2:00PM Water Cooler 2/22/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Readers, thanks for the advice and the kind words on the flu. I seem to have fought it off, and only muscle aches and sleeplessness remain. Maybe I’ve got Legitimacy Crisis Stress Syndrome, or something. –lambert


“However, the approaching vote [on the Wilbur Ross confirmation] highlights the fact that the Senate Finance Committee still has not held a hearing on the nomination of Robert Lighthizer to be U.S. trade representative. Nor has Trump nominated anyone for a dozen trade positions that still need to be filled at the Commerce Department and USTR, not to mention the five vacancies on the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s board of directors, including the position of president. And don’t get us started about the international affairs vacancies at the Treasury, Agriculture and State departments” [Politico]. I don’t have any data on where the Trump administration is compared to the Obama administration in terms of filling positions. In 2009, there were many unfilled positions at Treasury, in the midst of the financial crisis! Readers?

“Recent press reports reveal that the Trump administration is exploring changes in how U.S. trade data is reported. Depending on what those changes are, that could be good news, because the current method for reporting bilateral trade flows significantly distorts trade balances to dramatically and deceptively reduce U.S. trade deficits. No doubt that defenders of status quo U.S. trade policies will gin up an attack on any efforts to fix these distortions” [Lori Wallach, Public Citizen]. No doubt, though we also need to know what the changes turn out to be, which we don’t, yet.


Trump Transition

“Nearly 20 states, with both Republican and Democratic governors, have raised gas taxes or recalculated gas-tax formulas in recent years to generate funds for upgrades to aging roads and bridges. This legislative season, at least a dozen more are considering such measures, defying Republican Party barriers against tax increases amid frustration at decaying roads and depleted highway funds” [Wall Street Journal]. “Lawmakers in Washington are preparing to consider a plan to spend as much as $1 trillion on infrastructure, and some believe the state actions may make it politically easier for Congress to raise the federal fuels tax for the first time in 24 years.

“Nearly two-thirds of Americans, divided sharply along party lines, are worried that the United States will become engaged in a major war in the next four years” [NBC]. “While the vast majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning Americans say they are worried (88 percent), Republicans and Republican-leaners are much less worried. About 4 in 10 say they are worried about a major war, while 60 percent say they are not worried.”

Our Famously Free Press

WaPo’s new tagline: “Democracy Dies in Darkness” [The Hill]. How true. WaPo’s news blackout undoubtedly hurt the Sanders campaign (though I’m not sure where to place the sixteen negatives stories in sixteen hours that WaPo ran on Sanders on the continuum of light to darkness.,..).

2016 Post Mortem

“DNC Chair Candidate Tom Perez’s Bank-Friendly Record Could Kneecap the Democratic Party” [Matt Stoller, The Intercept]. “Tom Perez, a leading candidate for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship, has an established record of not taking on the banks; both at the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor… Both Perez and Ellison support pro-labor policies. But Ellison shows that he also wants to oppose concentrated financial power. Perez represents the finance-friendly status quo that has relegated Democrats to minority status.” Ouch!

“Ellison holds edge in DNC race survey” [The Hill]. “Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.) has the edge over former Labor secretary Tom Perez in The Hill’s new survey of DNC members. But while both men claim they are close to securing commitments from the majority of the 447 voting members, neither candidate is assured victory.”

“Howard Dean endorses South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg for DNC chair” [Politico].

Woke liberals:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“In California, supporters of the 2016 presidential contender packed the obscure party meetings that chose delegates to the state Democratic convention, with Sanders backers grabbing more than half the slots available. In Washington state, they swept to power at the Democratic state central committee, ousting a party chairman and installing one of their own in his place. Sanders acolytes have seized control of state parties in Hawaii and Nebraska and won posts throughout the party structure from coast to coast” [Wall Street Journal, “Bernie Sanders Loyalists Are Taking Over the Democratic Party One County Office at a Time”]. “Those gains come from an under-the-radar blitz in a debate over the future of the party following its bruising 2016 losses. While Democrats nationwide have put the focus on President Trump, the Sanders wing of the party has engaged in an intramural fight to remake the party in a more populist, liberal mold.” Good. The Democrats need a hostile takeover followed by a management purge.

“To resist the Trump presidency effectively, Democrats have to go beyond the defensive posture of relying exclusively or even primarily on protests, demonstrations and other forms of opposition. Instead, Democrats must seek to establish an independent and strong political base from which to articulate an alternative vision for the country. One way to do this would be for the governors of the blue states — California, New York, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Connecticut and Colorado, to name some of the mightiest in numbers and weight — to form a very public council to articulate that alternative vision and publicly seek to make that vision a reality within their respective states: a vision that includes universal health care, strong support for labor unions, a humanitarian approach to immigrants and refugees, protection of the environment, among other morally necessary and compelling elements” [Truthout]. Could single payer, for those states, be achieved with an interstate compact?

“New Praetorianism” [The Baffler]. “There’s something in the air, coming from both parties, from commentators on all sides. Let’s call it the New Praetorianism: a pervasive militant nationalism, a combination of exceptionalist chauvinism and get-tough pretense that sees all American politics as fundamentally oriented toward security, conflict, and, ultimately, war. In part, the New Praetorianism draws on our evergreen militarism, the ways in which, regardless of who’s in the White House, America is literally invested in fueling global arms races and stoking international conflicts. But now, in the chaos following the electoral upset, and in the even greater chaos that every day of this chaotic new administration seems to bring, the drumbeats are audible like never before.”

