2:00PM Water Cooler 5/15/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“The Trouble with TISA” (PDF) [Jane Kelsey, University of Auckland, New Zealand]. From the executive summary:

Team TiSA want global rules that allow them to run e-commerce and global supply chains seamlessly across the world using digital platforms and new technologies. TiSA would require governments to remove national and local government laws and practices that the corporations see as barriers, including protections for workers – or at least freeze them at their current level, and promise never to adopt new regulations that might restrict existing and new services or technologies (think of drones, robots and driverless vehicles). TiSA’s transparency annex would give other TiSA governments and corporations rights to lobby against proposed regulations that affect their interests.

This is an extremely important report and you should at least read the executive summary (four pages). Every time you read a snippet on the supply chain, or shipping, or “drones, robots, and wireless vehicles,” think of TiSA providing a trans-national and post-democratic legal and institutional framework or, as bullet one of the sidebar “What TiSA Aimes to Do” has it: “enable the global reorganisation of capital through new technologies and digital platforms.” Lori Wallach needs to kill TiSA with fire.

“Robert Lighthizer’s swearing-in ceremony, scheduled for 3 p.m. today at the White House, caps a months-long nomination and confirmation process, and finally gives President Donald Trump a complete trade policy team. But even as the White House is chomping at the bit to launch its long-promised renegotiation of NAFTA, procedural boxes must be checked before things can get started” [Politico]. “Lighthizer’s immediate task will be meeting with four congressional committees: House Ways and Means and Senate Finance, which have jurisdiction over trade in their respective chambers, as well as an advisory panel in each chamber comprised of the chairman and ranking member of multiple committees that deal with trade. Each of those meetings is mandated under Trade Promotion Authority, passed in 2015” (“Fast Track”).

“The trade ministers of the now 11 TPP countries are planning to meet later this month in Vietnam in a test of their resolve to bring the high-standard agreement into force amid concerns about protectionist sentiment being fanned by Trump’s “America First” policy and Britain’s decision to exit the European Union” [Japan Times]. “Preceding that meeting, the Group of Seven finance chiefs apparently failed to narrow the gap between the Trump administration’s call for ‘fair’ and ‘reciprocal’ trade and other members’ concerns about its stance, which is widely viewed as protectionist.”



“Tom MacArthur Town Hall in Willingboro, NJ (5/10/17)” [YouTube]. This is an extraordinary speech from a citizen that you should circulate widely (this version):

There are several versions of this running around, but some of them edit out MacArthur’s advocacy of single payer (11:11. “Single payer has problems, but it’s also got elections”).

“John Kasich and Bernie Sanders to debate Obamacare repeal during CNN town hall” [Columbus Business Journal]. May 16! “Sanders and Kasich will appear during a town hall discussion on CNN on Tuesday, May 16 at 9 p.m. The cable network’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash will moderate the event….. Sanders and Kasich will appear during a town hall discussion on CNN on Tuesday, May 16 at 9 p.m. The cable network’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash will moderate the event.”

“How a Prairie Populist Could Redraw Montana’s Electoral Map” [Politico]. “In the past four cycles, Montanans have elected two Democratic governors who cared as strongly about women’s reproductive rights as they did gun rights. One of these governors, Steve Bullock, won in a Trump wave year when Democrats nationally were floundering to understand their electorate. Our senior senator unseated a conservative incumbent in 2006 and fended off a challenge from our state’s Republican representative in 2012; he championed traditional liberal causes like labor and even survived being called the deciding vote for President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Montana may be a state that leans conservative—the Legislature is 60 percent Republican and 40 percent Democrat, and the state has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate only twice since 1952—but our voters have repeatedly chosen to elect populist candidates who embrace progressive causes to statewide and national offices.” Author is a debate coach!

Trump Transition

“Trump’s grade on the economy: a B, for now” [Yahoo Finance]. “Our Trumponomics Report Card assesses the performance of the economy on six key measures, comparing Trump’s record to that of six prior presidents at the same point in their first terms. We limited this analysis to first terms only, since that’s when most of the policy changes a new president might favor are likely to go into effect. So we measure Trump’s performance against that of Barack Obama starting in 2009, George W. Bush starting in 2001, Bill Clinton starting in 1993, George H.W. Bush starting in 1989, Ronald Reagan starting in 1981 and Jimmy Carter starting in 1977. Prior to that, the data is less consistent and in some cases unobtainable. The blue dots in the graphic above represent the performance of the Trump economy, relative to that of the other presidents. Since we’re comparing Trump with 6 other presidents, there are 7 dots, including one for Trump and 6 for the others. The one exception is exports, because that data only goes back to 1993; so we have only three presidents to compare Trump against, or 4 dots total. Moody’s Analytics is providing the data for the report card, and offering analysis on the current state of the economy to help explain the results.


Realignment and Legitimacy

“The unknown Tocqueville in America” [Global Inequality]. “Several years ago, a friend presented me with a small volume entitled ‘Quinze jours dans le désert’ written by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1831 when he visited (the only time ever) the young United States…. This is a short book of some 100 pages… ‘The desert’ in the title does not refer to the physical ‘desert’ but to the civilizational desert. …. Here is how Tocqueville describes the settlers he met: ‘It is not only Indians whom the American pioneers take for fools. We were ourselves every day victims of their extreme avidity for profit. It is true that they never steal. They have too much of intelligence to do such an impudent thing. Yet I have never seen the owner of a hotel of a big city [in Europe] overcharge with such shamelessness as these inhabitants of the desert in whom I expected to find primitive honesty and patriarchal simplicity of manners’ (p. 57).” Again, to see Trump clearly, we need to abandon liberal “othering” and surrender the idea that he is in some way aberrational. As H. Rap Brown did not quite say, Trump is as American as cherry pie.

“But more recent psychological research, some of it presented in January at the annual meeting of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), shows that it’s not so simple. These findings confirm that conservatives, liberals, the religious and the nonreligious are each prejudiced against those with opposing views. But surprisingly, each group is about equally prejudiced. While liberals might like to think of themselves as more open-minded, they are no more tolerant of people unlike them than their conservative counterparts are” [Politico].

