2:00PM Water Cooler 12/9/2016

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Several of his cabinet picks and other early nominees to top posts, however, have endorsed or spoken favorably about the trade pact, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, announced Wednesday as Mr. Trump’s pick for ambassador to China, and retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, Mr. Trump’s pick to head the Department of Defense” [Wall Street Journal, “Donald Trump Is Staffing His Administration with TPP Supporters”]. “While the cabinet and ambassador picks don’t suggest Mr. Trump will change his mind on the trade deal, they highlight potential divisions and contradictions on the issue.”

“Don’t Cry Over Dead Trade Agreements” [Dani Rodrik, Project Syndicate]. “[T]he Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), are as good as dead after the election of Donald Trump as US president. We should not mourn their passing. What purpose do trade agreements really serve? The answer would seem obvious: countries negotiate trade agreements to achieve freer trade. But the reality is considerably more complex. It’s not just that today’s trade agreements extend to many other policy areas, such as health and safety regulations, patents and copyrights, capital-account regulations, and investor rights. It’s also unclear whether they really have much to do with free trade.” As Naked Capitalism, along with many others, said all along. Rodrik continues: “Trade policies driven by domestic political lobbying and special interests are beggar-thyself policies. They may have beggar-thy-neighbor consequences, but that is not their motive. They reflect power asymmetries and political failures within societies.”

“Now we have the grandly-named Namur Declaration. The name is significant: it’s the capital of the Belgian region of Wallonia that came close to derailing the EU-Canada trade deal (and may still do so). The 29 signatories (pdf) are all European academics, and they include the well-known economist Thomas Piketty, and a former political science professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, called Paul Magnette. He’s better known as the Minister-President of Wallonia, and the person who led the resistance to CETA, which adds an extra piquancy to the Declaration” [TechDirt]. Here’s an excerpt from the Namur Declaration:

Standstill clauses should be included to prevent the Parties from lowering their social, sanitary and environmental norms to promote exports and attract investment. These clauses shall be matched with sanction mechanisms, and Parties’ compliance with their obligations may in no case substantiate a claim for compensation by investors or other private economic operators

UPDATE “Japan ratifies TPP despite Donald Trump’s opposition” [Straits Times]. Japan watchers?


2016 Post Mortem

“Imagine if those millions wasted by Brock were used to register hundreds of thousands of new voters or to reach out to Rust Belt working class families” [The Hill]. Good to hear somebody else saying this.

“President Obama has asked intelligence officials to perform a “full review” of election-related hacking, a top advisor told reporters Friday. The White House will share a report of its findings with lawmakers before Obama leaves office on January 20, 2017, she said.” [The Atlantic].

“Feinstein: Clinton has ‘accepted’ the election results” [CNN]. Really? Then why isn’t she spending more time with her family? Anyhow, Feinstein is unsurprisingly full of it; if Clinton really had accepted her loss — just listen to her tone of voice here — HillaryLand wouldn’t be trying to get an obviously reluctant Obama to fire the blame cannons at the Russkis.

“What was on the ballot was plutocracy, complacently stupefied and transparently corrupt at the top of the Republican and the Democratic ticket. Two gold-plated names on the same boardroom door, both candidates representative of and privileged by a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich that for the last thirty years has been arranging the country’s political and socioeconomic affairs. The election campaign was the struggle for control of corporate management, Hillary Clinton seeking to fend off a hostile takeover by Donald Trump, the lady and the lout both standing four square and true blue for the freedom of money, steadfast and vigilant against the freedoms of movement and thought” [Lewis Lapham, Counterpunch (RH)].

New McCarthyism

“America’s ruling elite is so wonderful and our prosperity is so fantastic that domestic dissent is impossible. Any dissent must be the work of foreign devils” [Of Two Minds]. “And that’s why we’re now swimming in the raw sewage of The Washington Post’s ‘fake news’.” With handy charts proving that the U.S. Census Bureau, I.R.S., and St. Louis Federal Reserve are Russian stooges.

Trump Transition

“Valley’s “Come to Satan” moment with Trump is happening even faster than I feared” [Pando]. “I’d love to think Silicon Valley will continue to resist Trump’s “Come to Satan” call but, then again, I’d also love to think that Mark Zuckerberg would have already removed Peter Thiel from Facebook’s board, if only for the gigantic conflict of interest he represents. Given there’s no sign of that happening, I fear Silicon Valley’s “bold moral stance” ship has already sailed.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Bernie Sanders congratulates union leader attacked by Trump” [CBS]. “Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders congratulated local union President Chuck Jones — who represents workers for air-conditioner manufacturing company Carrier — for becoming ‘the most famous labor leader in America’ during a phone conversation recorded by CBS News on Thursday. ‘Well you know, if I did something to piss off President-elect Trump, so be it,’ Jones responded, with a cigarette in hand. ‘We’re moving on, and we’re going to keep up the fight, Bernie.'”

“‘To attack a local labor leader in Indianapolis who has fought valiantly … to protect the jobs of his steelworkers is really unbelievable,’ Sanders said. ‘But, as is usually the case with Mr. Trump, there’s more beneath the surface, and that is what he was really doing, I think, which was sending a message to the entire trade union movement: ‘Do not stand up for working people, or we’re going to go after you'” (interview with Chris Hayes) [Policy Mic].

“Senator Bernie Sanders releases letter supporting teaching and research assistant unionization” [Columbia Spectator].

Meanwhile, Clinton wandered in from the woods of Chappaqua and gave a speech on fake news [ABC]. Clinton still firing the blame cannons, while Sanders has opened up a whole new front. Quite a contrast.