“There seems to be a fascination with numbers and/or mobilizing crowds on the left today. Along with that is the concept of the ‘mass’ party. I am going to argue against this approach. I’m going to argue we need to organize by affinity groups” [Counterpunch (ChiGal)]. “As far as I know, the first affinity groups were developed during the Spanish Revolution of the 1930s. Basically, they are small groups of people—say 12 to 14 members—that get together to create a long-term organization to engage in “political” work, however they define it. The key to the strength of an affinity group is that it is based on a small number of people who each gets to know well and, ultimately, who can trust each other totally.” This certainly worked for us landfill activists. “How to coordinate them? If you envision a center ‘hub,’ with an empowered representative from each affinity group in each agreed-upon geographical area, then you have the basic idea of a ‘spokes council.'” I’d like an example a little more recent than the Spanish Civil War.

Stats Watch

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of February 17, 2017: “Purchase applications for home mortgages fell a seasonally adjusted 3 percent” [Econoday]. ” The second weekly decline in a row for purchase applications could be signalling that home buyers are not as immune to the impact of higher rates as previous data during the post-election rise in mortgage rates indicated.”

Existing Home Sales, Januray 2017: Jump, above consensus [Econoday]. “January’s rate is the very best of the economic cycle, since the end of the prior cycle in February 2007.”

Shipping: “Truck shipments improved in January. Trucking data, like rail, may saying the worst is over” [Econintersect].

Chemical Activity Barometer: “The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB) posted a strong gain in February of 0.4 percent, following a similar 0.4 percent gain in January. This follows a steady 0.3 percent gain every month during the third quarter of 2016” [Econintersect]. Stuff is moving!

Architectural Billings Index, January 2017: “[D]ipped slightly into negative territory in January, after a very strong showing in December. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending” [The American Institute of Architects]. “‘This small decrease in activity, taking into consideration strong readings in project inquiries and new design contracts, isn’t exactly a cause for concern,’ said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. ‘The fundamentals of a sound nonresidential design and construction market persist.'”

Real Estate: “Data recently released by CBRE in the February edition of its “Americas Industrial & Logistics Trends Report” points to ongoing industrial real estate expansion throughout most parts of the Americas [Logistics Management]. “From a U.S. tenant and user perspective, CBRE observed that e-commerce, 3PL, and food &beverage tenants are still dominating user demand in most markets. And it also found that due to very low U.S. unemployment rates, occupiers are concerned about the availability and cost of labor, which is a major factor in location decisions. … [Said David Egan, CBRE head of industrial and logistics research in the Americas:] “E-commerce players have a preference for big box and high-cube facilities, but there definitely has been an increased preference for smaller, closer in last-mile-type facilities closer to the last touch of a package, which means being closer to the customer and also means a smaller building. We are seeing greater activity in that area. Big box is still the majority of demand, but it is not the massive majority like it was a couple of years ago. It is interesting to see how diverse the demand has become in terms of the specs and location of buildings. It is definitely not a big box, big market cycle anymore. It is a more diverse and widespread cycle.”

Commodities: “The U.S. supply chain for organic grains increasingly begins overseas, and that’s drawing complaints from American farmers. Supplies of organic corn and soybeans from countries including Turkey, Ukraine and Argentina are surging” [Wall Street Journal]. “U.S. organic-farming groups say the influx of foreign grain helped slash prices for organic corn by about 30% in 2016, but that the import business presents unfair competition. Some U.S. farmers contend overseas organic farms benefit from looser oversight, giving them an edge over domestic farms. They’re seeking better tracking of grains throughout a supply chain where agricultural goods often go through commodities traders, and certification back to the source of the imports.” GMO labelng would be nice…

Retail: “Results at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Home Depot Inc. suggest there’s still some life left in physical stores. Both big-box retailers report sales at their brick-and-mortar stores improved over the holiday season… even as investments in e-commerce helped expand online purchases. [Wal-Mart] reported a 16% gain in online sales last quarter—a slowdown from 21% growth the previous quarter” [Wall Street Journal]. “Home Depot was better, reporting overall 5.8% same-store sales growth and 19% online revenue expansion. Nearly half of Home Depot’s e-commerce sales were picked up at stores, an apparent validation of an ‘omnichannel’ strategy that also helped the home-improvement retailer’s net profit grow 18%. While many retailers struggle with the toll online deliveries take on profit margins, Home Depot seems to be getting the best of both worlds.”

Shipping: “For the first time in its 110-year history, UPS Inc. has begun regularly scheduled Saturday ground pick-ups and deliveries across its U.S. network” [DC Velocity], “The Saturday ground service is expected to cover half of the U.S. population by the end of 2017….. By providing ground pickups as well as local sorting services on Saturdays, omnichannel retailers can expand their “ship-from-store” models by arranging pickups over the weekend for delivery the following Monday…. UPS will use its existing resources to launch the service, according to [UPS spokesman Steve Gaut]. It plans to hire about 6,000 workers over the next couple of years to support the operation.”

The Bezzle: “A Reuters’ review of minutes from about two dozen state and municipal pension board meetings across the country from October to December showed Wells Fargo wealth management executives offering apologies, weighing fee cuts and emphasizing their own controls on staff hiring and vetting” [Reuters]. State and municipal pension boards? Oopsie…

The Bezzle: “We’ve said it before and we ‘ll say it again now; Kalanick’s purified strain of Silicon Valley capitalism is awe-inspiring in that it allows him to hyper-focus on the success of Uber above all things. By eschewing emotion, morality and political correctness in favor of automation research, capital infusions from Saudi Arabia and borderline illegal labor practices, Kalanick has built one of the greatest American business success stories since Apple” [DealBreaker]. Well, for some definition of success. Until the music stops, anyhow….

