2:00PM Water Cooler 3/1/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Trade

“The Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis said on Friday that the volume of exports and imports of goods was 1.2% higher than in 2015, marking a slowdown from the 2% rate of growth recorded in the preceding year and the smallest rise since volumes crashed in 2009” [Wall Street Journal]. “However, there were signs exports and imports might be reviving, with volumes up 1.1% in the final three months of the year compared with the third quarter, almost double the rate of increase in the three months to September…. The sluggishness of trade in 2016 partly reflected broader weakness in the demand for goods, with developed economies recording their slowest expansion since 2013 and some large developing economies still contracting.”

Politics

2016 Post Mortem

SOTU

Trump quoted approvingly on infrastructure: “[TRUMP:] America has spent approximately $6 trillion in the Middle East, all the while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With the $6 trillion, we could have rebuilt our country twice, and maybe even three times, if we had people who had the ability to negotiate. To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure of the United States, financed through both public and private capital, creating millions of new jobs. This effort will be guided by two core principles: Buy American and hire American” [Logistics Management]. Gosh, I didn’t see that underlined portion get a lot of press, did you? Once again, Trump says the unsayable; not that Blobs squirm in their seats; they can’t. Perhaps they undulate? Still, isn’t a trillion pretty measly, especially given that the spending will be spread out over several years? (To be fair, there’s probably enough pork in that trillion to help with 2018, and maybe that’s all they’re aiming for anyhow.) And can public-private partnerships really do the job? Very, very dubious. FDR certainly didn’t think so; nor did Eisenhower. And of course Trump says it’s about “the” — that is, his — “ability to negotiate.” Mere puffery! Then again, if you look at history instead of in Trump’s funhouse mirror version of it, Trump is, in a way, right: If the left learned to negotiate from a position of strength, more (at least) of the country would be be rebuilt. We know this because noisy Third Way blunderer Larry Summers suppressed out Christina Romer’s high estimate for Obama’s stimulus package in 2009, replacing it with a “politically feasible” and much lower number.

More on infrastructure: “Thousands of bridges need to be replaced or massively bolstered. Water infrastructure is ancient. Ask California how it feels about dams. Refineries are ancient, more pipeline projects are coming, and try comparing the city roads and many parts of the national highway system to other countries. We won’t even bother pointing out the ancient ports and airports” [MarketWatch]. “What is up for grabs is the potential for new billions and billions of dollars for each of the major infrastructure companies. The goal is to “Buy American, and Hire American!” Just do not be so naïve as to think that some foreign outfits won’t be involved. In some cases there may be little choice, and in other cases some of the foreign companies may employee more Americans than actual American companies do. Again, it just doesn’t matter if the infrastructure spending tallies up to $750 billion, $900 billion, $1 trillion or even more. What matters is ‘More, Much More! and Coming Soon!'” It will be interesting to see if the deficit hawks lose this one. If only deficit owls were the winners!

” It’s Republican unity, but it comes with a price. The laundry list has expensive items: paid family leave, health care tax credits, a sweeping tax cut, a big boost in military spending, and the trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. When Republican members of Congress were done applauding, those price tags started to make themselves known. The ultimate cost may be the very unity the president was trying to purchase. Trump is still facing down a party with deep divisions on how to handle “repeal and replace” Obamacare – something that was supposed to be the easy part of the Republican agenda. Trump has redefined what it means to be conservative, but only to an extent. Last night may be remembered as a high point for party unity, when it needs to be a starting point” [ABC].

“Trump was calm. He read from a teleprompter, with little ad-libbing. He adopted the tone, cadence and vocabulary expected of a major political speech. Even his body language was more controlled” [WaPo]. “The address might have seemed unusual for Trump as a result. But if you listened closely, it became clear that the difference was in its style, not its substance. Underneath the polished exterior were the same themes and promises that Trump used to fire up his base during the election and that continue to provoke controversy in the early days of his presidency. Consider the images he summoned. ‘Dying industries.’ ‘Crumbling infrastructure.’ ‘Our terrible drug epidemic.’ ‘Our neglected inner cities.’ ‘Attacks at home.'” “American is already greatdidn’t click for a reason….

“Democrat giving response to Trump speech calls himself a Republican” [New York Post]. Good to see Democrat centrists achieving a level of honesty. About time! Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear:

I would have said that tavern was out of Stephen King. But whatever! Anyhow, everything that’s wrong with Establishment Democrats is here, even leaving aside Beshear‘s Kinsley gaffe. Look at the optics: It’s like some idiot Democratic strategist asked: “How can we appeal to the white working class?” (because never, ever just “working class”). And answered: “I’ve got it! We’ll put Beshear in a gen-u-wine diner with his neighbors!” (all of whom are white. “What do some different white people think, Milford?” [reference]). Then besides the gaffe and the butchered identity politics, we’ve got the rancid policy: Beshear sells ObamaCare hard, and suppresses all mention of #MedicareForAll! Bonus points for kicking the left! (Beshear says: “You know, in 2010, this country made a commitment, that every American deserved health care they could afford and rely on.” This is an outright lie. ObamaCare has never provided a universal benefit, and was never designed to. Shocking, I know.)

Trump Transition

“‘It’s normally so busy here,’ marveled a State Department staffer as we stood watching the emptiness. ‘People are usually coming in for meetings, there’s lots of people, and now it’s so quiet.’ The action at Foggy Bottom has instead moved to the State Department cafeteria where, in the absence of work, people linger over countless coffees with colleagues. (‘The cafeteria is so crowded all day,’ a mid-level State Department officer said, adding that it was a very unusual sight. ‘No one’s doing anything.’) As the staffer and I walked among the tables and chairs, people with badges chatted over coffee; one was reading his Kindle” [The Atlantic]. Not to worry. The Blob will have them fomenting wars again quite soon!

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Will Disney’s Bob Iger Run for President in 2020? Hollywood Friends Are Nudging” [Hollywood Reporter].

“Oprah Realizes You Don’t Need Experience to Be President” [Bloomberg].

Stats Watch

Institute For Supply Management Manufacturing Index, February 2017: “In a report of rare strength, the ISM manufacturing index jumped 1.7 points in February to a 57.7 level that beats the Econoday consensus by 1.3 points. This is the strongest rate of monthly growth in composite activity since August 2014” [Econoday]. “The report in fact is filled with superlatives…. [P]erhaps most impressive is the breadth of strength with 17 of 18 industries reporting monthly growth…. This report perhaps is the greatest expression yet of post-election strength in anecdotal surveys, strength that has yet however to find its way to actual government data on the factory sector which have been consistently soft.” But: “Overall, surveys do not have a high correlation to the movement of industrial production (manufacturing) since the Great Recession” [Econintersect]. And: “There is certainly nothing in the data which would discourage an increase in interest rates by the Federal Reserve” [Economic Calendar].

