2:00PM Water Cooler 3/9/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Ben Cardin are pointing to Trump’s extensive business dealings in China as a reason why the president has yet to act on a campaign promise to instruct his Treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator on his first day in office” [Politico]. Trump is an oligarch, so of course he has “business ties.” But Trump’s oligarch nature is the problem, which of course the Democrats (Saban, Soros, etc.) cannot say.



“U.S. President Donald Trump met with business leaders on Wednesday including Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk and real estate developers, as the administration seeks partnerships with the private sector to boost infrastructure spending” [Reuters]. “Major real estate and private equity executives attended the meeting, including developer Richard LeFrak, Vornado Realty Trust Chief Executive Officer Steve Roth, and Apollo Global Management co-founder Josh Harris, the White House said. LeFrak and Roth have been tapped to lead an infrastructure council that Trump plans to create, a spokesman for LeFrak had previously said. The lunch with the CEOs follows his meeting on Tuesday with AFL-CIO union President Rich Trumka to talk infrastructure and other issues. The White House held a meeting of 15 federal agencies last Thursday to begin work on the administration’s infrastructure plan…. In January, Trump signed an executive order aimed at expediting environmental reviews and approvals for all infrastructure projects, especially high-priority projects such as improving the U.S. electric grid and telecommunications systems and repairing and upgrading “critical” port facilities, airports, pipelines, bridges, and highways.”

“Trump said he would was inclined to give states 90 days to start projects, and asked Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, to provide a recommendation. He expressed interest in building new high-speed railroads, inquired about the possibility of auctioning the broadcast spectrum to wireless carriers, and asked for more details about the Hyperloop, a project envisioned by Tesla founder Elon Musk that would rapidly transport passengers in pods through low-pressure tubes” [MarketWatch]. On grifting, Musk makes the Clintons look like amateurs. “”We’re not going to give the money to states unless they can prove that they can be ready, willing and able to start the project,” Trump said at a private meeting with aides and executives that The Wall Street Journal was invited to observe. ‘We don’t want to give them money if they’re all tied up for seven years with state bureaucracy.'” Seven years? Because having the spending kick in at the end of Trump’s second term won’t do him any good?

“Shortly after Trump’s election in November, Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador said the conservative House Freedom Caucus, of which he is a member, would provide ‘the check on the presidency,’ partly by insisting that Trump’s $1 trillion plan was fully paid for” [Miami Herald]. Hmm. It will be amusing to see if Democrats join the Freedom Caucus as they insist on “fiscal responsibility.”

“Perhaps the most intriguing and potentially far-reaching implication of the new administration is the infrastructure funding, if it is actually approved by Congress, which could lead to the construction, at least of prototype, SmartRoads” [Insurance Journal]. “SmartRoads are roads with embedded technology that allows the vehicle to actually, actively interact with the roadway. In other words, unlike the current generation of autonomous prototype vehicles, which effectively used LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and radar, and visual light cameras to sense their environment – much as analogous to the way that a human being uses their eyes, and to a certain extent, their ears to sense their environment – SmartRoad technology allows the vehicle to actually ping and interact with a roadway, usually, at least initially, contemplated to be a freeway. The implication of this is that it could allow autonomous vehicles, both cars and trucks, to platoon in very close formation”” [Insurance Journal]. When a programmer’s algorithm doesn’t work, they always try to simplify their inputs until the algorithm does work. Autonomous vehicles, in the general case, are a pipe dream. So, change the roads (the inputs) so the algorithms work, and retain the “autonomous” label. Another word for “roads with embedded technology that allows the vehicle to actually, actively interact with the roadway” is rails. Why not just build more trains, instead of giving Silicon Valley a ginormous reacharound?

Health Care

“The GOP plan to undo the health care law does not make any mention of congressional staff, so it is not clear if staffers will have to remain on the exchange or return to federal employee health coverage plans managed by the OPM. An OPM spokesman said the agency did not have any information on how congressional staff might be affected by pending legislation” [Roll Call].

“[I]t’s not going to be easy to muscle the new bill through Congress. … The deeply problematic plan would roil insurance markets and destabilize state budgets. Although the Congressional Budget Office hasn’t analyzed the legislation yet, it’s expected that it would cause about 15 million Americans to lose their health coverage. It would increase the deficit by repealing some Obamacare taxes. House Republicans claim the proposal would end Obamacare’s tax penalty for people without insurance, but the reality is more complicated. The bill would instead allow insurers to assess a surcharge if individuals let insurance lapse. So uninsured Americans would still face a penalty, but they’d just owe the money to insurers instead of the IRS” [Boston Globe]. With the Freedom Caucus worried that TrumpCare isn’t crappy enough, Senators and Governors in Medicaid expansion states worried about angry voters, and important interest groups like doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies expressing concerns, it’s true that passing the bill won’t be easy. That said, the Republicans are feral and ruthless in a way that Democrats are not. Stay tuned for surprises.

One possible surprise: “The big story: Enter Donald Trump — charmer, negotiator, dealmaker. He’s been away for a while, obscured in a haze of tweets and rhetorical missiles, wrapped up in a blustery tone that exhibited little interest in legislative blather. But these are his roots, and this will now mark his future as president. The humble start to the sales job on health care reform, with quiet, private meetings where participants are invited to air their concerns, is a break not just from what we’ve seen of Trump, but what we’ve seen from the most recent presidents. It’s a huge test for the current president, and it’s one for which he chose the terms. Will conservatives come along – after their public show of opposition, and urging from the AARP and the American Medical Association to sink the bill?” [ABC News]. And then there’s this: “As Capitol Hill waits on the Congressional Budget Office to ‘score’ the new health care bill, the White House seems to be setting things up…to ignore it. ‘If you’re looking to the CBO for accuracy, you’re looking in the wrong place,’ White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday, citing the CBO’s original Obamacare numbers, which were later adjusted.'” So, the administration is planning to blow past the CBO, another one of those “democratic norms” liberals worry so much about. (I remember the liberals using the CBO as a club against single payer in 2009, since single payer is not “revenue neutral” (which is all CBO looks at). Single payer, however, saves the country at least $400 billion a year. But that doesn’t show up in the [genuflects] CBO figures.)

Trump Transition

“Why the Russia Story Is a Minefield for Democrats and the Media” [Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone]. Well worth a read. “There is a lot of smoke in the Russia story…. Moreover, the case that the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee now appears fairly solid. Even Donald Trump thinks so.”

At that link, Taibbi goes astray by trusting CNN; I hate to cite a source with the John Birch society on its blogroll, but when they’re right, they’re right, and CNN sexed up the transcript. Here’s the CNN quote: “‘I think it was Russia, [1] but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.‘ Trump said. Putin ‘[2]should not be doing it. He won’t be doing it. Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I am leading it than when other people have led it.'” From the full transcript, [1] shows what CNN deleted, and [2] comes 45 minutes later, in response to a very qualified question. Trump doesn’t do nuance well, but I think he was trying to do it here.

Back to Taibbi. I think this is exactly right, and in today’s vicious atmosphere, courageous:

[T]he manner in which these stories are being reported is becoming a story in its own right. Russia has become an obsession, cultural shorthand for a vast range of suspicions about Donald Trump.

The notion that the president is either an agent or a useful idiot of the Russian state is so freely accepted in some quarters that Beck Bennett’s shirtless representation of Putin palling with Alec Baldwin’s Trump is already a no-questions-asked yuks routine for the urban smart set….

