2:00PM Water Cooler 8/3/2016

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“A letter sent from House Republicans to President Barack Obama this week urging him not to force a lame-duck vote on the TPP gained only six signatures despite being open for nearly two months, according to private-sector and congressional sources — a possible indication of low appetite among Republican lawmakers to protest the trade deal” [Politico]. The TPP zombie is very much undead.

“Speaking before a group of 400 wealthy conservatives participating in one of the Koch network’s twice-a-year seminars, the House speaker did not mention GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump by name. But Ryan touted the importance of free trade, an issue Trump has railed against, and said it was essential that party leaders make a better case for the free market. Trump argues that free trade agreements have hurt American workers, and that better deals are needed” [WaPo].

The agreement won’t go into effect if the U.S. doesn’t ratify it within two years, and at this point, practically speaking there are only two ways that can happen. President Obama and Congress could get it done during the lame-duck session. Or alternatively, Hillary Clinton could win and change her mind after the election. Edward Luce of the Financial Times calls this second scenario “virtually inconceivable,” though as Eamonn Fingleton has explained in these pages, flip-flopping on trade is something that Clinton does, if not well, at least frequently. She helped negotiate the deal, after all.” [The American Conservative].

“In full: The Straits Times’ interview with US President Barack Obama” [Straits Times].

Q: On the TPP, many observers, including Singapore’s PM Lee, have said that if it doesn’t happen this year, the chances of it happening at all drop significantly. And that would be a big hit to US credibility in the region. Do you agree with that assessment and how optimistic are you that it will pass Congress this year?

A: I remain committed to TPP because it’s a good deal—for America, for the region and for the world. TPP advances America’s economic and our strategic interests. …

That said, I know that the politics around trade can be very difficult—especially in an election year. There are legitimate concerns and anxieties that the forces of globalisation are leaving too many people behind—and we have to take those concerns seriously and address them. But the answer isn’t to turn inward and embrace protectionism. We can’t just walk away from trade. In a global economy where our economies and supply chains are deeply integrated, it’s not even possible.

The answer is to make sure that trade is working for our people by supporting good jobs, reducing inequality and creating more opportunity. That’s what TPP does. I’ll continue making the case for TPP, and I’m optimistic that the United States Congress will ultimately support this landmark agreement.

The “good jobs” talking point is the sop the Democrats could give to labor — more precisely, the Beltway labor establishment — for supporting the deal. You can see the Democrats positioning themselves for this with their “as written” weasel wording. (Note that the increased capital investment on logistics management — new or newly leased warehouses, warehouse automation, drones — simultaneously wrings more labor out of the supply chain, and is also a bet on that globalization will march on.)

Oddly, or not, no mention of slavery — you know, that thing where the United States bought and sold black people? — where Obama did Malaysia a solid by saying they weren’t doing it any more.

Obama at presser: “Hopefully, after the election is over and the dust settled, there will be more attention to the actual facts behind the deal, and it won’t just be a political symbol or a political football” [McClatchy]. As if the world-wide opposition to TPP weren’t fact-based!



” The progressive victory nobody’s talking about” [Jared Bernstein, WaPo]. “In both the Republican and Democrat nominating conventions, the issue of government debt and deficits hardly came up. That’s a victory for progressives, who’ve long argued that budget austerity and slavish adherence to deficit reduction are the wrong goals for fiscal policy. To be clear, neither this pivot nor this better understanding of debt dynamics alters basic arithmetic. Over the long run, governments must raise the revenue they need to pay for the services they offer and the investments they make.” And for “arithmetic,” read “ideology.” Bernstein is still pushing the canard that Federal taxes fund Federal spending. They don’t. After reinforcing the long-discredited loanable funds theory, Bernstein continues: “There are long-term mobility- and productivity-enhancing investments we should be making in disadvantaged populations. With borrowing costs as low as they actually are — versus the forecasts — smart investments like these would be worth it, even if they boosted the deficit.” This is the “progressive give-up formula” in somewhat more benign terms.

Oh, and we’re bombing Libya again. Reach me that Victory Gin, wouldja?

The Money

“On Tuesday, Obama campaign guru David Plouffe (now with Uber) and Gore consultant Chris Lehane (now with Airbnb) unveiled new polling data on the sharing economy; a second Airbnb event celebrated the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Party, featuring actor Bryan Cranston. On Wednesday, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation convenes its own technology conference, featuring four members of Congress, a Federal Trade Commission member, the president of the biotech lobby, representatives from Microsoft and Facebook, and former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, now at Amazon” [David Dayen, The New Republic]. Ka-ching.

The Voters

“In her speech accepting the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton said the nation was at ‘a moment of reckoning.’ She’s right, but the reckoning is not simply the choice voters face this fall between her and Donald Trump. The real reckoning is larger and it will extend beyond Election Day” [Robert Reich, RealClearPolitics]. “Donald Trump isn’t just an aberration and Bernie Sanders wasn’t just a flash in the pan. Both, in very different ways, reflect a crisis in our political economy. The major issue the public is reacting to isn’t terrorism or racism. We didn’t see these numbers after 9/11. We didn’t even get these sorts of responses in the late 1960s, when American cities were torn by riots and when the Vietnam War was raging. It’s the rigging of our economy – the increasingly tight nexus between wealth and political power.”

“What happens if Trump loses the election, and he claims fraud? What happens when hundreds of thousands of his most loyal followers—fed on a diet of anger and rage—convince themselves that the race was stolen from their tribune? The simple truth of American politics—and of democratic life at large—is that our institutions are only as strong as the norms around them. Those norms are the superstructure of democracy; they help us navigate conflict and mediate change. When they’re violated, either by unaccountable elites or by reckless politicians, we suffer” [Jamelle Bouie, Slate]. And right now, one of those elites is undermining them for the sake of his own ego, stoking fear and distrust just so he can lose the election without losing face.” “What happens?” I don’t know. Of course, we could look for a precedent to the reaction of Sanders supporters after the Clinton-dominated DNC rigged the primary. (To be fair, Bouie’s a Democrat loyalist, so perhaps he doesn’t regard rigging a primary as violating a norm). Still, assuming Clinton wins, the Democrats have plenty of experience co-ordinating paramilitary crackdowns, whether in Ferguson or of Occupy. And Obama’s developed quasi-legal justifications for assassinating U.S. citizens. So I think Bouie’s unduly concerned.

“A major premise of [Identitarian Deference] is that the oppressed understand their oppression better than anyone, and that privileged people should therefore defer to their insights about it. There are all kinds of serious objections to this theory, but here it’s enough to point out that ID does not actually imply that the oppressed are better positioned and resourced to organize anyone, or that they have some kind of superior insight and expertise into questions of strategy and tactics” [Carl Beijer]. “This vision of organizing is certainly compatible with the “oppressed must lead” rhetoric in the broadest sense that it is a coalition of oppressed groups that have to lead the fight against oppression. However, it is quite at odds with this narrower attempt to bracket off interrelated struggles from each other and to segregate the oppressed into independent vanguards. That approach is not only baseless from a historical and philosophical perspective, but will certainly doom the left to endless atomization and internecine conflict.” Which would be why liberals push it.

The Parties

More firings from the DNC email scandal:

I just love this. First, it’s good to know that #StrongerTogether is a euphemism for the more direct Trumpism: “You’re fired.” (Sanders supporters, of course, know this already.) Second, Clinton gave Wasserman Schultz a new job immediately after the DNC defenestrated her; I have no doubt these nice people will get new jobs, too (and better ones, if the relationship between sleaziness and salary for Democrat operatives is direct, and not inverse.) Third, none of these firings are happening because the DNC rigged a primary when its own charter said it had to be neutral; so for Democrat loyalists to pretend this is a housecleaning, or that they are “shocked, shocked” is ludicrous.

“The Necessity of Political Vulgarity” [Current Affairs]. “[T]o dismiss vulgarity as a tool for fighting the powerful, to say that being mean is ‘ridiculous,’ is to deny history, and to obscure a long and noble tradition of malicious political japery. In fact, ‘being mean’ not only affords unique pleasures to the speaker or writer, but is a crucial rhetorical weapon of the politically excluded.”

