2:00PM Water Cooler 5/11/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“[T]he most significant growth in cross-border flows now comes in the form of data. Like other flows, data flows can demonstrate imbalances among exports and imports. Some of these flows represent ‘raw’ data while others represent high-value-added data products. Does any of this make a difference in national economic development trajectories? This paper argues that the answer is yes” [Cambridge University Press].


2016 Post Mortem

“Clinton’s Defeat: Outside Factors Hurt, but Blame Falls on the Candidate” [Charles Cook, The Cook Report]. Two quotes, since Cook is about as close to a dean of political reporting as we have these days, David Broder [genuflects] having passed away:

But those [DNC and Podesta email] leaks and Comey’s pro­nounce­ments would not have made a dif­fer­ence had Clin­ton run a bet­ter cam­paign. In­stead of try­ing to win over mal­le­able voters, her team tried to re-cre­ate the Obama co­ali­tion of minor­it­ies, mil­len­ni­als, lib­er­als, and urb­an voters—nev­er mind that the can­did­ate was a 69-year-old white wo­man who had been in the pub­lic eye for 25 years, not a young, cha­ris­mat­ic, fresh face seek­ing to be­come the first Afric­an-Amer­ic­an pres­id­ent.


But you have to give cred­it to Trump and his cam­paign. He tapped in­to fear, an­ger, and re­sent­ments that polit­ic­al pros had either ig­nored or dis­missed. He settled down and be­came as fo­cused as he is cap­able of be­ing in the fi­nal two weeks, when it really mattered. And his cam­paign blew through cracks in the vaunted blue wall of states that Demo­crats thought was im­pen­et­rable.

The 2016 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion had a lot of mov­ing parts, a lot of vari­ables that alone might not have af­fected the out­come but col­lect­ively cer­tainly did. No one or two things ex­plain a race that be­low the radar was closer than na­tion­al polls in­dic­ated—and that on Elec­tion Day el­ev­ated to the pres­id­ency a polit­ic­al novice whose strength among or­din­ary voters was masked by the loath­ing of the elites.

Worth a read, if only for the refreshing lack of hysteria.

I know this is only one example, but:


“Gov. Paul LePage will not enter the 2018 race for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Angus King, said LePage’s former gubernatorial campaign strategist and current political adviser in a prepared statement Wednesday night” [Portland Press-Herald].


“The new [“Onward Together “] super PAC, if that’s what it is, would put the Clintons in the role of kingmakers, using money to help candidates they favor. And it will look suspiciously like a framework in the making for Hillary’s still-not-ruled-out 2020 campaign” [Los Angeles Times]. On the other hand, if only Clinton could lure the entire political class into the Great Sept of Baelor…

Trump Transition

“Transcript: Interview with Donald Trump” [The Economist].

“NBC News’ Lester Holt to Interview President Trump” [NBC]. On the news tonight.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“If Bernie says working class and you hear white working class, it is on you not Bernie” [Alice Marshall, Medium]. Yep.

“‘Berniecrats’ roil state Democratic Party leadership fight” [Capitol Weekly]. “At stake is the party chairmanship held by the departing John Burton, a liberal icon, a longtime lawmaker and former Senate leader who became chair in 2009…. “We’re hoping to get Kimberly Ellis elected, that’s probably the primary goal, but the other is to get Bernie people involved in local government,” said Alexis Edelstein, founder and CEO of the 300-member Berniecrats of California. They surprised insiders by dominating the obscure process — electing a third of the delegates for the state convention, scheduled for May 19-21 in Sacramento. They believe they have turned the once-sleepy race for a new party chair into a serious contest with Bauman, long viewed as the front-runner.”

“No One Expected Obama Would Deport More People Than any Other U.S. President” [WNYC].

“Advocate: Trump’s Deportations are Possible Because Obama & Congress Failed to Protect Immigrants” [Democracy Now!]

Stats Watch

Yesterday and today:

Producer Price Index (Final Demand), April 2017: “March was an unusually weak month for inflation and April, after yesterday’s import & export price report followed by today’s producer price report, is shaping up to prove an unusually strong month” [Econoday]. “Because of the size of the monthly swings and questions surrounding Easter, March and April will have to be taken together when assessing inflation data, as it is when assessing retail sales for the two months. Today’s report points to another set of upside surprises in tomorrow’s consumer price report.” And: Mostly the data shows Producer Price data was treading water. In general, Goods inflation surge trend has moderated whilst services inflation is now on the high end of readings seen over the last year. This month’s inflation data is worse than expectations” [Econoday].

Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations, May 2017: “Price expectations, both in this report and on the consumer side, have been muted, a factor that may limit the Federal Reserve’s efforts to reinflate the economy” [Econoday].

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of May 7, 2017: “Consumer confidence readings are beginning to edge back from expansion highs including the consumer comfort index which fell a sizable 1.2 points” [Econoday].

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of May 5, 2016 (yesterday): “[R]ose a seasonally adjusted 2 percent … to a level 6 percent higher than a year ago and the highest reading since October 2015. Refinancing applications also revived and were up 3 percent” [Econoday]. “[T]he housing market is having a remarkably good Spring selling, as underscored by government housing data showing a very fast start for housing in March, when new home and existing home sales both reached expansion highs.”

Import and Export Prices, April 2017 (yesterday): “Price data were unusually weak in March and now the first indication in April is unusually strong” [Econoday]. “The shift from March weakness to April strength points perhaps to the effects of seasonal issues, specifically March’s heavy weather (which hurt March) and Easter’s calendar shift into April (which also hurt March to the benefit of April). Today’s results suggest that March’s 16-year low for the core PCE price index is likely to be quickly reversed and that Thursday’s producer prices and Friday’s consumer prices may both come in higher than expected.”

Jobless Claims, week of May 6, 2017: Lower than expected [Econoday]. “Confirming the positive signal from initial claims are continuing claims,” a 29-year low. Jobless claims were low under feudalism, too.

Shipping: “The Where’s my container app will allow shippers and their freight forwarders to find the status of any container in the operator’s ports simply by inputting the container number” (DP World announced) [The Loadstar]. So much for the premise of Spook Country (2007). Life comes at you fast.

Shipping: “Maersk Executives Call a Bottom in the Shipping Container Market” [Wall Street Journal]. Cartels work!

Shipping; “The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) today posted a $474 million year-over-year decline in fiscal second-quarter operating revenue, due in large part to the April 2016 expiration of a 4.3-percent emergency surcharge that went into effect in January 2014, and a $69 million increase in so-called controllable expenses stemming from higher labor costs” [DC Velocity].

Political Risk: “Firing Comey and Trump Agenda” [Across the Curve]. I can’t find this on Google, so maybe AtC got it off the Bloomberg terminal. It’s a good round-up, and well worth a read. My favorite comment is that the situation on Capitol Hill is “almost unimaginably fluid.” The thing is, I can’t frame that the deliberate creation of “fluidity” in Machivellian terms, and it’s a safe bet that most of the players on the Hill are Machiavellian. Creating volatility is strategic if… If… You’re properly hedged? Readers?

Political Risk: “Supply chain managers are being told that three of the most pressing risks to business performance in the 21st century are cyber attack, natural hazards and supply chain failure” [Logistics Managment]. “For companies concerned by the increasing incidence of cyber attack, oil-rich Saudi Arabia has emerged as a country with above-average inherent cyber risk. Its high internet penetration, combined with a limited cyber security industry, make it a more vulnerable target…. [F]ood-prone Bangladesh, a major manufacturing hub for apparel and textiles, ranks toward the bottom of the index…. For companies with global supply chains, Germany, a major exporter and importer, ranks near the top in resilience, driven in part by its strong ability to demonstrate where parts, components or products are in transit. Russia ranks below average in this respect.”