“A Clinton Fan Manufactured Fake News That MSNBC Personalities Spread to Discredit WikiLeaks Docs” [The Intercept]. Greenwald in fine form. But no surprise here, after Jon Ralson manufactured the Nevada chair-throwing incident, which the Clinton campaign immediately used to smear Sanders suppporters as violent. Oddly, there was never a retraction from Ralston.

“The odds are very high that the GOP will either split or overreach in the very near future. For the first time since 2006 Democrats will be in a position to exploit Republican incumbency in the midterms in 2018. And there is no particular reason to assume Democrats will be in a worse position to win the presidential contest than they were this year, when they won by one measurement and lost by an eyelash in the other” [Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine]. Best case for the defense I’ve seen….

Stats Watch

Consumer Sentiment, December 2016 (preliminary): “Post-election confidence continues to build, lifting consumer sentiment by more than 4 points to a 98.0 level that hits the very outside of the Econoday range and is 1 tenth away from the index’s recovery peak hit last year” [Econoday]. “Consumers specifically cite expectations of new economic policies as the biggest positive.” So meta.

Wholesale Trade, October 2016: “Inventories were looking heavy going into the fourth quarter but, given strength in demand, are turning out to be perhaps too lean” [Econoday]. “Inventories at the wholesale level fell 0.4 percent in October, drawn down by a 1.4 percent surge in wholesale sales. The mismatch drops the stock-to-sales ratio from 1.32 to 1.30 for the lowest reading in nearly two years.” And: “Durable goods inventories slipped 0.3% on an adjusted basis, with the biggest drops coming in metals and machinery, both down 1%. Furniture inventories rose 1.6% to post the largest gain in durable goods” [MarketWatch]. But: “We continue to be mystified in the wobble in this data set – there is something wrong with either data collection or methodology. The headlines said this sector improved this month. The big growth this month came from petroleum and electrical. Overally, I believe the rolling averages tell the real story – and they improved this month” [Econintersect]. “Inventories remain at elevated levels – note that they declined from last year’s level. To add to the confusion, year-over-year employment changes and sales growth do not match. This adds to me belief that the wholesale trade data set is flawed and must be ignored if one wants to get a feel of what is happening in the economy.”

Rail: “Week 48 of 2016 shows same week total rail traffic (from same week one year ago) improved according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) traffic data. Long term rolling averages remain in contraction – but the 4 week rolling average remains in positive territory” [Econintersect]. After such a long decline, a smidgeon of hope is fodder for the bulls!

Shipping: “US cargo pilots, banned from action over pay and conditions, seethe as peak season profits roll in” [The Loadstar]. “Following a judge’s decision to award ABX Air a preliminary injunction prohibiting work stoppages, the pilots have no further leverage to ensure better employment terms – although the union is appealing the decision….

Fodder for the Bulls: ” Animal Spirits and Business Confidence” [Calculated Risk]. “A few excerpts from two research reports this morning. [Merrill Lynch:] ‘Anecdotes and surveys suggest that business and consumer confidence has improved following the election. The gain in animal spirits could amplify the boost to the economy from fiscal stimulus, creating upside risk to our forecast.’ [Wells Fargo:] ‘ While political factors likely influenced the magnitude of the improvement in small business confidence, business owners’ attitudes about the economy and their business have been gradually improving for the past few years. All of the improvement in the most recent quarter, however, came from the expectations series, which jumped 17 points in the fourth quarter. The present situation index fell 5 points, essentially reversing the prior quarter’s gain.’

The Bezzle: “High-profile legal proceedings in San Francisco and New York are setting the tone for the nation’s overall struggle to regulate short-term rental properties” [Hotel News Now]. “‘There’s a big divide between some of the major cities, which have the people and time to sort this out,” said Jeffrey B. Goodman, a New Orleans-based researcher and community planner entrenched in the market. ‘It’s more meaningful for them; you’re talking about a place like New York that has 10,000 listings, or San Francisco with 7,000. They’re being forced to take the time and they have the leverage that your vacation communities and smaller or poorer towns don’t have. So you have these big cities really driving the bus when it comes to legislation.'” Nothing sorted yet, but when you think about it, you can see why glibertarian Silicon Valley squillionaires would be all for destroying ADA compliance, and pesky things like building codes, by forcing hotels, which are (rightly) subject to such regulations, to complete with 10%-er property owners who are not.

The Bezzle: “Facebook’s Investors Criticize Marc Andreessen for Conflict of Interest” [Bloomberg]. ” In a lawsuit, shareholders say Andreessen was advising Facebook’s CEO when he was supposed to be representing investors.” Read for the detail; Zuckerberg and Andreessen are as twisty as corkscrews.

Political Risk: “Where will the next crisis come from? Every crisis starts with a pile of debt that can’t be paid back, and shady accounting to hide that debt. When one big one goes under, everybody starts to question the shady deals they’ve invested in, the extend-and-pretend game ends, heretofore simple rolling over of short term debt suddenly ends, and the run starts. Governments bail out. Really big crises happen when governments run out of bailout power or will and you have a sovereign debt crisis or inflation” [John Cochrane]. ” So, where around the world is there a lot of debt that might not be paid back and really shady accounting? Well, duh, China, right?”

Political Risk: “As of June, 32 publicly traded Chinese banks had a total of $2 trillion in investment receivables as of June, up from $334 billion at the end of 2011, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal of the latest available information from data provider Wind Information Co” [Wall Street Journal, “China’s Banks Are Hiding More Than $2 Trillion in Loans”] “[A]n ‘investment receivable’ [is] a loosely regulated category of assets that allows bank officials to set aside little or nothing for potential losses.” I dunno. Wind Information? That said: “‘All banks are trying to move [loans] off balance sheets,’ said an official at Bank of Nanjing, nodding to a common belief in China that Beijing always will stand behind the country’s banks. ‘The only risk we have is sovereign risk.'” So that’s alright, then. What makes me a little leery of this story is the “stuff” aspect; we’ve been hearing about empty apartment blocks or empty lots in China for years, and it never seems to come to anything, so I wonder if we’re projecting something in the American experience onto China. Personally, I’d be more worried about the CP losing the mandate of heaven because an abused and ticked off labor force decides to take it away. Comments from readers who actually know something about China welcome!