Stats Watch

Empire State Manufacturing Survey, May 2017: “Activity in the New York manufacturing region is flattening out this month following a run of unusually strong growth” [Econoday]. “But the strength in prior orders is keeping production up.” But: “Below consensus expectations … and the lowest reading for seven months” [Economic Calendar]. And: “The Empire State Manufacturing Survey again declined and now is in negative territory. Important internals likewise declined and also returned to negative territory” [Econintersect]. “I am not a fan of surveys. Seems to me that this survey was a return to earth from the overly optimistic levels we have seen since Trump’s election.”

Housing Market Index, May 2017: “New home sales have been one of this year’s best surprises and home builders are reporting strong activity this mont” [Econoday]. “Even though traffic is nearly 30 points behind sales, it is still the highlight of the report. This is its best run by far of the expansion.”

Housing: “The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s 2017 SCE Housing Survey indicates that expected home price growth over the next year has increased compared with twelve months earlier, and is at its highest level since the survey’s inception in 2014” [Liberty Street]. “Five-year growth expectations have also risen, albeit more modestly. In line with these findings, the majority of households continue to view housing as a good investment. Respondents expect slightly larger increases in mortgage rates than they did in last year’s survey. Renters’ perceived access to mortgage credit continued to ease.”

Housing: “The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported the housing market index (HMI) was at 70 in May, up from 68 in April. Any number above 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor” [Calculated Risk].

Debt: “Forecasts for 2017 reflect flat or declining sales. In fact, increased prices on new and used cars, as well as a shift in consumer demand away from sedans to sport utility vehicles (SUVs), have pushed new car inventory levels to the point to where some manufacturers are reducing production and offering larger incentives to buyers” [Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta]. “With margins narrowing and underwriting standards declining, banks have pulled back on auto lending. In the Sixth Federal Reserve District, auto loan growth turned negative in the third quarter of 2016. In the January 2017 Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey, some banks reported decreased demand for auto loans in the fourth quarter as well as a tightening of lending standards. A significant fraction expects to see deterioration in asset quality in 2017, and a modest fraction expects terms to tighten further. Some banks have started moving their portfolios off the balance sheet and into asset-backed securitizations (ABS).”

Debt: “[Trucking o]perators trying to trade in their vehicles are taking financial hits following one of the steepest plunges in used-truck prices since the recession. [T]ruckers are being sideswiped from two directions: Many are trying to downsize their fleets to combat the excess capacity that’s kept freight rates low, but that’s flooded the used-truck market. Many carriers are ‘upside down’ on their trucks, says one expert, owing more on vehicles than the rigs are worth” [Wall Street Journal]. Hmm…

Shipping: “Bigger box ships calling at fewer ports puts serious pressure on hinterland connection” [The Loadstar]. “‘The three alliances have fewer port-to-port connections,’ explained Olaf Merk, of the International Transport Forum. ‘There has been a clear reduction between January and April on the major lanes. ‘Shippers have less choice, and there is less service frequency. Weekly Asia-EU, for example, has gone down. That leads to more peaks and troughs in terminals. Sometimes they are used intensively, other times they are under-used.’ … ‘The problem is the hinterland and railroad. In Germany there is a law that trucks can’t go on the road on Sundays. So everyone knows what happens on a Monday morning [after a big ship has been in]. The public infrastructure is not there to handle it.””

Shipping: “As a strong dollar makes U.S. commodities more expensive globally, American farmers are finding it tougher to compete in export markets. Now some worry that a recent restructuring of the ocean shipping industry will make it more difficult and costly just to deliver U.S. commodities abroad” [Wall Street Journal].

Supply Chain: “‘Everything we do comes from the customer,’ [Bernd Schwenger, director of Amazon Logistics] said. ‘I don’t like this term ‘supply chain’, because for Amazon it is very much a ‘demand chain”” [The Loadstar]. Hmm.

Supply Chain: “[Amazon] is making a major push into furniture and appliances [and] plans to build at least four massive warehouses focused on handling the bulky items that trucking companies sometimes call ugly freight and parcel carriers see gumming up their operations” [Wall Street Journal]. “Furniture is one of the fastest-growing segments of U.S. online retail, growing 18% in 2015, second only to groceries, and some 15% of the $70 billion U.S. furniture market has moved online. Players are struggling to get the market right, however. Delivering couches and dining sets is more complicated and expensive than handling conventional parcels, and that may provide a fresh challenge to Amazon’s budding self-controlled logistics network.”

Supply Chain: “The key advantage that Amazon has over any other enterprise service provider — from UPS and FedEx to Rackspace — is that they are forced to use their own services. UPS is a step removed from backlash due to lost/destroyed packages, shipping delays, terrible software and poor holiday capacity planning. Angry customers blame the retailer, and the retailer screams at UPS in turn. When Amazon is the service provider, they’re permanently dogfooding. There is nowhere for poor performance to hide. Amazon has built a feedback loop as a moat, and it is incredible to watch the flywheel start to pick up speed” [Tech Crunch].

The Bezzle: “Texas Bill Targets Activist Investors, Advisors” [The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation]. As the late, great Molly Ivins put it: “Texas, National Laboratory for Bad Government.”

The Bezzle: “Judge orders Uber not to use technology taken from Waymo” [Seattle Times]. “Judge William Alsup in San Francisco says in the ruling that Waymo has shown ‘compelling evidence’ that a former star engineer named Anthony Levandowski downloaded confidential files before leaving Waymo. The Judge also says evidence shows that before he left Waymo, Levandowski and Uber planned for Uber to acquire a company formed by Levandowski.”

Rapture Index: Closes down 1 on Satanism. “The lack of activity has downgraded this category” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 181.

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 64 Greed (previous close: 61, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 49 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated May 11 at 12:28pm. Last updated May 15 at 11:38am.

Health Care

“Big Medical Expenses Set Women Further Back Than Men” [Bloomberg].


“Pressure Mounting For Humans To Step Down As Head Of Failing Global Ecosystem” [The Onion (KF)]

Guillotine Watch

“Why rich Chinese are more eager to invest after Kushner family visas-for-sale controversy” [South China Morning Post].

“The Society of Grownups wanted to teach “adulting” to millennials. Their mistake was trying to do it IRL” [Quartz]. I was sure this was a parody, but Mass Mutual funded “The Society of Grownups” to the tune of $100 million! That’s quite some grift.

News of the Wired

“One of Descartes’ most famous ideas was first articulated by a woman” [Quartz]. Teresa of Ávila!

“6 Ridiculous Myths About the Middle Ages Everyone Believes” [Cracked].