Swing States

UPDATE Here’s a poll of polls: Nationally, Trump is within striking distance, down 4.5% [RealClearPolitics]. And with Stein and Johnson, almost the same spread [RealClearPolitics]. This after spending no money, the unanimous opposition of the political class, and the knobs of the Democrat Outrage Machine turned up to 11. Interesting times.

UPDATE Here’s the national map [RealClearPolitics]. The “toss-ups” (“battleground states,” “swing states” are:

  • Arizona (11)
  • Florida (29)
  • Georgia (16)
  • Iowa (6)
  • Michigan (16)
  • Missouri (10)
  • Nevada (6)
  • New Hampshire (4)
  • North Carolina (15)
  • Ohio (18)
  • Oregon (7)
  • Pennsylvania (20)
  • Virginia (13)
  • Wisconsin (10)
  • Maine CD2 (1)

UDPATE “Economic output expanded in early 2016 across the majority of states, including four of the biggest prizes up for grabs in the November presidential election: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia” [Wall Street Journal, “Key Presidential Swing States See Stronger-Than-Average Economic Growth”]. One wonders, however, how the output was distributed, and whether voters notice. Certainly the Democrats aren’t running a “You never had it so good” campaign.

Stats Watch

Personal Income and Outlays (yesterday): “Consumer spending encompasses things like housing, health care, food and gas in addition to cars and smartphones. This month the increases in PCE [Personal Consumption Expenditure] were due to healthcare spending, electricity and gas while new motor vehicle spending declined” (charts) [Economic Populist]. “Overall most in the press are claiming personal consumption expenditures were red hot in June. We believe the weather was red hot, not actual spending as the increases were in electricity and more healthcare costs. Maybe healthcare costs look good on GDP paper, but for real people having to lay out more oof their money to insurance premiums and getting less for it is not a quality of life good thing.” And: “Income a tenth lower than expected and remains depressed, spending was a tenth better than expected and up on higher energy prices. So looks to me like a mini ‘dip into savings’ that works against retail sales, etc. but just a guess. And note the deceleration of the annual growth of real disposable personal income as per the chart, which is down to stall speed” (charts) [Mosler Economics].

ADP Employment Report, July 2016: “Growth in the labor market held firm and steady in July,” within consensus [Econoday]. But: “Employment is a rear view indicator, and looking at this ADP data – the overall trend for the year-over-year rate of growth has been flat since mid-2010” [Econintersect].

Gallup U.S. Job Creation Index, July 2016: “U.S. workers’ reports of hiring activity at their place of employment in July remained at a record high for the third month in a row” [Econoday]. “The latest holding pattern follows a period of relative stability in workers’ perceptions of their employers’ hiring activity.”

Purchasing Managers’ Index, July 2016: Slow growth is the verdict of Markit’s U.S. service sample whose composite index came in only slightly above breakeven” [Econoday].

Institute of Supply Management Non-Manufacturing Index, July 2016: “Conditions, especially for orders, remain very strong for the ISM’s non-manufacturing sample” [Econoday]. “The bulk of the [one point] decline in the composite is due to a 3 point drop in delivery times which, in a signal of easing constraints in the supply chain, slowed only slightly in the month…. The order strength in this report points to early third-quarter acceleration for the bulk of the U.S. economy.” And: “The ISM services employment index dipped 1.3 points to 51.4%. The index has been hovering just north of 50% for most of 2016 after hitting a postrecession peak last October.” [MarketWatch].

Motor Vehicle Sales: “Lightweight cars and trucks better than expected, but heavy weight truck sales brought down the total” [Mosler]. Trucks as we’ve been seeing. And: “Sales for the top three auto makers selling in the U.S. slipped in July as the strong growth rate that defined the past six years slows to a crawl, another indication the industry is entering its first sustained plateau since the decade leading to the financial crisis” [Wall Street Journal, “July Auto Sales Stoke Fears of Market Plateau”]. And did I not get the memo on the summer retooling? Where did that go? And: “It looks like the slowdown in sales is already being felt in distribution channels: motor vehicle and parts shipments on U.S. railroads expanded more than 5% in the first five months of the year but grew just 0.8% in June” [Wall Street Journal].

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of July 29, 2016: “Purchase applications for home mortgages were down 2 percent” [Econoday]. “Year-on-year, the purchase index is now up only 6 percent, a significant retreat from the plus 30 readings seen in March.”

Housing: “The latest homeownership rate figures show an interesting dichotomy to the housing market.  While prices are up, the homeownership rate is down.  And down significantly.  The homeownership rate is now at levels last seen 50 years ago (the latest figures are the lowest in a generation – each update seems to bring a new low).  This flies in the face of all the house humping that is being pushed out into the market.  What we do know is that Millennials are simply not buying numbers in any “pent up demand” form.  In fact, a record number of Millennials are living at home with at least one parent.  The data is interesting since the drive is being pushed by older Millennials, those that should be buying.  Younger Millennials are likely in college accumulating back breaking levels of debt” [Dr. Housing Bubble]. “I know it bugs some people but the reality is, the homeownership rate is now at a 50 year record low. This flies in the face of the thesis that this move up in housing values is coming from some economic miracle. The volume of home sales is tepid at best and weak for new homes. What you have is the after effects of a manipulated market. But people are waking up to the game and you see this in our very unique political season.”

Retail: “Consumers are doing their part to keep the U.S. economy moving, but it’s unclear whether they’re buying enough to get more goods moving” [Wall Street Journal] “… The gain offset weaker business and government spending and the personal consumption outpaced income growth and came as the savings rate for Americans fell, suggesting growing confidence. That may be push retailers to restock store shelves and distribution centers going into the fall—if the buying is coming fast enough to cut into inventory stockpiles. The last measure of stocks showed the inventory-to-sales ratio for retailers remained at a historically high level in May and shipping businesses that serve the market suggest their store-owning customers are still in no rush to bulk up on inventories.” If the PCE expenditures were due to “healthcare spending, electricity and gas,” why would more goods move?

Shipping: “Idle fleet surges as peak season fizzles out.” That was fast [Lloyd’s List]. Paywalled, but also this: “THE recent decisions by several carrier alliances to suspend two transpacific loops at the start of the peak season, rather than at the end of it, was a signal that containership idling was on the rise, according to analysts at Drewry Research Services.”

Shipping: “The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has been very cautious about drone testing in the US so far, but that’s about to change. The FAA has granted Google’s sister X division (under Alphabet) permission to test Project Wing delivery services below 400 feet at six sanctioned test sites, according to the White House” [Engadget]. “The flights will be part of a new push by the US National Science Foundation, which is spending over $35 million on unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) research and testing over the next five years.”

Honey for the Bears: “Not Saying Winter is Coming, But Where’s Your Coat?” [Kent Beck, Facebook]. Beck is the creator of “extreme programming.” Beck goes on: “Combine a tech dip with a big external shock, though, and things could get ugly. A European banking crisis, invasion of the Balts, disruption of trade in the South China Sea, another US genital waving adventure, any of these combined with a dip could set off a positive feedback loop that would leave individual geeks in a bad position.” Beck also offers advice; I’d be interested to hear what our technical readers in the Bay Area, if any, think of it.

Honey for the Bears: “‘I show homes every day to Chinese families from Shanghai, Beijing, cities I’ve never heard of, and sometimes it’s just the mother and kids because the father is working,’ [real estate broker Clarence] Debelle said, referring to so-called astronaut families with the father working in China and mother and children staying in Vancouver. ‘It’s typical of any wealthy person to move money abroad to preserve their wealth. They’re concerned about the market there and they want hard assets to preserve and protect their capital'” [Bloomberg]. Hmm. If the upper strata of the Chinese bourgeoisie are buying boltholes to ensure the safety of the wife and kids, that doesn’t bode well for events on the Mainland. (I know that’s not what Debelle said; I’m providing an alternative explanation.)