Purchasing Managers’ Manufacturing Index, February 2017: “slightly lower rates of growth for both orders and output in February” [Econoday]. “There are soft spots in this report but, like so many anecdotal reports, the results are mostly solid and stand in sharp contrast to weakness in actual factory data from the government.” And: “The overall data still suggests that the first-quarter performance will be the strongest for two years” [Economic Calendar].

Personal Income and Outlays, January 2017: “Inflation is nearly at the Fed’s 2.0 percent target, up a sharp 3 tenths to 1.9 percent for the PCE price index which is the strongest rate since April 2012” [Econoday]. “The monthly gain, reflecting rising energy costs, rose an outsized and higher-than-expected 0.4 percent for the highest reading since February 2013…. The PCE price index will put the pressure on the Fed to raise rates at the mid-month policy meeting. Though it’s not quite at target, its clear upward trajectory makes a successful breach all but certain.” But: “Personal consumption has been the major driver of GDP since the end of the Great Recession. Inflation however, is dragging down the nominal numbers – and year-over-year consumption continues to outpace income growth. Remember these are average numbers – not median” [Econintersect].

Construction Spending, January 2017: “Construction spending fell a sharp 1.0 percent in January but the weakness is in public spending, not residential spending where gains are substantial” [Econoday]. “But public spending looks to get a boost down the road with new fiscal initiatives while the strength of the report, residential investment, is very solid and looks to improve further given gains in related permits.” And but: “But the confusion is that construction spending does not correlate to construction employment – casting doubt on the validity of one or both data sets” [Econintersect].

MBA Mortgage Applications, March 1, 2017: After adjustments, “Purchase applications for home mortgages rose a seasonally adjusted 7 percent” [Econoday].

Commodities: “China will increase its annual gold output to 500 tonnes by 2020 from around 450 tonnes currently, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT)” [Xinhua]. “It aims to consolidate and upgrade the industry by reducing the number of gold miners to around 450 from more than 600, and shutting down 40 tonnes of outdated production capacity by the end of 2020.”

Commodities: “Water is the new carbon for institutional investors and money management firms across the globe, as risks and opportunities arising from water scarcity climb up the risk agenda” [Pensions & Investments]. Paging Michael Burry!

Retail: “J.C. Penney to close 130 to 140 stores and offer early retirement to 6,000 workers” [Los Angeles Times]. Eesh. Dead store walking Sears and J.C. Penney are anchor tenants at the Bangor Mall. Along with Macy’s. Oh well, there’s a always heroin.

Shipping: “As we roll into 2017, it’s clear that the $36 billion less-than-truckload (LTL) sector is enjoying a financial renaissance as carriers continue their new-found pricing discipline and resist the urge to expand capacity beyond fulfilling immediate shipper needs” [Logistics Management].

The Bezzle: “You’re Overpaying for Drugs and Your Pharmacist Can’t Tell You” [Bloomberg]. “Pusey’s contracts with drug-benefit managers at his Medicap Pharmacy in Olyphant, Pennsylvania, bar him from volunteering the fact that for many cheap, generic medicines, co-pays sometimes are more expensive than if patients simply pay out of pocket and bypass insurance. The extra money — what the industry calls a clawback — ends up with the benefit companies. Pusey tells customers only if they ask.”

Political Risk: “Three ways to trade the Trump presidency” [Quartz]. Buy. Sell. Run.

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 78 Extreme Greed (previous close: 64, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 80 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 1 at 11:41am. Big swing, galvanized by the SOTU?

Health Care

“If Obamacare Exits, Some May Need to Rethink Early Retirement” [New York Times]. “[J]ob lock [is] the need to maintain a job to get health insurance. … Though not all studies have found evidence of job lock in the pre-Obamacare era, a majority of high-quality studies have. That’s the conclusion of systematic reviews conducted by the Government Accountability Office and several health economists. Because people approaching retirement age are more prone to illness and high health care costs, employment-based insurance is particularly valuable to older workers — so much so that many studies document that it influences retirement decisions. One study found that workers whose employers offered retiree health benefits were 68 percent more likely to retire early than those who lack employer-based retiree coverage.”

“VP Mike Pence vows ‘no one is going to fall through the cracks’ in plan to repeal, replace Obamacare” [Good Morning America]. No, they will be liquified, and poured through the cracks. (Not including, of course, the 20 million or so who have already “fallen through the cracks” of ObamaCare, and cannot take advantage of its narrow networks, high deductibles, balance billing, opaque policies, and increasing premiums.)

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“A World That Draws a Line: Interracial Love Songs in American Country Music” [Viewpoint]. Fun!

Class Warfare

“The Solidarity Ecosystems of Occupied Factories” [Truthout (DB)]. “This was the uncertain footing from which the first steps were taken to put the Thessaloniki factory back to work after its bosses disappeared, owing the workers months of back pay. With no managers around, it fell upon the shop floor workers to figure out how the business they had worked in for so long was actually run.”

“The rise of the useless class” [Ideas.Ted.Com]. “In the 19th century the Industrial Revolution created a huge urban proletariat, and socialism spread because no other creed managed to answer the unprecedented needs, hopes and fears of this new working class. Liberalism eventually defeated socialism only by adopting the best parts of the socialist program. In the 21st century we might witness the creation of a massive new unworking class: people devoid of any economic, political or even artistic value, who contribute nothing to the prosperity, power and glory of society. This ‘useless class’ will not merely be unemployed — it will be unemployable.” Now there’s a happy thought!

“Japanese man stabbed himself because he didn’t want to go to work” [International Business Times]. “He was subsequently arrested for wasting police time.”

News of the Wired

“New Zealand Will Give You a Free Trip If You Agree to a Job Interview” [Time]. “[Wellington, New Zealand] is looking to bring in 100 new software developers, creative directors, product managers, analysts, and digital strategists from around the world to invigorate the country’s growing tech scene.”

* * *

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:


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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.

125 comments

  1. Vatch

    “Democrat giving response to Trump speech calls himself a Republican” [New York Post].

    Ha! Next time, the rebuttal will be presented by Joe Manchin.

    1. Benedict@Large

      So this was a way of telling Americans not to pay attention to the party’s left wing, because the party doesn’t pay attention to them either?

      Damn, but these Clintons are neurotic control freaks, aren’t they?

    2. UserFriendly

      Homeland Security is taking calls (by voicemail count) to see public feedback on Steve Bannon on the Security Council. Call this number 202-224-4751 and let them know what you think.