We can’t afford to bolster [Trump’s] accusations of establishment bias and overreach by using the techniques of conspiracy theorists to push this Russia story. Unfortunately, that is happening.

One could list the more ridiculous examples, like the Washington Post’s infamous “PropOrNot” story identifying hundreds of alternative media sites as fellow travellers aiding Russia, or the Post’s faceplant over a report about a hacked utility in Vermont.

Setting all of that aside, look at the techniques involved within the more “legitimate” reports. Many are framed in terms of what they might mean, should other information surface.

There are inevitably uses of phrases like “so far,” “to date” and “as yet.” These make visible the outline of a future story that isn’t currently reportable, further heightening expectations.

Similarly, Democrats in congress have been littering their Russia speeches with caveats like, “We do not know all the facts,” and, “More information may well surface.” They repeatedly refer to what they don’t know as a way of talking about what they hope to find out.

Reporters should always be nervous when intelligence sources sell them stories. Spooks don’t normally need the press. Their usual audiences are other agency heads, and the executive. They can bring about action just by convincing other people within the government to take it.

In the extant case, whether the investigation involved a potential Logan Act violation, or election fraud, or whatever, the CIA, FBI, and NSA had the ability to act both before and after Donald Trump was elected. But they didn’t, and we know why, because James Clapper just told us – they didn’t have evidence to go on.

Thus we are now witnessing the extremely unusual development of intelligence sources that normally wouldn’t tell a reporter the time of day litigating a matter of supreme importance in the media. What does this mean?

“Omarosa, Trump’s Favored Apprentice, Carves Out WH Role” [RealClearPolitics]. “Although Manigault’s office is not in the West Wing, her close relationship with the president has won her walk-in privileges to the Oval Office, according to one friend, and vaunted status as one of roughly two dozen designated assistants to the president, the highest staff ranking. Manigault has not yet leveraged that influence on many key policy issues, although she did lead the push for the executive order on HBCUs, of which she is an alum.”

“In late November, when CQ Roll Call polled Democratic congressional staffers on whether they were more inclined to try to block the Republican agenda or find areas of compromise, 51 percent said block it, compared to 39 percent willing to cut deals. The pain of the election was still acute” [Roll Call]. “Asked the same question in late February, despite the protest movement, the Democrats’ aides were less combative: 48 percent said block the GOP agenda, 43 percent were willing to compromise.” Why, it’s almost like Democrats deploy “fascist,” “sexist,” and “racist” frivolously, isn’t it?

“Democrats are holding up one of Trump’s best appointees” [Editorial Board, WaPo]. Normalizing Trump, though that won’t prevent them from trying to defenestrate him.

“EPA chief Scott Pruitt says carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to global warming” [CNBC]. “The statement contradicts the public stance of the agency Pruitt leads. The EPA’s webpage on the causes of climate change states, ‘Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change.'”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Stefanik opponent plans series of town-hall like meetings” [Malone Telegram (bob)]. Sanders-supporting candidate leverages a town meeting: “Nelson, a Bernie Sanders delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, was one of more than 100 people unable to get into the town hall after library personnel cut off admittance at 195 — the library’s maximum occupancy by law. Outside the main room, Nelson made an unplanned speech in the foyer where the overflow crowd convened.” If the Clintonites organized this, I bet they’re ticked. If they didn’t, so much the better.

“What Resist as a movement needs to keep in mind is the fact that we are in the midst of a historic structural transition from the capitalist world-system in which we have lived for some 500 years to one of two successor systems – a non-capitalist system that preserves all of the worst features of capitalism (hierarchy, exploitation, and polarization) and its opposite, a system that is relatively democratic and egalitarian. I call this the struggle between the spirit of Davos and the spirit of Porto Alegre” [Immanuel Wallerstein]. Somebody needs to tell Neera Tanden…

Stats Watch

Challenger Job-Cut Report, February 2017: “Challenger’s layoff count remains low and favorable” [Econoday].

Jobless Claims, week of March 4, 2017: “Initial claims rose 20,000 in the March 4 week to a higher-than-expected 243,000 but the data remain very favorable for the labor market” [Econoday]. “Continuing claims, in lagging data for the February 25 week, also remain very favorable.” And: “The trend of the 4 week moving average significantly improved this week” [Econintersect].

Gallup Good Jobs Rate, February 2017: ‘Down slightly” [Econoday]. “The GGJ rate has declined year-over-year in two of the past three months.”

Import and Export Prices, February 2017: “The 0.2 percent rise for import prices in February looks soft but there are pressures within. Excluding fuels, import prices rose 0.3 percent for the largest increase since July. Industrial supplies outside of petroleum rose 1.4 percent while food products rose 1.0 percent” [Econoday]. “An important sign of pressure comes from the overall year-on-year rate which is at 4.6 percent for its highest level in 5 years, since February 2012.” But: “Yikes – seems like inflation is rampant? The elephant in this significant inflation is fuel / oil. If one ignores these commodities, the year-over-year inflation rate for imports and exports is almost zero” [Econintersect].

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of March 5, 2017: “[C}ontinues to build to new cycle highs”[Econoday]. “Strong gains in many confidence readings, however, have to result in strong gains for consumer spending.”

Quarterly Services Survey, Q4 2016: “Information revenue rose 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter with the year-on-year rate at plus 4.0 percent” [Econoday].

Retail: According to Green Street Advisors, a premier real estate research firm, sales at the nation’s department stores averaged $165 per square foot in 2006. As of spring 2016, that number was down 24% to $124… and it’s been falling steadily since then” [Econintersect]. “Meanwhile, those same department stores only reduced their physical footprint by 7% over the decade.”

Retail: “Instacart has no warehouses, trucks or inventory, but the grocery delivery business has a shiny new valuation of $3.4 billion. The company added up to $400 million in a new funding round” [Wall Street Journal]. “Silicon Valley investors have long chased the elusive prize of same-day delivery, pouring billions of dollars into companies like Webvan Group Inc., one of the big busts in the early dot-com boom days. There are some big differences with Instacart, however. The smartphone era has changed shopping patterns, training a new generation of consumers to buy goods quickly and more easily on mobile devices. And Instacart has none of the physical assets that weighed down earlier startups, choosing instead to strike deals with grocery chains and use their stores as virtual warehouses that are served contracted couriers rather than company-owned trucks.” Ah, “contracted couriers.” So, like so many other Silicon Valley unicorns, the soaring valuation is based on screwing over the workers.

Commodities: “China’s has decided to eliminate recently set restriction on coal production from local miners, which decreased global supplies and helped prices last year, and has instead vowed to adopt more market-friendly measures in the sector and other oversupplied industries” [Mining.com]. “The announcement doesn’t mean the country’s top planning agency has abandoned its intention to cut 150 million tonnes of coal mining capacity this year. But the National Development and Reform Commission would leave the size and timing of such cuts to local governments as long as prices remained stable.” Hmm.

Commodities: “The US Department of Interior (DOI) has recently made public its plan of leasing 73 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for crude oil and natural gas production. The areas in question are blocks off the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida and Texas” [Economic Calendar]. “The proposed plan echoes the previous administration’s plan for the Gulf of Mexico fossil fuels production. However, the Obama administration was somewhat more humble, suggesting a lease of 64 million acres.”