War on Cash: “Mastercard, Visa and UnionPay International have introduced a standardised QR code platform for payments in Thailand that will let consumers make a transaction with their mobile device at any supporting location. The service has been designed to support the Bank of Thailand’s cashless agenda which aims to “drive innovation, interoperability and security in payments” across the country” [NFC World].

Political Risk: “Although some [Silk Road] projects such as a new China-Europe freight rail line have gotten plenty of attention, analysts say investments by China’s development banks have been modest and out of step with the soaring official rhetoric. Expected beneficiaries in the belt-and-road countries are still waiting for the gusher of Chinese infrastructure funds to open up and draw their backwater economies into global supply chains. With China’s economy stretched, however, companies there are largely sticking to safer markets. Some analysts say that’s just as well since bigger investment in belt-and-road projects could prove disastrous in other countries if the money goes to dud projects” [Wall Street Journal]. Then again–

Political Risk: “Lessons for China in failed US Silk Road initiative” [South China Morning Post]. “The United States’ New Silk Road initiative [under SoS Clinton] was ‘basically a collection of interesting, somewhat promising but cash-poor ideas about regional connectivity’, said George Gavrilis, author of the 2008 book Dynamics of Interstate Boundaries, a study on border control in Central Asia since the 19th century. Beijing’s plan had ‘a lot more money behind it in the form of loans, grants, soft loans, low-conditionality and no-conditionality loans.'” And Trump has yet to appoint an Ambassador to Afghanistan, which “sits at the center” of the Silk Road.

The Bezzle: “Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s international expansion efforts are about to get much more costly. U.S. authorities are asking the company to pay $300 million to settle a five-year investigation into allegations of foreign bribery, the WSJ’s Aruna Viswanatha and Sarah Nassauer report. That possible settlement comes on top of some $840 million the retailer has already spent on an internal investigation and to upgrade its own compliance operations. The penalty would allow the company to clear away a cloud that has been hanging over its business and its global expansion in several countries, where Wal-Mart has been aggressively adding big storefront and logistics operations” [Wall Street Journal]. A billion dollars is real money, even for Walmart, but how come nobody ever goes to jail?

Five Horsemen (yesterday): Rest day for the Fab Five” [Hat tip: Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen May10

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 62 Neutral (previous close: 61, Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 45 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated May 11 at 12:28pm. I take a day off, and Mr. Market flips 10 points to greed. I dunno… .

Health Care

“How Economic Incentives have Created our Dysfunctional US Medical Market” [Elizabeth Rosenthal, Medium]. 10 rules. Here is #8: “There is no such thing as a fixed price for a procedure or test. And the uninsured pay the highest prices of all.” Which plenty of NC readers would agree with. How are you supposed to be a smart shopper when you can’t know the right price for the goods? Or if there even is a right price?

Our Famously Free Press

“Publishers are realizing that upward of 75% of digital ad spend goes to two companies that get almost all of their content for free from those same publishers. Premium content trade association Digital Content Next (DCN) did its own calculation recently to show that without Google and Facebook in those otherwise rosy quarterly reports on digital ad growth, the real online ad economy for other publishers may be growing at a 1% rate. DCN CEO Jason Kint told me recently, ‘It’s a completely unhealthy marketplace, considering the industry continues to pump out press releases bragging it’s growing at 20% year-over-year. It’s simply not true'” [EContent Magazine].

Imperial Collapse Watch

“NYU Accidentally Exposed Military Code-breaking Computer Project to Entire Internet” [The Intercept]. “The supercomputer described in the trove, “WindsorGreen,” was a system designed to excel at the sort of complex mathematics that underlies encryption, the technology that keeps data private, and almost certainly intended for use by the Defense Department’s signals intelligence wing, the National Security Agency.”

Class Warfare

“That means 32 percent more robots were bought this year than at the same time in 2016 — it’s the strongest first quarter on record for robots ordered by North American companies, according to the Robotic Industries Association” [recode].

News of the Wired

“[In American culture] we have very high levels of self-esteem and narcissism. I think because of the big self-esteem movement, people just got it in their heads that the key to psychological health was self-esteem. Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell showed that because of this emphasis on self-esteem, we actually got a generation of narcissists. I think it’s generally out there in the culture, but maybe especially among parents and educators” [The Atlantic]. By contrast, self-compassion “means treating yourself with the same kind of kindness, care, compassion, as you would treat those you care about—your good friends, your loved ones.

“What Emotion Goes Viral the Fastest?” [Smithsonian]. “[R]esearchers at Beihang University in China… gauged various online emotions by tracking emoticons embedded in millions of messages posted on Sina Weibo, a popular Twitter-like microblogging platform. Their conclusion: Joy moves faster than sadness or disgust, but nothing is speedier than rage…. The one emotion that outpaced anger in Berger’s study was awe, the feelings of wonder and excitement that come from encountering great beauty or knowledge, such as a news report of an important discovery in the fight against cancer.”

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Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here.

And here’s today’s plant (via):

One of my summer projects will be learning how to photograph poppies properly, when my wildflowers come in.

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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. From Cold Mountain

    Wowsers. You have got to watch this video, Georgia state police putting people in jail becasue they THINK they smoked weed and were driving under the influence!

    NBC News Atlanta: ‘The Drug Whisperer’

    The conversation recorded from the dash cam of the police car:

    Officer Carroll: “I’m going to ask you a question, okay? When was the last time you smoked marijuana?”
    Katelyn Ebner: “Oh, I don’t do that. I can give you a drug test right now.”
    Officer Carroll: “You don’t smoke marijuana?”
    Katelyn Ebner: “I do not, no.”
    Officer Carroll: “Okay. Well, you’re showing me indicators that you have been smoking marijuana, okay?”
    Officer Carroll: “Watch your wrists for me, I don’t want to pinch you.”
    Katelyn Ebner: “I’m going to jail for marijuana?”
    Officer Carroll: “No, ma’am — not possession, unless I find any in your car. I believe you’re impaired by the marijuana you’ve smoked.”
    Katelyn Ebner: “Okay, so when I do a drug test, I’ll be free to go, correct?
    Officer Carroll: “You’re going to jail, ma’am. Okay? I don’t have a magical drug test that I can give you right now.

    So, what they are doing is playing the odds. They will likely find weed in the system of the majority of people that they pull over even though the amount they find is no indication of sobriety. I am trying to find the money trail but no idea how the arrests could …oh…maybe if it fills the private prisons with more bodies?
    Georgia Beat Only By Texas In Number Of Federal Private Prisons

    The video is great and great reporting from local news!

    1. Huey Long

      Another great reason to travel by bicycle or mass transit whenever feasible!

      Anything to reduce one’s chances of becoming a victim of the police state, right?

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            It doesn’t take a lot of undocumented immigrants from the US for them to become the majority in a tiny country like San Marino.

            “Would you have us? That is not the question. The question is whether we would keep you natives of San Marino.”

        1. pricklyone

          No one should be arrested based on a “feeling” by some cop. Training, my donkey. This is directly related to the “pre-crime” judgement stories lately.
          “Innocent until proven guilty” is the supposed standard, not the reverse. Where the hell is the ACLU? Lawsuits en masse needed NOW.
          I know there are actual lawyers in the commentariat, here. Please weigh in. This just reeks.
          @Huey Long “illegitium non Carborundum”, as my old t-shirt said. ” Don’t let the b**tards grind you down”.

        2. Huey Long


          If you could hook my wife and I up with permanent resident visas to a non-nato country, that would be just peachy.

          I assure you, my beliefs are sincere, and I really do act this way, cycling and taking the train everywhere I go.

          1. SuTex

            If you have a retirement income from Social Security or a pension, try Costa Rica.

            But some countries retirees go to baffle me as permanent places to go. Who wants to go to Thailand and be unable to criticize the king, for instance, or to a country with censored internet like China.

