, maybe even bamboo.

    Considering the fatalities recently in London from a fire, I would hope that they are taking better measures in new buildings for fire safety.

    In regards to Labor – unions to the rescue:
    https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/06/16/labor-unions-to-the-rescue/

    On a personal note, I got rejected from 2 jobs in 2 weeks during interviews. The one that I told everyone about and another job.

    It’s one of those reasons these days why I get really, really ticked off if people say there is a shortage. There is no shortage when people like me in their 20s are up against experienced candidates for intermediate level positions. It’s naked class warfare IMO.

    No wonder there is so much support for the far right these days. Everyone knows that they are being lied to by the rich. We can only hope for another Roosevelt, but this time the reforms must go further than the post-WW2 did – we need workers to have a stake in the equity too.

    Reply
      1. Altandmain

        I’ve been rejected several times now.

        On the upside, this one was one where … well if I got it I would have kept looking.

        Reply
        1. anon

          This class war was going on long before you were born. Those of us in our 20’s during the late 1970’s had the same experience, only to keep hearing that it was “morning in America” through the 1980’s. But hundreds of cover letters and dozens of interviews later “the recovery” remained elusive. The business cycle has always been hardest on the young, because you own next to nothing and always have more to learn. That’s why the best advice I can give is to keep trying, but realize that everything you may try will be just as fiercely competitive, so you might as well follow your passion. Whatever you do: never give up. Don’t give the bastards the satisfaction. Besides, I’ve been around a while, and it seems to me that your generation — my kids’ generation — are destined to make a difference. The idiots on Wall Street may be betting on Amazon and neoliberalism, but I’m betting on all of you.

          Reply
    1. RUKidding

      Sorry about the lack of job offers. That really sucks.

      I’m witnessing friends of mine in my profession really fighting to get promotional positions, which are ever dwindling. These are people about a decade+ older than you, who have some pretty good experience under their belts.

      One friend has fingers crossed for what looks like a very promising job, but this is probably the 10th or 12th time she’s had interviews that seemed at least reasonably close but didn’t pan out. Been looking for well over 2 years (maybe 3).

      This person does have a job, at least, but it’s deadend, lousy workplace and pretty tenuous; could possibly disappear tomorrow.

      I’m seeing this across a number of fields with which I’m familiar.

      All this to say, when I hear these so-called “rosy” jobs predictions on the radio or whatever, I have to scoff. It’s just not true. And I’m mainly familiar with people who have good qualifications, good experience and are under 40 (ie, 40 being the new normal for being considered old).

      Wishing you all the best. It’s frustrating but hopefully something good will come through for you very soon.

      Reply
      1. JTFaraday

        I think it’s always been a bit hard to move up. The corporate structure is a pyramid. What people used to feel they could look forward to, was raises. But today they prefer their employees interchangeable and disposable, (because, I think, they’re not really paying attention).

        Reply
    2. Pictboy3

      I feel your pain. I drove 8 hours to interview with a firm I had interviewed with before after they emailed me out of the blue about a new job offer. They said they’d let me know by the end of the week, and after I had to prod them after 8 days or so, they told me they were going to wait a month or two and see if their caseload held up before hiring anyone.

      That was close to three months ago. I’m giving it to the end of the year, then I’m going to give up on a legal career and try something different. Good luck from a fellow 20 something.

      Reply
      1. gepay

        It’s not just the young. A fellow musician I know, in his late 50’s, was laid off from his surveying day job in 2008. He still has not found any reasonable work for any kind of reasonable pay for his experience. He has found some work here and there, away from his family in places that are no fun to be. Nothing steady. I have talked to older night desk clerks at motels whose health stories make me think they should be on disability rather than working.

        Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        What’s sad to me in these comments is the sad acceptance of the corporate meme — that you have to “fight for your job,” be willing to bend over and grab ’em, paint your face with that faux-confident smile and project all that willing competence, while convincing yourself that you are at war with other people who have been rendered desperate by the corporate bezzle, which leads to a search for scapegoat issues like “age segementation” as conveyed in this sad clip: “There is no shortage when people like me in their 20s are up against experienced candidates for intermediate level positions. It’s naked class warfare IMO.

        It’s class warfare all right, Altandmain, but like Warren Buffett said right out loud, “Of course there’s class warfare. My class, the right class, is waging it. And we’re winning (or was it “we have won”?)

        Know who the real enemy is. It’s not the dude or dude-ette with 10 years of time in grade on you. It’s a system that you have bought into and aspire to move up the ladder in, so you and the rest of those who might have fought their way aboard the insufficient set of lifeboats can use the oars to knock the desperate hands of the drowning mopes in the water off the gunwales. While the Elite comfortably sit in the captain’s launch, enjoying their canapes and champagne. And in the background, the ship that fortuity gave all of us to live on settles ever deeper in the back cold water…. And a few privileged upper level mopes get to bail the bilgewater out of the captain’s launch, in full obsequiousness…

        PS, I’ve been there and done a lot of that. When I graduated from law school in 1976, less than 15% of the graduates that year found employment in “the law.” I got lucky and found work in government service (at puny pay, compared to Big-Firm associates) and then postured and groveled my way into a position with a Not Big Enough Not To Be Eaten Major Law Firm. Worked myself out of a job. Then I went to nursing school.