Shipping: “[T]he current shortage of truck drivers now stands at almost 48,000 and has the potential to go higher, due in large part to industry growth and drivers parking their trucks on the way to retirement and also noting that if current trends remain intact, the driver shortage could rise to around 175,000 by 2024” [Logistics Management]. “So, what happens now and what needs to be done going forward? Well, rising driver pay is a good place to start but it is easier said than done, given the typically very thin carrier margins. … This whole situation is like the hamster on the wheel in some respects. Maybe the whole thing will become a memory should autonomous vehicles truly become a huge success, but until then things continue to move down a highway of uncertainty, when it comes to the never-ending truck driver shortage.”

Shipping: “One of the world’s most important tech investors has told the logistics industry that there is little cause for its incessant worrying about the emergence of Amazon as a third-party logistics provider” [The Loadstar]. “At last week’s TPM conference in Long Beach, managing director at start-venture capital firm Felicis Ventures, Wesley Chan, said he doubted that few shippers would want to hand over the sort of product data they would need to if employing Amazon as their freight forwarder…. [Mr. Chan] said: “When I was at Google, we tried to get into finance and it never worked out because people didn’t want Google to have that information.”

Shipping: “3 Innovations That Have Transformed Logistics and Trade” [Shipping and Freight Resource]. “Containeristion, information processing technologies, and fibre optic cables.” Interesting. For example:

Containerisation must be viewed as revolutionary not because of its impact on cost [where the driver is oil], but rather because of its impact on time. Prior to this innovation, ships would typically be in port for a couple of weeks due to loading and unloading being extremely time consuming. Now, however, a ship can be in and out of port within 10 hours. Whilst this increase in speed is beneficial for all types of products, perishable goods in particular were dramatically affected. Time is the key limiting factor in the long-distance transfer of perishable goods and without the speed increases brought about by containerisation, the fresh food industry would not have the international configuration it has today.

The Fed: “Maybe all that post-election economic hope and all the day in and day out record highs on the Dow Jones Industrial Average and in the S&P 500 Index had some meat to it after all. Ahead of Friday’s key employment report from the Labor Department, there has been almost nothing but incredibly strong data on the job market. The strength has even been strong enough that it now seems almost certain that Chair Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will raise interest rates in the coming week” [247 Wall Street].

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 62 Greed (previous close: 62, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 75 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 9 at 12:12pm. Zzzzz….

Health Care

“When Department of Health and Human Services administrators decided to base 30 percent of hospitals’ Medicare reimbursement on patient satisfaction survey scores, they likely figured that transparency and accountability would improve healthcare” [The Atlantic]. “In fact, a national study revealed that patients who reported being most satisfied with their doctors actually had higher healthcare and prescription costs and were more likely to be hospitalized than patients who were not as satisfied. Worse, the most satisfied patients were significantly more likely to die in the next four years.”

“Chilling Effect? Post-Election Health Care Use by Undocumented and Mixed-Status Families” [New England Journal of Medicine]. “Trump administration comments and actions regarding immigration policy and enforcement will most likely further dampen health care utilization. … [T]he community may lose confidence that information given to service providers, including health care organizations, will not be used for political purposes, including deportation proceedings. Undocumented-immigrant parents of U.S.-citizen children may be especially concerned, given the risk that family members might be separated.”

Class Warfare

“In what is commonly called “pay-to-stay” or “private jail,” a constellation of small city jails — at least 26 of them in Los Angeles and Orange counties — open their doors to defendants who can afford the option. But what started out as an antidote to overcrowding has evolved into a two-tiered justice system that allows people convicted of serious crimes to buy their way into safer and more comfortable jail stays” [The Marshall Project]. “An analysis by The Marshall Project and the Los Angeles Times of the more than 3,500 people who served time in Southern California’s pay-to-stay programs from 2011 through 2015 found more than 160 participants who had been convicted of serious crimes including assault, robbery, domestic violence, battery, sexual assault, sexual abuse of children and possession of child pornography.” Third world stuff. Appalling.

News of the Wired

“Wikileaks is offering tech firms CIA files first” [BBC]. “‘Once the material is effectively disarmed, we will publish additional details,’ Mr Assange said.”

“Digital Privacy at the U.S. Border: Protecting the Data On Your Devices and In the Cloud” [Electronic Frontier Foundation]. This is so complicated there ought to be a market for solving it.

* * *

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 (PS):

PS kindly sends a second concept for a “shade structure” — I had no idea there was a word! — this one with rebar. Thinking this through, a requirement is surveying the garden as a panorama from my desk. So in some ways the round shape of the hoophouse/rebar concept feels wrong. Sitting under a flat roof, in a lean-to concept, feels much more natural, I’m not sure why.

Readers, Water Cooler is a standalone entity, not supported by the very successful Naked Capitalism fundraiser just past. Now, I understand you may feel tapped out, but when and if you are able, please use the dropdown to choose your contribution, and then click the hat! Your tip will be welcome today, and indeed any day. Water Cooler will not exist without your continued help.


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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. maxhazard

    So everything from Snowcrash is coming true? (re: Pay to Stay)

    The Hoosegow looks like a nice one. Y.T. has seen hotels that were worse places to sleep. Its logo sign, a saguaro cactus with a black cowboy hat resting on top of it at a jaunty angle, is brand new and clean.

    Premium incarceration and restraint services
    We welcome busloads!

  2. Tim

    “In fact, a national study revealed that patients who reported being most satisfied with their doctors actually had higher healthcare and prescription costs and were more likely to be hospitalized than patients who were not as satisfied. Worse, the most satisfied patients were significantly more likely to die in the next four years.”

    It can’t be said enough, when it comes to your healthcare, you are responsible for the Hippocratic oath (do no harm), not the doctor. Always ask yourself if the fix may be worse than the problem.

    Skepticism of medical action is healthy…Literally.

    1. Benedict@Large

      So the more attention a patient gets and/or the sicker a patient is, the more they appreciate the help of their care givers. This is news?

  3. petrel

    “Single payer, however, saves the country at least $400 a year.”

    Is that a typo? Is that number accurate, and per person? Or is that number an aggregate ($400 million? $400 billion?)

  4. p7b

    re: shade structure:

    Well if the good old fashioned EZ-up is not sturdy enough for your needs, the usual solution is a light wood frame (partial Yurt?). Since the only real failing of the EZ-up is lack of stiffness in high winds, I assume we are going for more stiffness. Cheapest way to get stiffness are used pallets. Great for reuse/hipster points as well. (also! old pallets make nice planters. Stand them up sideways against a fence or garden wall and put rectangular pots/planters in the framing).

    Anyway, I’ve seen a few woodsheds made this way. Roof framefrom pallets fastened side by side with 2-by’s. outside of cities you can get pallets for free, if you live in a hipster friendly locality, architectural salvage (demolition) can get you used dimensional lumber for free too.

    Usually held up by 4 posts, but if you want more stiffness and a more secure feeling with the framing over your head: You could greatly increase the stiffness of the structure by using additional pallets for 2 of the 4 posts, which preserves the open feel.

    Pick a color other than blue to make it look less wal-mart-ish. White is usually availiable. I like dark greens, though some say it’s a little too country :-P

    Building it will feel really good. Invite a few friends over, pour a glass or 2 (hint: no power cutting tools after imbibing). weight it down or dig a hole for the posts.

    Another really cool design is the symmetrical star dome frame. Lay out flexible material (wood, PVC) in the shape of a 5 or 7 pointed pentagram. Slowly bring all the corners toward the center- the rest of the structure will rise up into a dome shape. Some rope loops and quite a few hands may be needed to preserve the symmetry as this is happening. Install tarps to taste (some like the open center). Very cozy feel.