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 84 Extreme Greed (previous close: 83, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 71 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 8 at 11:28am. Big jump!

Health Care

“To Repeat: Medicare Isn’t Going “Bankrupt”” [Center for Budget and Policy Priorities]. Even assuming, incorrectly, that Federal taxes fund Federal spending.


“A length of fluffy plumage discovered within a piece of amber has been identified as part of a dinosaur tail, offering new insights into the evolution of feathers” [Guardian]. “Short, fuzzy, and lacking the stiff central shaft ubiquitous among modern birds, the feathers also suggest the dinosaur was unlikely to have taken to the skies.”

“The estimated cost of cleaning up Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant has doubled to nearly 22 trillion yen ($190 billion), with decommissioning expenses expected to continue to increase, a government panel said Friday” [Reuters]. “The panel has been discussing ways to keep TEPCO alive so it can cover the cost that it is responsible for. TEPCO has already received a government bailout, and the panel recommended that Fukushima cleanup-related operations effectively stay under state control until the next review in 2019.”

Black Injustice Tipping Point

So I guess after this we can write off Deray, which is really too bad:

Sort of amazing to watch Democrats go all-in to defend Boeing.

“13 Ways to Act in Solidarity for Justice for Walter Scott” [Portside]. Handy list, especially for Charleston locals. but with many ideas.

“Descendants of West African slaves in South Carolina are fighting to prevent their land from being confiscated and auctioned. Can they save a traditional way of life that has survived for the one and half centuries since emancipation? [BBC]. Really appalling. The Gullah are coastal, and we know how developers feel about coastal land:

The first Lillian Milton knew about it was when she arrived at the local council offices to settle her tax bill.

She was told her home had been sold because she had not paid a $250 levy for a sewer service. She was shocked – at that point she had not even been connected to the sewer system.

“They had sold everything, the property, the house and all and when I offered to pay them with a cheque, they told me I couldn’t. I had to get cash money – 880 some dollars that I had to pay them to get my place back. Many of her friends and neighbours in Jackson Village, one of three black communities in Plantersville, South Carolina, face losing their homes in a similar way if they don’t pay the tax for a sewer they say they didn’t want and don’t need.

Last week 20 homes were put up for auction.

“The only people we see are the developers,” says the Rev Ben Grate, gazing at the empty road that snakes through Jackson Village.

“We call them ‘strangers’ and we are afraid of them. Because they come to take your land.

“They are millionaires, in big cars, driving slow, staking out property, dreaming on what it would be like to have a motel on the river right here.”

Creeps. More on Gullah here.

Class Warfare

Interview with Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics: “The drug overdoses are a big part of [the decrease in life expectancy numbers]. But we also saw increases in heart disease and stroke mortality. The heart disease probably affects this more than anything else. For heart disease, the increase between the two years—2014 to 2015—was from 614,000 roughly to 633,000, so that’s almost 20,000 deaths due to heart disease” [Scientific American]. Stress would be my guess.

“Viewpoint: Trump, Carrier, and Corporate Welfare” [Toni Gilpin, Labor Notes]. “Corporate welfare has been a bipartisan boondoggle for decades. That these tax giveaways have largely benefited hugely profitable companies like Carrier, at the expense of workers and their communities, has failed to garner much media scrutiny until now.” Good roundup.

“President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter attack this week on a union official, followed by his choice of a labor secretary who has criticized new worker protections, has rattled leaders of the American labor movement, who fear unions may be facing their gravest crisis in decades” [WaPo]. What, other than the continuing collapse of their membership, along with the complete impotence of the nationals? Who keep throwing billions at Democrats and getting squat for it? Where’s card check? Heck, when did Obama ever put on his “comfortable shoes” and walk a picket line?

” I’m the union leader Donald Trump attacked. I’m tired of being lied to about our jobs” [Chuck Jones, WaPo]. WaPo is so crazed with fear they’re actually giving a platform to a union guy, and not one of the shills from the national.

When I met with Carrier officials last Thursday, I realized that that wouldn’t be the case. Though Trump said he’d saved 1,100 jobs, he hadn’t. Carrier told us that 550 people would get laid off.

Trump didn’t tell people that, though. When he spoke at our plant, he acted like no one was going to lose their job. People went crazy for him. They thought, because of Trump, I’m going to be able to provide for my family.

All the while, I’m sitting there, thinking that’s not what the damn numbers say. Trump let people believe that they were going to have a livelihood in that facility. He let people breathe easy. When I told our members the next day, they were devastated.

“[T]hat’s not what the damn numbers say.” We need more of that, up and down the line. One reason that the Sanders platform worked was that people could run the numbers on it. They could see concrete material benefits, as opposed to Clinton’s gatekeeper-infested incrementalist markets-first bafflegab.

“Welcome, Robot Overlords. Please Don’t Fire Us?” [Kevin Drum, Mother Jones]. Drum writes:

In the economics literature, the increase in the share of income going to capital owners is known as capital-biased technological change. Let’s take a layman’s look at what that means.

The question we want to answer is simple: If CBTC is already happening—not a lot, but just a little bit—what trends would we expect to see? What are the signs of a computer-driven economy? First and most obviously, if automation were displacing labor, we’d expect to see a steady decline in the share of the population that’s employed.