        Reply
        1. Altandmain

          Yeah I agree it is the rich that are the problem.

          Senior management, the really rich shareholders, and well, the rich in general.

          Reply
      2. Altandmain

        I think that the fact that Yellen, Clinton, and the Washington Establishment are on another planet seems to have played a big role in electing Trump.

        The reality is that people need a restitution for theft from the very rich at this point. Over the past 40-50 years or so, all the productivity gains have gone to the rich and the common person is seeing their futures being destroyed so that the rich can get richer.

        Reply
      3. Cujo359

        What more do you people want?

        Full employment?

        It just drives me crazy that there are so many things that need doing in America (and elsewhere), and yet we can’t seem to employ people doing them. Educating children, replacing dirty energy sources with cleaner ones, protecting our world from asteroids, and protecting our coastal cities from rising oceans – these are things we could be employing millions more people doing, and yet the folks in charge fret about “fiscal responsibility”, and people tell me I’m ruining their kids’ futures if I insist politicians do something about them if they want my vote.

        I know, whaaaah.

        Reply
    3. Not_TheAccountant

      I feel for you about the lack of job offers. For what it’s worth, keep going at it. It took me over 12 applications and a half-dozen interviews before I landed a job back in April. I know I sound like the typical plutocrat (disclosure 25 years old and just finishing my Master’s degree, so not a plutocrat) saying this, but just keep at it, you’ll land a job. Best of luck!

      Reply
  6. bwilli123

    NeoCapitalism: so many ways to extract surplus value.

    “A yearlong investigation by the USA TODAY Network found that port trucking companies in southern California have spent the past decade forcing drivers to finance their own trucks by taking on debt they could not afford. Companies then used that debt as leverage to extract forced labor and trap drivers in jobs that left them destitute.
    If a driver quit, the company seized his truck and kept everything he had paid towards owning it”

    https://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/news/rigged-forced-into-debt-worked-past-exhaustion-left-with-nothing/

    Reply
    1. Tom

      I was just going to post this myself when I saw you already had. This is utterly revolting behavior on the part of these trucking companies.

      The opening paragraphs made me sick:

      Most days, the trucker would drive more than 16 hours straight hauling LG dishwashers and Kumho tires to warehouses around Los Angeles, on their way to retail stores nationwide.

      He rarely went home to his family. At night, he crawled into the back of his cab and slept in the company parking lot.

      For all of that, he took home as little as 67 cents a week.

      For God’s sake, whatever happened to the quaint notion of an honest dollar for an honest day’s work?

      Reply
    2. Vatch

      This appears to have economic significance. From the article:

      California’s port truckers make it possible for the Walmarts and Amazons of the world to function. Even so, most of the two dozen retail companies contacted by the USA TODAY Network declined to comment, some saying they had never heard of the rash of labor violations at their primary ports of entry.

      Only Goodyear said it took immediate action. Spokesperson Keith Price said in a statement that the tire giant dropped Pacific 9 in 2015, “within two weeks” of California labor commission decisions in favor of dozens of drivers.

      The few others that issued statements said it was not their responsibility to police the shipping industry. Retailers don’t directly hire the truckers who move their goods at the pier. They generally hire large shipping or logistics firms that line up trucking companies through a maze of subcontractors.

      Some good news:

      …Performance Team, which has lost cases to 21 drivers at the California labor commission.

      The California labor commission has ruled that 40 Pacific 9 drivers were inaccurately classified as independent contractors. They were awarded a combined $6.8 million for lost wages. Judges did not rule on whether specific allegations of mistreatment actually occurred, but factored that testimony into the decision to rule them employees.

      These cases remind me of the working conditions at the Foxconn factory in China which produces devices for Apple. Probably a lot of the products manufactured in terrible conditions in China are shipped across the U.S. by truckers who are treated just as badly.

      Reply
  7. kurtismayfield

    They aren’t excited by wit, they’re excited by violence—especially unstable young men.

    Sorry Peggy, the shooter was a Baby Boomer. Your narrative doesn’t fit the timing of your canned article release.

    Reply
    1. Darius

      Of course people are angry. Almost 10 years since the downturn began and most people haven’t recovered. And they already were losing ground. That’s the whole story.

      Reply
      1. kurtismayfield

        No I agree.. but the media has to invent a narrative that something else is causing this anger, and that we are living in the “Best economy evah” tm.

        Reply
        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I wonder if those in the media who voted for Hillary should recuse themselves from Hillary news.

          The same for Obama voting media members and Trump voting ones as well.

          Reply
      2. Cujo359

        I noticed people getting more tense and fearful after 9/11, and it seems to have just gotten worse as the economic conditions have. I agree with people who say we need to try to communicate more carefully, watch what we accuse others of, etc., but fear, anger, and panic are all contagious. It’s hard to be calm and happy when everyone around you isn’t.

        Plus, when it looks as though things aren’t ever going to get better, people start to lose hope. That’s not a mood-enhancing thought, either.