      1. Pat

        I think it isn’t Homeland Security’s business what the public think about Steve Bannon on the Security Council. Their Boss, the President, wants Bannon there. If this is true, it is another over reach by those running the Department. The only government entities that should be soliciting or taking public feedback on this are the White House and Congress.

        And doesn’t Homeland Security already have all that “metadata” from phone calls and social media to tell them what people think? Oh, wait we aren’t supposed to admit that…

      2. JerseyJeffersonian

        That phone number has noting to do with DHS. It’s a commercial phone number. Nice try.

        1. JCC

          Not true. It is the phone number of the Senate Committee for Homeland Security… look it up. Among multiple other sites giving out the same ph number, here is an article on Daily Kos

      1. optimader

        Look at the optics: It’s like some idiot Democratic strategist asked: “How can we appeal to the white working class?”

        wtf, he didn’t roll up his shirt sleeves! He’s management! hahaha I think some blotchy green water activated temporary tattoos would help as well… better yet, iron on..

        1. Darius

          Far right Matt Bevin’s victory for Kentucky governor over bland Democrat sure thing Conway was a preview of Trump’s win over Hillary. Democrats have made a fine art out of fucking up.

    3. djrichard

      Here’s the link to the transcript. transcript at NYTimes. Notice this bit

      I became governor at the start of the global recession, and after eight years, we left things a lot better than we found them.

      That’s why he’s republican. And that’s why republicans have been wiping the dems at the state level. It’s because the states can’t act like the Fed Gov and engage in deficit spending to their hearts content. They truly have to act like a business or a household on a budget.

      It’s on par with what’s happening in the eurozone. If only the eurozone had a federal government that could recycle surplus out of Germany out to the peripheral countries. Imagine how that would change things.

      In contrast, the US does have a federal government which does recycle surplus out of NY and CA and whereever the hoards are to the fly-over states. But only enough to keep them on a short leash. Not enough to make them feel flush (and generous).

      And if states can’t be generous, well they might as well be run by republicans.

        1. djrichard

          That’s a good point. If the Fed Gov didn’t operate as if it believed in the laffer curve, the taxes would be more progressive at the Federal level. And if they were progressive at the Federal level, that would carry down to the state level too.

          But in lieu of that, states operate as if they believe in the laffer curve too. After all, if it’s good enough for the Fed Gov, then it’s good enough for us too. Which means they have to operate on a tighter budget or they have to tax higher rates on the lower end of the food chain. Both of which play to republican strengths.

          Unfortunately, there’s little impetus to move the Fed Gov off the laffer curve orthodoxy. Because while deficits matter at the Fed Gov when it comes to spending, they don’t matter when it comes to taxing.

  2. allan

    In advance of the March for Science, the editors of Nature channel the back row kids:

    Researchers should reach beyond the science bubble

    Scientists in the United States and elsewhere ought to address the needs and employment prospects of taxpayers who have seen little benefit from scientific advances.

    One question dominated discussions at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) at the weekend. Researchers, journalists and science lobbyists squeezed into conference rooms, perched on recycling bins and sat on the floor between rows of filled chairs as they strained to listen to those who tried to offer a response. The question was phrased in various ways, but the variations all boiled down to: how should science and scientists respond to the administration of President Donald Trump?

    The answers were numerous too — from political activism to better communication — and were met with cheers, applause and the odd standing ovation. Many scientists will have left the Boston conference with renewed hope, or at least a sense of combined purpose. They had an answer of sorts to their question.

    But it’s the wrong question. It is not Trump that scientists must respond to. The real question is what science can do for the people who voted for him. Exactly who did support him, and why, is still being debated by political scientists, but it’s clear that many of those who voted Trump are those he canvassed in his campaign and credited in his inauguration speech. It is people who feel left behind by supposed progress and who have suffered a real or perceived collapse in their quality of life. …

    It is right that more scientists should tell stories of the good their research can do. But it is more important and urgent than ever that researchers should question how these stories really end — and whether too many of the people they claim to act for don’t really get to live happily ever after. Equally, they should focus more effort on how science education and scientific research can help the many whose jobs are going to be displaced by the very inventions that scientists are producing. …

    1. different clue

      Science won’t be able to help reverse the mass-jobicide caused by science. The victims of mass-jobicide will have to be given a Guaranteed Basic Income or a Guaranteed Basic Job or both at once. Or they can be left to starve to death and die. Or they can each be given an AK-47 , a thousand rounds of ammo for it, and a map to various rich people neighborhoods.

        1. ambrit

          Sorry about the financialization of science Isotope_C14. Along with the AK, ask for a Manpad and “Aim High.” (Interdicting air travel to and from “Enclaves” brings the angst home to the 10% pretty d— fast.)

    1. Jerry Denim

      Me too. Better to take the high ground and beat them honest when you already occupy the high ground. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Not that many months ago Clinton ally and arch zionist, Haim Saban rolled out a nice Castro-Communist ambush for Sanders at the debate hosted by Saban’s network Univision. It mostly fell flat because being 2017 Putin packs more punch than Castro, but still, left-leaning, self described “socialist” Sanders would be far more easy to tar and feather as a commie than Trump if the “Mighty Wulitzer” (as Lambert says) played along.

    2. ChrisAtRU

      #MoiAussi …

      Bernie needs to understand that this is just another item in the list of tropes – of which his own candidacy is a member – being articulated and promoted by the very forces seeking to exclude him and his followers from the Democratic Party power structure.

      #WiseUpBernie

      1. Loblolly

        How can he not know that at this point? The powers that be cockblocked Ellison, who oddly was cheek to jowl with DWS last night at the SOTU.

        At what point are we permitted by the faithful to question the wise and holy Senator Sanders’ allegiances?

    3. fosforos

      Sanders is a Social-Democrat. For some seventy years now Russophobic hysteria has been central to the Social-Democratic mentality, from Bevin to Mollet to Shachtman to…Sanders.

    4. Katharine

      “Red-baiting” seems inaccurate for two reasons:

      1) Russia is not communist, whatever else it may be at this point, and historically the phrase “red-baiting” had to do with allegations of communist leanings.

      2) Sanders has acknowledged that there is not presently any evidence of collusion; he appears simply to be asking for an investigation of what actually went on, which is an appropriate demand from a responsible legislator. After so many allegations, an honest formal review of hard facts would be a good thing.

      1. ChrisAtRU

        Semantics of red-baiting aside, I would cast the explanation you posit in (2) as fairly generous.
        Verbatim from the video (tweeted here), Bernie opens with:

        “Look, what [we have] happened is unprecedented in the history of our country. We have a major government – the Russian government, led by Mr. Putin – actively interfering in our elections. Trying to do everything that they could to make sure that Mr. Trump won the election.”