            The Georgia thing is horrible but doesn’t happen most places, so it does sound like an overreaction. Kind of like preppers or people off the grid.

              1. Synoia

                Not so bad. Best to go to the cloud forest away from the Coast, and avoid the exPat Ghettos.

                The best climate for humans is 3,000 ft or more above sea level and in the tropics. Many of the biting insects cannot fly that high.

                Might want to try Malawi, or Swaziland.

            1. lyman alpha blob

              This isn’t an isolated incident though and lots of cops are just dumb.

              Back in the early 90s an acquaintance of mine was pulled over for a similar minor traffic violation and had his van ransacked because the cops were sure he had drugs on him. They finally found a small vial filled with liquid which they felt was evidence, despite his protests that it was not drugs. They smelled it and disagreed. I believe he was arrested before they finally realized it was patchouli oil, just like he told them.

              Now that day may have been one of the few times he didn’t have some weed in the boogie van, but still the cops ought to be able to tell what’s an illegal drug and what isn’t before arresting someone.

            2. Huey Long

              I’m a NYC based working stiff with several more decades to go before retirement. Do you have any other suggestions?

            3. Ook

              Normally retirees have a list like this:
              1. Cheap
              2. Safe
              3. Pleasant weather

              “Can criticize the king” isn’t normally on the list.

        3. hunkerdown

          If the US weren’t busy evangelizing its police state the world over at gunpoint like neoliberal Crusaders, exit would be the most rational choice. Curious why you believe the American way of life is non-negotiable.

          1. Huey Long

            Curious why you believe the American way of life is non-negotiable.

            This sentiment is pretty common in the good ‘ole US of A. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten into conversations with people about matters of public policy that end with the other party red faced and screaming “THEN WHY DON’T YOU JUST LEAVE IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT HERE!!!”

            1. hunkerdown

              I tend to answer “I can’t get the $2450 together to renounce my citizenship”.

              The “Love It or Leave It” bumper stickers were still on bumpers when I was growing up. I chose MAD Magazine’s Al Jaffee’s snappy answer: “I only sort of like it, can I live on the Canadian border?” I’m interested in how the proponents justify it these days while the cancer is metastasizing and destroying any real “exit” to be had. And, to be honest, I like to watch people squirm while they justify their secular faith against all evidence.

              I can’t wait for the next would-be expat open thread. I’d love to know where, if anywhere, a jack-of-all-technologies socialist in their early 40s who speaks un poco español and has no real ticket in the dotcom lottery, could go native and enjoy a modest yet sufficient existence without devoting every waking hour to it.

        4. clinical wasteman

          From which planet where lethal police whimsy is not something to be frightened of are you writing/did you mean?
          Anyway, London would be sub-optimal as a destination, several million non-drivers notwithstanding. We have fewer cars here and the cops are (slightly) less tooled up, but they (the cops not the cars) make up for their hardware deficit in sheer frothing aggression.
          Admittedly though, the chances of ‘becoming a victim’ (i.e. of the uniformed gangstas) work sort of in reverse: riding a bus in particular tends to make you more worthy of whimsy’s nightstick than any commuter on a more expensive subway or train or a suitably upscale bicycle, let alone driving a car. Unless the car is too old that is, or you’re too young for it, especially if you’re black and male, or black and female, brown or “of Eastern appearance” and male or female, or not too old at all but incorrigibly “of” any one of those “appearances”.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Not driving a car? What are you some kind of fairy? Or Russian agent?

        Look at me, Im on bicycle. I can wave hello to my fellow comrades…I mean Soviet citizen…argh…must crush capitalism.

        1. Gary

          A bicycle is safer than a Russian Lada. Each time one starts it’s a miracle someone isn’t hit with a spark plug flying out. Each time you turn a corner it’s a miracle when a wheel doesn’t fly off and mow down the pedestrianski.

          1. clinical wasteman

            Maybe your Lada was a Chinese counterfeit of that Prestige brand? The one my mother had 30 years ago in NZ (no I don’t know how it got there) was indestructible.
            Then again it was really a 1970s Fiat, built at Togliattigrad (named for the postwar Italian Communist Party leader who brokered the deal between Brezhnev and the Agnelli family): designed for production in Turin, but the Agnellis’ party was permanently* spoiled there by actual (i.e. non-Party) communists at the Mirafiori factory. (cf. Rabid G. a few days back.)

            *’Fiat’ (incl. Chrysler) cars are made in Sicily, Poland and Detroit today for reasons ultimately to do with the uproarious (all senses) workforce in northern Italy in the ’70s.

              1. Darius

                This is America. The unquestioned assumption is that the car is a vital organ. To survive, the human body needs a heart, lungs, a car, a digestive system, endocrine system, etc.

                1. subgenius

                  All that environmental destruction and engineering to replace the left leg…

                  Just goes to show the depressing degree of degradation in the education system…although it definitely improves the returns of the medical industrial complex.

        2. Huey Long

          Well I do live in Brighton Beach and according to Maria Zakharova of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs “If you want to know the future, don’t read the mainstream newspapers – our people in Brighton [Beach] will tell you everything.”

          Perhaps she was referring to me, no?

    2. Corbin Dallas

      Wow that video is amazing.

      I simply cannot believe weed is illegal. IN every possible way its better for the body and the body politic than alcohol (which I also love) and literally 100% of the people I know smoke, eat and use it in tinctures. It angers me to no end, and I don’t just blame GA rednecks, here in “liberal” NYC, de Blasio (darling of Hillary) has his thugs at the NYPD step up MJ arrests, and its almost always Black or Brown people.

      And now with the Tramp and his little Netanyahu, Sessions, in power, its only going to get worse. Its not academic – people’s lives will be ruined.

      1. Tvc15

        I stole this, but it really resonated with me.

        If nature is illegal, freedom doesn’t exist.

      2. Huey Long

        2016 NYC Weed Busts Up 1/3 Over 2015 Weed Busts:


        In a city whose chief executive is a rumored toker, and confirmed Bunny Wailer aficionado:



        Also, in NYC you’re far more likely to get arrested/ticketed for marijuana if you’re not white according to Vice:


        Double plus shameful! You’d think De Blasio would put a stop to this as his wife and children are people of color.

        Then again, De Blasio has come out in support of keeping public school districts in lily white rich NYC neighborhoods segregated


        Noted Clintonista Samantha Bee’s family is also on board with keeping said segregated districts intact too:


        Ugh, De Blasio is so slimy!!!

        1. Pat

          And he is less of a slug than our governor Cuomo, the guy who never met a charter school he didn’t like for starters. . He did his best to make sure that marijuana was never legal as far as the state was concerned and when that was becoming politically impossible managed to craft and pass a medical marijuana law that makes it nearly impossible to find a doctor, qualify for the prescription, find a dispensary and then afford the highly manufactured legal version.

          Something tells me that it isn’t just in NYC that marijuana is targeted.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            What is particularly shocking is Cuomo intends to run for President. After all, it is the party that put up Hillary Clinton. They aren’t exactly bright.

            I guess he intends to deny it in the future or “evolve” on the issue. He will probably blame Russia.

            Currently, the establishment Democratic candidate for Virginia governor believes healthcare is a privilege, voted for Shrub twice, and doesn’t want to over turn Virginia’s “right to work” laws.

    3. Gary

      In my younger days, I wrote software for county government, mostly for court case management. Cobb was one of my few Georgia counties as was it’s neighbor, Rockdale. In Georgia, adultery was a criminal offense. I happened to do a query to find out if there were actually any cases on file in the late 1980’s. There were probably a dozen or so recent convictions. The south has been a police state for a long time.

    4. RabidGandhi

      That video is indeed draw-dropping. Of course at the end of the spot, the reporter takes pains to justify the “brave officers” who “get it right most of the time” (they showed three wrongful arrests who had to go through painstaking processes to clear their names; Ganeesha only knows how many of the 90 other convictions were actually innocent as well but didn’t make it through those hoops/taxes on time). But it turns out the drug detection officers are more accurate than the crime lab that showed their urine was clean. Sounds legit.