        Reply
  8. MikeW_CA

    ‘Sadly, thousands of progressives have given lots of money to someone who opposes a popular program central to progressives,’

    Dear Progressives,
    It is WORSE THAN USELESS to make a small donation to a candidate who also takes big ones.

    Reply
  9. Elizabeth Burton

    Housing starts fell an unexpected 5.5 percent in May…

    Would someone who understands economics better than I do please explain to me where all of these new houses the rentiers want built are supposed to be located?

    Reply
    1. Huey Long

      Teardowns.

      Lots of new homes are being built in the NYC metro area on lots that used to have single story ranches on them. They usually put up either a McMansion or a multifamily fedders building depending on the neighborhood and local zoning laws.

      Effects of Teardowns:

      http://www.cmap.illinois.gov/about/2040/supporting-materials/process-archive/strategy-papers/teardowns/effects

      Article on old Flushing NY that features some good pix of the neighborhood’s older homes and the Fedders monstrosities that they are being replaced with:

      http://forgotten-ny.com/2006/06/flushing/

      I’m not sure if the teardown phenomenon scales nationwide, but it’s definitely a thing here.

      Another place I’m seeing new home construction in NYC/Metro is on brownfields. Downtown Jersey City was essentially a gigantic rail terminal for the Pennsylvania and Erie RR’s until the 1960’s-70’s:

      https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/62/bf/43/62bf4376014ea75e664074f10b55fede.jpg

      Compare the above picture with this shot of modern day Jersey City:

      https://ih0.redbubble.net/image.175237709.3452/flat,1000×1000,075,f.jpg

      This sort of thing is going on all over NJ, especially in places like Edgewater, Weehawken, North Bergen, Hoboken, Harrison, and Newark. Again, I’m not sure if this scales nationally, but that is what is going on around these parts.

      Reply
      1. Jim Haygood

        Had to look up “Fedders houses,” Huey:

        “Fedders houses,” as defined in a posting a year ago by the online slang dictionary doubletongued.org, are the kind of cheaply made structures that have through-the-wall air-conditioners with the manufacturer’s name visible to the outside.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/19/nyregion/the-true-story-of-the-fedders-curse.html

        Sadly, Fedders succumbed to Chapter 11 in 2011. Believe they’re called “Haier houses” now. ;-)

        Reply
      2. Art Eclectic

        Been a big deal here in California for quite a while. Some cities have even passed ordinances regulating set backs and lot coverage. Frankly, I have less issue with multifamily than I do with mansionized single family.

        Reply
    2. jrs

      could build apartments anywhere where rents are out of control (although some cities have hard limits), but that depends on zoning etc.. Ok it’s not a great quality of life maybe but what else to do with population growth?

      Reply
      1. alex morfesis

        zoning and building codes are designed to frighten away the unwashed…if you want to see the real power center where ever you might live, look at the variances asked for and approved…there isnt a community in this country where the zoning and codes are set in concrete or held with iron…it is used to keep the competition down…

        Reply
  10. dcblogger

    Like all Republicans, Noonan is incapable of recognizing a problem until it touches her or hers. – from 1994:
    Frank Eugene Corder (May 26, 1956 – September 12, 1994) was an American truck driver. He stole a Cessna 150 late on September 11, 1994 and crashed the stolen aircraft onto the South Lawn of the White House early on September 12, 1994, apparently trying to hit the building; he was killed, and was the sole casualty.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Eugene_Corder

    to say nothing of the Oklahoma City bombing.

    Reply
    1. Arizona Slim

      Some DC wag said that the pilot was the CIA director trying to get a meeting with President Clinton. For some reason, the Big Dog wasn’t eager to meet with said director.

      Reply
  11. Jim Haygood

    CenturyLink goes Wells Fargo:

    A CenturyLink employee claims she was fired for blowing the whistle on the telecommunications company’s high-pressure sales culture that left customers paying millions of dollars for accounts they didn’t request, according to a lawsuit filed this week in Arizona state superior court.

    The plaintiff, Heidi Heiser, claims she was fired days after notifying Chief Executive Officer Glen Post of the alleged scheme. When a customer complained about an unauthorized charge, agents like Heiser were directed “to inform the complaining customer that CenturyLink’s system indicated the customer had approved the service,” according to the complaint, and as a result “it was really the customer’s word against CenturyLink.

    The company’s shares were down about 7 percent in late-afternoon trading.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-16/centurylink-is-accused-of-running-wells-fargo-like-scheme

    CenturyLink was a tinpot rural telephone exchange in Monroe, La which swallowed former regional Bell company US West — but didn’t have the chops to pull it off. US West’s service area was in the mountain states, including Arizona where the lawsuit has been filed.

    CenturyLink offers a trifecta of unreliable cable and internet service, snarling rude customer service reps, and a management unable to fix escalated issues because the company is broken and out of control. Now we learn CenturyLink was cramming customers as well.

    As is so often the case with “phony” telcos, they want to handle complaints only by phone, so that THEY control the records. Don’t tolerate this. Look up their mailing address, send certified letters to the management and public utility commissioners, and nail ’em to the wall. Most telcos are so helpless, they aren’t even able to answer a letter.