Internet of Things, meet ransomware:

Of course, ransomware is really the IoT business model anyhow…

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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:

Because Yahoo doesn’t want to download files for me right now [snarl], here is a crocus from 2015!

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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. dcblogger

    As Millions Pour Into Georgia’s Congressional Runoff, The Voting Machinery is Among The Worst in America: Hackable, Paperless, Unverifiable
    Computer experts have no confidence in Georgia’s election results

    Howard Dean tried to do something about the voting machines. Rep. Rush Holt tried to do something about the voting machines. Creigh Deeds tried to do something about the voting machines. But the Democratic leadership as a whole has turned a blind eye to this.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Also rigged human-voting machines.

      We call them political machines. The rigging occurs not at the booth, but at the mind of the voter, who votes automatically for the machine’s choice.

      1. neo-realist

        We call them political machines

        Other people may refer to them as corporate media infrastructure outlets, e.g., TV news, right wing talk radio, and print media.

    2. Vatch

      Well, maybe, and I’m going way out on a limb here, if Ossoff loses, then some of the Democratic donors who gave large sums might actually be motivated to demand a change. And if Handel loses, then some of the Republican donors might do the same. It really is absurd that there is no paper trail. What happens if there’s a power outage or a computer crash? Suppose one of those events occurs, and a disk drive containing voting data is corrupted? There would be no way to recover. And that doesn’t even consider the very real possibility of fraud on the part of the government officials who control the election machinery.

      1. hunkerdown

        Way out. Big donors, that is, the people who spend billions constraining and manipulating our electoral choices, would be the very last people to want honest elections, lest the people do something “surprising” like write in a third party candidate.

        If there’s data loss, bummer, dude, same as with paper ballots. The process has spoken.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner


          Would you ever hire Robbie Mook to any job after Clinton 2016? He didn’t just lose to a buffoon in Trump but an awkward and underfunded campaign by Republican standards which was absolutely despised by the press unlike Shrub, McCain, and Mittens who were treated as very serious people. Its not just Mook. If they can’t pull off Osseff, I think the failures of the Clinton campaign will be laid bare especially with the anger and just simply bizarre “OMG Russia” narrative.

        2. JTMcPhee

          Don’t call them “donors.” They are bribers and purchasers. Nothing donative there at all.

  2. dcblogger

    David Swanson: Impeach Trump for Right Reasons

    From the moment he assumed the office, President Donald Trump has been in direct violation of the US Constitution. The President is not above the law. We will not allow President Trump to profit from the presidency at the expense of our democracy. Congress’s impeachment investigation should include the President’s violations of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses and whether the President has — in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed — prevented, obstructed or impeded the administration of justice.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      From the moment he assumed office….

      That will help to make this political marriage an annulment.

    2. Jess

      “The President is not above the law.”

      Say what? Where has Swanson been since Ford effectively proclaimed that, yes, Presidents are above the law, by pardoning Nixon? Reagan and Bush, Sr. were above the law for Iran-Contra. Clinton was above it for perjury. Bush 43 was above it for too many things to count. Obama was above it for an equally mind numbing laundry list of actions. Once Ford established that the President was immune from prosecution, the only remaining question was: how far down the line does that immunity extend? Judging by the events of the last 35 years, pretty damn far. At least all the way to Wall Street, Fort Meade, the Pentagon, etc.

      1. hunkerdown

        Pence better fits the Democrat Party’s chosen constituency, potted narratives, practiced battle plans, and owners’ interests. Trump can’t be attacked without putting their own existence at risk.

        Personally, I’d risk arrest to tell AG Sessions to stop screwing around with the culture war and prosecute the Democrat Party as a racket already.

  3. craazyboy

    “Preceding that meeting, the Group of Seven finance chiefs apparently failed to narrow the gap between the Trump administration’s call for ‘fair’ and ‘reciprocal’ trade and other members’ concerns about its stance, which is widely viewed as protectionist.”


    Well, the only trade Team USA has anymore is illegal, immoral or fattening.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Selling weapons is which of those three “bad things?” Since that’s a big part of “our Trade…”

      Because after all, the Department of State issues licenses for all those transfers of weapons to places like Israel and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and a hundred other “states,” so “all nice and legal, see?”

    1. Anon

      The blue shirt the guy is wearing is standard medical venue (hospital, health care) attire. That’s probably why he is so energized and informed. TrumpCare will be a disaster for health care personnel. Fewer patients, less funding.

      He’s likely to get a raise if his employer views the U-Toob video.

  4. ambrit

    So, Yahoo is running a Denial of Download (DoD) attack against Maine Bears. It must be because of that Maple syrup economics article from the other day. Imagine how low an entity that tries to extort Maple tappers can go. Now extend that thought to Internet gatekeepers in general. (The result is best exemplified by the CryingInsideLaughingOutside 3.1 virus. A template for terror.)

  5. Jeff W

    some of them edit out MacArthur’s advocacy of single payer

    [emphasis added]

    That’s Geoff Ginter, the 47-year old medical assistant, who is advocating for single payer. Tom MacArthur is the Congressman he is railing against.


    1. cm

      MacArthurs wikipedia entry says:

      On April 25, 2017, MacArthur introduced an amendment to the Act that would permit states to waive out of Obamacare’s ban on pre-existing conditions, allowing insurers to charge sick people higher premiums than healthy people. However, the amendment would also dictate that health insurance offered to members of Congress and their staffs not be included in the exemption from covering pre-existing conditions.

      1. Tvc15

        His rant was amazing, passionate and on point, minus the Russian comment. I’m sure naively, but this gives me a glimmer of hope that people are waking up to the realities of 40 years of neoliberal bs. It also illustrates one of the reasons Trump was the least effective evil as argued extensively by the the NC commentariat prior to the election.

        The public undressing of these bought and sold corporate puppets needs to continue. Shame them publicly until it is illegal.

        1. Jeff W

          …this gives me a glimmer of hope that people are waking up to the realities of 40 years of neoliberal bs.
          The public undressing of these bought and sold corporate puppets needs to continue.

          People are getting it, especially with regard to health care. You can go online and see, at the same town hall, a constituent asking pointedly why a “government bureaucrat” is any worse than an insurance company bureaucrat who is working for profit; you can see, at an upstate New York town hall of Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), a US Air Force veteran telling him that single payer saved her life four times; you can see the audience at an Idaho town hall held by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) laugh in his face when he says that “nobody dies because they don’t have access to healthcare.” It’s very clear that the old talking points, which were always nonsensical, have lost their emotive power.