      Lastly, a shout out to MADD who showered the officers with awards and public praise for their “policework” (sic). Donations, credentials, police state, and a legal system calibrated to impoverish the poor (cf the waitress losing her license to work). Sounds like one big happy circle of self-licking ice cream cones.

    5. different clue

      I wonder how Officer Carroll would have responded if Katelyn Ebner had said: “No, you do not believe that. You are pretending to believe that. What is your reason for pretending to believe that?”

    6. Matt

      It is heartening that there was not a single person in the comments section of that article defending the police. These stories, no matter what, almost always bring out one cop defender for whom the police can do no wrong.

  2. McWatt

    Is it just me? The hospital bill is $200.00, the insurance negotiates it to $75.00 and pays it. I am suppose to pay

    20% but I get a hospital bill for $125.00 . What gives?

    1. jrs

      You have probably not reached your deductible yet (assuming you have a deductible, some HMOs and VERY fancy PPOs don’t). So the 20% part won’t kick in until you meet your deductible. And if it’s out-of-network all bets are off.

      Where the numbers are even coming from down to the dollar though, who knows :). Is $125 worth fighting the insurance company for for you? Just make sure you understand all the deductible in-network/out-of-network info first if you do.

      There is a social benefit of people fighting the insurance companies on these games (calling up and getting our money back) as otherwise they will just continue them even more so. So it’s a good thing to do. But one can be too tired to bother, especially knowing how much of a pain it can be, if by some miracle they came out of a hospital (really? must not have done much?) only owing $125.

      1. Anon

        Balance billing. First, ask if tests and all individuals a patient interacts with are in network. Second, ask if each transaction (test/business owner) balance bills. The answer is becoming more often ‘yes’.

    2. Detroit Dan

      If the insurance negotiates it to $75, that’s the most you should pay, regardless of deductible.

    3. Oregoncharles

      The hospital is trying to cheat you.

      Refer to small claims court.

      What is your credit score worth to you?

    4. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

      As a puzzled Brit who was fed from a tender age the usual bull-pleep about… – well, nearly everything (including the colour of black-box flight recorders) I’ve been trying to work out what American exceptionalism is. Does the arcane health insurance debacle count?

      Now I can understand why so many keep a firearm handy – a cheap and Gonzo way to cheat the sytem in the manner of Hunter S. Thompson.

      Pip pip!

  3. Enquiring Mind

    Fluidity: After having watched more Senate hearings than I care to remember, I once again in the McCabe kayfabe find that there is more form and less substance. Much of the senatorial bloviating appears to be directed at constituents and lobbyists, as if to say “I’m looking out for your interests, and I asked a question, so remember to vote and donate”.

    Too much posturing, too little governing. Okay the kayfabe reference was over the top, but I am frustrated as a citizen, as a voter, as a human. I don’t want fake government and didn’t vote for that. Letters to my reps in the Senate and Congress don’t appear to generate anything beyond form letter replies. I need to elect a new voter. /rant

      1. hunkerdown

        Between the two, I suspect the Churches will be less effective than the Pikes.

    1. MoiAussie

      This is starting to look serious, it’s the fourth such article I’ve noticed in a week. First it was US auto loans as the new looming subprime crisis, then Australian mortgage and household debt vulnerability to a house price crash, then auto loans and credit debt in the UK (yesterday) and now it’s the same story from Canada – rising house prices, and credit card and car loan debt, combined there with bank downgrades.

      The survey, carried out by Ipsos for insolvency consultancy MNP, highlights the fallout from the debt binge Canadian consumers have gone on. Household debt reached an all-time high above 167 per cent of disposable income in the fourth quarter of 2016.

      MNP places some of the blame for that on rising house prices, but data shows Canadians are taking on more credit card and car loan debt as well.

      US auto is obviously a small part of US household debt, but Canada and Australia are at record private sector debt levels and are exposed to commodity slumps, while UK is Brexit affected. Scandinavia also seems to be at record debt levels. The housing bubble here may already have peaked. China is slowing and struggling to control corporate debt. What odds on a new GFC late this (northern) summer, triggered by debt in anglophone countries?

        1. John Wright

          It is not as if the typical American corporation is flush with cash.


          “Studying S&P’s universe of more than 2,000 non-financial corporations, S&P’s researchers found that corporate issuers of debt had on hand a record $1.84 trillion in cash. But that statistic doesn’t tell us very much about the health of individual companies, because it appears cash is more concentrated at the top than ever. The top 1% of corporate cash holders, which translates in to 25 large companies—a group dominated by big tech companies like Apple (aapl, -0.05%), Microsoft (msft, -0.17%), and Google-owner Alphabet (googl, -0.21%)—have slightly more than half of the total cash pile of Corporate America. That’s up from 38% just five years ago.”

          “If you remove the top 25 cash holders, you’ll find that for most of Corporate America, cash on hand is declining even as these companies rack up more and more debt at historic rates. The bottom 99% of corporate borrowers have just $900 billion in cash on hand to back up $6 trillion in debt. “This resulted in a cash-to-debt ratio of 12%—the lowest recorded over the past decade, including the years preceding the Great Recession,” the report reads.”

          For every debtor there must be a creditor, so pension/bond funds must be holding this debt and the top 25 must have invested their cash in some debt instrument.

          Maybe some is also on the Fed’s books

          It will be interesting if many corporations decide to sell more equity to raise cash.

          The “all time corporate profits” are not translating to a lot of cash on hand for many corporations.


          1. Yves Smith

            It’s worth noting that public companies have been borrowing to make stock buybacks for years, so a big chunk of the indebtedness is due to that.

            1. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

              How can that not be insider trading? Seriously – I’d really like to know.
              Pip Pip

              1. Yves Smith

                Because they are doing it at the level of the company (as in insiders, meaning individuals, are not doing the buying).

                Also they typically buy the stock when it is a terrible buy. Insiders supposedly buy the stock when they know in advance that there will be really good news so the stock price will rise. By contrast, stock buybacks are to force the stock price up in the presumed absence of near term good news.

              2. John Wright

                The corporate stock buybacks were viewed as stock manipulation until 1982 when Reagan’s SEC head, John Shad, allowed them

                for some background


                “The allocation of corporate profits to stock buybacks deserves much of the blame. Consider the 449 companies in the S&P 500 index that were publicly listed from 2003 through 2012. During that period those companies used 54% of their earnings—a total of $2.4 trillion—to buy back their own stock, almost all through purchases on the open market. Dividends absorbed an additional 37% of their earnings. That left very little for investments in productive capabilities or higher incomes for employees”

                Corporate stock buybacks should be greeted with derision as they are, in effect, a corporation announcing they have scoured the world attempting to find a good use for corporate cash.

                The corporation could find no better use of the cash for business expansion, product development, employee training, employee hiring, facility improvement OR an acquisition of intellectual property/another company.

                Amazingly, with all the opportunities available to them, many US corporations see the best use, of cash and borrowed cash, is to buy their OWN stock.

                If US corporations, en masse, decide that they need to do “reverse buybacks” (sell stock to raise cash) it might have an interesting effect on the stock market.

    1. JustAnObserver

      Appeals to Unity are the last refuge of the DNC scoundrels.

      With apologies to Dr. Johnson … except he’d probably be an NC commenter.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        It seems like the obvious response is to wish the Clintonistas luck with their surburban Republican friends.

  4. craazyman

    top ten tips for photographing flowers properly

    Tip #10
    Don’t try to make them smile by saying “cheese”

    Tip #9
    If they ask for a modeling fee, just say NO.

    Tip #8
    If they’re blowing around in the wind and you tell them to hold still, realize they might not speak English.