Second, we’d expect to see fewer job openings than in the past. Third, as more people compete for fewer jobs, we’d expect to see middle-class incomes flatten in a race to the bottom. Fourth, with consumption stagnant, we’d expect to see corporations stockpile more cash and, fearing weaker sales, invest less in new products and new factories. Fifth, as a result of all this, we’d expect to see labor’s share of national income decline and capital’s share rise.

These trends are the five horsemen of the robotic apocalypse, and guess what? We’re already seeing them, and not just because of the crash of 2008. They started showing up in the statistics more than a decade ago. For a while, though, they were masked by the dot-com and housing bubbles, so when the financial crisis hit, years’ worth of decline was compressed into 24 months. The trend lines dropped off the cliff.

And then there’s this:

Next, we’ll need to let go of some familiar convictions. Left-leaning observers may continue to think that stagnating incomes can be improved with better education and equality of opportunity. Conservatives will continue to insist that people without jobs are lazy bums who shouldn’t be coddled. They’ll both be wrong.

As usual in the Beltway, Drum has the left confused with liberals. Read Thomas Frank, and you’ll see it’s liberals that worries about better education and equality of opportunity (as opposed to outcomes). The left worries about, oh, control of the means of production — here, robots — which oddly, or not, doesn’t figure in Drum’s futurology at all.

News of the Wired

” PG Wodehouse secures redemption as British Library acquires priceless archive” [Guardian]. “The author’s reputation, long tarnished by charges of Nazi collaboration, will be restored as his papers find a new home.” I think I’ll wait for a biographer’s assessment, even though I love Wodehouse’s work.

“While they only average about the size of a large postcard, cobweb paintings, also known as gossamer paintings, involved a painstakingly intricate creation process. Artists had to collect cobwebs, layer and stretch them over an oval windowed mat, and paint with a special fine-tipped woodcock feather brush. A range of media were applied to cobweb canvases, from watercolor, India ink, to even print engravings” [Atlas Obscura].

“Airlines could let passengers make in-flight phone calls using Wi-Fi under a proposal from federal regulators” [AP]. Recipe for airline rage. Six hours in a metal tube next to somebody yammering about the details of their last operation? No thanks.

* * *

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:


Invasives! Front to back: Rosa Rugosa, raspberries, honeysuckle, and bee balm. Of course, “invasive” is just a word…

Readers, Water Cooler is a standalone entity, not supported by the very successful Naked Capitalism fundraiser just past. Now, I understand you may feel tapped out, but when and if you are able, 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 continued help.


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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. EGrise

    Re: the Namur Declaration, I initially misread that as the Namor Declaration and was very disappointed that it did not go in the direction I anticipated.

  2. alex morfesis

    Chinese 2 trillion shell game & mandate from heaven….perhaps the real danger is a new elmer season with the red hat church ladies from the he-man woman haters club in ohio deciding that china is not a right to life country and start walking into church barefoot to not be wearing chinese shoes and then decide to stop buying chinese products on purported moral grounds….

    Nah..wattamythinkin….they just want to beat down on american women…they dont care about heartbeats….

  3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef


    “‘To attack a local labor leader in Indianapolis who has fought valiantly … to protect the jobs of his steelworkers is really unbelievable,’ Sanders said. ‘But, as is usually the case with Mr. Trump, there’s more beneath the surface, and that is what he was really doing, I think, which was sending a message to the entire trade union movement: ‘Do not stand up for working people, or we’re going to go after you’” (interview with Chris Hayes)

    For most working (too many hours and not enough sleep) people, the view from their homes is Trump saved jobs.

    And Jones is, to them, is sending a message “Don’t save jobs…or at least be humble, and do not brag. Don’t exaggerate the details.”

    Or maybe they just see the message: ‘Don’t save jobs.’

    And they’d be low information, because details matter.

    1. lambert strether

      But read the story from Jones. That’s not how his local reacted.

      It is the narrative Trump successfully sold on the teebee, while Democrats were off defending Boeing and whinging about tax incentives.

      1. Procopius

        I don’t think defending Boeing is going to end well, just because it’s the truth. It’s like judges say when the cops bring some random jamoke to court, “Well, if he didn’t do this crime he did something he should be in jail for. Otherwise the cops wouldn’t have arrested him.” Boeing has been caught overcharging often enough that it makes Trump’s version plausible.

  4. Glen

    I’m one of the guys that has spent my whole career introducing automation to manufacturing. You would think that I should be a “highly valued” employee by creating all that improved productivity. You would be wrong. Plus, I know from personal experience that many of the CEOs who “create productivity” have little understanding of the technology, and focus more on a skill set devoted to inflating their own income by B.S.ing Wall St, asset stripping, and screwing employees.

    Plus, this whole automation means less jobs is a load of B.S. Improvements in manufacturing technology has been happening for literally thousands of years, and what results is new jobs, not less jobs. Saying technology will kill jobs is mostly used as a scare tactic and an excuse for massive income inequality

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Induction works until it doesn’t.

      It is perhaps correct that, as it has happened for thousands of years, there will be more new jobs, more than enough to compensate for jobs lost.

      But how did that net-positive result work exactly before, and are the factors and conditions the same as before?

      How does a proponent respond to

      1. those who have not seen any net benefit now?


      2. those who invoke ‘reducio ad absurdum’ and say, for example, if we have one green, energy-efficient machine that can do the jobs of 100% of the humans, the invention of the ultimate technology genius, where do people get work? Will it be one (the end point of future technological advances) case where technology does kill jobs?

    2. Roquentin

      I spent almost a decade working in cable TV and with very few exceptions “automation” generally meant bullshit IT systems which did little to none of what they were supposed to and existed primarily to justify the oversized budgets, high salaries, and continued existence of executives behind them. First and foremost, they just wanted something to point to and say “see, I saved/made this much money for the company.” They rarely bothered to talk to people doing the work or created things to solve problems they actually had. I swear to God, with the money they pissed away on bogus IT projects they could have paid the salaries of everyone working there for several years, including raises.