          If you wanted to convince people that a non-profit, universal health care system like single payer was the only way to go without mentioning it, you would do exactly what these clowns—Democrats and Republicans—have done: you’d enact a crappy, byzantine scheme that guaranteed—and, in fact, mandated—the purchase of health insurance with no assurance that you could actually get the care that you needed—and, then, point to those deficiencies to make the situation even worse, potentially kicking millions of Americans off of the lousy insurance they already have. It’s not even remotely surprising that people are realizing that something like a Medicare-for-All system is the only alternative. (That Sen. Sanders strongly makes the case for single payer helped—he provided an alternative when people were looking desperately for an alternative.)

          1. subgenius

            Now expand that to energy, transport, food supply, education, banking…and you might be on to something that starts looking like a sane response to the current issues.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            In retrospect, it looks like a brilliant 11 dimensional chess move.

            Accidental or intentional?

            1. Jeff W

              Hahaha, well, it would be if any of the parties really wanted single payer but, since they don’t, probably not.

        2. JTMcPhee

          Good luck with the public shaming. Remember what happened to the Occupy people.

          And there’s so many easy ways around being publicly shamed. Down here we got a little weasel nerd of a senator, Marco Rubio, who knows he dares not hold any “town hall” or uncontrolled-envir0onment sessions (though our local Demresisters largely don;t have a clue what they would or should orate at him, if they ever got the chance.) Rubio only talks to people who, you know, MATTER. The ones who come in the company of “Mr. Green.”

    1. Huey Long


      I wonder if the lousey DNC staffer pay is:

      A) An attempt to get dirt cheap labor out of naive kids who wanna be the next Carville or

      B) A means of keeping the prole kids who don’t have an allowance from mom and dad out, similar to how amateur requirements were used in sports years ago.

      1. hunkerdown

        In the knowledge industries, it’s a common thing for startups to want “hungry” workers. Eric Schmidt advised Hillary to pay her 2016 campaign workers poorly. The recent Democrat focus on the “aspirational classes” (a new and exciting way to rhetorically sweeten neoliberal “sacrifice”) corroborates that this is a core Democrat value.

        1. clinical wasteman

          Not just the ignorance — sorry, “knowledge” — industries either. Here in London-at-Sea it’s white-collar-wide standard practice to make privileged kids pay for the privilege of working, politely keeping the poor and the mentally unservile off the fast-track to “coveted” (= lucrative+high status+useless x probably socially destructive) jobs.
          The attraction is supposed to be the wonderful “social” and “networking” skills to be picked up, the precious “connections” that will give the ex-intern an edge through a lifetime of competitive conformism.
          Meanwhile everyone else is told that “social skills” (acrobatic simpering, honeyed boorishness, etc) and “networking” (how to win pretend friends and their patronage) are essential for all work, and that it’s your own fault if you’re “left behind” because you never got hold of those things. In other words, what in the 17th and 18th centuries was called “the sale of offices” is more respectable now than it has been in quite a while, except that now it’s the initiation to office-worthiness that’s for sale, and all those who can’t afford that — including many who wouldn’t submit to it if they could — are openly blamed (and if they ever claim welfare, actually punished) for lack of “aspiration”.

  6. JP

    Re Town Hall: MacArthur’s response at the end is one of the more condescending things I have seen. Here in IllAnnoysMe, the critters have been literally running out the back doors of their offices to avoid meeting with some pretty pissed off people.

    1. RUKidding

      I couldn’t hear what MacArthur said. I can only imagine that it amounted to: There, there, you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

      All said smugly whilst knowing that he and his family are covered by a REAL plan that will provide them coverage that the riff-raff, like Ginter, are entitled to.

      Righteous rant by Ginter. Doubt that it made one whit of a difference to sleazy MacArthur. Why should he care?? He got HIS, eff the rubes.

      1. Huey Long

        They also have to worry about self-driving trucks.

        Touche! I wonder how long that technology is going to take until it becomes viable though?

        I mean it’s one thing to put a 4,000 lb car on autopilot, have it run amok, and maybe wipe out a few other cars.

        Doing the same with a 55,000 lb tractor trailer is an entirely different level of risk. One of those things could easily wipe out an entire school bus full of kindergartners.

        1. Jacobite_In_Training

          Amusingly, it would take only a few kindergärtners to stop that big old driverless beast right where it idles. Or, pedestrians of any kind milling around causing its sensors to go ballistic and stop.

          In certain neighborhoods, those with the right attitudes towards the theory and practice of wealth redistribution and the relative efficacy of the ‘trickle down theory’ of economics…I think you’ll find the ‘midnight liquor store robbery’ will soon be eclipsed by stopping driverless trucks, popping the padlock off the back, and distributing its contents to the assembled masses.

          Mobs of people sorting through the contents of the trailer will thus allow suitable cover and concealment for the instigators to skim off the highest grade of whatever is contained therein….and dissappear before John Q Law has even gotten their squad cars past the milling crowds.

          Not that I would ever consider doing such a thing. Oh no, of course not. Scandalous. Perish the thought.

          1. clinical wasteman

            How long would a driverless truck have to stop — “in peril” — before the Law of Salvage would apply?
            If enough people would never consider doing such a thing all at once, we might have a party of salvors.

          2. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

            Can’t let it pass even if the comment is not from the dark side, so here goes:

            Trickle down, Gush up!

            pip pip

        2. oho

          >Doing the same with a 55,000 lb tractor trailer is an entirely different level of risk.

          I can’t imagine, for the foreseeable future, a robo-big wheeler (with automatic transmission with maintenance with enough profit left over for the electronics supply chain and Google shareholders) will be cheaper than the current setup.

          Eventually, sure. But given the number of miles a trucker logs in a year…human pay is a bargain.

        3. Adamski

          Or be a terrorist on the inside, program it one morning to run over hundreds of pedestrians like in France. And the cops can’t stop it by shooting the driver dead and climbing aboard, there’s no driver.

          1. MoiAussie

            And the cops can’t stop it by shooting the driver dead

            No, but the cops (and others) will have a universal automaton shutdown mechanism available to them, triggered by some kind of local beacon, whose correct functioning will be a prerequisite for registration of automated vehicles. This capability will of course also be stolen and exploited by hackers.

            1. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

              Either way, If self driving trucks become the norm, I wouldn’t live in a luxury gated community.