Honey for the Bears: “Which market indicators best forecast recessions?” [Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System]. ” In this note, we use econometric methods to infer which economic and financial indicators reliably identify and predict recessions. We find that, for forecasting the risk of recession 12 months from now, financial market indicators, such as the slope of the Treasury yield curve and measures of corporate credit spreads, are particularly informative. In contrast, when attempting to identify whether the economy is currently in recession, variables that describe real economic activity, especially the labor market, are the most reliable.”

“There’s substantial evidence from the field of behavioral finance that individual investors have a strong preference for investments that exhibit the same characteristics as lottery tickets. Two of these characteristics are high kurtosis (or fat tails) and positive skewness, meaning values to the right of (or more than) the mean are fewer but farther from it than values to the left of (or less than) the mean” [Larry Swedroe, ETF.com]. “And just as is the case with lottery tickets, this preference leads investors to overinvest in the most highly skewed (right-skewed) securities. Increased demand leads to higher prices, with the consequence being that such securities will have lower subsequent average returns.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 77, Extreme Greed (previous close: 77, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 82 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 3 at 10:47am. Mr. Market has ennui….

Health Care

“New insurance policy: Abandon ACA exchanges to avoid losses” [Yahoo News]. Cue doomy death spiral music. There are fewer signing up than projected, and they’re sicker than projected. Nobody could have predicted…

Dear Old Blighty

The full text of the speech with which Corbyn launched his campaign for the leadership [Defend Democracy]. This speech makes me want to get out my Magic Markers and code all the good stuff. On a purely techincal level, it’s very very good. And then there’s this:

I also want to pay tribute to our Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Someone said of him the other day: “He does the honest, straight-talking politics, but the kinder, gentler stuff is still work in progress.”

But what John has done more effectively than any other politician is demolish the case for austerity. He said it: “Austerity is a political choice not an economic necessity”.

Every single plank of George Osborne’s failed and destructive economic programme is being torn up.

From a year ago, when Labour was too cautious in criticising cuts. Now, you’re hard-pressed to find even a Tory to defend it, as one fiscal target after another has been ditched, first by Osborne, and now by Theresa May. The long-term economic plan is dead.

Most people now believe that the government’s cuts are both unfair and bad for our economy.

In post-Brexit Britain, even Tories like Stephen Crabb and Sajid Javid are converts, making the case for tens of billions in investment.

But it is Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell who led the way, and who earlier this week made the case for a National Investment Bank, and a network of regional investment banks, to redistribute wealth and power.

The British press has gone as crazy pants as our own, so a reliable fact check of the speech might be hard to come by. Readers?

Black Injustice Tipping Point

A five-point platform from Black Lives Matter [Nonprofit Quarterly]. Importantly, a large number of organizations (IIRC, 30) unified beyond this.

The platform, which BLM will advocate for in the run-up to the general election and beyond, contains six constellations of issues that the network will pursue locally and nationally:

  • Ending the war on black people
  • Reparations
  • Investment and Divestment
  • Economic Justice
  • Community Control
  • Political Power

Our Famously Free Press

“[Snopes.com] was launched to correct urban legends and false rumours. Now, with even presidential candidates repeating fake stories from the web, its co-founder David Mikkelson says ‘the bilge is rising faster than you can pump'” [Guardian]. I see I’m not the only one.

Class Warfare

“History has shaped the landscape for any workers who might want to organize unions today. Because of the intensity of employer opposition, workers who seek to unionize risk polarizing their communities. They may be blamed for taking actions that could lead to their towns losing the company altogether; they may even be fired themselves in retaliation. Is it any wonder that many conclude unionization is not worth the effort?” [WaPo]. “When employers have been able to wield such political power, and when there are so many examples of collective defeat, it can seem as though acting alone is the only real way to improve your life. Over time, this comes to appear as a culture of individualism. But it might be more precisely described as a culture of fear.” Well, at least the Obama administration delivered card check. Oh, wait…

“Aging workforce puts strain on skilled manufacturing workers” [AP]. Just to make things crystal clear:

“We’re having to rebuild the entire pipeline of workers,” said Katrina Evans, assistant director of the state’s Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau. “It’s not even so much a skills mismatch as it is a warm body mismatch.”

Thanks for that “warm bodies” comment, Katrina. Well played. If only there were some mechanism, something like, oh, an invisible hand, that would adjust the supply of warm bodies to the demand! Assuming, of course, that the educational system that our squillionaires with their bright ideas crapified is capable of delivering them.

“[E]ven as unemployment hovers near a six-year low, U.S. companies say they have no plans to make increases to the money they set aside for pay raises next year” [MarketWatch]. “The finding is based on a survey of 461 companies commissioned by the Conference Board… According to the report, companies plan to raise their budgets for pay increases by a median of 3% in 2017, the same rate as in each of the last six years. The stagnation marks a shift in the way companies choose to reward workers, said Matteo Tonello, a managing director at the Conference Board. Instead of raises, Tonello said, companies are increasingly awarding performance-based bonuses. A study by HR consulting company Aon Hewitt found that bonuses jumped from 7.5% of total compensation budgets at U.S. companies in 1996 to 12.9% in 2015.” This may clarify the issue of performance metrics:

More on performance metrics: “Have you taken inventory of your handheld devices and their batteries and come up short? That’s a more common occurrence than you might think” [DC Velocity]. “The reason: Operators will go for the newest batteries—and hang onto them, sometimes stashing them in lockers, desk drawers, or work cabinets…. This problem is a particular concern when people are compensated based on their productivity. J.R. Rodrigues, the company’s vice president of marketing, cites the example of warehouse employees who received a daily bonus if they could handle truck deliveries within a specified number of minutes. They were hoarding the good scanner batteries, he says, because they could not afford to take the time to go get a replacement.”

“The first thing to note here is that transgenderism goes together with the general tendency in today’s predominant ideology to reject any particular “belonging” and to celebrate the “fluidification” of all forms of identity” [Slavoj Žižek, The Philosophical Salon]. I always wondered about Žižek. If campaign 2016 is showing the “fluidification” of all forms of identity — except, possibly, Democrat and Republican establishment identity, an elite factional conflict — I’d certainly like to see it. How do you fund-raise off fluid identities? How do you decapitate leadership? Etc.

“Whole Foods Replaces Displaced Low-Income Tenants in Pittsburgh” [Nonprofit Quarterly]. “By raising the flag of affordable housing at every opportunity, advocates keep the issue in the public eye. And what brings mainstream and social media attention better than a Whole Foods plopped down in an inner-city neighborhood two blocks from another Whole Foods in a development that displaced low-income tenants? The phrase “rub raw the sores of discontent” comes from a 1972 Playboy interview with Saul Alinsky, but in this case the advocates aren’t just agitating, they are keeping the issue in the public eye, building community support for civic action, and, maybe, softening corporate resistance.”

News of the Wired

“China has actually built an elevated bus that travels above car traffic” [Tech Crunch]. This really is cool. If they made it look like a cat bus, that would be beyond cool.

“Welcome to Airspace” [The Verge]. A must-read, for digital nomads, roving executives, cosmolitican creative class types, and those impacted by them (that is, everybody):

We could call this strange geography created by technology “AirSpace.” It’s the realm of coffee shops, bars, startup offices, and co-live / work spaces that share the same hallmarks everywhere you go: a profusion of symbols of comfort and quality, at least to a certain connoisseurial mindset. Minimalist furniture. Craft beer and avocado toast. Reclaimed wood. Industrial lighting. Cortados. Fast internet. The homogeneity of these spaces means that traveling between them is frictionless, a value that Silicon Valley prizes and cultural influencers like Schwarzmann take advantage of. Changing places can be as painless as reloading a website. You might not even realize you’re not where you started.

The artwork in the horrid Times private equity story that Yves called out here is very AirSpacey. Frankly, while I like AirSpace well enough — goes not only with AirBnB but with the MacBook Air — I don’t think it’s nearly as pejorative as it should be. I think we want more friction, not less. “We have got on to slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense the conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk: so we need friction. Back to the rough ground!” –Ludwig Wittgenstein

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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 (JN):


Alsatian moss.