    I just got finished brutalizing a brain-dead electric utility using this procedure. They couldn’t believe I actually wrote to their independent board members … oopsie!

    Reply
    1. Arizona Slim

      US West, aka US Worst, became Qwest, aka Qworst, and now it’s CenturyLink, aka CenturyStink.

      Don’t say that we don’t have a way with names out here in the wild, wild west.

      Reply
      1. Cujo359

        All I know is the name keeps changing, but nothing else gets better. Took them forever to get DSL in my neighborhood, and now, someday, maybe we’ll see gigabit Internet before someone in some Third World country does…

        Meanwhile, my Internet connection seems to drop out every few days for half an hour or so.

        Reply
  12. Stephen Gardner

    “Moses didn’t cross over into the promised land, after all.”

    But his people did. Never forget that. Bernie started something that others will finish. The neoliberal economic system is a dead man walking.

    Reply
    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      I dunno, Bernie has alot of things right but he misses the biggest elephant of all.

      From today’s Links:

      “Leftish Democrats insist they can reform the corporate-run, Russia-obsessed Democratic Party from the inside, but most pay little attention to war. However, war is not a side issue in the United States; it is the central political issue, on which all the others turn”.

      “War mania is the enemy of all social progress — especially so when it unites disparate social forces, in opposition to their own interests, in the service of an imperialist state”.

      Bernie’s wrong on Syria, Bernie’s wrong on Russia, Bernie’s wrong on NATO, Bernie’s wrong on the Pentagon. What worked in the 60’s? The anti-war movement. Short, sweet, to the point, come one, come all, easy to understand and get behind. Everybody wants peace. Nobody wants naked Yemeni Vietnamese girls who had their clothes napalmed off.

      We need a new anti-war movement.

      Reply
      1. kgc

        I was there then – and at a very left-wing liberal arts college known as Berkeley North. Protests, sit-ins, demonstrations galore (you should only see the yearbook). But the volume dropped almost instantaneously once the draft lottery results were out and people knew what their numbers were. Most were no longer at risk, and no longer cared. Being almost as cynical then as I am now, it came as no surprise that they weren’t anti-war, only anti-draft where they might be drafted.

        You should also have seen the transformations just before and after graduation in 1971. The men shaved, everyone got nice haircuts, and *very* nice suits and dresses suitable for interviews were ubiquitous.

        A lot less idealism that typically supposed. I hope that’s not the case today, but I’m sceptical.

        Reply
    2. JTMcPhee

      Yah, Moses’ people crossed over the Jordan, all right, but I would hope that trope is not to be taken as a model for what “progressives” have in mind. Because if one remembers, “God’s Chosen People then went about cheating and lying, and assassinating, and burning cities and tent camps of the inhabitants they encountered to the ground, putting all the men and a lot of the women and children to the sword, and taking their land and stuff, and enslaving the survivors. All to take and occupy, just as the modern Israelites are doing, ‘the promised land.’ And every so often, falling back into pagan practices and reportedly getting YHWH pissed off enough at them (“Fer Messiah’s sake, my people, I only gave you TEN FREAKIN’ COMMANDMENTS! How hard can it be to stick to those?”) to cause them to lose wars and get forced into slavery themselves. Not sure Bernie has that model in mind, but who knows?

      Don;t believe me? Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Judges, Kings, etc. “It’s in the Holly Bibble!”

      And of course our American ancestors, and right up to the current generation, did and do the same thing in their own time. Ask an Indian how it worked… or a machinist…

      Reply
  13. Jim Haygood

    Proof that you can blow somebody away with five pistol shots with total impunity … if you’ve got a badge:

    A Minnesota police officer has been acquitted of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a black motorist.

    Jeronimo Yanez was also cleared Friday of two lesser charges in the July traffic stop in a St. Paul suburb. Yanez shot Philando Castile five times just seconds after Castile informed him he was carrying a gun.

    Yanez testified that Castile was pulling his gun out of his pocket despite his commands not to do so. The defense also argued Castile was high on marijuana and said that affected his actions.

    Castile had a permit for the weapon. Prosecutors questioned whether Yanez ever saw the gun. They argued that the officer overreacted and that Castile was not a threat.

    The case garnered immediate attention because Castile’s girlfriend streamed the aftermath live on Facebook.

    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/latest-attorney-no-weekend-sessions-castile-jury-183530960.html

    This is not going to go over well. His girlfriend’s video:

    http://tinyurl.com/jg32puc

    Reply
    1. allan

      This is not going to go over well.

      Actually, it’s going over very well with the NYPD:

      SBA ‏Verified account @SBANYPD

      BREAKING NEWS: MN Officer Jeronimo Yanez is acquitted of all charges.
      Another political prosecution against law enforcement that failed.

      Occupy was practice.

      Reply
  14. Jennifer

    The reason the Amazon-Whole Foods deal challenges Walmart is because they’re vying for EBT share.

    Right now Amazon Fresh, the program that Amazon delivers perishables through and would qualify them for those shares, is unable to quickly spread its territory. Buying whole foods gives them a ready to go delivery supply chain that may finally get it for them, and directly threaten Walmart’s food stamp dominance. Earlier this month Amazon began a program that gave EBT card holders a Prime Account for half price, so they’re priming the base already.