  7. Kurtismayfield

    RE:Yahoo Finance Trumpanomics report

    I love the Real GDP per capita. None of the president’s listed performed at all!

      1. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

        My ‘brother in law’ (Australian) can sing the entire song very well. His middle name happens to be… you guessed it.

        Will Pythonesque be replaced by Trumpesque?

        Pip Pip


    Re: Politico on prejudice. Isn’t this ignoring the fundamental question of whether or not the sentiment is justified? It’s a lot more understandable for a gay individual to be prejudiced against a religious fundamentalist because the fundamentalist book, that they consider infallible, instructs for gays to be put to death, than a conservative to be prejudiced against union members because talk radio told them they were moochers.

    1. Huey Long

      It’s a lot more understandable for a gay individual to be prejudiced against a religious fundamentalist because the fundamentalist book, that they consider infallible, instructs for gays to be put to death, than a conservative to be prejudiced against union members because talk radio told them they were moochers.

      The “lazy no-good union guy” trope is firmly embedded in the collective American narrative of how things are.

      I used to think that most folks were logical, inquisitive, and interested in the truth. As I’ve aged I’ve come to learn that many folks believe what they believe, and if you present proof that what they believe in is patently false they’re more likely to react with denial and anger at the messenger than anything else.

      I’ve read some comments here stating that we’re entering a post-enlightenment age as a civilization. Sadly, I’m beginning to agree with them.

      1. PKMKII

        I used to think that most folks were logical, inquisitive, and interested in the truth. As I’ve aged I’ve come to learn that many folks believe what they believe, and if you present proof that what they believe in is patently false they’re more likely to react with denial and anger at the messenger than anything else.

        I was reading an interview with a science teacher in the South. They were talking about how teaching evolution is a challenge because so many of the students do not see it as “evidence, counter-evidence, derive conclusion with rational logic,” but rather creationism as central to their fundamental identity. So it’s not just asking them to rethink a scientific theorem, it’s asking them to discard their internal view of themselves. Id, Ego, Superego, all out the window.

        I suspect much of the population is doing the same with a variety of abstracts-as-identity that prevent them from seeing things objectively.

      2. LT

        That’s only if anyone thinks any of the arguments, discussions, or opinions we’re having today are anything new.

  9. douglass truth

    wrt to the IOT cartoon – it was predicted way back in the 70s by Philip K Dick, in one of his very best novels, UBIK. Very well worth reading.

    1. robnume

      Great book. Thanks for promoting that. I am currently re-reading “The Divine Invasion,” by Philip K Dick.

    2. carycat

      Also check out the 80’s radio drama series Ruby the Galactic Gumshoe from ZBS Foundation.

  10. Andrew Watts

    The Archdruid Report is a regular staple ’round here so I thought I’d post JMG’s update in case anybody’s missed it.

    John Michael Greer said…
    Just a fast note for all those who are still reading — the new blogging platform is largely put together, and just needs a little more tinkering. Stay tuned for an announcement later this month, and — if current plans hold up — a return to regular blogging around the summer solstice.

    I eagerly wait for the return of the Archdruid… ’cause I lack the ambition to explain Trump, the election, and ‘Merica in the context of Arnold Toynbee and his theory of decline. Hoping JMG will do that for me!

    1. Huey Long

      Hat tip to you Andrew!

      I also am an avid JMG reader. JMG, Kunstler, & Morris Berman are my top 3 declinist writers at the moment. Commentariat, if you have any additions I’m all ears.

      P.S. I wish Billmon of Whiskey Bar fame would make a comeback, if they haven’t already shipped him to Gitmo or ADX Florence for, ahem, “re-education.”

      1. barrisj

        Excellent list, and I would add in Dmitry Orlov as well. Also, I wonder what the late blogger, Steve Gilliard, would have made of the Trump clusterfuck.

  11. anonn

    Re: the Internet of Things, Philip K. Dick wrote about this in the astonishingly funny and prescient Ubik back in 1969:

    “The door refused to open. It said, “Five cents, please.”
    He searched his pockets. No more coins; nothing. “I’ll pay you tomorrow,” he told the door. Again he tried the knob. Again it remained locked tight. “What I pay you,” he informed it, “is in the nature of a gratuity; I don’t have to pay you.”
    “I think otherwise,” the door said. “Look in the purchase contract you signed when you bought this conapt.”
    In his desk drawer he found the contract; since signing it he had found it necessary to refer to the document many times. Sure enough; payment to his door for opening and shutting constituted a mandatory fee. Not a tip.
    “You discover I’m right,” the door said. It sounded smug.
    From the drawer beside the sink Joe Chip got a stainless steel knife; with it he began systematically to unscrew the bolt assembly of his apt’s money-gulping door.
    “I’ll sue you,” the door said as the first screw fell out.
    Joe Chip said, “I’ve never been sued by a door. But I guess I can live through it.”

    The whole scene is amazing as Chip (the perhaps-alive and perhaps-dead protagonist) is informed by his refrigerator that it can now longer provide him any service since the refrigerator has been informed Chip’s credit score is too low. His front door refuses to work except on a cash-only basis, but the elevator is one of the true heroes of the novel.

    1. Jim Haygood

      “I’ll sue you,” the door said as the first screw fell out.
      Joe Chip said, “I’ve never been sued by a door. But I guess I can live through it.”

      DMCA, comrades: Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

      Under DMCA, the door wins on a summary judgment.

      Have you hugged your Kongress Klown today?

      1. polecat

        Maybe THEY won’t seem so ‘smug’ when they find themselves locked inside their chambers !

        “Goddammit Door ! .. Open up” …… “We’re late for our ‘after-deliberations’ libations ( Hookers, ‘Blow/Lobbyists’, Free Booze, … ‘Pizza’ ) … down at the corner bar !!”

    2. craazyman

      That story doesn’t seem very likely to me. In a truly free market he’d use the window as a hedonic adjustment and the door would have to lower its price. There must be at least 4 windows.

      Also, other doors would likely break rectangles in the wall to compete with the high priced door for market share. They might even “disrupt” the door and leave it hanging. Ahahahahahahahahahahah. Get it? Door. Hanging on hangers. Door hangers. Duh. You don’t need to be a genius to be a door.

      Doors are commodities! It’s so unrealistic to think a door can extract monopoly rents from a free market consumer. An economist can explain this better than me, but it’s plain as day to anybody who thinks about it.