    1. Mike

      Temporary, and thus removable, structures like that shown in the picture with the dog above can be built in the following manner:
      Set one inch internal diameter PVC, or better yet, galvanized pipe pieces, one foot long, into concrete every X feet, at a 45% angle, tipped inward with a stub projecting above the surface of the concrete.
      Create another set opposite these at the distance you want the structure to be wide.

      Set long rebar into the holes. It’s flexible enough that it will form an arc. If all the pieces are equal length, your structure will be symmetrical. A piece of rebar running in the long direction wired to the top of the arcs will give it stability.

      shade cloth can be draped over this.

      You can use pieces of PVC pipe set into larger diameter pipe stubs in the ground but it’s not as strong.
      Also, sunlight degrades PVC, so you will need to paint it.

      1. Randy

        Before you put up something consider the effect of bad weather on your structure. That thing in the picture will go down in the first 30mph wind. What about 40-60mph winds like we just had in the Midwest? Also think about snow loading if you are in snow country.

        Your lean to is the best idea so far. You don’t want to spend all your time repairing/replacing your shade structure vs. enjoying it.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        Pouring concrete sounds like work. Is there a way to avoid it? Can I just stick the PVC pipes in the ground?

        Or stick a big short PVC pipe in the ground, and then stick bamboo or a 2×4 in the the pipe (which will prevent the wood from rotting?)

        1. p7b

          Re: sticking in ground vs concrete
          depends on soil. imagine wet soil after spring rain etc.

          Mike’s semicylindrical hoop design (brilliant btw) needs some tension on the frame, just liek a tent.

          So either stick the pipe in pretty far into potentially wet garden soil, or:

          Apply some or all of the tension another way — for example a tension line between the bottom ends of each hoop. same function as the tension provided by the bottom surface of a conventional tent.

          Then the only thing the “in-the-ground” anchor does is stake it down vs getting blown away. So really you’re just making a big tent.

    2. subgenius

      Re. Pallets…

      Worth being aware of the highly toxic nature of the wooden ones (treated to prevent bugs eating them etc…) – don’t burn them, or use them for planters of anything edible…

        1. jsn

          Yes, but heavy is what keeps your structure where you left it. If you want light weight, you want temporary: there are some pretty fab camping tents out there you could modify, set up and break down in 5 mins once you figure them out.

        2. p7b

          Ok… then an “A”-frame, or lean-to type tent is minimal. Camping. tarp and line- tension a line between 2 trees, or house and a tree, or tentpoles. Throw tarp over line. 4 corners pulled to stakes. To make it last more than a single night, tie lines with adjustable tensioning. Use extra big stakes. On flat ground b/c rain drainage. lawn chairs. cocktail table. persian rug. candelabra. fire extinguisher.

  5. Vatch

    managing director at start-venture capital firm Felicis Ventures, Wesley Chan, said he doubted that few shippers would want to hand over the sort of product data they would need to if employing Amazon as their freight forwarder

    Strange and funny, but true: For several years, the now defunct bookstore chain Borders let direct competitor Amazon handle their website. That didn’t turn out well for Borders. I’m sure Amazon learned a lot of useful business data from Borders customers.




    1. Arizona Slim

      If Borders had focused on making their flagship Ann Arbor store a real destination, as in, the kind of place that people would travel to visit, they might still be around.

      But no. They went the generic chain store route. And then they crapified the Ann Arbor store.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Borders used to be a wonderful store. Then they became indistinguishable from Barnes and Noble. Then they died.

        Our Borders in Bangor was replaced by Books-A-Million, which is actually pretty good, but and they anchor their store with a focus on Christian books.

  6. grizziz

    Re: Atlantic article on Health Care, …the most satisfied patients were significantly more likely to die in the next four years.
    WTF!?! Another failure of polling data? I can longer fathom the prior beliefs and bad incentives brought to the formerly simple act of asking a question.

    1. none

      WTF!?! Another failure of polling data?

      The ones happiest with their doctors are the ones who go the most often, i.e. because they are sick a lot.

      1. Marina Bart

        There’s probably a lot more going on. If they’re very sick, they’re heavily incentivized to believe their doctors will save them.

        They also may be correct in their assessment. Perhaps they would have died in two years, on average, but their doctors kept them alive.

        Treating this issue as being like a customer satisfaction survey is perfectly in line with neoliberal thinking. Do I need to explain to anyone reading this that health care delivery doesn’t work well treated as a market-based system? This is just more of that.

        1. jsn

          I’ll see you that and raise with this: to the extent one lets health care be driven by markets, the incentive structure is to keep everyone as ill as they can afford for as long as they can afford it. Then the “second law” kicks in: go die.

  7. Robert McGregor

    “So, like so many other Silicon Valley unicorns, the (Instacart) soaring valuation is based on screwing over the workers”.

    And it is amusing that some think that what is basically just “courier scheduling software” could be worth billions of dollars (Instacart, Uber, Lyft, and all the other delivery companies).

  8. Benedict@Large

    “In what is commonly called “pay-to-stay” or “private jail,” a constellation of small city jails …

    I was thinking of more of an a la carte system, where you can upgrade from mystery meat to hamburger for $5/night, or to steak for $10. Maybe fresh linens 3 times a week for $10, and every day for $20. The possibilities are endless, a real profit opportunity for the jails, and maybe if we do it right, we can even get some of the Wall Street Boys to be willing to do some time once in a while.

    1. Kurt Sperry

      This is genius. Then you can increase profits by making the “no pay” options increasingly worse and worse until they are actually health and life threatening. Then you can watch the profits roll in while you watch the deplorables die pour encourager les autres. It then becomes as perfect a scheme as the for profit, fee for service health care model: pay or die! Even hardened criminals would be embarrassed, but capitalists don’t do shame, so no problem!

    2. Musicismath

      Go further down that route and you can diversify into the general rental market. Cheap housing! With catering options! Perhaps have applicants agree to fulfil their unpaid student loan or credit card obligations or something as part of their tenancy in order to keep the business looking relatively coherent.

      We could call it “debtors prison” or something. I wonder if that’s been tried before?

  9. Carolinian

    look at the techniques involved within the more “legitimate” reports. Many are framed in terms of what they might mean, should other information surface.

    Or as Donnie Rumsfeld said, “it would be irresponsible not to speculate.” And the Bush era media (mostly the same as now) agreed with Rumsfeld wholeheartedly.

    Taibbi is way too tender and solicitous toward his colleagues and apparently didn’t get the memo that our MSM have sucked for some time. It’s a little late to be fingering the worry beads over potential lost credibility–a bit like nostalgia for that long ago time when the superannuated SNL was actually funny.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      There are inevitably uses of phrases like “so far,” “to date” and “as yet.”

      Great observation, but Taibbi himself seems to be particularly enamored with the somewhat- less -than-convincing “appear” construct to make his case, using it twice in one paragraph:

      Moreover, the case that the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee now appears fairly solid. Even Donald Trump thinks so. This of course makes it harder to dismiss stories like the one in which former Trump adviser Roger Stone appeared to know that Wikileaks was about to release the hacked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

      1. fresno dan

        Katniss Everdeen
        March 9, 2017 at 3:27 pm

        Hypothesize for a moment that the “scandal” here is real, but in a limited sense: Trump’s surrogates have not colluded with Russians, but have had “contacts,” and recognize their political liability, and lie about them. Investigators then leak the true details of these contacts, leaving the wild speculations to the media and the Internet. Trump is enough of a pig and a menace that it’s easy to imagine doing this and not feeling terribly sorry that your leaks have been over-interpreted.
        If that’s the case, there are big dangers for the press. If we engage in Times-style GILDING of every LILY the leakers throw our way, and in doing so build up a fever of expectations for a bombshell reveal, but there turns out to be no conspiracy – Trump will be pre-inoculated against all criticism for the foreseeable future.