        I would argue that this is the real source of consternation – that he is even allowing the possibility that Russian interference could have turned the outcome of this election. This is straight out the #HRC/#DNC Zero-accountability playbook. It serves no purpose other than to not-so-subtly articulate that #HRC would have won if not for (multiple-choice question ahead!)
        A) Russia
        B) Comey
        C) Obama
        D) Bernie
        E) Jill
        F) ALL OF THE ABOVE

      2. Chromex

        Because we all know when someone calls for an honest formal review of the facts, that’s what they get. From the investigation into Kent State on… oh wait. All these reports become heavily edited political footballs. where agenda pushing takes priority over honesty.As a long-term leigislator, Sanders is undoubtedly aware of this.
        The party lost cred a long time ago, Sanders is well on his way.
        And the fact that Russia is actually not communist does NOT mean that it is inaccurate to call it “red baiting”. There is still what amounts to a radioactive charge around the term “Russia” and the Dems know full well that they can utilize Russia’s alleged former desire to take over the world as a scare tactic whenever they want to manipulate people by using fear.
        Finally, this whole Russia thing is a Dem prioity ONL:Y And weird one at that. I can think of approximately a million more important priorities that Sanders could have called for honest reports on, including 95% of his former “platform”.

    5. Anonymous

      Very disappointing, and it’s done it for me.

      Endorsing NeoCon Ellison, who apparently supports HRC’s Syria regime change,
      was bad, too

    6. Arizona Slim

      I do too. But count me as one of those Sanders supporters who was finished with him on July 12, 2016. A day which shall live in infamy.

      1. cm

        As a Sanders state delegate (who voted for the people who went to Philly), I agree w/ this statement.

    7. Knot Galt

      Bernie is going along to get along to leave the door open for 2020; or at lest keep his options open. His actions are par-for-the-course when your “Master” has cheated on you but you still want to be under the same roof instead of out to the curb.

      I think one needs to filter Bernie, at the moment, through the lens of Chuck Schumer.

      1. ChrisAtRU

        Part of me so desperately wants to believe (something like) this … but it’s annoying. Maybe he’ll endure this nonsense for a while. At some point – beyond the 100th day probably – I hope he has the stomach to say, when asked about Russia, that there are far more important questions to ask and things to talk about.

        #BernieHearsYaBernieDontCare

  3. dcblogger

    reposting this because I think it is really really important
    Some notes on the worst-case scenario

    Note that climate change denialism is a flag of convenience for the folks at the top. It’s a loyalty oath and a touchstone: they don’t necessarily believe it, but it’s very convenient to fervently preach it in public if you want to continue to turn a profit.

    If you believe in anthropogenic climate change but dare not admit it, you cannot be seen to do anything obvious to remediate it. But there is one remediation tactic you can deploy deniably: genocide.

    1. Jerry Denim

      I don’t mean to sound like a pedantic jerk, but lately I keep seeing the term “flag of convenience” used in a metaphorical sense outside of it’s actual context. ‘Flag of Connivence’ is a regulatory and tax arbitrage strategy utilized by firms in the transportation sector. The term was first used to refer the shipping industry, where maritime vessels would receive registration, or a flag, from a weak, barely functioning state in exchange for a small fee. The ships and their owners would then be exempt from any meaningful regulation or taxation from the stronger, more developed countries where they primarily conducted their business. “Flag of Convenience” rules decimated the ranks of the American shipping industry and now airlines like Norwegian Air are attempting to do the same thing to the airline business. Flag of Convenience isn’t a metaphor for some dead medieval practice, like “hoisting a petard”, it’s an extant business strategy that seeks to boost corporate profits by promoting ‘race-to-the-bottom’ and job off-shoring opportunities. The threat posed to jobs, safety, and the environment by transport companies seeking to take advantage of “Flag of Convenience” rules are real. A furious battle is being fought right now by the airline industry and airline unions to prevent the flag of convenience business model from taking hold in the North American airline sector, but it has not been receiving much sympathetic press, and Trump like Obama seems inclined to side the foreign companies seeking to break into the American domestic market using flag of convenience rules.

      1. Katharine

        Thanks! I welcome the reminder of the literal meaning and the information about the current conflict, of which I was unaware.

      2. Dead Dog

        Too true, mate. Our much revered (reviled) Qantas (a much different experience when it was owned and operated by the Government (airports too for that matter), but I digress) operates much of its international schedule using non-Australians (think Philippines, Thai – anywhere they can pay people less than Australian citizens).

        They are jobs that Aussies used to do.

        Corporations see, UberPeople.

    2. Oregoncharles

      Why “deploy” it? It will happen. Do you see the slightest sign of the measures that would ameliorate it?

      Nor do I.

      Again: what isn’t sustainable will end, like it or not.

  4. Massinissa

    Honestly I think the whole thing was alarmist. Too much fearmongering about supposed european fascists and so forth.

  5. Jerry Denim

    What was the exact line? “I’m a Democrat who is a Republican, who’s a Democrat-Republican” or something really confusing like that. What a ham-handed and pathetically transparent message from the DNC. The Democrats are openly declaring they are far more interested in wooing the graying, fickle “blue-dogs” back to their tent than harnessing the youthful vigor and advantageous demographics of the millions Sanders voters that actually registered and showed up for the primaries. Stupid. Instead of Id-Pol name checking terms like “Baptist preacher’s son” why not give those poor, hopeless, aging Kentuckians and their grandkids something, like Medicare for all or free college tuition? I’d like to see the Republicans spin that as a negative.

    1. RUKidding

      I missed that line (cooking dinner), but heard most of the rest of it. It wasn’t until today that I learned he was surrounded only by white people. I definitely cringed when he started bragging about being descended from a line of Baptist Preachers. Now I see the video and photos, and it’s like: here the DLC goes again. Doing their d*mndest to appeal to white Republicans.

      WTF?

      Plus, yeah: Obamacare is teh bestest. No mention of any other options.

      This is the Democratic Party as it stands today. It’s your parents’ Old School semi-sort-of moderate Republican party, and clearly their goal is to appeal to aging white middle class people.

      Great. Just great.

      1. jrs

        The thing is Trump is also doing his darndest to become a standard republican. So why are standard republicans going to vote Dem? No reason at all obviously.

      2. HopeLB

        And why wasn’t anyone eatting or drinking in this supposed diner? Not even a steaming cup of coffee in the place or sugar /salt or pepper. Hell, why wouldn’t they even “Let Them Eat Cake”. That would have been hilarious!