      1. craazyboy

        Doors are hung, but it doesn’t go to their heads.

        However P.K. Dick. When he wrote this novel the Doors rock band came along. Headed by Jim Morrison. [died in a Hotel fire? hmm?]

        They did “Break Into The Other Side”, which was about a door to the Door Universe, a subset of the 5 Dimension [they are locked out – segregation.] It’s a terrifying place, but there is a Bartender that serves unlimited free Budweiser Light. Kinda a so-so thing, but he doesn’t accept tips, at least. You get ejected home once you stack 99 beer cans against the wall and sing the words without screwing up.

        Doors do have a “backdoor”. Chant “Light My Fire” and they become submissive and subservient, opening on command. It’s important to remember that. Ask Jim Morrison!

        1. clarky90

          Conscious Dreaming and Controlled Hallucinations

          by Claude de Contrecoeur

          “What we call Amour (love) is an extraordinary hallucination, and from such beautiful hallucinations things can be born into the exogenous reality … like what you are going to read. … For whoever authentically knows about Conscious Dreams, money, glory, recognition and similar bla, bla, bla are nonsense! This is the main reason why I did not bother to put my work into a book (as Dr A.Hobson from Harvard repeatedly suggested to me!)”

          “I have done scientific research into conscious dreams since I discovered them in 1976 and was published in 1979, 1980, and 1981 in France (Agressologie, Masson, eds. Paris) and in 1976 in Italy. In my articles I described what distinguishes this form of dream from normal oneiric phenomena and I also analysed different states of consciousness.”


  12. Huey Long

    RE: TiSA

    TiSA would require governments to remove national and local government laws and practices that the corporations see as barriers, including protections for workers – or at least freeze them at their current level, and promise never to adopt new regulations that might restrict existing and new services or technologies

    The thought of some trade treaty rolling back OSHA regulations, NLRB decisions, and environmental protections is absolutely terrifying. Men and women suffered beatings, arrests, and even death to get that legislation passed.

    Where are the Dems on this?

    Probably off at a coffee shop smugly thinking “Eff em! Those racist white working class guys don’t deserve to go home with all of their fingers and toes at the end of the day. Ugh, lazy overpaid uppity union bums…”

    1. Ian

      More like, Repubs are doing the hefty lifting for us and we come out looking good on measures that we would’ve more slowly giving ground on and ultimately supported (while putting up the good fight) anyway.

  13. Jim Haygood

    New record highs today in the S&P 500 large cap index and the Nasdaq 100 glamour stock index.

    As ol’ Tom Petty used to say, “the sky was the limit” … until one awful day, reality bites.

    Until then, the dogs bark, but the caravan rolls on majestically into the empyrean. :-)

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It’s the story of Jack and the beanstalk.

      Poor billionaires will see it grow to the sky. Just avoid the giant and everything should be good.

    2. Carolinian

      Zero Whatchamacallit says the crash due any minute. What say ye Swami Haygood?

      1. John k

        Keen and mosler both say the time to worry is when bank loans grow at a slower rate.

    3. Oregoncharles

      What color is your parachute?

      I note that silver is inching back up – but no longer have a clue what that means, if anything.

  14. local to oakland

    Thank you for the article linking Descartes to the influence of St. Teresa of Avila. That kind of analysis linking Enlightenment thought to its Medieval precursors is needed, imho, as well as being interesting and fun to read. It helps to address the hubris of our claims to absolute superiority over other cultural constructs. (see the author Laurens van der Post among others for vivid descriptions of that hubris). No one, however brilliant, is sui generis. And while enlightenment culture brought real triumphs in science and technology, it also led us to throw out values that are better protected in some pre-modern and or non-western contexts, values that are essential for human well being. Any work to reclaim those values to attempt to improve our civilization needs this kind of historical work to fight the calcification of our value system by taking a new look at its founders and icons.

    It is ironic and interesting to me if this is true and Descartes in fact relied on the writing of a Christian mystic since the Enlightenment consensus of rationalism has made it its project to throw out ‘irrational’ unprovable forms of knowledge and human experience. The works of contemplative authors like Teresa, like the author of the Cloud of Unknowing, Lady Julian of Norwich, the desert fathers and mothers, contain tremendous psychological insight and depth. It is interesting to me how popular Eastern forms of meditation, yoga and zen, are in my part of the world. It is almost as if it fills a void, created when the Enlightenment consensus, deriving from Descartes, threw Western forms of contemplation and their benefits and insights out as unproven, unproveable, and therefore valueless.

    1. juliania

      Indeed, the influence is there to be seen once pointed out – thank you, Lambert! I can remember discussing in college the use which can be seen in DeCartes’ text, of a comparison with the seven days of creation in Biblical terms, but the mystical comparison is a lovely one.

      In matters of faith the terms fall out thusly: “Prayer is standing in the heart with the mind before God.”

      Decartes’ boldness was to perhaps leave the heart out of the equation, standing most fully in the mind alone, and not specifically before God, but before the world. And so followed on science, with, I might dare to claim, that loss of heart we all currently decry. We don’t, perhaps, all want or need to stand before God, but we do all very much need to stand in the heart.

    1. Huey Long

      Synopsis from Wikipedia:

      The Doctor, Bill and an angry Nardole travel in the TARDIS to a mining space station in the future to investigate a distress call. The crew wear “smartsuits”, robotic spacesuits capable of independent operation. The suits are also the only source of oxygen, as the mining company does not provide an oxygen atmosphere inside the station, and every activity is measured in breaths. However, some of the suits have received instructions to “deactivate” their “organic components”, killing the wearer via an electrical discharge but remaining autonomous. This signal can be carried by touch, which has caused most of the crew to be turned into zombies, enslaved to the suits’ programming. Sensing the TARDIS’s exterior air shell, the station purges the atmosphere, sending the TARDIS into space. The Doctor, Bill and Nardole are forced to don smartsuits to survive, and flee with the surviving crew to a safer location. As they wait in an airlock for it to depressurise, Bill’s suit malfunctions, forcing her to remove her helmet. To save her, the Doctor gives her his helmet as they walk on the outside of the station. He manages to survive, but the exposure to vacuum damages his eyes and blinds him.