        “gild the lily” – in a comment that went to skynet heaven….

        1. Katniss Everdeen

          Just got tagged myself on the Links page. I think I’m smarter than a 5th grader, but the Skynet algorithm keeps gettin’ the better of me. And yet I keep trying to figure it out.

          1. fresno dan

            Katniss Everdeen
            March 9, 2017 at 5:19 pm


            The Senate Intelligence Committee has been given sweeping powers, unseen since the Watergate era, to investigate Russian meddling in the US election. As its scope grows to include suspected ties between the Trump camp and Russia, investigators are starting to worry politics have overhyped the probe.
            Even some Democrats on the Intelligence Committee now quietly admit, after several briefings and preliminary inquiries, they don’t expect to find evidence of active, informed collusion between the Trump campaign and known Russian intelligence operatives, though investigators have only just begun reviewing raw intelligence. Among the Intelligence Committee’s rank and file, there’s a tangible frustration over what one official called “wildly inflated” expectations surrounding the panel’s fledgling investigation.
            Lost in the political shuffling is the FACT — concluded by 17 US intelligence agencies — that the upper echelons of Russia’s government directed an operation aimed at manipulating and disrupting the US election, and to a notable degree, succeeded. Short of an impeachable offense, officials are concerned the public is missing the forest for the trees.
            I’m have doubts as to how prescient BuzzFeed is….
            AND ….”FACT???” How legends are born…..

            Now, if I could only rise to the level of a 1st grader….. ;)

            1. Pat

              First “FACT”, the spokes group for 17 agencies stated this was the conclusion NOT the agencies themselves, as 17 agencies did NOT investigate this.
              Second “FACT”, since NO agency was allowed to examine the DNC server whatever investigation was done was based on hearsay from a private company in the employ of the DNC.
              Third “FACT”, the DNC was so security lax and stupid they sent the new email password for access out over the compromised using the server they knew had been hacked. The private security firm ordered them to dismantle the entire system and start again it had been so compromised on so many levels. But I guess it was only the Russians…

              Buzzfeed needs to remember some of their own reporting on this.

        2. fosforos

          The weasel word is THE. The Russians? What Russians? White Russians? Red Russians? Russian crooks? Russian teenagers? Russian cops? Russian spooks? Russian exiles? Russian oligarchs? Russian judokas? Russian dressings? We need to know if we are to go to war against the right set of bad guys.

          1. kimsarah

            Like Pelosi said, vote to approve the health care act, then read it later.
            Go to war against the Russians, then figure out why later.

    2. Nippers dad

      “It would be irresponsible not to speculate”

      FWIW, I think that was one of Peggy Noonan’s greatest hits.

      1. Carolinian

        Could be my trick memory but Google gives me this

        Rumsfeld writes. “Commentators have suggested that it was strange or obsessive for the president and his advisers to have raised questions about whether Saddam Hussein was somehow behind the attack. I have never understood the controversy. Early on, I had no idea if Iraq was or was not involved, but it would have been irresponsible for any administration not to have asked the question.”


        Atrios used the expression all the time….perhaps this is what he was referring to.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > it would be irresponsible not to speculate

      This quote is from Peggy Noonan, not Rumsfuld. (Rummy is “known unknowns,” “go to war with the army you have” guy). The full quote (forgive me for quoting Jonathan Chait):

      Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to.

      My theory is that Trump needs a James Baker-equivalent, and Nooners is my candidate!

  10. DakotabornKansan

    “Clinicians and public health practitioners can also join forces to harness the power of data.” [New England Journal of Medicine] “Chilling Effect? Post-Election Health Care Use by Undocumented and Mixed-Status Families”

    “The physician is the natural attorney of the poor.” – Rudolf Virchow

    In 1847, Rudolf Virchow was asked by the German Minister of Education to help investigate scandalous conditions in Upper Silesia, a poor rural area under Prussian control with a large population of “ethnic Poles.”

    In 1848, Rudolf Virchow’s “Report on the Typhus Epidemic in Upper Silesia,” which laid the foundation for public health in Germany, included a prescription for “full and unlimited democracy” as a means to help cure the epidemic.

    “Medical statistics will be our standard of measurement: we will weigh life for life and see where the dead lie thicker, among the workers or among the privileged.” – Rudolf Virchow, 1848

  11. allan

    Time for Eric Holder to lawyer up:

    AG suggests openness to review of predecessors’ actions [AP]

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions is suggesting he’d be open to an outside counsel to review actions taken by the Justice Department during the Obama administration.

    Sessions made the comments Thursday during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

    Hewitt referenced several high-profile matters during the Obama administration, including investigations into the Internal Revenue Service and Hillary Clinton’s email practices. …

    This calls for the appropriate musical accompaniment.

    The Dems play to fundraise go back through the revolving door. The GOP plays to win.
    Looks like Holder’s new National Democratic Redistricting Committee
    is going to be ACORNed before it gets off the ground.

    1. Vatch

      Odd: the article doesn’t say anything about investigating Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer for obstruction of justice due to their failure to prosecute senior financial industry executives.

      1. crittermom

        Yet the first two guillotines I erected out front each bears one of their names.
        And they shall remain there…forever, apparently.

  12. cocomaan

    We have woodsheds where the roof, north, and west walls are corrugated steel, sometimes over plywood. The floors are old pallets. The joints are simple at the corners, with a single post in the middle for stability under snowload.

    It’s not photogenic. I have to reinforce about once a year with some roofing nails. But it keeps everything relatively dry. The key is stopping the sideways precipitate when the wind blows.

    A bit like this, but crappier:https://duckduckgo.com/?q=woodshed+design&t=ffab&iax=1&ia=images&iai=https%3A%2F%2Fi2.wp.com%2Fwww.cnbhomes.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2014%2F11%2Fmagnificent-wood-shed-plans-nrI9H.jpg

  13. Benedict@Large

    In all the talk about infrastructure that’s going around, one word is conspicuously missing:


    1. Fiery Hunt

      You ain’t kidding, Bennie!
      Sf Bay Area highways (and lots of city streets…looking at you, Oakland!) are seriously chewed up!

      1. paul Tioxon

        So there is no way Steve McQueen could ever film “BULLITT” there today?
        The classic urban car chase scenes, illegally filmed without permits, permission or any stinkin badges through the streets of San Francisco would be demolished racing like that almost anywhere is infrastructure deficit America today!


    2. Oregoncharles

      The potholes in our street are carefully nurtured by the residents, as speed bumps, though we’d rather they didn’t spread across the street, as they do where there’s heavy truck traffic. It’s a short, rural street, but with two big traffic generators at the end.)

      The ones on the highway are another matter – but it is the end of winter, and we’ve had more freezing weather than usual.

      1. wilroncanada

        Two nights ago, in Surrey BC (a spread-out suburb of Vancouver), police got a report of a multi-car accident. when they arrived they found six cars, all with one flat tire, having driven through a pothole in the rain on this major municipal road. the pothole was one metre long and 30 centimetres deep–three feet by one foot.

    3. VK

      crossing the stateline fom Pennsylvania to Maryland was a revelation and a relief , potholewise ;-)

  14. Carla

    Lambert: “Single payer, however, saves the country at least $400 a year. But that doesn’t show up in the [genuflects] CBO figures.)”