        1. Jim Haygood

          Hell, why didn’t any of ’em have open-carry pistols strapped to their tooled leather belts?

          Ain’t gonna win no R votes without guns.

          And it helps, after the speaker finishes, to fire a few rounds at the ceiling for emphasis. ;-)

          1. Katharine

            Why wait for the finish? The French sharpshooter the other day fired near the start of Hollande’s speech.

            I wonder what he’s doing now.

            1. ambrit

              I understand that he hurt himself in the accident. Reports were two hurt, one of those being the shooter. So, today it’s staying at home to heal.

      3. JerryDenim

        Religious, country-fried, aging white middle class people.

        These are the people Donna Brazile and DWS think cost them the election, besides the KBG and stuff. (snicker) What I really think this is, is a dog doing some aspirational owner shopping. The DNC knows how to get lefties and progressives on board- elevate Sanders and people like Sanders to leadership positions, but apparently embracing progressive ideals and economic populism is anathema to the party. So instead the DNC thinks they might be able to slice off a few members of a gullible voting block by pandering to senile blue dogs with cheap religious appeals and tough talks about balancing the checkbook (austerity) sitting around the kitchen table. Austerity and Id-Pol pandering are far more to the DNC’s liking than a leftward lurch towards monopoly busting and wealth redistribution.

      4. JTFaraday

        Exactly. The d-party is neoliberal in economics because it kept appealing to white man and their soccer mom wives, not because of teh wimmins and the n-ers.

  6. clarky90

    Why does the Democratic Party fear/hate Vlad Putin so intensely? Putin is the democratically elected, and very popular leader of a successful Christian country, Russia. This makes no sense unless….

    The Soviet Union collapses in 1991. World Communism apparatchiks flee the sinking ship. Many of them find a new “spiritual” home in the USA’s Democratic Party. The Democratic Party transitions from the Party of Carter, to the Party of Obama. (IMO, it is now a Communist Front Organization).

    This is what happens in the natural world when one organism’s behavior and body is taken over by another’s, ie, the parasite Toxoplasma Gondi

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxoplasma_gondii

    The rat seeks out the cat, so it can be eaten!

    Vlad Putin is steeped in this culture of subversion, and understands it in a way that the main USA media (compromised for almost 100 years) has never let USA people understand, or (God Forbid!) even talk about. Crazy, tinfoil, paranoid, hate-speech to even imply this! Communism is nice. Of course, eggs must be broken when making an omelet. Chips must fly when chopping down trees. (Happy metaphors for tens of millions of deaths in Soviet Union Concentration Camps).

    My favorite parts of Trump’s speech to the House/Senate was watching the Democrats turn to wax and melt as Trump poured cold water on them.

  7. EGrise

    Sorry to link to the Washington Times from two weeks ago, and apologies if everyone already saw this, but it just came across my radar:

    Party leaders are eager to incorporate the energy of progressives who buoyed Sen. Bernard Sanders’ presidential campaign last year — but less enthusiastic about the activists’ rough edges that continue to irk many Democratic National Committee members.

    They say the phone calls to lobby for Rep. Keith Ellison, the choice of progressives, over Tom Perez, viewed as the establishment choice, are out of control.

    “It was over the top, and I contacted Keith, and Keith tried to stop it, to his credit. It took a while,” said Marcel L. Groen, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democrats. “I want their enthusiasm and energy, but I do want it harnessed. I am not interested in anarchy.”

    Mr. Groen said he is a fan of both Mr. Ellison and Mr. Perez, the Obama administration’s former labor secretary — but the pro-Ellison effort convinced him to go public with his support for Mr. Perez.

    “Let’s say you were completely uncommitted,” he said. “You don’t want 300 people calling you and telling you what to do.”

    Did Groen, an alleged Democrat, actually say “You don’t want 300 people calling you and telling you what to do”? And then voted the opposite? And equated enthusiasm with anarchy?

    Consider the source, of course, but jeez. Not even a pretense.

    1. JohnnyGL

      I appreciate his honesty. He’d rather take 1-2 calls from 1-2 billionaires and be done with it. Listening to your constituents sounds like real…..hard…..work. I’m sure it came across to Groen as completely impossible.

      But, yes, consistent with the mentality of Dems which is that people are a kind of potential asset. They’re a force to “harness” and put to work for you. What they’re NOT to the Dem elite is citizens expressing their views that the party should listen to. They’re never the intended audience.

      1. Quentin

        For Democrats, people are actually close to a natural resource which is there for the taking if you mange the process well enough. A natural resource asks no questions, makes no demands, just has the privilege of…being used.

    2. ChrisPacific

      Well, at least we now know the Democrat strategy for recapturing the White House: listen to what voters want, then do the opposite.

    1. diptherio

      Two definitions from the Weekly Standard and Bloomberg (links left out to avoid skynet)

      [Ben] Rhodes, like Barack Obama, is contemptuous of “the American foreign-policy establishment.” What Obama calls the “Washington playbook” dictating the sorts of responses available to American policymakers, Rhodes calls the “Blob.”

      The Blob includes “editors and reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker,” etc. It also encompasses, according to Rhodes, Obama’s former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and the administration’s first defense secretary Robert Gates. Presumably Leon Panetta, former Pentagon chief and CIA director, who goes on the record to criticize Rhodes and the president, is also part of the Blob, alongside “other Iraq-war promoters from both parties who now whine incessantly about the collapse of the American security order in Europe and the Middle East.”

      And…

      Rhodes calls the foreign policy establishment “the Blob.” He doesn’t like this Blob. The Blob supported the Iraq War in 2003, supported sanctions on Iran, and opposes accommodation with our adversaries. It’s a familiar pose to anyone who read progressive blogs in the 2000s.

    2. flora

      Generally, references an old Sci-Fi movie creature which is used as an image to describe modern establishment power and group think.
      see:
      http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-26008962

      see also:
      “For those in search of a progressive alternative, the risk is that opposition to Trump’s unconventionality will morph into embrace of what President Obama referred to as the “Washington playbook” and Ben Rhodes, his deputy national security adviser, called the “Blob”—shorthand for the foreign policy elite that for decades, so the argument goes, generated and jealously guarded ruling dogmas regarding when to use force, where to project power and how to spread influence, be it under the guise of liberal interventionism or neoconservatism. ”
      http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/02/the-wrong-way-to-oppose-donald-trump-214818

  8. Watt4Bob

    In the 21st century we might witness the creation of a massive new unworking class: people devoid of any economic, political or even artistic value, who contribute nothing to the prosperity, power and glory of society. This ‘useless class’ will not merely be unemployed — it will be unemployable.