The Bezzle: “In September, the grocery delivery company Instacart announced a big change that pissed off many of its workers: The startup was replacing tips with a “service fee” that would be collected by the company instead of the people delivering orders” [Recode (BobW)]. “The startup’s explanation was that Instacart workers were too reliant on tips — around 80 percent of orders had one — and that the service fee would allow the startup to pay everyone a more reliable wage. Many workers looked at it another way: Instacart, in their eyes, saw all of the tips they were making and wanted to capture that revenue for itself. And when Instacart’s best workers realized the tip-to-service-fee transition would mean lower pay for them, they, in turn, freaked out. Instacart quickly relented and added the tipping feature back. But with a catch: The company made tipping much harder to find in the app.” Is there one of these “new economy” “start-ups” that actually has good relations with its workers? Uber, Blue Apron, and now Instacart are all horrible.

Banking: “the Bank of England have released an official policy document that concedes that much of Post-Keynesian endoegnous money theory is indeed correct” [Philip Pilkington, Econintersect]. “[T]hey have also released some Youtube clips with the authors, [which] are fascinating. The language the authors use — which contains references to ‘fiat money creation’ and money as IOUs — is straight out of either David Graeber’s book Debt: The First 5000 Years or MMT. If I were to guess I would say that it is some combination of both,”

Co-ops: “[T]he Veterinary Cooperative (TVC)] is the only veterinary co-op operating throughout the U.S. today. It has 1,500 members located in 49 states, as well as in Puerto Rico” [Truthout]. “[O]ur overall goal is to keep independents around and that’s what co-ops truly help do. We also want to have a 20 percent share of the industry as part of our co-op because we believe it will give us the strength to truly have power and make change and stick around for a long, long time.”

The Fed: “[Donald Broughton, managing director, chief market strategist and senior transportation analyst at Avondale Partners] repeated his long-held concern that the freight flow data does not justify an interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve at this time. A rate increase, which is widely expected next month at the next meeting of the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), will hurt freight activity by continuing to drive up the dollar’s value, curtailing U.S. exports and slowing domestic production, Broughton said” [DC Velocity]. “Broughton acknowledged that the current national unemployment rate has fallen to the point where it historically generated labor cost inflation. However, the combination of a secular decline in the nation’s labor participation rate and a dramatic slowing in productivity gains means labor cost inflation is not the threat that it once was, he said.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 80 Extreme Greed (previous close: 83, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 80 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 22 at 11:48am. Too bad the stock market has nothing to do with the real economy, but at least the elites are happy!

The 420

“Legal Marijuana Market to Create Nearly 300,000 Jobs by 2020” [247 Wall Street]. “According to the 2017 Legal Marijuana Outlook published by New Frontier Data, the cannabis industry is expected to created 283,422 jobs by 2020. As many as 150,000 jobs have already been created in the industry, according to the 2016 Marijuana Business Factbook, so the implied growth rate is more than 17% compounded over the next four years.”

Our Famously Free Press

“This is why most Facebook-fail-fundamentalists so badly miss the point: that the company pays nothing for its content is not a weakness, it is a reflection of the fundamental reality that the supply of content (and increasingly goods) is infinite, and thus worthless; that the company is not essential to the distribution of products is not a measure of its economic importance, or lack thereof, but a reflection that distribution is no longer a differentiator. And last of all, the fact that communication is possible on other platforms is to ignore the fact that communication will always be easiest on Facebook, because they own the social graph. Combine that with the fact that controlling consumption is about controlling billions of individual consumers, all of whom will, all things being equal, choose the easy option, and you start to appreciate just how dominant Facebook is” [Stratechery]. So in other words, humans are infinitely creative, and therefore should be paid nothing for their labor. He’s talkin’ sense, Merle!

“The New York Times Claws Its Way Into the Future” [Wired]. By becoming Kos with better writers, apparently.


“Squid speak a unique, undeciphered language using their skin” [Quartz].

“Giant crack in Antarctic ice shelf spotlights advances in glaciology” [Nature]. “A massive crack in Antarctica’s fourth-biggest ice shelf has surged forward by at least 10 kilometres since early January. Scientists who have been monitoring the 175-kilometre rift in the Larsen C ice shelf say that it could reach the ocean within weeks or months, releasing an iceberg twice the size of Luxembourg into the Weddell Sea.”

“‘Man-made’ famine declared in South Sudan: United Nations” [Globe and Mail].

Class Warfare

Thanks, Obama!

“The many upsides of algorithms are accompanied by challenges”

“‘We the Workers’: New film depicts crackdown on China’s labour advocate” [Hong Kong Free Press].

News of the Wired

“Close the door, and the light stays on!”

“Isaac Asimov wrote almost 500 books in his lifetime—these are the six ways he did it” [Quartz]. Click-baity headline, but the methods apply to blogging, too.

“Kenneth Arrow, Nobel-Winning Economist Whose Influence Spanned Decades, Dies at 95” [New York Times].

Professor Arrow was widely hailed as a polymath, possessing prodigious knowledge of subjects far removed from economics. Eric Maskin, a Harvard economist and fellow Nobel winner, told of a good-natured conspiracy waged by junior faculty to get the better of Professor Arrow, even if artificially. They all agreed to study the breeding habits of gray whales — a suitably abstruse topic — and gathered at an appointed date at a place where Professor Arrow would be sure to visit.

When, as expected, he showed up, they were talking out loud about the theory by a marine biologist — last name, Turner — which purported to explain how gray whales found the same breeding spot year after year. As Professor Maskin recounted the story, “Ken was silent,” and his junior colleagues amused themselves that they had for once bested their formidable professor.