Readers, if you want to send me some videos of plants in whole systems (bees and blossoms, for example, or running streams) — I can use them to practice with FFmpeg and hopefully post them. Because of download times, they’ll have to be measured in seconds, rather than minutes. Thank you! Adding, I got another one today! Please keep sending them; they will ultimately appear!

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Readers, if you enjoyed what you read today, please use the dropdown to choose your contribution, and then click the hat! Your tip will be welcome today, and indeed any day. Water Cooler will not exist without your random acts of kindness.


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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. grizziz

    Obama, “we have to take those concerns seriously and address them.” In an envelope sent to Santa Claus, I presume.

    1. Roger Smith

      “We can’t just walk away from trade. In a global economy where our economies and supply chains are deeply integrated, it’s not even possible.”

      Because it’s only natural right? We can still (and are) trade without this deal. Nothing comes to a screeching halt without it. It didn’t exist before and things were fine. We cannot just walk away, but we can act like a gun is against our heads and that the other option just happens to be the deal of a century? hah!

      This guy needs to put away his Bill Clinton mask. He is a bad actor.

      1. grizziz

        Right. It sounds like the supply chains will just stop if the US doesn’t get this deal. Why doesn’t he just ask congress to fund his library, so he can stop pestering us. Oh, I forgot, if it is public money he won’t be able to control the narrative of his own aggrandizement.

      2. dk

        He’s responding to his own invocation of “protectionism” as the blanket definition for any objection, or even concern.

        And in a strictly semantic sense, aren’t agreements like this about some kind of protection for something or someone?

        1. Roger Smith

          What he means is that we cannot stand in the way of corporate profiteers simply because we want to protect our minimal, shrinking state of well being and security. It’s a no brainier!

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Frankly, the South could not afford to just walk away from slavery and not take a big hit economically, in the short term.

            Nor can our global economy without wage arbitrage and starving, but willing to work, serfs.

            In both cases, you say ‘to heck with the economy.’

            1. dk

              I can’t speak to the situation in antebellum South but, today…
              A big hit economically? With half of the wealth of the nation uncirculated and in the hands of 1%? Recirculating that money in the form of sufficient wages would strengthen the economy, and also preserve the value of the remaining and still substantial wealth of the 1%. Is it about how much money one has and holds onto, or how much one can circulate?

    2. no one

      Regarding Obama’s remarks on the TPP, they just show what a liar he and all the other TPP advocates are.

      Obama poses the trade alternatives as TPP or protectionism. This “either-or” construction completely misrepresents the TPP and its ill-conceived bretheren as the only existing trade agreements. What about the almost 40 years of neoliberal trade agreements already in place, Mr. Obama? Have they mysteriously expired?

      Yes, Mr. President, you can’t fool us. Decades of trade agreements have eliminated almost all tariffs at the wholesale level. GATT, WTO, not to mention NAFTA, are just a few of the open borders agreements that helped company owners take jobs away from pesky American workers and give them to low wage workers elsewhere in the world.

      Second, the TPP promotes protectionism by extending copyrights and patent protection, most of which are owned by middlemen corporations rather than the original producers. Obama may call it “free trade” but these property rights provisions are protectionism in the sense they make it harder for lower cost competitors to enter the market (in fact, it is illegal to cheaply produce a needed drug in most places, for example).

      Of course all the monopolists (gooogle, Pfizer, facebook) want it: it’s protection for their product.

      I guess, in a way, it’s old fashioned of the Democrats to be calling for protectionism and the Republicans to oppose it. But this time, workers may get more economic security from the Republicans than the Democrats; or, rather, Trump is raising that possibility.

      Obama’s refusal to stop lying about the TPP suggests that it is protectionism, job protectionism, for him personally.

      1. Praedor

        Let’s just demand that ISDS be removed entirely from the agreement and see how enthusiastic he and corporations are for the deal. Require they depend on courts with JUDGES, JURIES as applicable to deal with whining about not being allowed to pollute the air or water, to eliminate consumer protection rules, to ignore min wage laws.

        Tell Obama to eliminate restrictions on “buy American” programs or “buy local” programs and see how enthused big corporations are for the deal.

        Here’s an idea: require that the deal bow down to sovereignty and DEMOCRACY.

      2. kimsarah

        Obama, like a smart politician, frames the issue. Like TPP is either or.
        And the lazy lapdog media go along and frame it that way.

      3. appalachiacat

        The POTUS doesn’t have to try to fool us. He (and perhaps she) is well aware that the citizens are less than impressed. The establishment just does whatever it wants while the rest of us petition and protest while it couldn’t care less that we see “the man behind the curtain”. Just witness the “Dark Act”, passed against the wishes of the constituency because the politicians’ masters called for it. We citizens are going to need to change tactics and up the ante considerably; be willing to work consistently, energetically and in solidarity to make the difference necessary to create a responsible government of, by, and for We the People.

    1. Jess

      Gotta disagree with you about the Russian athletes. The Russian doping program is the most extensive since that of East Germany. The IOC should have banned the entire Russian team. Harsh, but the only way to get the Rooskies to play fair. (Not that the Russians are the only dopers; it’s just that they are the worst, esp. in terms of a coordinated government doping regime.)

      1. different clue

        We should give up on trying to police doping in sport. The dopers will always get out ahead of the watchers.

        The Olympics should be declared an Anything Goes zone. Dope all you want.

        If enough people truly dislike the idea of doped up athletes, they can form a parallel drug-free Olympics, and let the Official Olympics stay as doped up as it likes.

        1. Carolinian

          Honestly any “sport” where taking a drug is likely to give you a decisive edge should be considered a dubious form of sport to begin with. Endurance spectacles like the Tour de France have more to do with animal husbandry than sport since all the riders have roughly the same degree of skill. The riders who get to train in Colorado or other high altitude locations are just availing a low level form of doping by changing their body’s oxygen uptake.

          The Jacobin story I linked the other day talks about how this Olympic drug obsession is a recent phenomenon with Cold War competition overtones.

        2. RabidGandhi

          If we stop policing doping, then the sports will be thoroughly discredited. Children and adults will no longer be able to look up to their favourite atheletes or lionise their local sport team. With this confidence lost, a valuable building block of the current education system will be lost: learning how to pledge allegiance to an inchoate group of individuals with whom one shares a relation that is incidentally tangential at most. Blind allegiance to colours, flags and symbols will be diminished.

          There must be a downside to all this somewhere, but I ain’t seeing it yet.

          1. hunkerdown

            Also, children and adults will no longer believe in meritocracy, or that being seen on TV is its own reward.

            Agree that no downside has come to mind yet.

          2. Jim Haygood

            ‘If we stop policing doping, then the sports will be thoroughly discredited.’

            Bravo! Is there a Doping Support Group* I could contribute to?

            *preferably one that pirates the Olympic rings logo, thus adding trademark infringement to its other antisocial transgressions.

            1. RabidGandhi

              Send contributions to:

              World Doping Support Group
              Av. Urdaneta, Caracas, Districto Federal
              Phone:+58 212-8063111

              Maybe you should gut the Craazyman Fund for this one.

      2. Carolinian

        Did you read the story? The charges are hastily thrown together and based on dubious sources including the husband of a Russian athlete who was caught doping and banned from their team. The investigator said he didn’t have time within the two month investigation deadline to go to Russia and get a response.

        Also there are many worldwide athletes including from the US who have been caught doping in the past but faced individual sanctions only.

        Finally there’s the undeniable drive by many in the US administration and press to try to discredit the Russians on all fronts. Exposes that appear in the US media should therefore be regarded with suspicion.

      3. HotFlash

        A Canadian doing the report? Perhaps because of our extensive experience. There is no photo of Ben here, but I remember seeing pics of him back in the day, the whites of his eyes very yellow, which I am told is a sign of steroid use. And Silken Lauman, too.

        Totally agree w Diff clue, we should be running not just stock Olympics, but fully modified classes, too, not just PEDs, but bionics and genetics as well.