    I think there was a “billion” missing after the $400…. and I’ll bet the actual savings would be higher, even BEFORE factoring in savings from such little items as dramatically better public health.

  15. Iapetus

    I know it’s not on the list of Water Cooler topics, but there was an important article in Tuesday’s NY Times about Caterpillar being accused of Tax Fraud. The specifics of their legal troubles should lead to deeper questions about corporate tax strategies. It’s widely known that Caterpillar and many other companies collect some of their corporate profits from royalties on intellectual property that are paid, as part of a tax strategy, to offshore subsidiaries in low or no tax jurisdictions. These profits are invested by the offshore subsidiaries in securities markets, and this money cannot be ‘repatriated’ for use by the company without first paying U.S. corporate income taxes. This is why many companies with huge securities assets on their Balance Sheets (far exceeding their debt) choose to issue new corporate debt instead of self financing corporate budgets (nowadays used mostly for share buybacks). What’s disturbing about this article is its accusation that Caterpillar has found a way to use loans from offshore subsidiaries to the parent corporation, to ‘repatriate’ profits back to the U.S. without paying federal income taxes.

    According to the article “The report, which has not been made public or made available to Caterpillar, outlines a company strategy for bringing home billions of dollars from offshore affiliates while avoiding federal income taxes on those earnings…………Caterpillar has brought back $7.9 billion into the States, structured as loans, over and beyond the income that had already been taxed overseas. She concluded that the company failed to report those loans for tax or accounting purposes, and she wrote that those profits should be subject to federal taxes.”


    So for years Caterpillar has been repatriating overseas profits, while avoiding corporate tax, by simply lending this money from overseas subsidiaries to the parent company. Is Caterpillar the only company that is doing this? I’ve always found it very odd that the asset management corporations set up to invest these overseas profits are more secretive about their holdings than hedge funds. Somehow they have an exemption from U.S. Investment Advisor Public Disclosure (IAPD) requirements (not even hedge funds get this), and Apple is known to boycott investments that disclose their Braeburn Capital is a buyer. This sensitivity to disclosure might make sense if their overseas investments are being used to purchase the companies own debt (which is a market based equivalent to Caterpillar loan shenanigans).

    It’s been reported that Apples Braeburn Capital has most of its assets invested in corporate debt (which is an unusual diversification strategy for a multi billion dollar fund). In addition Bloomberg has confirmed they have been known to buy the majority of certain ‘unnamed’ corporate bond issues “Apple Inc., Oracle Corp. and the other tech giants hoarding half a trillion dollars in cash have joined the ranks of the biggest buyers of the debt, often snapping up as much as half of some bond issues, according to five people with knowledge of the transactions.”:


    1. Arizona Slim

      Caterpillar recently set up shop in Downtown Tucson. Among other incentives, the company is getting free utilities.

      Slim is seeking a similar deal from Tucson Electric Power. But the utility has been awfully quiet.

      1. MBC

        The right-to-work states love corporate welfare.
        BONUS: They can collect high taxes off the workers.

  16. Adam Reilly

    I’m not surprised regarding that Health Care data. I just ran an analysis on that exact Medicare data set for a class, and one of the investigation questions was “Is there any correlation between hospital quality and patient evaluations?”. There was basically no correlation under Medicare’s method, but I will also note that Medicare places heavy emphasis in patient evaluations on hospital communication.

  17. Sylvia

    I just read that the CIA hacking capacity was built during the Obama Administration at a cost of $100 billion–duplicating similar capacity that already existed within the NSA. The reason? Because the CIA did not want to have to disclose their operations to the NSA. Now it’s all been lost/hacked/stolen/compromised. More money down the drain.
    For the past decade-plus, says the Wiki Leaks press release, the “CIA found itself building not just its now infamous drone fleet, but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force — its own substantial fleet of hackers. The agency’s hacking division freed it from having to disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA’s hacking capacities.””
    “Thus the agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence was born. The CIA had created its very own NSA with, reads the release, “even less accountability and without publicly answering the questions as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.””

    1. nippersdad

      I read that too, strange that “the most transparent Administration evaar” didn’t bother to mention it. They must have been too busy jailing journalists………Eleventh dimensional chess is hard.

    2. YY

      I wonder if the last minute Obama allowing multiple agency access to NSA storage of everything under the sun (and moon) has more to do with quelling intel turfwars and balancing of influences than other speculated reasons. What seems very clear is that the ducks are not lining up for anybody.

      Has anyone else thought strange that Assange did not just keep the codes from going out in the wild but limited the release to the catalog/nature of the tools, restraining from releasing all other compromising information short of the codes? Until such time as the tools get too old to use, he did have the ability to create total chaos, instead of playing so very nice. It’s hoped he’s accumulated enough get out of jail cards to find safe passage to Iceland

  18. Paid Minion

    I am but a simple caveman, so I need some economic expert to explain to me how business is going to address all of these labor “shortages”, when pay raises are totally off the table?

    Excluding “Workers replaced by robots” since (IMO) the benefits promised are “pie in the sky”, and the problems are underestimated/glossed over.

    1. KurtisMayfield

      The “laws” of supply and demand only apply to executive pay , not labor.

      And why would anyone go into trucking (and pay for their own training) when the articles on autonomous vehicles keep popping up? People are responding rationally.

    2. djrichard

      Well, rising driver pay is a good place to start but it is easier said than done, given the typically very thin carrier margins

      And yet, what happens when the price of fuel goes up? Somehow the money is found. Things that me you go hmm.

      On a related note.

      The current shortage of truck drivers now stands at almost 48,000 and has the potential to go higher, due in large part to industry growth

      I’ve seen a lot of porcupine growth models since 2007. Some of them still have yet to bottom out.

        1. RWood

          The Central Intelligence Agency formally asserted the state secrets privilege this week in order to prevent disclosure of seven categories of information concerning its post-9/11 interrogation program, and to prevent the deposition of three CIA officers concerning the program.

          “Over time, certain information about the [CIA interrogation] program has been officially declassified and publicly released,” acknowledged CIA director Michael Pompeo, in a March 2 declaration explaining the CIA’s justification for asserting the state secrets privilege. “For example, the enhanced interrogation techniques employed with respect to specific detainees in the program, and their conditions of confinement, are no longer classified.”
          SECRECY NEWS
          From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
          Volume 2017, Issue No. 18
          March 9, 2017

    1. human

      Trump would turn us into a failed state? Where have you been for the last 4 decades?

      And self-proclaimed “Trump supporters” does not equal “this Executive.”

    2. polecat

      we ALREADY ARE a failed state …..

      you really need to get out of that dcbubble …….

    3. hunkerdown

      All the arguments I’ve heard against treat the ideology as some sort of prophecy whose authorities are, conveniently, unavailable to defend their assertions and, conveniently, whose guiding principle is morality. The Archdruid’s latest (and, now on hiatus, possibly his last on Blogger) seems to have been tearing the whole mess of revealed moral philosophy down, thank Bob. So, I’m not seeing anything harmful, negative, or failed about jailing the lot of them, at all. If anything, leftists would appreciate the very same thing, if they won’t absent themselves from the discourse of which they, not their schizophrenic bad-selves, have made a dumpster fire. I mean, tell me how you and the rest of the Democrat Party are not leading up to exactly this with the Russia confabulations.

    4. Marina Bart

      Will it console you to be assured that Trump is a mere symptom of our descent into failure as a state? In fact, liberals and the DC elite are far more complicit. A successful coup by the CIA would make us a failed state, don’t you think? That’s what the faction you’ve been boosting here for months is trying to achieve.