Well, not so fast.

Before leaving, Professor Arrow muttered, “But I thought that Turner’s theory was entirely discredited by Spencer, who showed that the hypothesized homing mechanism couldn’t possibly work.”

* * *

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:

As above, so below.

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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. diptherio

      Phone number for the Army Corps who are in charge today, in case anyone wants to call and tell them to hold off:


  1. allan

    “replacing tips with a “service fee” that would be collected by the company instead of the people delivering orders”

    Always tip in cash, so that it can goes to the workers, not the boss.
    Another reason for Ken Rogoff to hate cash.

  2. barefoot charley

    About affinity groups, lambert: I’m familiar with them via Earth First! and Amnesty International, where folk history says it was the lefties in the Spanish Civil War who introduced the idea to the rest of us. AI (that Commie front?) uses them for their letter-writing campaigns, and EF! makes practical use of affinity groups by having circles within circles of activists who may do things other activists won’t know about. In the Resistance too, a single person would represent their affinity group (or ‘cell’) to larger organizing meetings; only those ‘spokes’ would be known to others from different cells, for greater safety. The downside of affinity groups is that they are exclusive. It’s hard to build a mass movement out of a secret society, though people keep trying.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Secret Societies….

      From Wikipedia, Tiandihui:

      Following the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty of China in 1911, the Hongmen suddenly found themselves without purpose. From then on the Hongmen diverged into various groups. While some other groups based within China, could no longer rely on donations from sympathetic locals; being unable to resume normal civilian lives after years of hiding, they turned to illegal activities – thus giving birth to the modern Triads.

      Per the #5 question in the Powell Doctrine, you have to ask, how do we exit? Entry is easy.

      1. barefoot charley

        Thanks, this helps explain a movement joke:

        Q: How do you know if Earth First!ers have visited you?
        A: They’re still there.

      2. Oregoncharles

        Supposedly that was also the origin of the Mafia – they were a resistance group against a foreign ruler (might have been the Normans, but there’ve been others.)

        The form of organization is the same.

      3. RWood

        Per #1 question in the Powell Doctrine, no exit.
        Not applicable in areas of humanitarian intervention, wars of choice, protracted counter-insurgency, antiterrorism or where otherwise voided by deep dorp. [citation needed]

    2. ChiGal in Carolina

      Don’t think it’s about stealth/secrets but rather cohesiveness and flexibility for the long haul.

      The author also proposes different strategies for states with strong, progressive Ds, strong establishment Ds, and weak Ds.

      Basically it’s about how to operationalize a focus on ground up, starting with what is local.

      Worth a read, I think.

  3. Deadl E Cheese

    That ‘Woke Liberals’ tweetquote is extra-gross because it was spawned from a thread that involves Joy Ann Reid mocking and blaming young Latinx for not juicing turnout. And not only that, she proceeded to smugly mock them by saying that while Obama might’ve been bad, Trump will be way worse, and they deserve it.

    Liberalism rots the brain, kids.

        1. Deadl E Cheese

          Since the Democratic Party made it okay to define your virtues in terms of your lack of vices (see: every election since 2004), my redeeming skills are:

          Not a warhawk.
          Not an austerian.
          Not a corporate gladhander.
          Not a climate change centrist.
          Not a tech-worshiping goofy.
          Not craving the approval of imaginary Reasonable Reactionaries.
          Not a toadie of the surveillance state.

          I mean, I can go on if you’d like. But when you’re up against the goofies that comprise the Democratic Party, it’s not HARD to look good.

    1. different clue

      One more example of how Clinton supporters and apparatchiks are against anyone not obedient to their wishes.

      A twitter hashtag called #NoClinton would not be overly hostile. It would indicate the need for cautious avoidance of filthy disease-causing organisms. Again, I don’t see how we avoid conflict forever with the millions and millions of Klintonite Koolaid Kultists of whom that tweetsender is a perfect representative.

  4. allan

    Trump seeks jobs advice from some firms that offshore U.S. work [Reuters]

    President Donald Trump, who has vowed to stop U.S. manufacturing from disappearing overseas, is seeking job-creation advice from at least six companies that are laying off thousands of workers as they shift production abroad.

    Caterpillar Inc.(CAT.N), United Technologies Corp.(UTX.N), Dana Inc.(DAN.N), 3M Co.(MMM.N), Timken Co.(TKR.N) and General Electric Co.(GE.N), are offshoring work to Mexico, China, India and other countries, according to a Reuters review of U.S. Labor Department records. (Graphic: tmsnrt.rs/2lk9N5W)

    The six firms are part of the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, a White House advisory council created to help Trump deliver on his promise to increase factory employment. …

    We’ve seen this movie before.
    Part Deux is likely to bomb at the box office just as badly as the original.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Some, for show, hire hackers to stop hacking.

      Others, more serious, will still hire hackers to stop hacking.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Can’t always go by induction.

          We haven’t seen a guy at the top making the top priority the stopping of disappearing manufacturing jobs…maybe never, or maybe not for a while.

          It’s not risk free, but I can understand wanting to hear from guys shipping jobs overseas.

          1. marym

            “We have to get prices down,” he [Trump] says at the beginning of the meeting [2/21 with drug company execs] with cameras rolling. “We have no choice.”

            Then the doors were closed. When they opened again, Trump had not only abandoned his promise to use the government’s bargaining power to bring down drug prices, he was now totally against it!

            “I’ll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market,” he said, according to the pool reporter. “That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare, which is what’s happening.” (Yes, he accused an agency that has no power to negotiate prices of “price-fixing.”)