        Not only will it be a whole lot less work than trying to prevent them, some of this stuff looks like it could be fun. I want me some o’them boots.

        1. barrisj

          There’s also the cases of “American” Sprinter Justin Gatlin’s twice-failed drug tests and suspensions, but NO permanent ban from Olympics…Tyson Gay, another drug-test-failed US sprinter back for Rio ’16. Where’s the outrage?

      4. tgs

        So, you favor banning Russian athletes who have never been caught doping? Your a fan of collective punishment when it applies to ‘Rooskies’?

        Sterling makes a good case in the linked article that the Canadian in charge ignored legitimate evidence and relied on Russian defectors whose credibility is at least suspect. What in particular do you reject in Sterling’s article? You don’t say. And your evidence or reasons to believe that doping in Russia goes to the highest levels of the government? Did you notice what Sterling wrote about Belgium, France and Turkey:

        Data from WADA shows that while Russians had the most overall test violations, numerous countries including Belgium, France, and Turkey have higher percentage of test violations given the number of athletes and tests.

        Why not think that doping in those countries goes to the highest levels?

    2. timbers

      Wow. Thanks for this. Skimmed Internet over lunch and Yahoo & others headlined Trump saying we should use nukes as fact. Would not have known it was false w/o reading you Moon of Alabama link.

  2. grizziz

    Watch out voter: Internet search engines maybe influencing elections

    Science Magazine quote,

    Presumably Google isn’t intentionally tweaking its algorithms to favor certain presidential candidates, but Epstein says it would extremely difficult to tell if it were. He also points out that the Internet mogul will benefit more from certain election outcomes than others.

    Eric Schmidt you nasty boy!

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Eric has big plans for us, he’s making sure Hilary will be at the tiller funneling the money bags to him, and now with the Pentagon as the canvas he can paint on to his heart’s content. I dunno, maybe an ad-sponsored mobile citizen loyalty device, you click your allegiance to the right team or the device blows you up? The possibilities are wondrous.

  3. Jim Haygood

    Pin that burst the bubble?

    Realtors and lawyers desperate to get in under the deadline filed a record-setting 15,000 property transfer applications on Thursday and Friday, the last business days before B.C.’s punishing new 15 percent tax on foreign property buyers went into effect.

    More than 9,200 transactions were filed on Friday, breaking the 2007-2008 record of more than 8,400 in a single day, according to the B.C. Land Title and Survey Authority. It also reported over 5,800 transactions on Thursday, representing nearly as many deals registered at month’s end in April.

    The demand was so heavy that it crashed the land titles office’s electronic filing service on both days, the authority said.

    Realty companies are reporting the first anecdotes of deals falling through as foreign buyers forfeited deposits on binding deals rather than pay the new tax.


    “Tax something and you get less of it.”

    They might have jumped the shark with a 15 percent tax. It sounds way too high.

    “Overtax something, and you get less tax revenue than before.”

    1. Pat

      For me these are the things I first thought about:

      Were these buyers interested in moving to BC and living there for most of their year or was this some form of ‘investment’? Is there some community value for the taxes that outweighs the benefit of having additional housing and property for the actual B.C. citizenry? Has a hot foreign market caused a Real Estate bubble?

      And I’ll just get out my tiny violin for the Realty companies.

      I should say that at one point when I thought I would be working and earning at the same capacity as I had in my forties and early fifties, I had Vancouver on my short list of possible retirement locations. I like Canada, I liked Vancouver and it hit all of my criteria for a possible change from NY. But since I would have difficulty arranging such a thing now in a manner that both Canada and I would approve of, I’m probably less upset by that tax than I might have been being an ordinary human, aka a selfish git sometimes.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        From what I know, there are three main drivers behind Chinese property investments in the west.

        1. Money laundering. Corruptly gained money is ‘laundered’ through property, often via short term mortgages.
        2. Rich persons bolt hole. Many Chinese rich are remarkably pessimistic about China. They assume that at some stage the system will collapse and someone will decide to scapegoat the rich. And they all intend to have somewhere to flee to.
        3. Genuine investments – most Chinese rich assume a major yuan devaluation at some stage, so see property in western countries as a hedge against this.

        I’ve always assumed that number 2 is the biggest driver, but increasingly I think no.1 is the most important one.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          Here in Australia Credit Suisse estimated that $14B in laundered Chinese funds had safely arrived in the property market in the last 10 years.
          But when Junior wants to send $300 home to Mom in India boy oh boy he better have his anti-money laundering story straight or else.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            The big unanswered question is what happens when they decide its time to repatriate (or move on) the laundered money. Property has its advantages, but in a recession its highly illiquid. Maybe they’ll be selling it to newly rich Vietnamese.

        2. Waldenpond

          Rich persons bolt hole…. it’s odd oligarchs from one area think they will be safe bolting to another area as if there are no exploited persons to come after them on principle. They would need a large island and vast weaponry to defend it.

        3. xyz

          I think family planning also comes into it, especially with this sort of last-minute applications. Many Chinese expect to send their kids/retire to Canada (especially if they have existing relatives there), so they buy an apartment in advance… they can always rent it out if plans change.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            The family planning thing comes into the notion of a bolt hole. It is very common for well off (not necessarily rich) Chinese families to send their child to the West, with money for an investment property. It gives their child greater options if they can get joint citizenship, it is a way of hiding wealth (in particular for the usual corrupt public servants), it is a reasonable hedge against problems with China’s economy and it is ultimately a way that they can escape if things go wrong.

            One thing Chinese people tend to be very aware of is that Chinese history is highly cyclical – long periods of growth and wealth with catastrophic periods of regression and wealth destruction. Most have strong family memories of the Mao years. Its perfectly sensible in these circumstances to have an exit strategy for you and your family, and nearly all who can afford it do precisely that.

    2. Divadab

      It’s less about tax revenue and more about controlling the massive influx of Chinese money into the Vancouver real estate market. It’s made it impossible for regular local people to afford to live in Vancouver (where ALL single family home sales in June were over $1 million) and created neighborhoods composed of declining numbers of aging boomers and growing numbers of empty houses. While the aging boomers make out big (who could resist?), it’s destroying the fabric of the city, its community sense. And the backlash is not pretty.

      1. Jim Haygood

        No doubt about the deleterious effects of Van’s monster housing bubble on the community.

        Best time to stop a bubble is before it becomes the talk of the planet.

        Vancouver let housing prices rocket into outer space. Now it’s setting up a “space shuttle Columbia” re-entry. Watch the night sky for the fiery plunge.

  4. Ulysses

    “The TPP zombie is very much undead.”

    All too true, alas. The lame-duck is clearly the moment of greatest danger. Younger congresscritters– who haven’t yet amassed enough favor in the eyes of the transnational kleptocrats to feel confident in huge payoffs, if they lose an election over TPP support– may be the most susceptible to public pressure. A significant number may well plan to promise one thing and do another after the election, hoping that voters will have forgotten this betrayal by 2018. This is why defeating all those who voted for fast-track, in November, would be a salutary corrective to this way of thinking!

    1. different clue

      If the Lame Duck Congress passes TPP, and the Lame Duck President signs it, is the next incoming President legally bound and forced to accept it? Or is the next incoming President legally permitted to repudiate it? To ” un-sign” it, in effect?

      This is a serious question which I seriously ask. What is the law in this case? Do the Lame Duckers tie the hands of the next President by handing off a passed and signed TPP? Is the next President legally helpless to refuse and reverse it? What does the LAW say?

      1. Vatch

        It’s not a treaty, it’s a proposed law. So a President must sign it, and that President might be lame duck Barack Obama. But since it’s a law, and not a treaty, a future Congress can pass a bill revoking it, and the President at that time can sign the bill into law.

        1. different clue

          Hmmm…. if it’s not a Treaty, then a future President can’t repudiate it, the way Bush did ( and therefor apparently could) with the ABM TREATY. So we can’t count on a President Trump to abrogate and repudiate the TPP because it isn’t a Treaty.