      As the spacesuit zombies advance, Bill’s suit again malfunctions and will not move. The Doctor leaves her behind, assuring her she won’t die, but she is electrocuted when they touch her. The Doctor reveals the limit of breaths is an algorithm to stop people “wasting” oxygen, part of the company’s automated profit-making system. Killing the wearers was just the logical endpoint of corporate profit over human life. He convinces the surviving two crew members that their best option is a good death and revenge. He hacks the station’s systems so that if the last survivors die, the station will be destroyed. This works, as the zombie suits halt their advance and give their remaining oxygen supply to the survivors, the value of the station now recalculated by their programming. The Doctor then revives Bill, knowing that her malfunctioning suit did not have enough power to lethally shock her.

      Back in the TARDIS, Nardole repairs the Doctor’s eyes, and the survivors are dropped off at the “Head Office” where they promise to make their complaints heard. Back at the university, the Doctor mentions to Bill that there was a successful rebellion six months later. After she leaves, Nardole lectures the Doctor and refuses to let him leave Earth again. The Doctor reveals he is still blind and says he “can’t look at anything ever again”.


      Wow! It’s hard to believe this was aired on state-run TV!

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I made a reply, and Im not sure if I canceled it or if it was lost in mod limbo.

        Doctor Who has always been the closest to Star Trek in spirit. Its possible the brand is too large to risk interfering with the show. Who wants to be the person who mucks up Doctor Who? You will be caught unless you are Clara. People are all too willing to overlook her. Would the BBC which sells the show really want Moffat and Capaldi going out in a rage and then having the other Doctors weigh in about how the environment changed at the BBC which does sell its show abroad?

        The guy who brought the show back, not Moffat, was an LGBT activist with a public record of his views. Moffat was passed over because the brand was deemed to be too important to hand off to a mere writer at least to restart the program.

        The most recent episode was noticeably brunt in its message and critique of capitalism. The episode last month during the last Great Frost Fair wasn’t pro-capitalism. The replicated people. The Ood. And so forth all predate this most recent episode.

        I wonder if they look at Star Trek and don’t want to risk losing the golden goose. Trek printed money in the 90’s, even Voyager. NuTrek does okay. Goodwill from an enjoyable popcorn reintroduction movie was wasted on the sequel. The third movie which was not terrible suffered at the box office as a result of the sour taste from the previous movie. Tyler Perry, who runs an anti-union shop, had a cameo in the first movie. Would Gene have ever let him on the Original Series? I don’t think so. Jeff Bezos was an alien in the most recent movie. Would Gene not have made a villain very similar or just claimed mankind rid itself of people like Bezos? Instead of trying to make Doctor Who more like Star Wars, do they just leave it alone assuming the fans are loons who can’t be reasoned with?

  15. Jessica

    Ransomware on the Internet of Things = reality has caught up with more of Philip K. Dick.

    1. Huey Long

      Great, the future is shaping up to look like the guy whose works inspired Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, and the Terminator franchise.

      …and people have the nerve to question why I drink!

  16. clarky90

    Re, “American as apple pie”, and the Yves’ link about “Bull-shitting” yesterday;

    Fur-Bearing Trout

    A Colorado Tall Tale

    retold by

    S. E. Schlosser

    “Now it happened that there was a mining camp in Colorado where more than an average number of the miners were bald. An enterprising hair tonic salesman from Kentucky decided to take advantage of this golden opportunity, so he made the trip north. It was a rainy summer evening. The salesman was headed towards the mining camp with four bottles of hair tonic under his arm. As he was crossing one of the trout streams which lead to the Arkansas River, the salesman slipped and dropped two bottles of hair tonic into the water. The bottles broke, and the hair tonic spilled into the stream.

    Not too long after this incident, the fishermen along the Arkansas developed a new method for catching trout. They’d head to the bank of the river carrying a red and white barber pole and some scissors. Then they would set up the barber pole and call out: “Get your free shave and a hair cut here”. All the trout whose fur had grown to long or who needed their beards trimmed would hop right out of the water and be picked up by the fishermen. It wasn’t until the mills began muddying the waters so much that the fish couldn’t see the barber poles that the practice died out.”


    1. clarky90

      Here is an example of lying. People killed, cities destroyed, families dislocated, faith broken…..

      Manassas, Prince William County, Virginia
      November 3, 2008
      10:30pm – Barack Obama Speech, Night Before the Election

      “What a scene. What a crowd. Thank you for Virginia. (Crowd chants “yes we can.”)

      Let me start by noting, Virginia that this is our last rally. This is the last rally of a campaign that began nearly 2 years ago. We’ve gone to every corner of this country, from here in Northern Virginia to the rocky coasts of Maine, to the open plains of Texas, to the open skies of Montana.

      I just want to say that whatever happens tomorrow, I have been deeply humbled by this journey. You have welcomed Michelle and me and the girls into your homes. You have shared your stories of struggle, you have spoken of your dreams, along the way, talking with all of you about your own lives.

      You have enriched my life, you have moved me again and again. You have inspired me. Sometimes when I have been down you have lifted me up. You filled me with new hope for our future and you have reminded me about what makes America so special. In the places I have gone and the people I have met, I have been struck again and again by the fundamental decency and generosity and dignity of men and women who work hard without complaint, to meet their responsibilities every day.

      I come away with an unyielding belief that if we only had a government as responsible as all of you, as compassionate as the American people, that there is no obstacle that we can’t overcome. There is no destiny that we cannot fulfill.

      Virginia, I have just one word for you, just one word. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. After decades of broken politics in Washington, 8 years of failed policies from George Bush, twenty-one months of campaigning, we are less then one day away from bringing about change in America.

      Tomorrow you can turn the page on policies that put greed and irresponsibility before hard work and sacrifice. Tomorrow you can choose policies that invest in our middle class, create new jobs and grow this economy so that everybody has a chance to succeed. Not just the CEO but the secretary and the janitor; not just the factory owner but the men and women who work the factory floor. Tomorrow you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election; that puts reason against reason, and city against town, Republican against Democrat; that asks us to fear at a time when we need to hope.

      Tomorrow, at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change that we need. It starts here in Virginia. It starts here in Manassas. This is where change begins…………”


    2. clarky90

      More lying, 1935, Two years after the Holodomor in the Ukraine. One year before the Great Purge.


      J. V. Stalin
      Speech at the First All-Union Conference of Stakhanovites

      17 November 1935

      “…..Our revolution is the only one which not only smashed the the fetters of capitalism and brought the people freedom, but also succeeded in creating the material conditions of a prosperous life for the people. Therein lies the strength and invincibility of our revolution.