            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Did they threaten him?

              Not sure if it was campaign contribution. Probably not future business opportunities with the Big Pharma either (No future “Russian’ like deals).

              Must be something else…a theory to explain the data.

            2. ChrisAtRU

              Vote Trump they said! A Businessman would do better they said!

              Well … he is being a businessman … and looking out for business interests.


                1. ChrisAtRU

                  The government could employ everyone if it wanted to … and outbid all private sector businesses for the services for all available workers in the process.

                  Is that a bad thing?*

                  See Wray’s lovely example of the Pluto mission here.

                  My point: The wanton worship of business people (as ostensibly great leaders of nations) is misguided. If the businesses they build or support force governments to choose desires for greater profitability over decent wages, the social safety net and the greater public good (like single payer), I say business isn’t good business.


                  * Answer: Turns out it’s not really a good thing, but affordability is not the constraint.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                Some business interests will come out ahead, and some fall behind.

                The initial guess is those that import a lot will not do as well.

                1. ChrisAtRU

                  Just saw this on Twitter.

                  Neolibs get you coming and going with “dollar strength”.

                  Government can’t spend too much or we’ll inflate ourselves to #Zimbabwe weak-dollar status!

                  But wait, an expanding economy will cause the dollar to get too strong!

                  Bullshit both ways … and then this bit from the Tweet:
                  “in order to avoid weighing down the government with costs.”

                  Affordability is never the constraint.

                  1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                    When spent the global reserve money mostly abroad, inflation is contained there.

                    If we say, Buy American Only, Hire Americans Only, on fiscal spending, the Fed will get their wage (about time) and non-wage inflation.

        2. Yves Smith

          Gary Gensler at the CFTC. Adair Turner at the FSA. And although Volcker is not a friend of labor, he wan’t a friend of banks either. He believed banks should be stupid and regulated and hated money market funds not only because they were unregulated deposits but they cut the floor out from under being able to regulate other banking activities.

          There are probably some others but agreed not many.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        That is and will always be the key with him.

        H1B – last I heard, it wasn’t optimistic. Could be fake news though.

        Where is currency manipulator designation?

        Is he saving the toughest last?

        Has his presidency already been neutered by shadowy guys?

        1. EndOfTheWorld

          In fairness to The Donald, I think one of his primary goals is to avoid being assassinated. Remember, he just barely made it through the Republican convention. So he almost had to make some concessions, like Pence as veep and Rinse as chief of staff. I mean, if it was me, I would have made no concessions whatsoever, but then I might have ended up in a coffin. This outcome would not help the cause of anybody’s presidency.

          For the present,Trump is content to pick his battles. Apparently something is happening with RFK, Jr. and the vaccine issue.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            He polled unfavorably like Clinton before the election, and started his presidency with pretty low approval ratings.

            Performance expectations should reflect those facts that gave us the electoral result.

    2. Optimader

      And so what is your advice w/regard to a constructive alternative?

      Btw for the false equivalency file: So what was BHO’s exposure, make that participation in the private sector?
      Here let me draw up a list:

      1. allan

        What is the false equivalency?

        Two incoming presidents both want to be seen as making an effort
        to increase the quantity and quality of jobs in the US.
        They both set up Potemkin villages jobs councils,
        filled with many of the same CEOs that have been destroying, out sourcing and off shoring for years.
        And, after their failure is clear, both commissions will never be mentioned again.

  5. grayslady

    “One way to do this would be for the governors of the blue states — California, New York, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Connecticut and Colorado, to name some of the mightiest in numbers and weight — to form a very public council to articulate that alternative vision and publicly seek to make that vision a reality within their respective states….”

    Peter Gabel must be writing from the usual Democrat bubble. Firstly, Illinois, although a blue state, has a Republican governor determined to obliterate decent wages and social safety nets. Secondly, who here thinks that Cuomo, Brown or Malloy are far left, or even center left, progressives? Vision ought to be a requirement for public leaders, but it usually comes from the grassroots in politics, not from the top of the food chain.

    1. Ranger Rick

      I’d caution against viewing national politics in the broad “red versus blue” sense. The election map should have taught everyone that there are no “red” or “blue” states.

    2. meeps

      “One way to do this would be for the governors of the blue states — California, New York, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Connecticut and Colorado, to name some of the mightiest in numbers and weight — to form a very public council to articulate that alternative vision and publicly seek to make that vision a reality within their respective states….”

      Colorado governor Hickenlooper has no vision, let alone one expansive enough to publicly articulate an “alternative” such as universal healthcare. The same goes for Senators Bennet (D) and Gardner (R). All three men actively worked against ColoradoCare (the recently defeated state single payer initiative), so bad faith crosses the aisle.

      A thorough defenestration will be a necessary prerequisite for a single-payer, interstate compact to succeed.

      1. Jim Haygood

        Defenestration: I’d pay to see that.

        Would pay treble to see them hurled from a trebuchet, which supposedly can sling a Buick the length of a football field. :-)

    3. dbk

      Yeah, that was a very weird thing the truthout writer said. Illinois? Huh? OTOH, the Governor is up for re-election in 2018, so maybe there is hope on the horizon. One very good argument to take the Progressive battle / platform (whatever it may be, let’s hope for the best) to local districts, especially in the Rust Belt states, and give it a preliminary tryout in 2018.

      Chris Kennedy recently declared he was entering the gubernatorial race in Illinois. That should make Rauner happy.