          So we are reduced to hoping that somehow a future President and Congress would get together to rePEAL the TPP LAW once it is passed. It would take a revolutionary takeover of the Presidency and Congress first to even get a President and Congress which would even repeal such a pro OverClass LAW.

          It appears the OverClass was very clever when crafting these agreements as LAWS not TREATIES.

    2. voteforno6

      I wonder if Clinton is praying fervently that the TPP gets rammed through in the lame duck session, so she doesn’t have to take the heat for it. If it does get passed, then who is going to pay the political price? Current office holders make for a very nice target of opportunity.

      Also, what about the TTIP and TISA pacts? Trade as an issue won’t go away, and for someone who would take office with very little political capital (assuming she’s elected), I don’t know if she would be able to weather the pushback on this front.

      1. Ulysses

        Blocking passage in the lame-duck is critical. Here’s why: once something is already passed, it would be very easy for the new Prez and congresscritters to make a huge show of “improving” it by proposing a new side agreement, with a few inconsequential changes. Then they pat themselves on the back for “listening to the people,” and start planning how to spend their money from Monsanto, BP, etc. This would only fool some, of course, but with a complicit MSM they might get away with it.

      2. Escher

        Yep. That’s why Clinton feels she can get away with pretending to oppose it. The plan is for Obama to run it into the end zone himself. He doesn’t have to face any more elections.

        1. pretzelattack

          the true neoliberal obama unleashed. doesn’t have to even pretend to like hippies anymore.

    3. Carla

      I think we should not ever permit ANY discussion of TPP &/or its brethren without clearly stating that this is not about trade, and it is not even about jobs, it is about the Rule of Law, and We the People will not permit ISDS under any circumstances. We will not consent to world government by multinational corporations, period.

      So we can talk after the TPP, the TTIP and the TISA have been cleansed of all remnants of ISDS — and then, of course, we have to go back and somehow retroactively remove ISDS from NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO agreements and wherever else these odious, illegal provisions may be lurking.

      1. no one

        The ISDS, or arbitration requirement, which is functionally similar to those in millions of adhesion contracts that consumers are forced to sign every day, is odious. But it is not the only odious part of the TPP and its brethren. Merely letting our pro-corporate courts decide whether a particular foreign company has lost profits will not necessarily establish a higher level of fairness than the panels. It’s the principle of compensation for lost profits that is so outrageous, and I see nothing in the US courts that would vary one inch from anything a tribunal of corporate lawyers might decide. Any one of our courts could find any duly enacted legislation “unconstitutional,” or “beyond the authority of the administrative or elected body,” or some other twisted interpretation — indeed, they do it all of the time.
        While I fully agree that arbitration clauses are a horrible abuse that should be stripped from every extant trade agreement,the TPP is such a Christmas tree of giveaways to already-powerful corporations that none of it should be tolerated in a country that claims to be democracy.

        1. fajensen

          Under TTP, TTIP, TISA & CISA nothing goes to a real court – it’s all arbitration, 3 lawyers decide. Only 2 persons to bribe then and easier to keep good security.

  5. Arizona Slim

    Oh, brother. That Pittsburgh Whole Foods story brings back memories.

    Slim was born Pittsburgh and raised outside that city and Philadelphia. I also lived in the ‘Burgh during the mid-1980s.

    One of my places of employment was a food co-op that was located just a few blocks away from where this new Whole Foods will be.

    I worked under two managers. Call them Aho #1 and Aho #2. The first guy’s biggest problem had to do with his ability to consume prodigious volumes of alcohol, and then come to work while dealing with the hangover. Miserable character if there ever was one.

    After Aho #1 came within a hair’s breadth of being fired and escaped to another job in Ohio, Aho #2 took over.

    He got the worker bees behind him with his first decree: Clean up this store! In all honesty, it was a pretty grungy place. And, dang, we made that place look NICE.

    We were proud of it.

    After the great scrub-down came other decrees. One of the most puzzling was that the store’s stereo system MUST be tuned to the local public radio’s classical station.

    WTF? This store was in a historically black neighborhood. Classical music didn’t exactly project a welcoming vibe to the neighbors.

    Well, Aho #2 wasn’t interested in those neighbors. He was going for, ahem, a more upscale market.

    His quest included the move of the store to a refurbished factory that was, oh, about two miles away. Last I heard, the co-op was still in business at this location.

    I left the co-op a little over a year before the staff revolt that ran Aho #2 out of Pittsburgh. Word was that he was going to some yuppie grocery store in North Carolina.

    Sometime after that, Aho #2 became one of the original executives in (you guessed it) Whole Foods.

    Which is why I avoid WF like the plague. For me, it’s personal.

    1. trent

      It is still in business and totally caters to an upscale white crowd. You’d be surprised to come back to pittsburgh, all that healthcare and higher ed money bringing in a crowd i’m not exactly excited to call “pittsburgh”.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Or, as Thomas Frank puts it, the two economic sectors that are bankrupting middle America.

        My source: The description of Boston in his latest book, Listen, Liberal.

        And, thanks, trent. I’ll steer clear of that co-op during my next visit to Pittsburgh.

    1. Waldenpond

      uhhhh…. jeez. I think I can just about drag myself to vote one more time and then that happens.

  6. Plenue

    I think Zizek is just making crap up, like he usually does. I’ve never understood why he’s practically worshiped by certain people.

    1. tony

      Because he is fun and often looks at things in a new way. Some of his stuff is brilliant and has helped me with my issues.

      I think he is onto to something here. The current culture puts a lot of emphasis on the individual at the cost of communal identity. That is why you have hundreds of made up identities for all these special snowflakes. Same as the left fragments into a bunch of tiny, useless groups with miniscule differences. I think that is where he is going.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It could be that we are all lemmings.

      I’ve just learned that apparently, flossing does not help. No evidence that it does. Medical benefits…er, unproven…meaning scientifically, I believe.

      If truth, I stress that, it’s one more exhibit of us being brainwashed successfully.

      (Personally, I hope it’s not true and scientists will come to our rescue).

    3. hunkerdown

      There were some hard stretches in it, but it makes some sense to me. It’s about siloing vs. solidarity.

      1. Private lived experience is not amenable to public discourse. Those are two, mostly separate stories, and at incompatible scales. The latter has no room for the richness of the former.
      2. Group identities are based on practice of ideals. Ongoing contact with dissimilar identities heightens contradictions. Multiplying gender roles does nothing to foster acceptance of all of them and much to exacerbate them.
      3. Complex systems of human roles are anti-functional and resist coordination in everyday life. Perhaps this is by design.
      4. Individualism is a collective identity, whether they like it or not.
      5. There’s nothing wrong with “Other” as a public gender or a movement, if gender oppression is a genuine nemesis and not merely a market unrealized.

      It would have been better had he not elected to use recycling of refuse as a metaphor for gender, perhaps.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      LOL “the Government getting Fed Up Again”, as if a.) there is a functional separation between the Government and Wall St, and b.) does “again” mean like last time, when the female Senator from New York sauntered over to Wall St in the middle of the 2009 crisis and asked them to “please cut it out”? Or is it the bit when the president of our fair land told the assembled billionaire glitterati of Wall St that he was “the only thing separating them from the pitchforks”?

  7. ChrisFromGeorgia

    Politico is spinning the pro-TPP case hard. The WaPo has a very different interpretation of that letter, noting all six voted for FTA and were being counted on to help pass the thing. It would have to pass both the Senate and the House, and McConnell has already said “no sale,” though he is a weasel who could easily change his mind.

    That being said, the politics of the lame duck are murky at best. I can envision some attempt to gin up votes by characterizing it as a “parting gift” for Obama.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Maybe it’s a job (passing TPP) only women are strong enough to do.

      “Elect Hillary.”

    2. different clue

      Perhaps McConnell and some other Establishment Republican Senators hate Obama personally enough that they would view preventing TPP from passing the Lame Duck as a “parting Fuck You” to Obama. Pray that their hatred for Obama outweighs their love for the International Free Trade Conspiracy.