      I’m not going to click on the link, but even if that summary isn’t hyperbolic, it wouldn’t be surprising. Liberals have been killing them for years. Demanding imprisonment for their exploiters and murderers would be rational. Whenever I talk to Trump supporters, I make the distinction between the liberals who are their enemies, and leftists who want to keep their children from being killed on foreign soil, keep their communities from being unlivably contaminated, get the bankers off their backs and get them health care. We often find enough common ground that they at least aren’t interested in hurting me, and sometimes, we make real progress.

  19. fred

    ’…at least 26 of them in Los Angeles and Orange counties …. has evolved into a two-tiered justice system that allows people convicted of serious crimes to buy their way into safer and more comfortable jail stays”

    Why are areas controlled by Democrats such cesspits of inequality and injustice?

    1. Ivy

      The Los Angeles area has had curated jail cells (after all, what can’t be curated in this day and age) for some time, in part to serve the entertainment community. One of our more famous citizens paid extra to be housed in the Glendale jail to serve out a DUI sentence. By newspaper accounts, he was duly chastened and a model prisoner. Of course, your mileage may vary.

      1. Mel

        Lockit: Noble Captain, you are welcome. You have not been a Lodger of mine this Year and half. You know the Custom, Sir. Garnish, Captain, Garnish. Hand me down those Fetters there.

        Macheath: Those, Mr. Lockit, seem to be the heaviest of the whole Set. With your Leave, I should like the further Pair better.

        Lockit: Look ye, Captain, we know what is fitting for our Prisoners. When a Gentleman uses me with Civility, I always do the best I can to please him. — Hand them down, I say — We have them of all Prices, from one Guinea to ten, and ’tis fitting every Gentleman should please himself.

        Macheath: I understand you, Sir. [Gives Money.] The Fees here are so many, and so exorbitant, that few Fortunes can bear the Expense of getting off handsomely, or of dying like a Gentleman.

        Lockit: Those, I see, will fit the Captain better — Take down the further Pair. Do but examine them, Sir. — Never was better work. — How genteely they are made! — They will fit as easy as a Glove, and the nicest Man in England might not be asham’d to wear them. [He puts on the Chains.] If I had the best Gentleman in the Land in my Custody I could not equip him more handsomely. And so, Sir — I now leave you to your private Meditations.

        John Gay, The Beggar’s Opera, 1728

    2. FluffytheObeseCat

      As the Republican Party has drifted from its Reagan era roots, becoming a Dixiecrat-only political organ, its adherents seem to have ‘correctly’ removed its former coastal strongholds from their minds. Now, they believe they were always at war with all of Eastasia…. and that every square mile of it is populated by nothing but Haight-ful Hippies.

      Orange County was still Republican in 2011, when this practice was already in full swing. It’s quite bipartisan in nature.

      1. Marina Bart

        He’s correct, though, that Jerry B. and the neoliberal Democratic elite here don’t seem interesting in dialing any of this back. We’re a one party state now. So the Democrats do effectively own these policies now.

  20. John k

    Off topic…
    We know s&p509 p/e is higher than at any time in history, including just before GD, excepting only dot com. (Russell2000 negative total earnings, or infinite p/e, for three quarters.)
    We know the majority of s&p500 companies have been spending record amounts, hundreds of billions each year collectively, since Gfc to buy their own shares (illegal in 1929), which lowers p/e.

    Slow brain… the following just occurred to me…
    So without the buybacks, which load the company with debt but usefully disguises exec compensation, p/e would be substantially higher, maybe approaching the dot com peak.
    Anybody know what it would be?

  21. mle detroit

    “it could allow autonomous vehicles, both cars and trucks, to platoon in very close formation”
    Have these twits never driven on a road where they had to merge into the next lane?

    1. Musked

      Merge? Do you know how much I spent on this car? THE NERVE of you little people. This is why I can’t have nice things,

      Get out of my way! I spent way too much money on my self driving car, and there are STILL others on MY ROAD.

  22. CSP

    I wish the Democrats would stop using the term “Trump-Care” and call it what it is… “ConservativeCare”. We might as well assign the blame where due.

    1. polecat

      how about we just call it DEATH and leave it at that ..?

      … and give it a horse wile we’re at it !

    2. TarheelDem

      It really has become bipartisan. But the current label when it is signed is forever “Don T. Care”

      But maybe 40 million people will get clinical trials with some sort of decent single payer state program.

    3. Dead Dog

      One of the antonyms of care is negligence.

      There is no Health in it. Those with capital want sick people so they can extract the last bit of wealth you’ve managed to store before you die.

  23. Carey

    Any ideas as to who will be *paying for* these Smart Roads? Mmm.

    I think paved roads might be better.

    1. Peter Pan

      Think about maintenance of “smart roads”. There’s going to be technical failures & upgrades required. There’s going to be physical damage, too (snow plows, salt erosion/corrosion, gasoline tankers crashing & blowing up, etc.) Let’s stay with “dumb roads” (but not as dumb as the one in Texas in which the “smart” Tesla had a little fender bender $$$ !!)

    2. jrs

      Solar roads, well hey if we’re going to be high-tech, then solar roads that generate electricity. Not sure the total life-cycle impact of those but at least they eventually generate lots of green energy.

  24. Hana M

    More than 200 unique minerals have been classified as formed due to human activity. I find the geologists’ expropriation of Darwinian terminology rather weird but so are the minerals–one of which is the result of hot gases at a coal mine in Russia interacting with kestrel excrement.

    The study led by Robert Hazen of the Carnegie Institution for Science published by American Mineralogist bolsters the argument to officially designate a new geological time interval distinguished by the pervasive impact of human activities called the Anthropocene Epoch.

    According to the paper, the 208 catalogued mineral species originating from human actions represent almost 4% of the 5,208 minerals (defined as a naturally occurring crystalline compound that has a unique combination chemical composition and crystal structure) officially recognized by the International Mineralogical Association….

    The majority of the recognized minerals originated in ore dumps, through the weathering of slag, formed in tunnel walls, mine water or timbers, or through mine fires. Six were found on the walls of smelters and three formed in a geothermal piping system.

    This process dates back to humanoids earliest attempts to reshape the world often through mining and metallurgy. Some of these human-induced minerals are quite beautiful but I found this comment unsettling….

    According to Dr. Downs “there must be hundreds of as yet unrecognized ‘minerals’ in old mines, smelters, abandoned buildings, and other sites. Meanwhile, new suites of compounds may now be forming in, for example, solid waste dumps where old batteries, electronics, appliances, and other high-tech discards are exposed to weathering and alteration.”


    1. polecat

      not to worry …
      Gaia, in her infinite geodynamic wisdom, will just turn the whole conglomeration of chemical laden junk, over the span of eons, into Crapifidium ….

      .. of course, in the interim, think of the wonderous advantages of mutation yet to occur in life on Terra!

      1. polecat

        There Is the possibility that at least some life on this rock will evolve to assimilate, and in fact utilize as a necessity, these myriad man-made chemicals …. and then, having been discontinued, either through human intervention, or devolution, to find their way down into the earth’s lithosphere, out of the reach of whatever life evolved to subsist on said junk ….. only to eventually become extinct as a result Gaia’s cleansing processes …..

        But then, what is evolution, if not change ?