    Sorry to interrupt, but have you looked around lately?

    IMHO we’re already far advanced in creating that ‘useless class’, and one of our problems is breaking the news to those who’ve recently found themselves members without the benefit of prior experience, or family history.

    If you find yourself ‘useless’ but have never been ‘useless’, and no one in your family has ever been ‘useless’ then you are really in deep trouble.

    In fact, I’d say that there is no more ‘useless’ person than a ‘recently useless’ person.

    Native Americans, and the descendants of slaves have had hundreds of years to develop coping strategies to deal with our cultures vicious notion of ‘usefulness’, and its nasty side-effects. Mean while, comfortable white folk have been asking “What’s the problem?”, and yelling “Get a job!” anytime they hear complaints coming from their non-white brothers and sisters.

    If the next forty years are anything like the last forty years, we’re all going to have to get used to being ‘useless’.

    Ask yourself this question;

    Of what possible use am I to Donald, or Barack, or Hillary?

    Get used to it, you’re lucky if your family finds you useful.

    1. Quentin

      At least the politicians might pretend I’m useful until they get my vote. Afterwards, no so much.

    2. Dave

      The APP generation, endlessly fingering their phones is in my estimation already useless.
      I have encountered dozens of young males in their prime of life who can’t do anything mechanical, seem helpless before the laws of physics, have no idea how things work and are shrinking violets when it comes time to defending themselves or their families from anything from birds attacking their head to dogs threatening their kids or to ruffians menacing them.

      Imagine a national or local power failure lasting long enough for all the device batteries to die. No gasoline can be pumped, no GPS, no cell phones, no laptops, no lights.
      Is there an app for that?

      1. Watt4Bob

        At one of the stores I’m responsible for, there’s an ’employee’ that I’ve observed for going on 6 months now, never seen him doing any work, he’s got ear-buds in and has his phone in his hand and is busy with his thumbs, but what he has ever done for ‘us’ is beyond me.

        I’ve never mentioned the guy in particular, but supervisors I talk with say that all the ‘kids’ are like that.

        I suppose that a lot of these kids have simply ‘adjusted’ to the fact that they are headed for obsolescence so there’s no need to demonstrate a healthy work ethic.

        I’d have a hard time arguing against that.

    3. cnchal

      Initially I though the useless were the economists, but there was this.

      What’s so sacred about useless bums who pass their days devouring artificial experiences?

      Then I realized it was a slight against Fakebook users.

    4. EGrise

      The useless can always learn to use a gun, build a Molotov cocktail, or toss the end of a rope over a lamppost.

      Seems like a lot of our elites have forgetten that.

      (I’m clearly in a bad mood today)

      1. Watt4Bob

        Seems like a lot of our elites have forgetten that.

        You see what I see.

        As for your mood, it’s understandable, maybe tomorrow will be better.

      2. jrs

        and a lot of us though we hesitate to endorse it, would find that mighty useful, maybe most useful thing done in a long time.

      3. ambrit

        Learn some coping strategies EGrise. That mood can become endemic. I do endorse the learning of new “skills” however. The cut off bed of a pick up truck can easily be converted into a dandy Post Modern Tumbril!

    5. djrichard

      Native Americans, and the descendants of slaves have had hundreds of years to develop coping strategies to deal with our cultures vicious notion of ‘usefulness’, and its nasty side-effects. Mean while, comfortable white folk have been asking “What’s the problem?”, and yelling “Get a job!” anytime they hear complaints coming from their non-white brothers and sisters.

      Touche

  9. allan

    Trump idea to expand health care competition faces hurdles [AP]

    Allowing insurers to market health care policies across state lines is one of President Donald Trump’s main ideas for bringing down costs.

    While supporters of the idea cast it as a way to make insurance policies more competitive, critics say it’s unlikely to result in more affordable plans and could undermine stronger consumer protections in states such as California and Hawaii.

    Such a “race to the bottom” could leave some older consumers with health problems unable to afford coverage. …

    Not news to anybody here, but it will be interesting to see how quickly the `sell across state lines’ scam
    collapses of its own absurdity.

    1. Katharine

      I thought some previous discussion here had noted that the insurance companies weren’t eager to work across state lines. Am I misremembering, or remembering correctly but not considering factors that would change their outlook, or…? Anyone who is more up to speed on this, please fill me in!

      1. marym

        https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/01/upshot/the-problem-with-gop-plans-to-sell-health-insurance-across-state-lines.html

        The trouble is that varying or numerous state regulations aren’t the main reason insurance markets tend to be uncompetitive. Selling insurance in a new region or state takes more than just getting a license and including all the locally required benefits. It also involves setting up favorable contracts with doctors and hospitals so that customers will be able to get access to health care. Establishing those networks of health care providers can be hard for new market entrants.
        …..
        In 2012, Ms. Corlette [director of the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute] and co-authors completed a study of a number of states that passed laws to allow out-of-state insurance sales. Not a single out-of-state insurer had taken them up on the offer. As Ms. Corlette’s paper highlighted, there is no federal impediment to across-state-lines arrangements. The main difficulty is that most states want to regulate local products themselves. The Affordable Care Act actually has a few provisions to encourage more regional and national sales of insurance, but they have not proved popular.

        Insurers have been muted in their enthusiasm for G.O.P. across-state-lines plans. Neither America’s Health Insurance Plans, the lobbying group for most private insurers, nor the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association have endorsed such a plan when it has come before Congress.

      2. cm

        I used to work in the medical insurance biz…

        Each state has its own Department of Insurance, with wildly different regulations/requirements.

        Extremely impractical to suggest it would be easy to “merge” an insurance plan in two different states, unless the states magically agreed to change their laws. Which is a complete non-starter.

        1. Marina Bart

          Couldn’t a bunch of Koch/ALEC controlled states get together and do it? I mean, they’re working amend the Constitution, and agreeing to coordinate insurance regulations ought to be a lot easier.

        2. marym

          Thanks for the info. Until Katharine’s question sending me looking for links, I knew the “race to the bottom” (states with the worst regs) argument against this, but not that there were also negatives from the perspectives of the states and insurance companies.

  10. allan

    Accountabilitiness!!!

    AP Exclusive: Accountants in Oscar flub off the show

    The president of the film academy says the two accountants responsible for the best-picture flub at Sunday’s Academy Awards will never return to the Oscar show.

    Cheryl Boone Isaacs tells The Associated Press that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ relationship with PwC, the accounting firm responsible for the integrity of the awards, remains under review. …

    If only the Academy had been running the Obama Administration’s response to the banking crisis …

    1. allan

      Accountabilitiness!!!, Part Deux

      Yahoo punishes CEO in latest fallout from security breakdown
      [AP]

      Yahoo is punishing CEO Marissa Mayer and jettisoning its top lawyer for the mishandling of two security breaches that exposed the personal information of more than 1 billion users and already have cost the company $350 million.