  8. forgottenname

    Trump asks why US can’t use nukes: MSNBC

    “Donald Trump asked a foreign policy expert advising him why the U.S. can’t use nuclear weapons, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said on the air Wednesday, citing an unnamed source who claimed he had spoken with the GOP presidential nominee.”

    It is possible that this story is made up, but it’s scary that this sounds believable. If Trump weren’t so personally unhinged it would be easier to consider him the lesser (or less effective?) evil on foreign policy given his more isolationist utterances (but who can believe that he wouldn’t change his mind tomorrow on this? Also, he seems to be willing to make deals with more traditionally militaristic/imperialist standard right wing Republicans). However while Clinton has been consistent in her support for militaristic and imperialist foreign policy and might further embroil the US in the middle east and lead to a cold war with Russia – and these are very dangerous things that I do not wish to see happen – I don’t believe she would launch any nukes in a fit of reckless impulsiveness just because of, say, her ego having been slighted.

  9. clarky90

    I find this info reassuring. The Party of Lincoln is becoming the Party of Lincoln again IMO


    “…former Republican congressman John LeBoutillier told the BBC’s Newsday programme he believed many Republican politicians would back Mrs Clinton.
    “Now I think in private a lot of Republican congressmen are going to vote for Hillary, they can’t stand Trump,” he said.”

    Republicans not voting for Mr Trump
    Barbara Bush, former first lady
    Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, 2016 presidential candidate
    William Cohen, former secretary of defence
    Jeff Flake, Arizona senator
    Lindsey Graham, South Carolina senator, 2016 presidential candidate
    Larry Hogan, Maryland governor
    John Kasich, Ohio governor, 2016 presidential candidate
    Mark Kirk, Illinois senator
    Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, 2012 Republican presidential nominee
    Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida congresswoman
    Ben Sasse, Nebraska senator

    Republicans voting for Mrs Clinton
    Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state
    Hank Paulson, former treasury secretary
    Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser
    Richard Hanna, New York congressman
    Meg Whitman, party donor and fundraiser

    1. jo6pac

      Republicans voting for Mrs Clinton.

      Some list of her new friends. I wonder when the seth lord chaney join the list?

      I love the fact that meg is in but I thought she would be more Your Fired dump person since that’s what she is so good at.

    2. Waldenpond

      Nader gave us Bush. Bush is a war criminal. The Bushes support Clinton.

      The neocon Rs supporting the neocon D means the Rs are imploding. The neocon D getting the support of the neocon Rs means the Ds are a smaller, stronger party.

      (2008 who kidnapped Josh) was requesting a strong center right party. https://twitter.com/joshtpm/status/760624387842306048 Encore of hippy punching. https://twitter.com/joshtpm/status/760932237785329664

      Bonus… for a chuckle, the Clinton crowd cheers for middle class tax increases.

    3. cm

      As Lambert has stated many times, this is a wonderfully clarifying election.

      Clearly the argument that we have to vote party lines because of Supreme Court nominations is now proved as garbage.

  10. F900fixr

    Time to start the “Can’t find skilled help/Chickens coming to roost” file.

    The suits have been abusing the wretched refuse for 30 years now.
    The problem is, they don’t see a difference between “low skilled” and “highly skilled” labor.

    They have also under invested in turning “low skill” into “high skill” labor. One of the reasons being is that “we don’t want to invest in training, if that guy/gal can take that training and go work for someone else that pays better.”

    The plan seems to be “lower the standards”, and hope nobody notices. Extend/eliminate inspection/maintenance intervals. Turn the skilled guys into 1099s, which works until the SHTF, and they are unavailable due to other scheduled commitments. Or, fill open positions with undertrained, unqualified people, and hope OJT works faster than the laws of percentages.

    Our military is in similar condition. Note that one of the justifications for scrapping the A-10s is the fact that they don’t have enough mechanics to support the A-10 and the F-35.

    Pay raises cost real money, and OMG, they can’t let that happen…….

    What’s going to be interesting is if the “system” of turning your political opponents into primary suppliers, Globalization, Just-in-Time Inventory and Lean Manufacturing is ever tested.

    No “just in case” inventory. No “just in case” spares. Employees running full throttle all of the time, continually having to pull miracles out of their azzes to make schedules. Everything seems to be run on a shoestring, that collapses when the system is put under any kind of stress whatsoever. (Example: Any airline when they have a “computer glitch”. Now imagine what might happen if they were hacked, and they had “computer glitches” coming out of their azzes)

    Assuming the PTB have a lick of sense (big assumption), all of this talk about “confrontation” with Russia or China is just a big Kabuki for the benefit of the MIC/DOD. We’re not going to get into a shooting war with them, ever, if the idiots in DC have any sense. For starters, the 1%ers will have too much to lose.

    Anyone with any sense whatsoever knows that if we got into a pizzing contest with Russia or China, we might last three weeks (max) before the whole US economy collapses into a smouldering wreck. Our economy is too fragile to handle any kind of shock like that.

    The plan going forward will be:
    – Fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve with Astroglide for the screwings yet to come.

    – Continue letting the propagandists/media hone and refine their skills at turning defeats into victories.

    1. Pat

      We are agreed, except that yes, I do think much of our leadership is that stupid. I know that the Middle East was not about the Middle East but seriously the clusterf*ck that was and is our strategy there is more than proof of that stupidity. Do you really think any of these idiots thought that Iraq and Libya were going to destabilize Europe? Did they really think that 1.) Russia would go to war over Crimea or 2.) let it go in the first place?

      The problem is that propagandists, much of our political class and military have bought the kool-aid. Just as they bought it about Iraq. All the idiots that weren’t in the top five behind that are still making plans, choices, decisions and foreign and military policy rather than being turned into landfill. And they still think they can win.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Perhaps they don’t teach students about the little trip Iskander of Macedon took all the way to India, or the quest-journeys of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan.

        The 2 continents are contiguous.

        1. Pat

          My education has been spotty on many subjects. And I do know that geography is not my long suit. But I’m not sure what is being taught our political class anymore. Were they taught geography or history or psychology, etc? Or do they just choose to ignore things that get in the way of their deeply desired plans? All I know is more and more I can see something that is patently obvious, and has precedent, being ignored by our ‘leaders’ and our ‘press’.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Little bit of both – that’s my guess

            Those who don’t know history repeat history.

            Those who know, but still repeat, because greed

          2. AnEducatedFool

            A few of the people I knew back in high school, graduated in 2000, went to Ivy League schools. The crapification of that system is amazing. I was told stories that confirmed reports of major grade inflation. Simply come to class and get a B. Do some work to earn an A. The real work was in getting into certain classes.

            I took enough classes in International Affairs and History to have BAs in both. I missed the boat in taking calculus in college so I was never able to complete an econ degree. I regret the decision since I found Calc to be an easy course. (Recently re-enrolled in CC to avoid payments and retrain.) Some memorization but its a pretty straight forward system. Application is not my forte.

            In my classes the international affair students had no concept of history. They were essentially taught from the collapse of the Soviet Union forward but most would only learn history starting in 1996. I expect that trend continues.

            There understanding of geography was abysmal. I struggle with certain regions but many had zero working knowledge of the regions we were studying. They would know that a country was on X continent but would struggle to understand which country border shared a border with another country.

            Trying to explain why Iran is wary of the US military encirclement was difficult since I would have to explain which countries border Iran and the role of the US military in those countries.

            Hmm…I’m going on a bit too long. Essentially INTA and Poli Sci students are taught how to write papers and where to look for research and what sources of information are appropriate. You are indoctrinated into the dominant ideologies. Econ people go through the same system.

            As for elite institutions. A Yale professor was on Morning Joe recently to explain Russia’s behavior. He stated facts w/o context and I think that is how they teach their students. Critical thinking is not necessary or wanted.

            1. Jim Haygood

              “You are indoctrinated into the dominant ideologies.”

              Then you are given a diploma which says you were vetted and found “compliant.”