      So much money thrown away on things which offered hardly any tangible benefits over Outlook, Excel, and Google Docs.

      1. Daryl

        I’ve turned down a few $$$ projects in the past by setting up prospective clients with a more generic piece of software (spreadsheets, Trello is amazing for organizing small businesses). I’d say something about karma coming back to me, but honestly it’s just boring to do something that has already been done.

      2. Michael

        Oh my goodness yes. No value compared to a really solid spreadsheet system and word processing system.

    3. KurtisMayfield

      Plus, this whole automation means less jobs is a load of B.S. Improvements in manufacturing technology has been happening for literally thousands of years, and what results is new jobs, not less jobs. Saying technology will kill jobs is mostly used as a scare tactic and an excuse for massive income inequality

      For thousands of years we didn’t have 7.4 Billion people on the planet. We can reasonably supply all of the needs of those people with 1/10 of them working. What are the others supposed to do when the society is designed around you working or you not being able to support yourself or your family?

    4. a different chris

      >Saying technology will kill jobs

      And the weird thing is… what message are they trying to send, actually? So either the jobs go to Mexico or they are eventually replaced by automation here… (which means the replacement jobs in Mexico will also eventually be automated away but we won’t even have the new “keep the machine running” jobs)

      How is that supposed to turn people against Trump? I’m beginning to think he’s one of those people that drive other people so crazy they just make unforced error after unforced error.

  5. Steve H.

    Enter Juliet somewhat fast. She embraces Romeo

    Here comes the lady. O, so light a foot
    Will ne’er wear out the everlasting flint.
    A lover may bestride the gossamers
    That idles in the wanton summer air,
    And yet not fall. So light is vanity.

  6. Sam Adams

    Re: Descendants of West African slaves in South Carolina are fighting to prevent their land from being confiscated and auctioned.
    This is a feature in South Carolina, it’s not a bug as Lambert might say. Charleston is regularly and frequently whored- out to developers by the local gentry who will breathlessly decry the northern barbarians who descend on their city of their ancestors and have been carpet bagging since the recent unpleasantness of that northern agression.

  7. dcblogger

    Al From is the father of gov’t shut downs and gov’t by CR

    The first was the Budget Act, which created the modern way that Congress spends money. Prior to the Budget Act, the Appropriations Committees simply spent a bunch of money, and the revenue committees (Ways and Means in the House, Finance in the Senate) brought in a bunch of tax revenue, with no overall planning to match up the two numbers or set priorities. The Budget Act created a Budget Committee, which forced the two committees to work together under broad government-wide caps. This institutional change made it harder to spend money on social programs, and has been used to implemented austerity policies for decades. Muskie reformed the process by which the government spent money, and in doing so, plugged up the mechanism that had been used by liberals to finance their government programs. It was a straight anti-New Deal institutional innovation.

    1. B1whois

      Must read article, thanks for link!

      The DLC approach to governing, which leads to concentrations of economic power in the private sector and concentrations of power in the White House, is simply what the American public now thinks is the system. There is no organized competition to the DLC, which is why its political heirs still hold power domestically and globally despite bailouts and corruption. That is the strength of the architecture From helped create.

      1. a different chris

        Interesting but, huh? My italics.

        >The Democrats lost Congress in 1994, a result of insufficient hewing to the DLC’s policy ideas by Bill Clinton and members in Congress.

  8. Clive

    Re: Japan ratifies the TPP — Why Bother Special Edition

    Two separate reasons which nevertheless overlap slightly.

    Firstly, it doesn’t make a jot of difference if Japan passes it, it’s not going to be A Happening Event so the LDP can claim some good headlines and opposition to the TPP can’t rouse itself to, well, oppose it because it’s all academic now anyway.

    Secondly, it is important to the Japanese in general and Japanese officialdom especially, to know you are preserving face and being seen to be honoring your commitments to those you see as your peers “in group” [内] because in doing so you send a message to those who are not in your (largely self-identified) “in group” but are, rather, belonging to your “out group” [外]. Might not make a great deal of sense to non-Japanese but I can totally get why they thought that they had to do it.

    1. Waldenpond

      If countries are ratifying the tpp it could indicate they believe/know Trump is going to support it once he’s in office. Trump saying he doesn’t support it, gives cover to countries… opposition less likely to act when they incorrectly believe it’s dead because of Trump.

      1. Clive

        Would the Republicans really be that conniving?

        (Why is it I feel, as a non-U.S. resident and consequently not really au fait with the subtexts and undercurrents of U.S. politics, that I might not like the answer to that one…)

        1. lambert strether

          IMNSHO, the Democrats are more conniving. The Republicans come up to you and kick you right in the stones (or in the ribs of you’re down on the ground). The Democrats come up to, put a tweedy arm round your shoulder in a friendly fashion, then shiv you in the ribs so neatly you don’t notice you’re bleeding out ’til later. *

          Trump might flip on TPP (“We got a great deal!!!!”) but he won’t be conniving about it.

          * Let it never be said the two parties are the same!

    2. Jim Haygood

      Too late to reverse the nemawashi now. Everybody already applied their chop to the ringi-sho.

    3. hunkerdown

      Clive, the Clinton Foundation makes a great deal of sense in that formulation. Thank you for the light. Still, a bit more expansion on “a message to[…] your out-group” would be interesting: is it that the in-group member’s commitments qua …some structure above the in-group?… to members of the out-group are… unimportant? erased?

        1. hunkerdown

          Lambert, sorry, CGI, not the Foundation: “CGI supports the development of commitments by facilitating dialogue, providing opportunities to identify partners, showcasing the actions taken by commitment-makers, and communicating results.” Which is oriented toward, what seems to me, a very similar phenomenon to the being seen honoring Clive described, and the wagon-circling clearly visible.