      Mayer won’t be paid her annual bonus nor receive a potentially lucrative stock award because a Yahoo investigation concluded her management team reacted too slowly to one breach discovered in 2014. …

      It would be interesting to know the AP stylebook’s policy for when to use `punishes’,
      because most people would have a hard time calling this a punishment.
      The internet says that the definition of `bonus’ is
      an amount of money added to wages on a seasonal basis, especially as a reward for good performance.
      Putting 1 billion accounts at risk of identity theft and then not telling them about it
      doesn’t sound like good performance.

  11. nippersmom

    Thank you for today’s plantidote. Bleeding heart always makes me feel a little nostalgic- it was a particular favorite of my father’s.

  12. LT

    “Look at the optics: It’s like some idiot Democratic strategist asked: “How can we appeal to the white working class?” (because never, ever just “working class”)….”

    Of course not. Because that could create a political force that would make Dems and Repubs put up their “goin’ out of business” signs.

    1. uncle tungsten

      “Look at the optics” I note that there is absolutely nothing on those tables (other than pepper salt etc). They have nothing to share, nothing to commune or socialize with. They offer absolutely nothing.

    1. WJ

      Awan made nearly $2 million since starting as an IT support staffer for House Democrats in 2004, according to public salary data.

      Wow!

  13. Cujo359

    Apologies if this is a repeat link, but Tom Engelhardt wrote in detail what I and no doubt a lot of others have been thinking:

    We were, in other words, already living in a different America before 8 November 2016. Donald Trump has merely shoved that reality directly in all our faces. And keep in mind that if it weren’t for the one-percentification of this country and the surge of automation (as well as globalization) that destroyed so many jobs and only helped inequality flourish, white working-class Americans in particular would not have felt so left behind in the heartland of their own country or so ready to send such an explosive figure into the White House as a visible form of screw-you-style protest.

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/01/us-government-billionaires-generals-military-trump

  14. Karl Kolchak

    Here’s an even more telling quote from that Atlantic article about the State Department:

    “This is probably what it felt like to be a British foreign service officer after World War II, when you realize, no, the sun actually does set on your empire,” said the mid-level officer. “America is over. And being part of that, when it’s happening for no reason, is traumatic.”

    If only that were really true. The sun unfortunately hasn’t yet set on America’s insane project of trying to rule the globe through dronings, bombings and its huge network of military bases, but American diplomacy has indeed been rendered obsolete.

    1. Adam Eran

      Urkkk! From the link: “… Barack Obama, a man whose elegance and intelligence rival that of any American president in the last 50 years. ”

      You mean the most corrupt president in history? The guy, who when we needed FDR, managed to be Caspar Milquetoast? That’s elegant? Intelligent?

      Nah! That’s snake oil!

      1. freedeomny

        LOL – yes agree. I do like most of his writings though. Hey-he is only 39 but trying. Not so bad to cut slack for the well intention…

        1. Darius

          Don’t forget he rigged the DNC election to put his crony Perez in charge of the continued implosion of the Democratic Party.

  15. Adam Eran

    Re: Infrastructure

    Are suburbs financially viable? Short answer: “No!”

    Here’s a longer answer. The linked article is a little scattered but essential to understanding the enormous subsidies suburbia requires.

    “What, we haven’t had subsidies!”… you might say. The linked article demonstrates (great graphs!) how you need to add “yet” to that sentence.

    The truth is that, besides their enormous payoff to land speculators, because of Prop 13, California cities must collect all their costs in building fees, or they aren’t going to get them. Folsom’s fees are $70K – $80K. Butte County’s were $10K (back in the days before it threatened to declare bankruptcy). There’s just not that big a difference between the price of roads and infrastructure in Folsom vs. Olivehurst, yet, as far as I can tell, little local governments spend very little effort correlating fees collected with their actual costs for roads, water, sewer, fire and police.

    Excerpt from the “longer answer” linked article:

    Marohn: I would say that you have to do the math. We can build places that are beautiful and walkable and well-connected and meet all the other metrics, but if they’re not financially solvent, it’s going to be for naught. And so unless we take care of the money, it’s not going to work. We can build places that are fantastic, that are also financially solvent. And I think when we use that discipline, what we find is that New Urbanism comes out ahead of every other approach that’s out there.

    1. Darius

      Marohn’s analysis of suburban economics is spot on. He’s quite conservative on macro and by my lights ill-informed. But in his lane–he’s a civil engineer and urban planner–he’s dynamite. Subversive, creative, synthesizing a wide variety of knowledge. He has me convinced that infrastructure spending will go to the wrong stuff. New roads for Walmarts and urban sprawl. This all creates high long term liabilities coupled with a low tax base. Older “blighted” prewar neighborhoods are cash cows whose taxes actually carry most communities even though they suffer systematic disinvestment. Politicians always have incentives for big and new, not fixing up the old stuff where the need is.

      Strong Towns also is the first thing I’ve come across with true cross partisan appeal. There’s stuff to delight and challenge the left and right. It’s about building community.

  16. Jim Haygood

    Well that was quite a blast on Wall Street, as Bubble III reaches the ionosphere with its eighth birthday approaching next week. Some wirehouse forecasts of S&P 2400 by end-year have already happened as of March 1st, give or take 5 points.

    Equally stunning was the ISM manufacturing index referenced in Lambert’s report above. Its 57.7 reading correlates with a 4.5% rate of GDP growth, based on a correlation derived from several decades of data. Since manufacturing is a much smaller portion of the economy now than it was when Big Steel ruled the Midwest and Chevy Impala ruled the roads, 4.5% probably is on the high side. But I could believe 3.0%.

    Every action provokes an equal and opposite reaction — namely, Fed tightening. Ms Market isn’t bothered by a picayune quarter-point mosquito bite later this month. But jab in a few of those interest rate banderillas, and the old bull starts to wheeze.

    For now, though, there’s still time to PAR-TYYYY …

    1. Gareth

      I’m calling the top now that the Snap Chat IPO has closed. It’s a clear sign of the apocalypse.

      1. Jim Haygood

        Good luck! Everybody can play “pick the top.”

        I thought it was the top in Aug 2004 when the Google IPO was priced at an insane $85 a share. Today it’s a ten-bagger at $856 a share.