  25. Lee

    Shade structure images:

    Or you settle for an umbrella hat:

  26. JohnnyGL

    Article from links this am….https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/03/angus-deaton-qa/518880/

    {Deaton}”A lot of the drugs that were pushed in the early phase were being prescribed to people who were poor enough to be on Medicaid. A lot of these people were addicted to OxyContin—Sam actually describes a town in Indiana where the currency is OxyContin units. They’ve stopped using money and they’re using grams of OxyContin!

    Lowrey: It’s not a bad currency, right? Easy to carry around. Stable price. Fluid market.

    Deaton: There’s enough of this being prescribed for every American to have a supply for a month! So it’s not like it’s scarce. Nicholas Eberstadt makes this very cute remark about how this gave a whole new meaning to “dependence on government.” It’s a very nice essay. Eberstadt tries to be the nicest of the AEI guys.

    Remember one of the principals of MMT, if you’re going to get a currency widely accepted, first, you need to get some in everyone’s hands. So, much like the US running trade deficits giving other countries a flood of dollars, making the dollar the preferred medium of international trade and exchange, the Feds have inadvertantly created a parallel currency consisting of painkiller meds, through their (deadly) welfare for large drug companies.

      1. johnnygl

        Yes, it certainly is. It’s as if they made a massive profit forcing people to sleep on the edge of a cliff.

        The body count doesn’t seem to bother them. They blame others for the die off.

        However, there’s also lessons for monetary theory of what happens when there’s no dollars but lots of opiods. Voila, currency substitution takes place.

        1. lambert strether

          > It’s as if they made a massive profit forcing people to sleep on the edge of a cliff.

          Well, some of ’em made a profit by scraping up what they find at the bottom of the cliff.

          1. Marina Bart

            Here is where I must mention again that someone I loved died as a result of the opiod epidemic. Someone with a pre-existing addiction problem, but who was stabilize enough to be an effective and well-respected administrator of an important state level social program. Someone who had children they were raising. Someone who was contributing back to society better than the people responsible for the epidemic have done.

            Not a model victim. But she didn’t deserve to die. She wasn’t just meat to be scraped off the rocks.

            We should not be exceptional this way.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              You’re not the only one. One escaped meth. The other didn’t escape opioids.

              It seems that the topic is gradually seeping into consciousness. IIRC Lowry’s interview with Deaton correctly, the instinct was to medicalize the problem. I suppose that’s better than super-predators, but not much.

  27. Propertius

    “nstacart has no warehouses, trucks or inventory, but the grocery delivery business has a shiny new valuation of $3.4 billion.

    My friendly, locally-owned organic grocery store used to offer shopping and delivery, particularly to customers who were housebound because of illness, age, or injury. Of course that was before Whole Paycheck put them out of business.

    If only they’d known that simple concept was worth $3.4 billion, they’d probably be around today.

    1. crittermom

      Further confirmation the Dem Party refuses to read their own obituary, instead preferring to believe that ‘little bit of dirt’ falling on them as they lie in their grave is nothing more than a bit of dust blown in from the ‘winds of change’ & nothing to worry about.

      When I read ‘Clinton’ in the title, I knew it was gonna be mucked-up.

      1. Pat

        Oh, even better something run by her campaign manager who is so stupid he uses Passw0rd as a password and forgot about the electoral college, yeah there is someone who should be entrusted by a political organization with…well anything.

        About the only interesting thing to me is that the article left out Andy Cuomo. Not sure if that is indicative that he is smart enough to run from this group, although unlikely. Or if this shows that the Observer is trying to ignore his clear run at the nomination already. Or even scarier they are down with him as a nominee. But ignoring Cuomo is similar to ignoring Clinton after Kerry lost, they may still be denying but all their actions scream “me, it’s going to be ME!”

        1. Big River Bandido

          Another New York Democrat? One who could barely scrape up 55% of the vote in a primary last time, when turnout cratered? Yeah, I’m sure that’ll work great in a general election against Trump.

    2. Big River Bandido

      I agree with you and the Observer that all of those candidates mentioned — including Elizabeth Warren — would flop like Magikarp at the polls.

      But then, I have already written off the Democrats for 2018 and 2020. There’s zero chance of a true left candidate (the only type of candidate who could win a general election) being nominated as long as crooks and liars control the party. And there’s zero chance of a neoliberal winning a general election as long as real people still vote.

  28. marym

    West Virginia county sues drug distributors over opioid crisis

    The Cabell County Commission in West Virginia is suing a handful of drug distributors, alleging they knowingly turned a blind eye to the opioid epidemic that is ravaging the state by delivering and selling mass quantities of pain medications.
    The federal lawsuit filed today said those companies collectively sold 40 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone to Cabell County pharmacies between 2007 and 2012. The county’s population is less than 100,000.

  29. marym

    Some huge insurers are also skeptical of the GOP’s Obamacare replacement

    The AHIP, which represents insurers including Cigna, Allstate, Anthem, Aflac, and Humana, took time to praise some of the elements of the bill, the American Health Care Act, but had two major issues:

    …[tax credit and Medicaid funding structures]

    In addition to the AHIP letter, Blue Cross Blue Shield also offered a letter to Brady and Walden adding its critiques of the AHCP. The BCBS letter also focused on the tax credits and Medicaid expansion funding in addition to calling for further market-stabilization measures to protect the individual insurance markets.

    emphasis added because competition?


  30. Pat

    NBC had a report about a test with robot food delivery. Currently the boxes on wheels are being followed around by a human. Oh no this isn’t going to reduce jobs it is going to free humans up for longer deliveries. (Funny the reporter didn’t ask the logical question, “why not just hire more delivery people to free up others for longer distance delivery?” )

    Things that occurred to me:
    What happens if the robot loses GPS contact? Does each have to have cell capabilities? How do they ring the bell or buzzer? How do they operate an elevator? Climb stairs? Do they call the person who ordered ?Do food delivery services really believe that people will leave their apartments to go out on the street to meet the delivery ” person”? And what if the robot isn’t there? (Wrong location, stolen, or some reason returned before human can get to it…) How fast do you think a means of hacking into the locking procedure will be developed so that the robots are robbed? How many times an hour will a human have to go out to right a robot, deliver a replacement for a missed or stolen order? How about picking up the 40 pound robots to steals them outright or for parts?

    Similar to driverless cars, this is another case of technical wishful thinking…

  31. djrichard

    pointing to Trump’s extensive business dealings in China as a reason why the president has yet to act on a campaign promise to instruct his Treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator on his first day in office

    My guess is this is like doing a Brexit. You kind of want your ducks to be lined up in a row first. And have contingency plans out the wazoo.

  32. Dead Dog

    Use a nice sunny side of house, south isn’t it up there in Maine. Two posts into the ground, a beam, a lintel on house and rest is easy. Floor, roof and furniture your choice.

    Keep us posted on what you do

  33. CRIPES

    No surprise that the purchase of special provisions for privileged / moneyed prisoners is now more open than in our recent past. The brief era of egalitarianism between classes in our public sphere has, like the end of the Roman Republic, become a thing of the past.

    Prisons have active victuals markets operating, licit or illicit everywhere around the world. In Indonesia or Mexico, it’s common to have your meals clothes and pillows furnished by your family. Getting nice cells was another perk. Judges, cops and lawyers famously had their own “jail”, a separate building at Rikers Island.

    As the rich have exempted themselves from military service, travel and searched separately from us, turned the commons into tollbooths, and sequestered themselves in barricaded compounds, its logical to furnish boutique jails.

    It won’t be long before well-heeled prisoners can simply pay another man to serve his sentence,

    I’m only surprised Trump didn’t think of it first.

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