    4. Uahsenaa

      The Yomiuri article on its passage mentioned the ongoing negotiations over the RCEP as being significant. It could also be a way to send a message to the effect of “we’re ready to deal” and not just stooges of the US, which is a game the more conservative LDP are always playing, since the hard righters in the party are not exactly fond of how tied Japan is to the US.

    5. alex morfesis

      Republican$ will push thru tpp legislation on january 19th (national popcorn day) and baruch el-oh-bama will $ign it as hi$ last act before leaving office…

      It appear$ only 6 countries making up 85% of gdp required for it to come into force…

      maybe nijon vote was political theatre to $ave face…however…

      if a few more “$¥mb®£i€” votes are taken in 4 other countries…

      bringing back water resistant greek fire as suggested by a certain deep cover gru member hiding in a northern and chilly college town is probably currently in order…

      NFL championship games on the 22nd will bury the story and “political theater” threats not to approve el donaldos trumpettes to lead various departments will just

      “force him…force him”

      2 deal with other pre$$ing matters and “forget” to give his notice of intent to withdraw.

      el donaldo may even argue since republicans have control of govt at both $tate and federal level, he can “fix it later”…

      $ince obama i$ $uch a nice guy and love$…love$ America…

    6. YY

      Without going into any exotic cultural explanation, the simple fact is that it was too late to stop or turn the tanker of a political project that was passing of TPP. While the entire world, apparently, was caught unguarded by Trump’s election, the TPP was to merrily go thorough both houses of the diet on schedule as earlier committed. Just a couple of days ago they were still arguing the toss about substance parts of the TPP in the upper house, fully aware that it’s not happening in the USA.
      With the exception of a handful (but what a handful) of rentier interests, the benefits of TPP for trade in goods are so marginal (except expressed in false aggregate) one would hope that the thing would die. But in Japan the non-trade aspects of TPP never got that much public airing and trade in goods (agriculture) was handled, as usual with success, by the ruling LDP. The people of the Pacific rim will have Trump to thank for for killing (for the wrong reasons) this “trade” deal.

  9. rich

    Blankfein the Younger Now Carlyle Group PEU

    The son of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein switched private equity underwriters. Alex left Bain last year for Washington D.C. based Carlyle Group. The District of Columbia is a great spot to interact with politicians, PEU lobbyists and become comfortable in the insider swamp, now in the midst of a team change.

    Carlyle set itself up long ago for either a Republican or Democratic led federal government. Greed knows no bounds. Watch Alex. He’s being PEU groomed.


  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    “Several of his cabinet picks and other early nominees to top posts, however, have endorsed or spoken favorably about the trade pact

    The new ambassador to China comes from a state that has to be nice to their biggest customer, Beijing.

    How does it figure into ‘standing up to China?’

    More paradoxes???

    A new game – 12 dimensional chess?

  11. Jim Haygood

    Another day, another set of new record highs for stock indexes, as they soar on into the empyrean.

    Bonds got their daily punch in the teeth and kick in the stomach, too.

    Dow 20K watch: 1.23% away.

    1. nippersmom

      Thank you for sharing. I’ve read quite a lot of Wodehouse, and as Orwell so eloquently states, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a less political writer. I find the idea that he was intentionally aiding and abetting the Nazis absurd.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks for the link; I didn’t know about it. This rings true:

      It is nonsense to talk of “Fascist tendencies” in his books. There are no post-1918 tendencies at all

      That rings true. As for Wodehouse’s work being formulaic… It’s a great formula!

  12. Oregoncharles

    ““Don’t Cry Over Dead Trade Agreements” [Dani Rodrik, Project Syndicate].”
    An answer to my question, “what are they for?” Thank you.

    Once again: trade goes back thousands of years. We’re already trading with every single country we make “trade agreements” with. They’re superfluous, unless they have an ulterior motive.

    1. JTMcPhee

      “We” the ordinary people are just the screw-ees. The ulterior motives have been laid out pretty well, here and elsewhere — corporatocracy made “all nice and legal-like,” the destruction of national and local and individual sovereignty forever, completion of the enclosure of whatever remains of a “commons…” And Special Deals for Special Snowflake parts of the lobby-rich ruling elite…

  13. JTMcPhee

    Anyone in or on the way to Indianapolis (Carrier) or Huntington (United Technologies Electronic Controls, which like Carrier is a little part of United Technologies Corp., major war profiteer among other profit centers)? To maybe ask some of the, you know, WORKERS what they know and what they think about what Trump did and did not do with respect to their jobs and job security? Or is a gag order part of the package, and besides no one in this interregnum wants to look at what “the electoral process” hath wrought too closely, before the coronation?

    I wonder — will Trump do a Napoleon and grab that Bible out of Robertson’s hand and administer the oath of office ™ to Himself?

    “Sittin’ by the dock o’ the bay…”

  14. Goskomizdat

    As CIA crimes, go fake news is not so big in the scheme of things. CIA’s compulsive Red-Scare tic is certainly despicable, and so is their ridiculous bullshit, like Saddam’s WMD and Libyans armed with boner pills and Osama bin Laden doing 9/11 and bignosed dope McVeigh doing OKC – but the reason why we’re going to put their heads on sticks, the reason why we’re going to put NCS in brutal re-education camps, the reason why we’re going to storm Langley and hang Michael Ann Casey from a lamppost, is this:


    What they did to a perfectly good culture. That Updike shit, thirty pages about some asshole sits in a chair and realizes something, that’s CIA’s doing. They’re going to pay.