    Earlier in the year, Amazon announced it would be starting a test run of a food stamp program, using Amazon Fresh, this summer in NY and some other states.

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/01/17/amazon-accept-food-stamps-usda-snap/96661036/

    “The program could represent an opportunity for Amazon, which has typically ceded the lower-income food market to Walmart. Amazon shoppers in Maryland, New Jersey and New York will be eligible to take part.

    Grocery items can be ordered on Amazon by paying a delivery fee. Free delivery requires a Prime membership (typically $99 a year [Now Discounted])… To get perishable items such as fresh produce, dairy and meat, Prime members must additionally pay $14.99 per month to be part of Amazon Prime Fresh. Food assistance won’t cover delivery or membership fees.”

    “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), distributed $66 billion in food aid to 43 million low-income Americans, half of them children and 10% people over 60, according to USDA.”

    Reply
    1. HBE

      Thank you for this. The merger reasoning seems perfectly clear now. I don’t really see whole foods as affordable though. It’s no Walmart or Aldis.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer

        I think its the existing supply chain, HBE. They can purchase cheaper goods from central vendors and ship them on the same trucks, etc.

        Reply
    2. Carolinian

      The nearest Whole Foods to where I live is 30 miles away. You could chalk that up to the boonies but when I visit the Phoenix suburb of Mesa the nearest Whole Foods is about 15 miles away. Phoenix is a rather large city. Whatever this Amazon purchase is about surely it isn’t about SNAP or convenient distribution.

      Meanwhile my town is opening two Lidl grocery stores which promise 50 percent lower prices than conventional grocery stores. And another German grocery chain, Aldi, has just announced a huge US expansion to compete with Lidl and Walmart. Aldi also boasts of 50 percent lower prices (and their prices are much lower). Like Lambert above I find it hard to see how home delivery of upscale groceries has much to do with Walmart’s grocery business or their dominance in food stamps. Locally our Walmarts have been sprucing up their stores. What they really seemed to be afraid of is Lidl. Budget grocery stores with generic brands seem to be the happening thing.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer

        Never heard of Lidl (pronounced liddle?), can’t see how you see that little company as -more- of a threat to gigantic Walmart than ginormous Amazon.

        As far as pricing, you’re missing the point. They don’t want to sell whole foods produce to SNAP customers, they want to use the supply chain WF already has to expand their existing network. The test, as I already said, is not happening in AZ, but NY/NJ which does have -a lot- of WF locations, and supply chains that cover most of the territory. Now I don’t know the population of Phoenix or Lidle locations offhand, but I’m willing to bet there are more people living in whole foods accesible areas in NY/CA than there are using LIDL in AZ.

        And budget grocery stores and generic brands are ‘happening things’ now? Wow I feel old, and I’m in my early thirties! I always thought us poors had no choice but to use them, and we’re the only ones who did; so glad to here its a ‘happening thing’ that poverty.

        Reply
        1. jrs

          one problem might be that Whole Foods tend to be located in the well off parts of town, so I’m not sure how well that aligns with SNAP recipients, I mean I imagine there is some overlap as few places approach 100% income segregation, but far from perfect.

          Reply
        2. Carolinian

          I know about as much about Lidl as you do–our first Lidl store only opened yesterday–but the story I saw said that this apparently quite large European chain is undertaking a major expansion in the US and their advertising suggests that they will be competing in the budget end of the grocery biz unlike, say, Publix which appeals to more middle class customers.

          We have had an Aldi for some time and this German chain, which also owns Trader Joe’s, features small, sparsely staffed stores that aren’t much bigger than a CVS. They sell house brands almost exclusively and have some upscale items as well such as excellent Austrian chocolate bars and wines. But the stores draw in lots of customers with significantly lower prices. This seems to be achieved through radical cost cutting (the store manager also stocks shelves, runs the register when needed) so this does seem a new and different approach for where I live.

          Meanwhile the longstanding traditional grocery stores aren’t expanding at all and one local chain may soon go bankrupt. Walmart probably began this process by going into groceries but now Walmart is being challenged by low price grocery rivals. What all this has to do with Amazon I’m not sure. Delivered groceries might be a winning proposition in crowded, traffic clogged cities but in the rest of the country probably not.

          Reply
          1. Chris

            Aldi also offer a curious ever-changing range of value priced variety items.
            There’s a running gag in Australia along the lines of:
            “Went to Aldi for a litre of milk, and came back with a bucket, a chainsaw and a two-man tent.”

            Reply
        3. HotFlash

          Ah yes, the ‘gigantic’ Walmart! Back in the day, we had this store here in Canada, largest employer in the country after the gu’mint. It was named Eaton’s, sic transit gloria. Things can change so fast.

          Reply
  15. Art Eclectic

    I don’t get why anyone thinks that the Whole Foods purchase is Amazon competing with Walmart. Those two customer bases do not shop at the other stores. Amazon wisely recognized that their most dedicated customer base is a Whole Foods type of shopper, not a Walmart shopper. Likelier target is Costco, who’s been adding more organic inventory.