    Tip #7
    If you take a picture of a lot of them at once, it’s hard to tell them apart.

    Tip #6
    If you try to take their pictures at night, it might not work.

    Tip #5
    If they look pornographic to you — if you stare too hard inside the petals — you have a dirty mind and probably should go to church. ahhah ahahahahaha hahahahahahah. sorry.

    Tip #4
    You don’t need a make up artist for flower shoots, so don’t let yourself get conned into spending money you don’t have to.

    Tip #3
    Forget Roses are Red, Violets are Blue — that’s for kids. Besides, you don’t need crayons to photograph flowers.

    Tip #2
    If you think they’re posing, you may have anthropomorphic problems.

    And Tip #1 for photographing flowers . . . drum roll please . . .

    If you see any fairies flitting around the garden with translucent wings, you really really are a wacko, ahahahahahahaha. But just keep shooting! Who knows?

    1. Clive

      There’s a fairly famous TV gardener here in England (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqiC0zaWHUc) who, while she is a very good horticulturalist, an entertaining TV presenter and is full of enthusiasm nevertheless is now, for me, completely unwatchable because she insists on explaining in detail about plant propagation at every available opportunity.

      None of her segments on the show she appears on is complete without a macro shot of ripe, bursting pods matured in the summertime heat “just stuffed to the brim with wonderful seed” or sticky stamens “attracting passing insects with alluring perfume to be coated with showers of pollen”.

      Her Mary Poppins-like innocence just makes it worse.

    2. Oregoncharles

      Flowers are plant genitals, so it’s no accident they’re sexy. Orchids, in particular, can be pretty obscene.

      Years ago, a porn theater in SF had a gigantic, gorgeous mural of an orchid on an outside wall. The message was very clear.

      In fact, certain orchids lure bees to try to have sex with them, in order to get pollinated. It was on PBS last night!

      1. polecat

        ‘I’m too sexy for your pods .. Too Sexy For Your Pods .. TOO-SEXEEE-FOR-YOUR-PODS ………’

  5. Huey Long

    RE: How Economic Incentives have Created our Dysfunctional US Medical Market

    In my mid-20’s I got off of single payer coverage (Tricare) once I separated from the armed forces and clearly remember reading my first “explanation of benefits” from my private insurance company and being fairly shocked by how the bill broke down.

    It was something like a $170 charge from Quest for a blood test, reduced to about $50 for BCBS, and of that $50 I had to pay like $20 out of pocket.

    I recall thinking “wait a second, if I didn’t have health insurance, these blood test guys would have ripped my face off!”

    1. curlydan

      Her list is a good one although as chief editor of Kaiser News, she is unable to note the elephant in the room. If she could acknowledge the insurance companies’ roles in creating bureaucracy and siphoning off funds, then the article could have been titled “How the Dysfunctional US Medical Market Enables These 10 Terrible Rules”

      1. Knifecatcher

        The insurance cos aren’t the elephant in the room, they’re the troll under the bridge. You want to cross the bridge to health care land? Pay the troll, and hope he decides to let you pass and not squash you with a giant club, just because he can.

  6. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Gov. Paul LePage will not enter the 2018 race for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Angus King

    Heh. Guess he couldn’t convince Elliot Cutler to make another 3rd party bid so he could sneak in with 34%.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Yes, that’s how plurality voting works, and the reason Maine just passed Ranked Choice/Instant Runoff voting – which LePage is try to block.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        It would have helped if Maine had anyone on the left side of the spectrum to run against LePage, but long before the DNC cratered the party nationally, the Maine Democrat party for years was putting up milquetoast, limp noodle candidates that everyone hated for major state races.

        They don’t say “As Maine goes, so goes the nation” for nothing!

  7. jrs

    we got a generation of narcissists due to self-esteem? I don’t know, do narcissists even have high self-esteem? Even the most prominent suspected example doesn’t exactly seem to.

    Any level of natural self-esteem or self-compassion probably comes from parents that actually like their kids as people, and don’t abuse them or neglect them, and aren’t too busy with their own issues to parent, and maybe actually help their kids deal with life. But since noone chooses their parents, that’s just the luck of the draw.

    1. Huey Long

      They need sources of narcissistic supply to have self esteem the way alcoholics need booze to avoid the shakes.

    2. Tim

      Narcissist don’t have self esteem. If you read the article, it says that the quest for self esteem results in narcissism.

      So don’t actively train yourself to try to acheive self esteem, train yourself to have compassion for yourself, because it is much more durable. It’s similar to other studies that Yves references that people that try to be happy end up not being happy because life is not perfect. The best chance you have and having the optimal average happiness for your life is to just be compassionate on yourself.

    3. hemeantwell

      Re self-esteem, some of the narcissism lit distinguishes between thin and thick-skinned narcissists. The latter would be the ones who fit the ‘always full of themselves’ picture. The former may superficially come across as full of themselves, but are actually quite fragile and ready to feel slighted and pissed off. Useful distinction, in my experience.

      Aside from parents, I’d like to give a causal nod to good old economics and employment relations. One of the themes the Frankfurt School would bang on was the idea that, in the face of overwhelming objective power, the subject can be encouraged to max their sense of subjective worth. In a feudal society this wouldn’t go over very well, since such a mindset might quickly translate into revolt. In a capitalist society, with marketized forms of exploitation, the tendency is to believe you’re chock full of human capital and ready to be bought, even though objective conditions are working against.

      Also, let’s throw in how there are big swathes of employment that involve maxxing personal appeal. Trying to project charisma can get you into trouble if you’re a plumber, but not if you’re in sales. You’ve got it, and you want to make the buyer think that the purchase will lead to some rubbing off. What Baran and Sweezy called the “sales effort” is like mushroom compost for a narcissistic presentation.

      That said, someone who is clinically narcissistic will end up looking very different from someone who … let’s say “suffers from occupationally driven narcissism.” It makes a big difference if you have a parent telling you that you’re either god or a piece of crap when you’re two years old as compared to getting a blandly affirmative orientation to self in middle school.

    4. JTMcPhee

      From the link extract today: “By contrast, self-compassion ‘means treating yourself with the same kind of kindness, care, compassion, as you would treat those you care about—your good friends, your loved ones.'”

      What a wonderfully perverse inversion, to my jaded eye, of that fairly universal hortatory known as the Golden Rule — “Do unto others as you would be done to.” Oh, but self-compassion is the precursor to comity, some would say — if you can’t love yourself and treat yourself gently, how could you ever extend decency and respect and benevolence and kindliness to others? The point is not to just stop when you have self-compassioned yourself — got to go on to the other part. I have known several nurses and a few doctors who are hard on themselves but gentle and giving, to the point of exhaustion, toward others. and their owners/employers know just how to take advantage of their wiring…

      1. Darius

        I think the point is to shop guilt tripping. I’ve heard of people so obsessed with cataloging their sins they can’t live.

  8. Huey Long

    RE: WalMart Bribes

    I wonder why they’re even breaking WalMart’s chops about this. Did they not bribe, er lobby the right politicians to get this investigation quashed or the folks investigating it reassigned or defunded?

    I mean Firestone never had to pay a $300 million fine and drop $820 million on an internal compliance program and they paid off Charles Taylor in the middle of a brutal civil war.

  9. Tim

    “Publishers are realizing that upward of 75% of digital ad spend goes to two companies that get almost all of their content for free from those same publishers.”

    “Did I do that? Teehee” – Zuckerberg.

    Publishers have outsourced the “last mile” against their will, so will they ever be shrewd enough to force changes that require compensation for use of their published work on these public mediums. It isn’t plagarism, it’s just theft for profit.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Because there’s no way these media companies could figure out how to bring eyeballs to their own content generating platforms first.

      I just see this as the Darwiny part of capitalism.