    1. Jim Haygood

      “To have read enough to feel the oceanic movement of events and ideas in history; to have experienced enough to escape the confines of a personal provincialism; to have distanced yourself enough from your hang-ups and pettiness to create words reflecting the emotional complexity of minds beyond your own; to have worked with language long enough to be able to wield it beautifully; and to have genius enough to find dramatic situations that embody all that you have lived and read, is rare.”

      I concur. Thanks for posting this.

    2. Steve H.

      Yas, reflections of reflections. I kept sitting (on my hard, metal chair) and memory updiked the Frankfurt School, whichin writings of an academic admirer and a paleocon critic agree on the facts but diametricize the evaluation, while dialecting the juxtapostion.

      Suchwise I cannae determine what the author is precessing. Is he a failed novelist writing an essay? An accidental historian ducking his head back into a pedagogic shell? That I cannot simply determine this may mean that the author has accomplished his purpose, taking me through his own journey of self. And, perhaps, its deconstruction.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Dear Lord. I always thought the idea of credentialing “creative writing” (we used to call it “literature”) was an abomination. Writers write. But I had no idea we had the CIA to thank for it!

  15. johnnygl

    The contrast between 1) clinton, media, and fake news and on the other hand, 2) sanders defending the carrier union rep is really stark.

    Do the rest of the dem party elite and media realize how this comes across??? I mean, trump is out there at least ‘pretending’ to fight for the working class and bernie’s calling BS on the whole thing. THIS is how you beat trump! The rest of the dem party looks so absurdly, hopelessly uninterested in helping normal people. They’d rather fight junk propaganda battles. It’s really remarkable. Of course, repubs are no better, so for years it really didn’t matter because they were both so bad.

    Now trump comes along and figures out that all he has to do is fake it, even a little bit. It’s no wonder he won the election.

  16. Oregoncharles

    I WISH bee balm (Monarda) was invasive here; I can’t even get it to winter over, as with certain other supposedly tough perennials (mints do just great thank you). Raspberries aren’t as vigorous as I’d wish, either.

    It’s “invasive” if you don’t want it there. I’m told honeysuckle is a big problem in a tree farm, though; actually strangles good sized trees – I don’t know which species of honeysuckle. I’ve seen wisteria act like Kudzu, too, but only once.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I want them there. But they certainly do compete for space!

      My bee balm winters over just fine in Maine; not sure why it won’t where you are.

      Honeysuckle, though, isn’t nearly as all-powerful as it is in the American South.

      1. Oregoncharles

        I suspect slugs are the culprit in certain plants not coming back up; they’re certainly hardy enough. Another possibility is that they’re TOO hardy and don’t go fully dormant here, then get caught in a freeze.

        I’d keep ducks for the slugs if they weren’t so darn messy. Once saw a garter snake eating one, though; that was quite a spectacle.

  17. Tom Denman

    “if Clinton really had accepted her loss — just listen to her tone of voice here — HillaryLand wouldn’t be trying to get an obviously reluctant Obama to fire the blame cannons at the Russkis.” (Third link on 2016 Post Mortem)

    She must be delusional (not the most desirable trait for someone in charge of fissionable material).

    The world may well have avoided a catastrophe on November 8th.

    1. flora

      If she really had accepted her loss I don’t think her FB page would still look like she’s still in campaign mode.

      1. Jim Haygood

        The Clintons will campaign hasta la muerte.

        Their headstones probably will include a url for making donations … not to mention an urn to toss coins in.

    2. lb

      Recalling the non-denial denial and the non-apology apology, this appears to be the most strainedly passive-aggressive attempt at magnanymity: the non-acceptance acceptance. Finger quotes around the word accept? Really? It’s as though the Clintons have a linguistic reverse Midas touch. Debasement of ‘is’ was pretty galling, but ‘accept’?

  18. gonzomarx

    Wolfgang Streeck: the German economist calling time on capitalism

    The political economist on Trump’s election, why we should be happy about Brexit and the crises facing western democracy


    “The lecture room is packed, students spread across the floor and peering around the wall at Streeck, absent-mindedly playing with a paperclip and quoting Gramsci: “The old is dying and the new cannot be born. [pause] In this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms can appear.”

    1. barefoot charley

      Very interesting article that associates Brexit, Trump and our blind oligarchs and technocrats–but it is a shame that we’re doomed.

  19. ewmayer

    o ““Japan ratifies TPP despite Donald Trump’s opposition” [Straits Times]. Japan watchers?” — What is the sound of one hand clapping? Japan appears to have answered the trade-agreement version of the koan, appropriately enough, as the word is literal Japanese for “matter for public thought”.

    o [Kevin Drum of fake-news outlet Mother Jones] “In the economics literature, the increase in the share of income going to capital owners is known as capital-biased technological change. Let’s take a layman’s look at what that means.” — This is followed by multiple paragraphs of more hifalutin flummery of the “paradigm shift” variety … please do spare us, Kevin. The layman’s terms for what this means are “the bezzle”.


    And in re. Mish’s “Draghi-In-Wonderland: ECB Bond-Buying Announcement” piece yesterday (which did not make today’s Links cut):

    From the Telegraph excerpt in the above (bolds mine): ‘It seems that the [European] central bank has become stuck between two opposing interests: the other central banks, which are against extended quantitative easing, and the public, which is still looking to the ECB for fiscal stimulus.’ Uh, which ‘the public’ might that be, precisely? Because were it ‘the public’ which would indeed benefit mightily by ditching its high-interest credit card debt, home mortgages and consumer loans for negative-interest debt (as in, get paid for borrowing, just like the TBTF banks do) via the ECB’s latest cash-for-trash initiative – rather than the parasitical-financial-speculator ‘public’, I could easily get behind that kind of stimulus. My wild guess is that that ‘public’ is quite different from the ECB’s and MSFM’s ‘public’, though.