    Reply
    1. jrs

      or independent natural food delivery stores that are gaining business, but I would think they are pretty small potatoes compared to Amazon and WF so definitely overkill.

      Reply
    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Everything I used to get at Whole Foods I get now at Trader Joe’s, except this particular brand of shampoo and Organix dog food.

      Reply
      1. Art Eclectic

        Trader Joes and Sprouts are far more evenly distributed for those of us who aren’t in the Whole Foods demographic.

        Reply
    3. kurtismayfield

      Like Lambert mentioned, this is about real estate. Amazon needs locations to deliver from. Whole foods will give them those locations. They can stock the locations with whatever they want to deliver when the sale is finalized and only use the Whole Foods name on the organic/ high end stuff. They will absolutely go after the EBT/WIC purchases and offer free delivery w/prime.

      Reply
      1. jrs

        they can stock the retail locations with whatever they want to deliver, but then they won’t look anything like the current whole foods, the product selection would be very different, especially of packaged foods. So it would be a decision that the real estate is worth more than the current consumer loyalty that whole foods has.

        Reply
        1. WobblyTelomeres

          Somehow I doubt it is a real estate buy. With the general state of retail, there is a lot of real estate inventory available.

          Reply
            1. philnc

              Ah! Never made sense to prols like you or I, but “synergy”.

              Steve Case was a con man, and the TW board a gloriously clueless mark. The parallels to Amazon+Whole Foods are amusing. But as Richard Feynman was wont to say, “nature cannot be fooled”. The customer base (s) that made Amazon, Wall-Mart and Whole Foods is dying off, literally. The twenty-somethings who are the future may not be interested in perpetuating existing business plans, especially if their upward mobility continues to stall.

              Reply
          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Good point, but my gut take is that the inventory available is heavily skewed toward malls, and that Whole Foods locations (locations, locations) are elsewhere. Certainly true in Philly!

            Reply
          2. Art Eclectic

            Agreed. Besides, Whole Foods does not have a huge network of stores, they locate near higher income areas. Which makes sense if you’re Amazon targeting that market (logical because those are exactly the people who will pay to have groceries delivered). If Amazon wanted broad reach to distribute from they’d have chosen Kroger or one of the other chains with a much broader store distribution.

            Which is my original point, they’re not going after Walmart here….

            Reply
            1. different clue

              I wonder if the people who pay to have food delivered by this linkup will know enough about food to know if the food they have ordered sight-unseen is any good or not. And just how any-good it might be.

              This might be a very clever way to sell sub-WalMart Feed at Whole Food prices.

              Reply
          3. HotFlash

            I am only theorizing here. I shop locally, at my coop and local farmers’ market, but also at chains, b/c I don’t own a car, I live in a bikeable city, and those local (at least in my country) chains are *very* locally owned (thanks to a corporate downloading, but that is another story) and pretty cheap. And, I am not made of money. Although I try to ‘vote’ with my dollars for local ownership and sustainability: IOW, neither WM nor WF, ever, ever, for me, there is a finite and, um, smallish, amt of $$ for grocs. So, I am not a WF expert, nor Amazon, either.

            But! It seems to me that Amazon/WF could easily change branding with on-line ordering and local delivery. I have lots of contacts with UberFood, Just Eat and Foodora bike delivery people. Grocery delivery is pretty simple, and orders are small. If us urban poors are willing to soak up 486% rates for loans, just think what we will absorb for not having to own a car to hoick groceries! And the risks are outsourced to the delivery riders, who are considered independent contractors. Cool!

            It will happen, so long as this Disruptor Innovation is not recognized for the attack on civil society that is is, and Jeff B. will be even more *AWESOME* and *DISRUPTIVE*! So, Whole Foods basic incompatibiliy with EBT is not serious (hand waving it away), there can be two or more public faces, with one purchasing and delivery system. Bob is someone’s uncle. Maybe Bob Rubin.

            Me, I won’t go there ever, but I can understand many of my neighbours doing so. No raises in decades, entry jobs hard to get even with a degree, pensions not keeping up with costs. And Mr Bezos is subsidized to disrupt.

            Reply
          4. HotFlash

            I’m with WobblyT on this. Unless the US is very different, most WF stores here in Canada are leased (in case a quick exit is needed?). So, no dirt owned.

            Reply
  16. JohnnyGL

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxhmVlxA-Yk

    Naomi Klein interviewed on Democracy Now. She’s got some good stuff on resisting tyranny. However, I think she worries that it will ONLY come from Trump. Readers of this blog will worry more about the ‘deep state’ of intel world grabbing an unconstitutional, undemocratic veto power over current and future heads of state.

    Reply
  17. Archie

    This essay is a scathing review of events leading up to the Grenfell Towers disaster. Just another prime example of neo-liberalism and the vaunted public/private partnership at work.

    Reply
        1. bob

          This was great-

          “The irony is that when KCTMO finally dug into its pocket, it was to install the superficial cladding around the tower to improve the view for its wealthy neighbours. Affectation over function – exactly the modus operandi for neoliberal governments and councils – globally.”