  10. dcblogger

    Hillary and Bernie are doing for 2018 what they should have done in 2014, build up the Democratic party. One thing that is hardly ever mentioned is the Republican takeover of the state houses and the resulting voter suppression. Democrats cannot win until that is addressed.

    1. Carla

      Much worse than voter suppression is being done by the 2/3rds of state legislatures dominated by Republicans: they are systematically and progressively starving local governments and school districts of revenue-sharing funds. Then when the local governments and district inevitably fail, the legislatures install Emergency Managers to take over from elected mayors, councils, and school boards. No need for voters at all, when you neatly eliminate any shred of democracy. This has been done comprehensively in Michigan, and the model is being replicated nation-wide. Wake up!

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        Well before you get to the emergency managers, a point at which only a handful of jurisdictions have already arrived (but many more sure to come), state-imposed “revenue caps” and related strategies for taking away local control completely obliterate the ability of the local community/school district to do anything but finger-in-the-dyke. This is at least as insidious. The local elected officials are still in place but their have virtually no room to maneuver.

        1. Carla

          …Accomplishing the same end by different means. My point was that perhaps even worse than voter suppression is the insidious removal of anything (or anyone) worth voting for.

    2. Pat

      Screw that. Forget 2014, try what Obama and Clinton and Biden and Kaine and Wasserman Schultz and Israel and Schumer and….should have done in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. You know when it was obvious that voter suppression was continuing apace. And that doesn’t even address even earlier when they forgot to fight voter suppression and the decimation of voter rolls that has been going on since before 2000, something we have clear evidence about. And no, I don’t include Sanders in that because why should the independent be the one cleaning up the Democratic Party’s lack of leadership that could almost seem intentional. You might think they don’t really want those possibly deplorable not Wall Street employed and/or investing folk if you really look at it. Oh, wait look at who they targeted their brilliant 2016 Presidential campaign towards – they don’t.

      1. Darius

        The first thing is Obama should have had a full employment plan. None of this would have happened if he and the Democrats were “woke” for real.

        1. Pat

          If we are talking policy, the first thing was break up TBTF banks followed by jailing a whole lot of their management and directors. Followed by a huge employment plan. (The former would not be possible with an outsized Goldman Sachs, but with them still not a bank unable to getv a government bailout and Blankfein scrambling to avoid a jumpsuit…)

          But we aren’t talking about doing their jobs as elected officials, this is about party priorities. Do you want a real Democratic voting base? Are you concerned with the rights and yes needs of that base? Do you really want to represent them OR are they merely a tool that you can use to leverage large campaign donations and post office positions and opportunities? If you want a strong base you work to protect their rights, but if they are a tool you just bemoan their fate and fundraise off it.

    3. lyman alpha blob

      I’m sorry, but what exactly is Hillary doing to build the party? She’s been driving it into the ground for the last 25 years. She and Sanders have precious little in common, because she is in practice a freaking Republican if you hadn’t noticed, despite the letter she puts after her name in election season.

      Funny, I don’t see her out there speaking about policy to enthusiastic crowds.

      Because nobody would show up.

    4. hunkerdown

      dcblogger, tell us again about the 2016 fake primaries and why such a party should be allowed to become strong, rather than weak enough to drown in a bathtub.

  11. Carolinian

    Re the War on Cash–on a recent trip I noticed some McDonalds in Utah have installed those self-pay terminals that have been discussed here. The device is simply a touchscreen with a card reader. Since I don’t care to use a credit card to buy a frickin hamburger I declined to use it and didn’t see anyone else doing so either. There was a cashier on duty for people to use cash.

    But if the store had been busy perhaps I would have felt differently. Still even if you jump to the head of the line electronically there’s the long wait for your order as the harried and undersized staff makes all those frappes for the drive thru. It’s not clear what McD problem this gadgetry really solves….

    1. Tim

      I don’t want cash to go away, but I buy everything I can with my no-fee “2% off everything” credit card and pay it off every month.

      1. JTMcPhee

        My dad used to refer to all those slick little “advantages” like your 2%-off no-fee card, and coupons, and unadvertised specials and such, as “white man’s welfare.” And yes, I know they are available to anyone who can qualify for no-fee credit cards and have bank accounts and store charge cards and fit the precise demographic profiles that are algo-extracted from Big Data, regardless of age, creed or color, to which such offers are extended…

        And this: http://www.goldismoney2.com/threads/white-mans-welfare.88019/

        “Hey, I know it’s wrong, but hey! if they are going to make it available, who am I not to take it all, some shlub?”

        1. SuTex

          Yeah I like paying in cash cuz then I’m not cutting some third party into the deal.

        2. jrs

          I’d refer to those things as psychological traps. I think people do spend more knowing if they do they get credit card rewards, or buy things they wouldn’t otherwise knowing that they have a 50 cent off coupon. So what are we envying here again?

          My closet has tin foil hats in all shades of tin foil, blue and pink and gold and who can forget traditional silver … many patterns also.

        3. B1whois

          In Uruguay, paying with an international credit card rrfunds the 22%VAT. Even with international fees from the bank I am still coming out way ahead. I would prefer that my money go to Uruguay thsn the banks, but I guess they have bought my compliance. I end up splitting my refund with the server as their tip.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Divide and conquer.

        The cash buyers don’t get the 2% off.

        If everyone buys with cash, in theory, the price is 2% ( even 3%, 4% or more*) less, since the store won’t have pay for the processing fee.

        *the credit card company makes x%, after the store’s 2% discount off price. That means the cash buyer is paying 2+x % more than would have been the price without the credit card middleman.

    2. vidimi

      if one of the reasons for getting rid of cash is the germs, surely the touchscreen of a burger joint terminal is a veritable microbial cesspool compared to any banknote.

  12. PKMKII

    Political volatility is much like market volatility: you can get burned, but the potential payoffs are big. A large swath of American voters want disruptive politicians. Right or left, they want politicians who are flying in the face of proper DC etiquette, who are trying to end politics as we know it. So the politicians start throwing wrenches into the works. Worst case scenario, they could lose their seat, but given the level of gerrymandering, more like they’d just become a person non grata in Washington, but still with a job. Best case, voters see them as mad as hell and not taking it anymore, and get rewarded as such.[

    1. Huey Long

      I love your analysis, especially the part about gerrymandered districts interfering with the ability of the house and senate leadership to enforce discipline.

      They’d have to primary the dissidents out of office, which costs money and is very risky from an optics perspective if they were to fail.

      Imagine how petty and impotent the national Dem/GOP leadership would look after throwing a ton of money at a failed primary of a small potatoes rabble rousing house member from some district nobody gives a darn about out in flyover.

      1. Oregoncharles

        They did pretty well getting rid of Cynthia McKinney, as well as Kucinich, which was done by redistricting – they could even blame it on the Republicans.

        1. FluffytheObeseCat

          He’s referring to Freedom Caucus Republican extremists now, not isolated leftists in the Rust Belt, c. 10 years ago.

    2. Ed Walker

      It’s that throwing wrenches into the system that causes the problems. Voters don’t want dynamite. They want their interests to be served and not those of the corporations and the filthy rich. That’s a lot more disruptive than a filibuster or a bovernment shutdown..

  13. cojo

    Future of economics?

    Exactly 70 years ago in April 1947, an ambitious band of economists crafted a neoliberal story of the economy and, since Thatcher and Reagan came to power in the 1980s, it has dominated the international stage. Its narrative about the efficiency of the market, the incompetence of the state, the domesticity of the household and the tragedy of the commons, has helped to push many societies towards social and ecological collapse. It’s time to write a new economic story fit for this century – one that sees the economy’s dependence upon society and the living world. This story must recognize the power of the market—so let’s embed it wisely; the partnership of the state—so let’s hold it to account; the core role of the household—so let’s value its contribution; and the creativity of the commons—so let’s unleash their potential.