    1. JaaaaayCeeeee

      Dean Baker has been pointing out for years that the MSM claim, that automation is taking our jobs, which might be true if productivity were rising, is bull shit.

      It’s another of the fake news “facts” necessary to blame shift from economic predators to Luddite workers. Like the constant MSM fake news that Sanders is a protectionist and blames only trade pacts (WaMo today). Another of the fake news “facts” is that you can ignore any that are inconvenient, like our own history (we maintained manufacturing jobs until policy makers decided the trade deficit doesn’t matter) as well as other countries whose elites did not take the bribes ($$ or power) to abandon and undermine labor.

    2. Synoia

      Japan ratifies TPP despite Donald Trump’s opposition

      Thus firmly proving that it was not Japan’s gaping loopholes which scuttled the deal, so preserving face for all the Japanese leaders.

      Just in case one asks the Japanese difficult question about their loopholes in the soon-to-be-leaked (In the year 1 AO,) complete version of the TPP.

      Note: AO: After Obama, and the start of a new Epoch. AD is so last century.

      Trump will start to rule 1 AO. Trump needs to be constantly reminded, to the point of multiple twitter storms, he is following the US’ first (and last) black president.

    1. YY

      You missed nothing. A non-story based on a trump tweet complaining about Air Force 1 (and 1a) replacement ripoff costs causing momentary downturn in Boeing stock.

  20. Synoia

    Clinton is an eggpsert on fake news. Maybe Trump could appoint her to a unpaid chairperson of a fake news commission.

    What’s the distinction between, spin, propaganda and fake news, other that the perspective of the commentator?

  21. Carla

    It would be SO nice to see the plantidote right on my Water Cooler page, just like the old days of earlier this week. This got fixed on the NC Links page… why not on Water Cooler?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      We didn’t fix a thing, and I put in the Water Cooler plant exactly as I always do with no change. I don’t know what’s happening. Can readers discuss, and share their browser configuration?

      1. Oregoncharles

        OK: I see it just fine, and commented on it; I’m using Waterfox, the latest version of Firefox, just as they sent it to me.

  22. wheresOurTeddy

    Extra! Extra! Woman who lied about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia scolds others for “fake news”. Brian Williams with the story at 11.

    Remember kids, you can’t spell “Craig Timberg” without the letters C, I, and A…

  23. aliteralmind

    So I guess after this we can write off Deray, which is really too bad:

    Sort of amazing to watch Democrats go all-in to defend Boeing.

    I don’t understand. Seriously write off Deray because of his tweet? Please explain.

    1. Waldenpond

      They thought they were getting warmonger Clinton and now they’re lying/pouting. I wonder if the CIA can get the Rs to impeach Trump so they can get the profits/war they want.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Off the top of my head–

      I think, for The Blob, not going to war with Russia is a crisis. In a crisis, things correlate, meaning HillaryLand and its allies are pulling every string they can within their Flexnet.

      However, it’s really the same logical problem as with the “Trump is a fascist” meme. If the Clintonites, and elites generally, really believed that, they would have “killed baby Hitler” (in fact, they might have considered they had a duty to do so). They could have made Trump One crash. Or they could have sent in a wet team and whacked him (the “Von Stauffenberg Solution”). Whatever, Obama and Biden shouldn’t be smoothing the way for his transition and saying he should be given a chance. Since the elites are not behaving as if Trump is a fascist, either (a) he isn’t or (b) they all are.

      Similarly with Russia. Why didn’t this story appear during the election? You’d think elevating a Russian agent of influence to the Presidency would be concerning enough to get the story out before Trump was elected.*

      So why December 10 and not before November 8? Theories:

      1) The CIA, like everybody else including the Trump team, thought Clinton was a mortal lock, so felt they didn’t need to take the trouble

      2) So they needed a month to fake the evidence

      3) Or they needed a month to torture whoever they tortured

      4) Or they needed a month of bureaucratic infighting — maybe with the FBI? — since this is a domestic matter, and the CIA isn’t supposed to do domestic


      1) War with Russia, which The Blob wants (a lot of rice bowls depend on it, and f*ck the grunts, they’re deplorables anyhow)

      2) Delegitimize Trump (see #1 above)

      3) Affect the electoral college, which votes on December 19. At a minimum, get the faithless electors into double digits (see #2 above). At a maximum, throw the election into the House and work with the Parliamentary Republican Party…

      Basically, the people in HillaryLand, besides being power-hungry sycophants, are crazier than sh*thouse rats, which the Podesta emails show in great detail. Losing power has made them even more crazy. (Note that all this makes Biden and Obama look very bad, since they’re handing Trump the launch codes. They can’t be happy about that, or about Clinton’s behavior generally.)

      NOTE * Or did WaPo spike the story, the way Risen’s story was spiked? I doubt it.

      UPDATE Apparently James Clapper is in charge of the investigation. Icing on the cake!

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Hoo boy:

      Gradually updating the full retirement age at which workers can claim benefits. The new retirement age better reflects Americans’ longer life expectancy while maintaining the age for early retirement.

    2. aab

      Sigh. I should have remembered that the Globetrotters need the Washington Generals almost as much as the Generals need the Globetrotters.

      Too bad the right doesn’t enjoy hippie punching as much as the liberals do. If only they did, they could sweep the liberals out of the way and come at the left directly. But no, that’s what the Help is for.

  24. robnume

    Zuckerberg in politics? OMG, NO! He is barely literate, from what I can gauge. But then, I guess you don’t have to be smart or able to critically think to be in politics. Most folks who have these attributes would naturally enough eschew a political career. What is it about these tech squillionaires for whom all of the money in the world doesn’t seem to be enough – that some seem to also want power via “government service” over the rest of their fellow citizens? The nerve.

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