        Oh well, can’t win ’em all. Me and Warren B, we just don’t understand tech. :-(

        1. Robert Frances

          20-bagger, I think. It split 2:1 along the way (2014) when it issued new stock (without voting rights) to existing shareholders and as new stock for employee stock option conversions. There was a ~$30 share price difference between the two share classes when it split, but that has narrowed to $19-22. The IPO cost basis for an originally acquired share is ~$43.

          1. Jim Haygood

            Oops, you are right. Good spot.

            If I haven’t screwed up the calc, a 20-bagger in 12.5 years amounts to a 27 percent compounded annual rate of return.

            *sigh*

            Now I’m feeling a little ill … hindsight hurts.

            1. Robert Frances

              You and me too. Unlike most IPOs that are marketed primarily to very wealthy clients of investment banks or to the Connected Class, it was fairly easy for a Nobody like myself to get qualified to buy IPO shares via their unique auction bidding process. (A very clever innovation.) Alas, woulda, coulda, shoulda. After the first down leg or two in early 2008 I finally picked up some shares (my first direct stock purchase ever) and promptly watched them lose 1/2 their value during the rest of 2008, along with more lows in early 2009. But by the end of 2009 they were up over 100% from their 12/31/08 share price. Buy and hold (or benign neglect) can have advantages, assuming we live long enough. Maybe we’re not too late for Snapchat!

        1. Jim Haygood

          Man, 2030 is gonna be Mad Max time.

          Me, my dog, a shotgun, and a pocket full of gold coins. ;-)

  17. LT

    Re: Ted talk and glorified algorithms

    That’s only possible if the belief system is that jobs are the only thing that make a person “human.”

    And the brain is nothing like a computer, but a quant is exemplification that for a hammer everything looks like a nail.

  18. allan

    Top drugmakers to ignore investor calls to explain price hikes [Marketwatch]

    Several major U.S. drug companies have squelched an investor campaign aimed at forcing companies to disclose more information about when and why they raise prices.

    In October, a group of institutional investors, including many with ties to religious organizations, submitted shareholder proposals asking 11 U.S. drug companies, including Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co., to issue reports listing average annual price increases for their top-selling drugs between 2010 and 2016, and to state the rationale for the increases. The investors asked the companies to include the proposals on proxy ballots that will be put to shareholder votes at annual meetings this spring.

    But 10 of the companies plan to omit the drug-price transparency proposals from their proxy ballots, generally on the grounds that they would interfere with “ordinary business,” according to company documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. …

    What is the chemical formula for talk to the hand?

  19. PQS

    “Employment-based insurance is particularly valuable to older workers — so much so that many studies document that it influences retirement decisions.”

    Absolutely this is the case. In fact, I can’t even believe a study was required to prove this.

    My mother put off retirement not only because she liked working, but also because after a certain time, part of her retirement package included full medical coverage, which she considered to be too valuable a benefit to just give up.

    I’ve considered working less as my personal finances have improved, but my worry is that I’m not yet 50 and still have a long way to go to collect my tattered, likely long-gone Medicare voucher…

  20. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    re: unemployable class

    Leave it to “Ted”. I keep pointing people to Bob Black’s seminal “Abolition of Work”. Bucky Fuller had it sorted back in the 60s. With increasing automation, we can all have a decent living with the merest modicum of what’s now called ‘work’.
    We’re ruled by sociopaths who don’t need us, have contempt for us and are already forming a breakaway civilization in gated fortresses guarded by Ukrainian mercenaries. What used to be called ‘jobs’ are all gone or going fast never to return – but – we have it hammered into us the libertarian creed that’s there’s no free lunch. The people living like pashas ‘deserve’ their wealth and shouldn’t have to share it with drooling peasants. When you get a Ayn Rand acolyte’s dander up, it never takes long to bring it to that.

    These people enjoy controlling others. They live for it. Hillary and Donald and Theresa and all the rest of them. The sooner we realize that our ruling class is operated for the benefit of psychos and upheld by thugs who are happy to hack people into bloody chunks if their bosses so order.

    Very soon the gloves will come off. The neoliberal order of the Anglo-Saxon hegemony is collapsing all around us and no one knows what will replace it. We can rest assured, however, that the precious feelings of the little groups who scream the loudest about Trump will not be taken into account in this new dispensation.

  21. Jay M

    TED talk: these are the smart guys and gals, right? Best and brightest?
    RE “useless class”—remind anyone of lebenswertes leben?
    That ended well.

    1. Musicismath

      For me, one of the most eye-opening reads in a long time was Daniel Pick’s “Faces of Degeneration” (1989), which I finally got around to over the winter. It’s amazing how much late 19th-century elite anxieties about the supposedly “devolved” and useless lower classes are starting to recur in this age.

  22. Jim Haygood

    As if we needed another headache:

    An internal White House review of strategy on North Korea includes the possibility of military force or regime change to blunt the country’s nuclear-weapons threat, people familiar with the process said, a prospect that has some U.S. allies in the region on edge.

    http://tinyurl.com/jdbqnp2

    Regime change … hell, yeah! After all, we’re batting a thousand so far.

    1. ambrit

      I say let the Chinese handle North Korea. After all, no one with any sense, and I believe that we all can agree that the Peoples Republic has some sensible men and women running the show over there, wants to have a petty nuclear power run by an un-enlightened despot for a neighbour.
      Regime change??? We can’t even get rid of this meddlesome Crypto-Populist rich guy President of ours. And that’s in our own back yard! North Korea is the Middle Kingdom’s back yard. Let them deal with it. Maybe they’ll sub out the job of running the NK Plantation to the SK regime. Win win all the way around.

    2. John k

      Preemptive first strike! That’s the ticket.
      Two trillion in tactical nukes since 2008, shame not to put them to a real world test…

    1. witters

      That it has not is, for me, the perfect manifestation of the political evil that has engulfed the US.

  23. montanamaven

    right now msnbc doing a hit job on Putin/trump . special edition called “The Trump/Putin Power Play” . NEW YORKER ‘S David Remnick is starring.

    and the beat goes on…

  24. montanamaven

    oh and breaking news on same show…jeff sessions spoke to Russian Ambassador twice during campaign. and may have lied about it in the hearings. this is where i don’t get the lying part by anybody. why can’t or shouldn’t people talk to russians? they are not official enemies? so when asked, why not just say, ‘yeh, i talked to the guy about our common interests like defeating iSIS. ” why not? i guess weasels just can’t help acting like weasels. stupid.

  25. Stephen Douglas

    And answered: “I’ve got it! We’ll put Beshear in a gen-u-wine diner with his neighbors!” (all of whom are white. “What do some different white people think, Milford?”

    Lambert? There’s a black man just behind the Guv’ner stage left. Background sure, but not that far bg.

    What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?

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