  14. MikeW_CA

    “But you have to give cred­it to Trump and his cam­paign. He tapped in­to fear, an­ger, and re­sent­ments that polit­ic­al pros had either ig­nored or dis­missed.” Not exactly. Political pros had been stoking, crafting, and cultivating that fear, anger, and resentment for years. Trump simply tapped into it with a shamelessness that political pros would never have imagined was possible.

  15. Marco

    Google Headline: “Unnoticed and unreported, Jeremy Corbyn is surging in the polls”

    Light at the end of the tunnel?

  16. Promised m'Mom a Space Shuttle

    Gather round, let us shame some poor mook with a dead suffragette mother. Trying to honor her memory by symbolically voting for the first woman candidate for president…what a maroon. The Deputy Director of the FBI just contradicted US President on multiple points in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and will soon to be perusing the Classifieds. Slow news day, no?

    1. Massinissa

      “The Deputy Director of the FBI just contradicted US President on multiple points in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and will soon to be perusing the Classifieds. Slow news day, no?”

      There were over 10 articles about Comey and so forth in the morning links. That’s why there aren’t many on this page. Please don’t straw man.

    2. vidimi

      i agree that there were much better examples of a cult of personality during the obama years as well as better ones from hillary’s. there was one hysterical article in particular after clinton’s defeat that almost read like satire: we did not deserve hillary; she is too good to be president.

  17. oho

    >>the new [“Onward Together “] super PAC

    Crikey—isn’t that the rough translation of Macron’s political party? And didn’t Hollande crib “Hope and Change” from Obama?

    Guess they can’t help hiring the same pool of political campaign consultants.

  18. rjs

    re this: “Because of the size of the monthly swings and questions surrounding Easter, March and April will have to be taken together when assessing inflation data, as it is when assessing retail sales for the two months.”

    i have no problem with taking two months together, but can someone explain how Easter would have anything to do with these price changes:

    the index for wholesale energy prices rose 0.8%, the price index for wholesale foods rose 0.9%, and the index for final demand for core wholesale goods (ex food and energy) rose 0.3%…the largest wholesale energy price change was a 5.2% increase in wholesale prices for liquefied petroleum gas, while the wholesale food price index moved up on increases of 19.8% for fresh fruits and 28.5% for fresh and dry vegetables….among wholesale core goods, prices for industrial chemicals increased 1.2%, while wholesale prices for cigarettes moved up 2.2%..

    at the same time, the index for final demand for trade services was down 0.3%, while the index for final demand for transportation and warehousing services rose 0.7%, and the index for final demand for services less trade, transportation, and warehousing services was 0.8% higher….among trade services, seasonally adjusted margins for major household appliances retailers decreased 8.5% while margins for fuels and lubricants retailers fell 14.6%…among transportation and warehousing services, margins for airline passenger services were 2.0% higher…in the core final demand for services index, margins for loan services (partial) fell 4.1% and margins for securities brokerage, dealing, and investment advice rose 6.6%..

    amoung raw goods, crude oil prices rose 15.7%…

    did anyone ever hear of an “Easter effect” on prices?

    1. rjs

      moreover, the seasonal adjustments are already supposed to cover the changing dates for holidays, the number of weekends in a month, etc, in addition to what one normally thinks of as seasonal variations..

  19. ewmayer

    “NYU Accidentally Exposed Military Code-breaking Computer Project to Entire Internet [The Intercept” — Lots of good stuff in there, but some annoying fawning over the NYU’s Chudnovsky bros. : “…headed by the brilliant Chudnovsky brothers, David and Gregory … Adam called David Chudnovsky, the world-renowned mathematician and IMAS co-director at NYU … David’s brother Gregory, himself an eminent mathematician and professor at NYU…” — Almost as if shlock-thriller author Dan Brown had written it: “Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery…”

    Also the usual technical fubars when journos try to write about science, e.g. “Widespread modern encryption methods like RSA, named for the initials of the cryptographers who developed it, rely on the use of hugely complex numbers derived from prime numbers.” Hugely complex? WTF? What part of “take any two similar-sized randomly generated prime p and q and multiply tem together to generate a public key” is hugely complex? Also it’s now known that RSA was in bed with the spooks and actively working to weaken crypto standards via backdooring – Greenwald might have mentioned those types of standards-hacking-based initiatives, which are designed specifically to undermine popular crypto schemes and bring key-cracking within the realm of precisely the kinds of hardware described. You think your 4096-bit RSA is safe, but in fact it’s been backdoored so as to allow NSA et al to break it in reasonable time using their fancy hardware.

    More stuff that omits crucial additional material: “Spy shops like the NSA can sometimes thwart encryption by going around it, finding flaws in the way programmers build their apps or taking advantage of improperly configured devices.” Or physically interdicting shipments of tech on their way to intelligence-deemed persons of interest and ‘improperly configuring’ said devices via software, firmware and even actual hardware implants, as the spooks are known to do. That allows them to bypass an encryption entirely by way of simply intercepting the user’s keystrokes.

  20. MoiAussie

    Hugely complex numbers, as shorthand for large numbers which are hugely difficult to find, given only the product. It’s just the usual loss of precision in scientific reporting. Regarding “omits crucial additional material”, what do you expect? It’s long enough already.

    As for 4096-bit RSA being backdoored or cracked, I don’t believe that to be the case. Please provide a link to a credible claim. It’s certainly vulnerable to side-channel attack, but that’s not cracking, it’s snooping on a decryption process to copy the private decryption key.

    Mathematically it is impossible to decrypt RSA encryption without knowing the key in a feasible amount of time. For 4096 bit key encryption, the time may exceed the shelf life of the Milky Way Galaxy. But there are side channel attacks that one can perform. This means there are ways to exploit the vulnerabilities that exist in the implementation of the RSA encryption/decryption algorithm in a device. This includes measuring variations in CPU voltage, noise produced by a device during encryption/decryption of a RSA encrypted message (the messages are generally AES keys). Attacks can also be at the software level which exploit unchecked memory read/write or by infecting shared libraries.

    1024-bit RSA is of course known to be vulnerable, and you’re right that some standards, particularly anything based on NSA algorithms, are not trustworthy, but this was suspected from the start. Personally, I’d be more worried about trapdoors in Diffie-Helman primes.

    1. MoiAussie

      Above is (yet again) linked in the wrong place – was replying to ewmayer at 6:52 pm

    2. ewmayer

      We do know RSA conspired with the NSA to backdoor so-called elliptic curve cryptography (ECC) – why would you deem it unreasonable to believe that they might have done similarly with their flagship RSA crypto?

      And note also this chilling 2012 piece from James Bamford:

      According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”

      “Breakthrough” here might imply something like a so-called L(1/4)-complexity scheme to crack ECC or similar for RSA – that is, development of an attack with asymptotically reduced computational complexity than the thought-to-be-fastest approaches-in-the-academic-community for general-purpose integer factorization (RSA) pr solving the discrete logarithm problem (ECC). That would allow crypto-breaking of selected targets even without any backdooring,
      It would also involve the kind of “keys to the kingdom” secrecy the government would literally kill to keep, starting with extreme compartmentalization: only a handful of the NSA’s top mathematicians are privy to the details, and all one anyone else outside that tiny circle in the agency or the government sees is “we are building a new improved computer”, not in itself revealing because the kinds of basic mathematical operations involved in all such crypto crackage are public. The secret sauce would lie in the software deployed on same.

      1. MoiAussie

        Yes, RSA’s misbehaviour is well known, but the ECC backdoor relates to deliberately weakened Random Number Generators (RNG) for key generation which are easily avoided. With RSA you get to choose the key, so you don’t need to use a compromised one. Historically, it’s easy to forget that strong crypto used to be export controlled by the USG, so RSA’s actions back in the day are more understandable. Pressure was probably applied.