            2. cm

              I’m sort of shocked an econ degree would require calculus. I am floored at the mathematical illtiteracy of economics. Supply/demand curve could be so easily explained with derivatives, but instead they flounder about as if algebra is rocket science.

      2. Mudduck

        I read that the US was seeking bids to renovate Russia’s naval base at Sevastopol for NATO. Evidently they thought that with the success of the Ukranian coup, they were home free. Crimea’s deft move to rejoin Russia thwarted the scheme to take over Russia’s only warm water naval port.

        1. tgs

          I read that the US was seeking bids to renovate Russia’s naval base at Sevastopol for NATO.

          Plausible, but a link would be nice.

    1. hunkerdown

      Meh. As much as I’d like to see Soros and the rest of the schoolgirl-groping chikan-shita elites on lamp posts, any “think tank” that uses the term “sodomite unions” or upholds “tradition” should be treated as a terrorist organization until extinction.

  11. Pat

    Because I love stating the obvious, if full employment AND employee rights were of any importance to our political class there would be more than a few laws or regulations in place regarding employment.

    Some examples but not all:
    1. All those tax cuts to create jobs would have come with requirements to actually create jobs: including corporately funded training and apprentice programs and real requirements regarding the wages and benefits of said jobs. For instance for any job where there was a prevailing market rate, after a designated training period said jobs would be paid that prevailing rate with benefits as determined by asking workers currently employed to do those jobs whether they would take a job for that salary and benefit package. NO employer input regarding ‘market’ to be considered. Think the guys who want to pay $20/hour with limited benefits for machinists in an area where $50/hr with bennies is the current starting rate…
    2. There would be no tax breaks for creating jobs anywhere outside the country, but penalties.
    3. H1B1 visas would have requirements making them expensive (market as determined above plus 10%) of limited duration and have training requirements to help develop American workers.

    Just a couple of types of 2X4’s that should be being applied to many employer groups who think misnamed ‘Right to Work’ (for nothing) laws are the be all and end all.

    1. TheCatSaid

      Those are great ideas. More, please!

      I like Ricardo Semler’s ideas about workplace democracy (where workers decide if they want/need a manager, and if they want one, they get to make the hiring decision). Workers also get to choose their own salaries. There are responsibilities and implications of this, too–and legislation that makes it legal to let people go when their immediate team deems it appropriate. (There are sensible company rules that make this difficult to do if someone has been with the company for 2 years or more, and they pro-actively look at ways of moving people into more appropriate positions.) They’ve come up with creative and flexible approaches to work hour schedule and retirement.

      His books are Maverick and The Seven-Day Weekend. His principles come down to treating people like adults and letting them make decisions, with control coming from bottom-up rather than top-down.

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    China’s elevated bus.

    Can that contraption double as a homeless shelter at night?

    1. Jess

      Love this sentence in the Hill article: “Our children and our children’s children should never expect their President to threaten someone or anyone with physical or emotional violence.”

      Has the writer ever listened to the Hildabeast? Has the writer ever examined what Obama and Hellary have done, not just to threaten violence, but to unleash it in waves that have killed thousands?

      1. AnEducatedFool

        The Green Party has an add running on MSNBC. The ad basically says that everyone hates what Donald Trumps says but Hillary Clinton has actually done horrible things to the world. The photo of a ruined/bombed out street had no impact on me. It was a very good introduction to Jill Stein and the Green Party. I still prefer the Justice Party based on the name alone. They essentially have the same platform.

        1. TheCatSaid

          I never heard of the Justice Party. Thank you for mentioning them.

          Dr. David E. Martin was involved in writing the Constitution for the Pirate Party (which exists in many countries and has won some seats in various countries in Europe). Intriguingly, their focus is on transparency rather than on specific policy positions. When I thought about this it made a lot of sense. The trick is to achieve true transparency–sharing all relevant information about the impact of policies or other decisions, so that people can make informed choices.

      2. Jay M

        Didn’t 0bama say something to the effect that “it turns out I’m a pretty good killer”.
        But, temperment, I guess.

  13. Patricia

    Thanks for linking “The Necessity of Political Vulgarity”:

    “The nouveau riche with their gaudy tastes, their leopardskin carpets and solid gold bathroom fixtures, upset the balance of things by giving the game away. They make wealth look like something nasty and indefensible….since the rich of all flavors are a monstrosity and a cancer, it’s the flashy, obnoxious kind of wealth that we should hope for, the kind that tells no lies and is more obviously despicable. Civility is destructive because it perpetuates falsehoods, while vulgarity can keep us honest.”

    and then, “Reclaiming vulgarity from the Trumps of the world is imperative because if we do not embrace the profane now and again, we will find ourselves handicapped by our own civility….We cannot cede vulgarity to the vulgarians; collegial intellectuals will always be niche, but class war need not be.”

      1. Patricia

        ‘Whore’ is overused and also often directed towards women to wield power over them rather than “…to wield righteously against the corrupt and the powerful.”

        One wants to keep saying it to Kos because he is an ass and it annoys him, but vulgarity is less effective when an immature reaction.

        Surely we can be more creative.

  14. Oregoncharles

    Oregon is a swing state? Yeah, I believed that in 2004, to my eternal regret. Not a chance, and never again.

    I can’t tell where they get that – all the polls they list show Clinton ahead in Oregon.

    1. cm

      We believe in elevating the experiences and leadership of the most marginalized Black people, including but not limited to those who are women, queer, trans, femmes, gender nonconforming, Muslim, formerly and currently incarcerated, cash poor and working class, differently-abled, undocumented, and immigrant. We are intentional about amplifying the particular experience of state and gendered violence that Black queer, trans, gender nonconforming, women and intersex people face.

      1. Given that statement, I wonder how much support they will have within the Black community?

      2. They have no credibility until they address the Chicago violence – specifically Black-on-Black crime

      3. Reparations – great way to ensure your movement never gets off the ground

      Have they already been co-opted a la the Tea Party & Occupy???

  15. Bob

    In a rare moment of honesty today, Hillary Clinton proclaimed her plan to raise taxes on the middle class, and Warren Buffett applauded.

  16. TheCatSaid

    Since you mentioned Snopes. . . Last year I asked a question regarding the suspicious trading in certain airline stocks in the immediate runup to 911. Yves referred me to Snopes, effectively saying there was nothing to see, move along, because Snopes had looked into it. I looked at the Snopes article. Guess what–they spent copious column inches talking about the issues. Then they concluded that the claim of insider trading was false, because the 911 Commission had looked into it and decided none of the traders making those suspicious puts could have had any connections to the 911 events. That was Snopes’ one and only source of information–the hopelessly compromised 911 Commission.

    Snopes is useful in some cases, in the same way that Wikipedia has its place. Its weaknesses should be similarly acknowledged.

    1. Roger Smith

      Oh great, the same way they investigated all those bankers right? They wouldn’t publicly acknowledge Saudi ties either.

      Remember when, during the “all flights grounded” period, all the Osama relatives were rounded up and allowed to leave the country, no questions asked?? Great investigations going on…

    1. TheCatSaid

      But will she say the source of the traumatic brain injury? A family member who has other sources of information described a secret trip to Iran, and an attempted assassination during landing by one of her own SEAL team bodyguards who suddenly “saw” what she would do as President and tried to prevent it. He was killed by his colleagues and his death was said to have occurred in Afghanistan. I did some digging and found a number of things that substantiated the story without all the detail.

      They didn’t initially think she’d recover. Maybe she got some of that “young blood” treatment. . .

  17. Gaylord

    The Olympics should be abolished because they distract from the emergency of abrupt climate change. The same goes for all other entertainment and infotainment. We humans will all be dead soon, but at least we might try to preserve some habitat for the viability of other species.

  18. PhilU

    As a Millennial that graduated in 2008 to no job till 2011, I can tell you scaring is a real thing. When I started College avg starting salary in my field was $65k, which let me justify my $120k in public and private student loans. When I got my job, I got hired at $52k, that was of course after falling into another $15k of credit card debt. 65% of my income goes to servicing debt. I’ve spent more time suicidal since 2008 then not. So much so that it carried over into my work…

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