          Reply
            1. JTMcPhee

              And the markers of the English upper class, since forever — and the slicks who have migrated to Jolly Old to get their purchased aristocracy credentials and join the looting from closer to the money source…

              Reply
            2. bob

              How’s Flint doing?

              You can’t blame the pols for THAT! They’ve spent millions on consultants and analysis.

              Why are those stupid people still living there? Don’t they know the water is bad? It has been affected.

              Reply
  18. marym

    Exclusive: White House Task Force Echoes Pharma Proposals

    President Donald Trump repeatedly talks tough about reining in the pharmaceutical industry, but his administration’s efforts to lower drug prices are shrouded in secrecy.

    Senior administrative officials met Friday to discuss an executive order on the cost of pharmaceuticals, a roundtable informed by Trump’s “Drug Pricing and Innovation Working Group.” Kaiser Health News examined documents that shed light on the workings of this working group.

    The documents reveal behind-the-scenes discussions influenced by the pharmaceutical industry….

    To solve the crisis of high drug prices, the group discussed strengthening the monopoly rights of pharmaceuticals overseas, ending discounts for low-income hospitals and accelerating drug approvals by the Food and Drug Administration. The White House declined to comment on the working group.
    ….
    Most of these policies would not ease patient costs, and at least one would increase prices, say experts who reviewed the documents at the request of Kaiser Health News.

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Can’t wait for the formal announcement.

      Some sources prove to be reliable. Some, even so called experts, not

      Until then, it’s a perception-influence exercise.

      Reply
  19. Benedict@Large

    “… Ossoff said …. that he doesn’t support ‘any move toward single-payer when we need to be focused on what’s achievable’ on health care policy …”

    Another man who would never have run the 4-minute mile.

    Reply
  20. Benedict@Large

    “There’s no border wall. No tax reform. No health care reform. No infrastructure bill. No budget. The House-passed health care bill is wildly unpopular. The travel ban is still stuck in the courts.”

    And yet is this not the billionaire’s agenda? A government that is paralyzed? And who is paying for our government?

    Reply
  21. Montanamaven

    This is a great Jimmy Dore show. It’s about Trump shoving aside the president of Montenegro which everyone was appalled or laughed about. But Dore gives the statistics on what Clinton did to Montenegro. Bombed the crap out of it including 20 hospitals. Oh the children! Who is the biggest oaf?

    Reply
  22. Chauncey Gardiner

    Appreciated the list of issues in algorithm development known as “Deep Learning” featured as the concluding link in today’s post. Much to ponder there, especially WRT things like driverless cars and pilotless aircraft.

    Setting aside questions about whether it is sound public policy, another related example is that mentioned by Jim Haygood above. As a layman, the stock market presently appears to me to be heavily influenced by the Western central banks with their capacity to create trillions of dollars in cash, their ideological attachment to what is known as “The Wealth Effect” thru repeated creation of asset price bubbles, their ties to agents at Wall Street banks and HFT entities to assist them in realizing their market price objectives, and their employment of algorithms on HFT computers to control price moves in stock market index and industry sector ETFs and derivatives such as futures contracts and volatility options.

    Some experienced and knowledgeable market analysts seem to share this view. Among others:
    http://realmoney.thestreet.com/articles/06/14/2017/something-out-twilight-zone-market-about-machines?cm_ven_int=homepage-latest-headlines

    Of course, any technology we don’t understand is ‘magic’ to us members of the cargo cult. And we do have the comfort of the quote from the computer system in Stanley Kubrick’s film and Arthur C. Clark’s book “2001: A Space Odyssey”:
    Interviewer: “HAL, you have an enormous responsibility on this mission, in many ways perhaps the greatest responsibility of any single mission element. You’re the brain, and central nervous system of the ship, and your responsibilities include watching over the men in hibernation. Does this ever cause you any lack of confidence?”

    HAL: “Let me put it this way, Mr. Amor. The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.”

    Reply
  23. Benjamin Fitzkee

    I haven’t been following the GA-06 race closely, only reading the titles of articles included in the links and the blurbs from Lambert, but I stumbled across some disturbing reporting on Democracy Now about voter suppression in this race that I thought needed to be shared. Here’s a link to Greg Palast’s report:

    Greg Palast: How Racist Voter Suppression Could Cost Jon Ossoff the Georgia Election https://www.democracynow.org/2017/6/15/greg_palast_how_racist_voter_suppression

    This isn’t unique to this race, or to Georgia in general. It’s a nationwide issue that Palast reported on during the general election as well, and I would recommend looking into his reports to see if this may be happening in your state and district.

    Reply
    1. WeakenedSquire

      Ossoff is a jetsetting neoliberal. If there were a legitimate working-class candidate rallying these folks, I’d be more sympathetic to claims of voter suppression. But Ossoff is fooling these people to further his own ambitions. What he’s doing is no less dirty than Kobach’s tactics. He’s not worth your pity.