        I couldn’t see any link from you to a claim 4096-bit RSA is cracked. And there are in any case plenty of non-RSA alternatives to use. BTW, your first link is dead, all text and no href.

        Concerning the breakthrough scare story, that I suspect is all about Diffie-Hellman trapdoors, especially going by “employed by … many average computer users in the US”. This involves possible “weak primes” in RFC5114 that allow easy cracking of encrypted web traffic, VPNs, or forging of certificates. Easy in this case means 400 core-years for 1024-bit keys, which is maybe hours using all of WindsorGreen. But 2048-bit weakened keys would still need about 6.4 billion core-years which is hundreds or thousands of years.

        Finally, speculation about the NSA having the keys to the kingdom via asymptotically reduced complexity algorithms is on a par with them having same due to a large scale functional quantum computing installation: unknown but unlikely. In any case, appropriate choices of crypto are available that make it possible to secure anything you fully control, but don’t ever expect that to be true of someone else’s web server, or your bank site. There’s plenty of 1k-bit RSA and probably SHA-1 certificates around on the web – they’re still on sale.

        1. ewmayer

          My bad – the first link should read https://www.wired.com/2013/09/nsa-backdoor/all/

          “With RSA you get to choose the key” — how so? By approving or rejecting certificates, you mean? And even if in theory that is true, on what basis would you choose (one) 4096-bit key over another? All those will be based on similar-length prime pairs and thus equally impossible-looking to crack. Well-designed back doors are by design invisible to those not-in-the-know.

          “appropriate choices of crypto are available that make it possible to secure anything you fully control” — if you fully control it, there’s no need for crypto to begin with! The whole point is that out on the web, no one fully controls *anything* – our e-mail passes through multiple servers, and your average PC is now so immensely complex that it offers multiple targets for firmware implants, especially to a state-level actor which can literally interdict hardware shipments at will.

          I dearly hope you are right about the safety of modern ‘strong crypto’, but I fear your trust is going to prove overly optimistic.

          1. MoiAussie

            Sorry, I meant you get to choose the RSA key generation algorithm, assuming you use software that gives you such a choice, which you should, and you understand what you’re doing or follow a trustworthy recipe. I didn’t mean choosing between actual keys. If you really care, you also choose on what platform to generate your keys.

            On full control, I meant that you can choose to encrypt your data by means that render it most unlikely to be cracked with any resources available today or in the near future. It can then safely be stored or transit the insecure internet opaquely. I did not mean that common applications and infrastructure on the net actually make these kind of safe choices, or that individuals can easily protect themselves against all the other modes of attack that a well-resourced actor might employ.

        2. hunkerdown

          Not weak primes, but pre-shared primes. Even modest 1024-bit isn’t quite as easy as it looks, if you generate a new group with each connection instead of using a pre-shared group. This was not common practice, presumably under the assumption that well-vetted primes were more important than diversity. I excerpt Green et al.’s “Imperfect Forward Secrecy” paper for details:

          Millions of HTTPS, SSH, and VPN servers all use the same prime numbers for Diffie-Hellman key exchange. Practitioners believed this was safe as long as new key exchange messages were generated for every connection. However, the first step in the number field sieve—the most efficient algorithm for breaking a Diffie-Hellman connection—is dependent only on this prime. After this first step, an attacker can quickly break individual connections.

          Green and his team built a proof-of-concept system to downgrade connections to export-grade and decrypt them, by computing 512-bit discrete logarithms modulo a specified group prime in a median time of 70 seconds each. The hardware used was surprisingly modest, with 90k core-hours devoted to precomputing a 2.5GB database, ready to use by the last step of the process running on two beefy 18-core Intel servers with 128GB RAM each. To do the same for a limited number of 1024-bit groups is “plausibly within the resources of state-level attackers. The precomputation would likely require special-purpose hardware, but would not require any major algorithmic improvements beyond what is known in the academic literature.” Note that the NSA has their own chip fab and so has all-you-can-eat special-purpose hardware.

          If you like, just skip to section 4, “State-Level Threats to DH”: (emphasis in original)

          Finally, we apply this new understanding to a set of recently published documents leaked by Edward Snowden [46] to evaluate the hypothesis that the National Security Agency has already implemented such a capability. We show that this hypothesis is consistent with the published details of the intelligence community’s cryptanalytic capabilities, and, indeed, matches the known capabilities more closely than other proposed explanations, such as novel breaks on RC4 or AES.

          4096-bit seems safe to me, but who knows what’s going on under Bluffdale, Utah.

          1. MoiAussie

            I hope Lambert isn’t bothered by our wasting so many electrons here on this geek stuff.

            Familiar with the Green et al paper and Logjam. The trapdoored primes I was referring to are indeed pre-shared, but also weak. They have been carefully chosen to make them significantly more vulnerable to attack, but that vulnerablity is very difficult to detect if you don’t have the seed. From the abstract of A kilobit hidden SNFS discrete logarithm computation by Fried et al from last year:

            Our chosen prime p looks random, and p−1 has a 160-bit prime factor, in line with recommended parameters for the Digital Signature Algorithm. However, our p has been trapdoored in such a way that the special number field sieve can be used to compute discrete logarithms in F^∗_p , yet detecting that p has this trapdoor seems out of reach. Twenty-five years ago, there was considerable controversy around the possibility of backdoored parameters for DSA. Our computations show that trapdoored primes are entirely feasible with current computing technology.

            For these special trapdoored 1024-bit primes, they demonstrate that computing the database needed to routinely attack traffic using the prime is at least 10,000 times easier than it would be for “honest” 1024-bit primes, putting it within the power of pretty much any actor, not just state actors as the Green paper had suggested. From the paper’s conclusion:

            Dismissing the risk of trapdoored primes in real usage appears to have been a mistake, as the apparent difficulties encountered by the trapdoor designer in 1992 turn out to be easily circumvented. A more conservative design decision for FIPS 186 would have required mandatory seed publication instead of making it optional. As a result, there are opaque, standardized 1024-bit and 2048-bit primes in wide use today that cannot be properly verified.

            To summarise:
            – Much of internet security infrastructure using 1024-bit pre-shared keys is vulnerable to state-level cracking, especially if based on widely used groups.
            – Some such 1024-bit keys are vulnerable to cracking by lower resourced actors as well, and this may include some based on non-widely used groups.
            – Non-verifiable primes (no published seed) should be avoided.
            – Use at least 2048-bit and preferably 4096-bit keys.

            1. hunkerdown

              MoiAussie, I agree 100% with the summary. Thank you for updating my knowledge and paranoia (and thanks to our gracious host for his forbearance).

  21. montanamaven

    the Cooks Report piece is an example of propaganda. it seems as if it’s an analysis of hillary’s campaign. con-clusion: lots of stuff was done wrong including things done by hillary. but what it’s real purpose was designed to be was more Russia bashing. i am fed up .

  22. H. Alexander Ivey

    From ‘Our Famously Free Press’ .

    Smith’s qualities are exactly why I put my money, time, and support in with Naked Capitalism and your Water Cooler.

    They [I think the author, Steve Smith, is referring to Google & Facebook] have not solved at all for so many things audiences crave: quality, consistency, experiences, focus, personality, relationship, respect, transparency, trust, predictability, depth, warmth, comfort, and intimacy. All of the qualities I just described are characteristics of people, not machines—entities with faces and personalities, not platforms.

    If every you guys want to have a sub tag beneath your ‘Fearless commentary on finance, economics, politics and power’ line, I suggest Smith’s qualities…

  23. JTFaraday

    ““If Bernie says working class and you hear white working class, it is on you not Bernie” [Alice Marshall, Medium]. Yep.”

    Sure, but when the Bernie Bros say “Bernie…working class” and they pose that against “identity politics” so that people end up hearing “white working class” anyway, then that’s on the Bernie Bros not those getting bro-splained.

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