      1. grayslady

        Unfortunately, Chris Kennedy is another Kennedy riding on name recognition. Electronic Intifada calls him out for his role in the Steven Salaita fiasco:

        The Wiesenthal Center, which actively supports efforts to suppress and censor Palestinian rights activism and speech, presented Kennedy with the award in recognition of the fact that he “led the board in their denial of final approval of the academic position offered to Steven Salaita, a professor who posted controversial and anti-Semitic rants on social media about Israel and her supporters.”

        At least with Pat Quinn we had someone who was still willing to fight back against ComEd.

    4. Big River Bandido

      The idea to enlist the party “leaders” in *any* state is just daft.

      Last November in Colorado, an initiative for a statewide single-payer health system was defeated, after the governor (a self-identified Democrat) worked to defeat it. IIRC, he enlisted Clinton’s support in that effort, and got it. Natch.

      Last November in Cleveland, the Fight For Fifteen managed to get a $15 minimum wage initiative on the next city election ballot. It was looking great until the (Democrat) mayor and city council asked the (Republican) state legislature to pass a pre-emptive law banning localities from raising the minimum wage over the state minimum, which is $8.15 per hour.

      In the absence of a Democrat in the Illinois governorship, the senior Democrat in the state is Rahm Emanuel, who just a few weeks ago boasted about taking away health insurance for thousands of retired city employees.

      Better to simply take on the establishment, at the local level — and then move up the chain, purging old management all along the way.

    1. Uahsenaa

      Chicago and some of its immediate environs are blue (and purplish), but vast swaths of Illinois might as well be Arkansas. The patois where I grew up, rural Northern Illinois, was VERY country and so are the political values. Chicago has a lot of the population, but one of the reasons why IL so often has Republican governors and state reps is because there are more vastly red counties than blue.

      1. Big River Bandido

        Just because Chicago is blue doesn’t mean its Democrats are forward-looking. Too many examples of absolutely loutish behavior among Chicago Democrats to even know where to begin.

      2. Jim Haygood

        vast swaths of Illinois might as well be Arkansas

        Used to have neighbors from southern Illinois in Arkansas.

        They move to Ark because the culture rhymes … but the weather’s warmer, the gun laws are friendlier, and the state isn’t economically doomed like Illinois.

  6. Don W.

    Hey all: people have been working in affinity and writing about it for a couple of generations.

    Lots and lots of the Standing Rock protests have been organized around affinity groups. In Philadelphia, for example, five separate affinity groups shut down different bank branches September 17, while at the same time more than 400 people marched through the downtown, blocking traffic and blockading other bank branch entrances.

    I know that affinity groups, swarms (more loosely organized small groups and individuals with a common target) and flash mobs and smart mobs are common practice throughout the Standing Rock solidarity, and in much other grass roots activist organizing all over the world. (Some going back to the 60’s.)

  7. EndOfTheWorld

    Of course it’s hard to trust “organic” grains emanating from a place like Turkey, but as the editor says, the best thing for organic farmers in the US would be GMO labelling. Which, IIRC, is still against federal law in the US, even if an individual state votes it in.

    1. different clue

      Certified Organic is supposed to mean No GMO by definition. Forcing GMO labelling into law would create a division between non-GMO Conventional as against GMO. It would give people who don’t care about Organic a No-GMO choice to choose on the Conventional side. Enough people choosing No GMO would degrade and attrit GMO’s revenue streams and hence its power.

    1. Hana M.

      So is the rally for the ACA or for single payer health care? I live (sort of) with the ACA and let me tell you it is a disaster. Every year my premiums have increased at double digit rates. I’ve lost three primary care doctors who have taken academic positions rather than deal with the overhead issues. My deductibles and copays now mean that I never, I mean NEVER go to the doctor. Why get tests that might show you have something you can’t afford to treat?

      1. PKMKII

        So is the rally for the ACA or for single payer health care?

        As I understand it, yes. They’re looking to make sure the ACA isn’t repealed and we go back to the wilderness, but still with the push to move forward to Medicare for All.

      2. marym

        I clicked on the Chicago event. It’s opposing ACA repeal and defunding Medicaid and Planned Parenthood. For some reason it’s located at the governor’s Chicago office, not the federal bldg./senators’ offices.

        1. marym

          Adding: the Chicago facebook page, the national page, and the supporting form letter don’t mention Medicare for All, universal healthcare, or HR 676. Of future plans the national page says:

          Plus it’ll build civic engagement habits for future assaults on Medicaid, Medicare, the FDA, science, public health, and vulnerable groups.


          1. ChiGal in Carolina

            The email for the event near me I got explicitly stated not just pro ACA but toward single payer, in line with what for example Bernie did at the CNN debate, which gave plenty of airtime to how what’s wrong with the ACA can only be fixed by single payer

  8. tommy strange

    AS far as Dolores Huerta she was instrumental in the leninist liberal cabal along with Chavez in the late 70’s of purging all leftists from the UFW. …two purges…anyone that was even suspected of being ‘socialist’ was purged, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of farm workers dues were put into california democrat campaigns, not in grass roots organizing, not to the rank and file who were screaming for funds……….which was going crazy at the time. Tramping the Grapes is not some left wing lie of a book….it is truth….

  9. alex morfesis

    pew research…theme 6…throw out the trash already…yup Algoze will just wipe out humanity…just like that calculator in the whole earth catalog for 4900 bux from HP was going to eliminate accountants…oh and then the lower cost computers were going to eliminate accountants…then all those programs were going to eliminate accountants…and the formation of the FASB in the early 70’s was going to ….blah blah blah…except…

    just jump to page 14


    ah, the best laid plans of drunken fools…

  10. shinola

    Any military drone pilots reading NC?

    I would like to know how to get someone placed on the target list.