      Reply
    2. Pat

      The first report on racist voter suppression by Greg Palast that I read was about Florida in 2000. You know about how it was a factor in that little state and the Presidential election that was so close it was decided by the Supreme Court. Since those leading the Democratic Party and top elected.Democrats didn’t bother to do anything about this for 17 friggin’ years why should I care now that it might lose them an election for a wealthy former Republican who will do NOTHING to make things better in this country that might upset the corrupt rotting status quo?

      Reply
  24. roxan

    It’s a giant mullein plant i.e. an impressive weed! But, I think weeds are good! Too many common ‘weeds’, such as milkweed, have disappeared. Often, so-called ‘weeds’ are quite handsome, have nice blooms and are useful. In any event, when they are all gone (like most wildflowers) our world will be a poorer place.

    Reply
  25. Cujo359

    Interesting bit of surrealism from the Guardian’s op-ed pages: He voted for Trump, she voted for Clinton. Neither voted for Medicaid cuts.

    Personally, I’d say they both voted for Medicaid cuts and didn’t realize it. Even so, I kinda hope this becomes a meme, because it’s pretty clear that, left to themselves, both parties would happily let people in GOP-run states do without Medicaid. It’s also clear most Democrats in Congress care more about where their campaign bucks or their next job is coming from than they care about helping the little people.

    Reply
    1. Altandmain

      I strongly suspect that with Bill Clinton and the “End of welfare as we know it”, along with the repeal of Glass Steagall, with his wife, we would get similar legislation. “End of Social Security and end of Medicaid as we know it”.

      Then the Clinton supporters would attack the Sanders base for calling this one out. ONe of the dangers of neoliberal Democrats is that they are wolves in sheep clothing. They let people’s guard down.

      Reply
      1. Cujo359

        It’s sadly ironic that Trump was more definite about not cutting Medicaid during the campaign than Clinton was. Yes, Trump’s a liar, but at least he seemed to recognize that many people in America thought this was really important.

        Reply
  26. Victoria

    The plant is simple mullein, a wonderful cure-all herb–tea made from the leaves is a mild astringent used by our ancestors for ear-washes to help clear up infections (not prescribing, describing). It grows in disturbed earth, so you’ll see it around construction sites and road beds as well as at the edge of forests.

    Reply
  27. icancho

    Probably noted already, but your plant is Great mullein, Verbascum thapsus, an invasive alien from Eurasia, in the same family (Scrophulariaceae) as butterfly bush, Buddleja.

    Reply
  28. Lord Koos

    When we lived in Chiang Mai we saw many buildings going up that had bamboo scaffolds. The workers were primarily Burmese men and women. The Burmese are to Thailand what Mexicans are to the USA.

    Reply
  29. ewmayer

    o Re. Housing Starts: “There has been further evidence that shortages of labour…” — Ah yes, the old “labor shortage” trope beloved by neoliberal economists. My memory is vague, but ISTR that the so-called free market has a ready-made solution for that, something about ‘rising wages’. Nah, it couldn’t be that simple, otherwise the digital-ink-stained wretches writing this stuff would be mentioning it with regularity, right?

    o “Shipping: “The US Coast Guard says there is no longer any threat posed to the port of Charleston by suspect containers on board a Maersk boxship” [Lloyd’s Loading List]” — Eh, the correct headline should read “The US Coast Guard says there was never a threat posed to the port of Charleston by suspect containers on board a Maersk boxship”. “No longer a threat” implies something was done to mitigate an actual threat. Conveniently, the headline as written ratchets up the fear level. Completely unintended, I’m sure.

    o Re. AMZN swallowing WFM – Now the latter is gonna *really* deserve the appellation “Asswhole Foods”. Can we get a separate ticker symbol ‘AWFM’for that?

    o “The Bezzle: “London Finance Workers Describe A Local Culture That Sounds Like A Mashup Between 1980s Wall Street And Dante’s Inferno” [DealBreaker].” — One more reason why Brexit and the loss of so many of those “good-paying jawbs” is in many respects a consummation devoutly to be wished. Definancialization is gonna be hard for bezzle-based economies like UK/City-of-London, in much the same way as is weaning a heroin addict off the junk.

    o “Fodder for the Bulls: “Don’t Underestimate This U.S. Expansion: It’s Headed to a Record” [Bloomberg]” — here, let me fix that headline for you Bloombergians: “Don’t Underestimate This U.S. Bubble 3.0: It’s Headed to a Record”

    o ““Follow The Money: The Flow Of Funds In The Pharmaceutical Distribution System” [Health Affairs]. “Based on the results of our study, we explore a hypothetical scenario in which $100 is spent on prescription drugs acquired at a retail pharmacy using commercial insurance, using estimates of gross and net margins as a fraction of net revenues from companies’ 2015 SEC filings.” — Hey, Health Affairs, why not try for a real scenario rather than a BS hypothetical one? I’m going to guess that might read like so: “Of a $100 expenditure on pharmaceuticals by consumers, roughly $58 goes to the manufacturer and $41 is captured by intermediaries. (Numbers do not sum to 100 due to rounding.) Of the $58 received by the manufacturer, less than $1 is spent on drug production and the remainder is spent on other expenditures (such as marketing, R&D [ha, ha – kidding!] and bribing of politicians) or kept as net profit.”

    Reply

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