    “Travis Kalanick Droned” would be a deliciously ironic headline.

  11. Jim Haygood

    Professor Arrow muttered, “But I thought that Turner’s theory was entirely discredited by Spencer, who showed that the hypothesized homing mechanism couldn’t possibly work.

    Going to memorize this one. Useful for any group discussion where you don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      Indeed – and substitute a term from the word fog in the room for homing:


      Or for the ultimate generic:

  12. Lyle James

    Re a single payer state health care collective:

    You don’t need more than one state to establish a single payer system that can succeed. Canada’s national health care system — it’s really province by province but coordinated by Ottawa — began in 1947 in the scarcely-populated province of Saskatchewan. Alberta — another low population province — followed suit in 1950.

    The success and popularity of these two programs was impossible to ignore, and in ’57 the federal government offered to share 50% of program costs with any other province wanting to start their own similar plan. Four years later all 10 provinces had single payer health care systems in place.

    If California alone established a single-payer system, that would be the death of the private insurance industry nationwide within a decade.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      That would be great.

      The challenge will be daunting (“You slipped those 2 strikes while I wasn’t looking”) but nothing worthwhile is easy.

    2. Jim Haygood

      Thanks for this history. Interesting that Canada’s system started at the provincial level and spread nationally — versus Obamacare’s top-down diktat, ghost-written by insurance companies.

  13. Gil

    Re affinity groups, SDS in the sixties was a network of autonomous campus chapters joined together in a common discussion of ideology and strategy. Much neglected and overshadowed by false definitions of participatory democracy as consensus and exaggeration of Weatherman in all histories.

  14. Oregoncharles

    About the last link: I believe I’ve seen gray whales mating, in a cove along the Oregon coast where I used to live. There were 3 of them, in the surf. One threw its body over the other two, I assume to help maintain contact. I’m pretty sure I saw something long and pink go by as they rolled over.

    Maybe they were just playing, but I don’t know why else they would have been doing that.

    They give birth in the Gulf of California, which they “find” by following the coastline. You can see them going by twice a year off the Oregon coast. I’ve been lucky a few times – once hiked to the end of a headland, saw them going by directly beneath me. A mind-blowing experience. They’re shallow-water whales, stay quite close.

  15. LT

    Thanks fo posting the Baffler article “New Praetorianism”.
    Critiques of war culture are always a breath of fresh air.
    It is the constant that remains no matter who iselected and transcends the perceived conflicts among the status quo supporters. The establishment, elected and unelected (no matter how it is defined or defines itself) always intersect at war economy and war culture. This will be the downfall.

    1. Olga

      Thanks for posting Baffler – too. I know many people outside the US who worry about the country’s slow – but inescapable – lurch to eventual war – as if pre-programmed and with no brakes. Good to know some in the US realize that, too.

      1. Vatch

        Pence and Pruitt are probably very close allies — they’re both huge beneficiaries of Koch money. I don’t think we’ll see a repeat of the Michael Flynn soap opera.

  16. allan

    DoJ moves to prevent CIA official from detailing role in Bush-era torture [Guardian]

    Donald Trump’s justice department has indicated it will seek to prevent the new deputy CIA director from telling a court about her role in Bush-era torture.

    In a Wednesday filing in a federal court in Washington state, a team of US attorneys and justice department officials said the government “anticipates asserting the state secrets privilege” to prevent Gina Haspel from being deposed by two former CIA contractor psychologists.

    The psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, are battling a lawsuit by representatives for four men who seek to hold them liable for torture they experienced in secret CIA prisons. Mitchell and Jessen designed for the CIA the so-called “enhanced interrogation” program that three of the men endured and which killed one of them.

    As part of their defense, Mitchell and Jessen are seeking depositions from several former CIA officials, in order to claim that their actions ought to be immunized because they were working in service of the US government. …

    It is believed to be the first assertion of the state secrets privilege under the Trump administration. …

    That didn’t take long, did it? The Deep State or whatever you want to call it has nothing to fear.

    As a reminder:

    The privilege was first officially recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States in United States v. Reynolds, 345 U.S. 1 (1953). A military airplane, a B-29 Superfortress bomber, crashed. The widows of three civilian crew members sought accident reports on the crash but were told that to release such details would threaten national security by revealing the bomber’s top-secret mission. The court held that only the government can claim or waive the privilege, but that it “is not to be lightly invoked” and that there “must be a formal claim of privilege, lodged by the head of the department which has control over the matter, after actual personal consideration by that officer.” The court stressed that the decision to withhold evidence is to be made by the presiding judge and not the executive.

    In 2000, the accident reports were declassified and released, and it was found that the assertion that they contained secret information was fraudulent. The reports did, however, contain information about the poor condition of the aircraft itself, which would have been very compromising to the Air Force’s case. Many commentators have alleged government misuse of secrecy in this landmark case.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘it was found that the assertion that they contained secret information was fraudulent’

      Probably true 80 percent of the time. But no one is ever, ever held responsible for defrauding the public.

      The shield of sovereign immunity means never having to say you’re sorry.

  17. Annotherone

    Thanks for the link :“Isaac Asimov wrote almost 500 books in his lifetime…” -Lambert: the methods apply to blogging, too.

    It’s a useful reminder of what to do when the blogging muse deserts.
    “I like this line:
    “Don’t try to paint the Mona Lisa on round one. Lower your standards. Make a test product, a temporary sketch, or a rough draft.”
    Mona Lisa? I’m still struggling, most days, around the matchstick man level. :-D

  18. PH

    LCSS. Ouch! Could be a chronic condition!

    I am hoping it is just the flu.

    Unfortunately this year’s version seems to respond only to rest, and persists or gets worse if you do not rest. So take it easy

    1. voteforno6

      I am convinced that when most people say they want a “strong” dollar, it’s for exactly that reason.

  19. jsba

    ACT UP was based on affinity groups and they were wildly successful. If you want to see that kind of organization in operation and the logic behind it check out the really great ACT UP documentary United in Anger.

  20. freedomny


    A truly emotional town hall moment.

    People are coming out all over the place and I have never seen this kind of engagement.

    What is so disconcerting about our current state of affairs…you never really know how to feel on a daily basis. One minute you feel somewhat positive. Then, you can read/hear something that will enrage/depress you.

    America is Awake. And – it is simultaneously scary, exciting, horrifying and exulting.

    1. Aumua

      What is so disconcerting about our current state of affairs…you never really know how to feel on a daily basis. One minute you feel somewhat positive. Then, you can read/hear something that will enrage/depress you.

      I agree, except for the part about feeling positive, ever, about anything I hear on the news. There are positive things going on in my life, but that’s another story..

      America is Awake.

      Disagree with this one wholeheartedly. I guess if I had to choose a word to describe the mood I see, it might be “abuzz”. Certainly not “awake”. So much misdirected energy, so much truth left in the murk. Very unfortunate days.

      1. aab

        If America is awake, it’s still in the stage where one jolts up from a deep sleep because there was a loud noise outside or someone just turned on the light, and “America” is hyperventilating and flailing without yet understanding why it is awake and why its heart is pounding. Whether or not America actually decides to get out of bed and fix things after its startle response calms down is still an open question.

        1. Aumua

          Some further thoughts about the “awake” meme, which is obviously predicated on Trump winning the election, in other words: it’s because Trump won that now we are Awake with a capital A, apparently. But if that’s the case then first of all like you say, we’ve been rudely and jarringly awoken from a deep slumber, we’re hardly even conscious yet, and it’s probably a little too late in the day now to be just waking up anyway.

          The other thing is that all this implies that if Clinton had won, we would all still be peacefully slumbering, so consider that for a moment and thank your fellow Americans for the wake up call, and let us not talk falsely now, for the hour is getting very late indeed.

    2. Jim Haygood

      “We’ve got staff here,” answers Harvard grad Sen Cotton.

      “Let’s have my people meet with your people,” as they say in the corpgov world.

      All better now! :-)

  21. Matt Alfalfafield

    “Affinity group” was a phrase I heard tossed around quite a bit at Occupy Toronto, and with roughly the meaning outlined in that quote, minus the militancy – a self-motivating group of folks with converging goals or interests working together on common projects with little/no oversight from the larger collective. That was the idea, at least…didn’t see a ton of it in practice.

  22. ewmayer

    Re. “Woke liberals” — To be fair, there are numerous “let your fingers do the walking” familiar-patterns pitfalls one can fall into when attempting to type “Dolores Huerta” – I tried typing said name 10 times fast and no less than 8 attempts came out garbled, several in interesting ways:

    o Dolly Hurton – my fingers apparently like country music, who knew?

    o Deplores Hurta – maybe that’s where HRC got the ‘deplorables’ idea?

    o Dollares Whereto – todos sus dollares a mío, por favor.

    o Lolita Burrito – nar a frickin’ clue there, and I don’t even want to ask.

  23. allan

    Inside Uber’s Aggressive, Unrestrained Workplace Culture [NYT]
    You can almost hear the headline writer consulting with the in-house counsel.

    But who cares? If a unicorn dies in the forest, will anyone hear it?
    Other than the mutual funds that loaded up on pre-IPO shares?

    … Some funds count Uber, Pinterest and WeWork Companies, among their largest holdings, filings show. For example, Uber is a top 15 holding in the $19 billion Fidelity Blue Chip Growth fund.

    At T. Rowe Price, private investments made up about 4% of assets of its $16 billion New Horizons Fund at the end of 2015. The asset management firm’s spokesman Bill Weeks said individual securities typically represented less than 1 percent of any fund’s portfolio, but acknowledged such investments could still pack a punch.

    “If, for example, you have 2% of a fund in private companies and those holdings go up 50% in a flat market, that would add 1% of relative performance. It works the same way on the way down.”

    Pre-IPO investments are assessed by mutual funds valuation committees which look at revenue growth, competition, barriers to entry and what others paid in subsequent funding rounds. …

  24. Synoia

    Kalanick has built one of the greatest American business success stories since Apple

    I though Apple was profitable very early. Obviously my memory is faulty.

  25. Kim Kaufman

    “If you envision a center ‘hub,’ with an empowered representative from each affinity group in each agreed-upon geographical area, then you have the basic idea of a ‘spokes council.’” I’d like an example a little more recent than the Spanish Civil War.”

    I think this is the way Communist cells worked… back in the day. Not sure how successful that was. I personally have a small group of education anti-privatization people I have worked with for a couple of years. Loosely organized, no formal meetings, emailing, occasionally meeting when something’s going on. We all like and trust each other and that’s important. Working with others, including media, we definitely helped get rid of the former charter school sock puppet Superintendent a few years ago. We have also quietly kicked out one or two from the group when we all agreed they were disruptive or had other agendas and there were trust issues towards those people. So, in a small group that can be done.

  26. Brad

    Anybody notice this? Nate Coln wants to double down on ditching the working class in favor of selfish middle class elitists like himself. https://tinyurl.com/j7vhfeg

    By dividing the class with identity politics of course. Nate smugly assumes all those Latinos wiping his middle class ass can’t be turned against his politics in the heart of the metropolis.

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