      It is a good thing, of course, to drive out the capitalists, to drive out the landlords, to drive out the tsarist henchmen, to seize power and achieve freedom.

      That is very good. But, unfortunately, freedom alone is not enough, by far. If there is a shortage of bread, a shortage of butter and fats, a shortage of textiles, and if housing conditions are bad, freedom will not carry you very far. It is very difficult, comrades, to live on freedom alone. (Shouts of approval. Applause.) In order to live well and joyously, the benefits of political freedom must be supplemented by material benefits. It is a distinctive feature of our revolution that it brought the people not only freedom, but also material benefits and the possibility of a prosperous and cultured life. That is why life has become joyous in our country, and that is the soil from which the Stakhanov movement sprang…..”


  17. Indrid Cold

    re: Internet of Crappified Things

    The whole economy has been re engineered into a rentier economy. So why should anyone have expected anything different. They’ll still push these centralized systems on everyone until our lives run like our computers, slow and full of bloatware and thiefware.

    1. LT

      Well, human beings are tough to standardize, so what can be standardized is exalted because it’s easier to control. That’s what all the drooling over integrating humans with machines is about.

      On top of that, as I said the other day, there isn’t an invention or discovery that this economy can’t turn to crap

  18. JimTan

    “The key advantage that Amazon has over any other enterprise service provider — from UPS and FedEx to Rackspace — is that they are forced to use their own services.”

    Hmmm…..Interesting the way TechCrunch worded this because it describes Amazon’s advantage over ‘enterprise service providers’ and not as you would expect from the article title – Amazon’s advantage over its ‘retail competitors’.

    If the real question is what is Amazon’s key advantage over online and brick and mortar retail competitors, then the answer would be Amazon sells the same goods as their competitors using a membership service that offers free shipping with its $99 annual subscription fee, then subsidize this shipping through a Confidential Redacted NSA Agreement with the US Post Office not available to other merchandise retailers where conservatively its is estimated that “Amazon pays the USPS $2 per package, which is about half what it would pay UPS and FedEx”. What makes the TechCrunch language tricky is I think that UPS and FedEx also have Confidential NSA Agreements with the US Post Office, but they are not Amazons retailer competitors, none of whom have similar USPS shipping agreements.

    E-Commerce is unquestionably more convenient that brick and mortar shopping, but it is only cheaper when the aggregate cost of shipping is below the aggregate cost of brick and mortar maintenance. Amazon’s negotiated Confidential and Redacted USPS shipping Agreement ensures that for them and only them, shipping will always be cheaper.

    1. Carolinian

      Interesting article (the second one).

      The USPS doesn’t disclose much about its relationship with Amazon, citing confidentiality agreements. Amazon didn’t respond to several requests for comment. David Vernon, an analyst at Bernstein Research who tracks the shipping industry, estimates the USPS handled 40 percent of Amazon’s volume last year—or almost 150 million items—more than either United Parcel Service or FedEx. He figures that Amazon pays the USPS $2 per package, which is about half what it would pay UPS and FedEx. Vernon says Amazon receives a deep discount from the USPS because the e-tailer does so much of its own processing—including providing computerized address lists to make it easier for carriers to tailor their delivery routes for faster drop-offs. “I think [Amazon’s] idea was, why give this volume to FedEx when we can just sort it ourselves?” Vernon says. “Because it’s not that hard.”

      Brennan needs all the new business she can get. In 2014 first-class mail volume fell 3 percent compared with the previous year, to 64 billion pieces. Advertising mail, which some people refer to as junk mail, remained essentially unchanged. But the USPS’s package volume climbed 8 percent from the year before, to 4 billion items, and accounted for 20 percent of the agency’s $68 billion operating revenue.

      Yet as its package volume rises, the USPS has had to invest in new equipment. Last year it spent $200 million to furnish its carriers with 270,000 Internet-connected handheld scanners made by Honeywell that enable them to provide real-time package tracking. “The Postal Service is far more technology-centric than most people would understand or believe,” Brennan says. The agency is also hoping to replace its fleet of 189,750 delivery trucks, most of which are 25 years old and not configured to hold packages. The USPS Office of the Inspector General estimates this will cost more than $5 billion.

      A couple of points: mail carriers are still union are they not so USPS efforts to “stay relevant” not necessarily a bad thing. I will say that my own mail carrier considered the Donahoe guy to be an idiot.

      And I’m not seeing the term NSA in the Bloomberg story at least. Care to expand? Also the story says the Sunday delivery is available to other companies which the USPS doesn’t name.

    2. oho

      AMZN’s greatest advantage is that it has a pool of shareholders who don’t care about dividends or a triple-digit P/E multiple.

      AMZN is really 4 companies (with only one that you really want if you adhere to old-fashioned valuation models):

      1. a cash-gushing cloud company;
      2. a barely break-even retailer;
      3. a who-knows-if-they’re-cash-flow-positive Netflix alternative; and
      4. a potluck of whatever Jeff Bezos has percolating in his brain.

      1. Stephen

        And I would add a very large, efficient, and ever-growing Supply Chain Management, Logistics, and Distribution company.

  19. TK421

    The Society of Grownups wanted to teach “adulting” to millennials

    No one who can’t tell a noun from a verb is qualified to teach anything, let alone how to be an adult.

    1. polecat

      That ‘Society’ is apt to be soooo scared of losing their 401Ks, pension benies, SSecurity, lives, ect., all due to those young, barely out-of-the-crib pissed-off ‘slackers’ not workin to pay for ever more rents/fees/grift, that they’re probably ALL wearin diapers !!

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Dignity adult diapers, good for all occasions…even when holding Russian interference hearings.

    2. 3.14e-9

      I blame Facebook. People who think “friend” is a verb wouldn’t think twice about gerunding “adult.”

    3. hunkerdown

      The alternatives are unwieldy and don’t adequately capture the concept of contingent, alienated, even cynical performance, as opposed to the identification, investment, and sense of duty implied by “being an”, a distinction I see in common with other popular verbed nouns (not least “friend”). Even Merriam-Webster has more or less thrown in the t( r )owel on this one. https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/adulting

      1. 3.14e-9

        Or just 2 unwieldy 4 Twitter?

        BTW, Merriam-Web only watching, hasn’t accepted yet.

  20. ewmayer

    Yesterday’s Links page featured a Pando piece titled “Quitting the Silicon Valley Swamp” as the very first link – well-written, amusing, but one shout-out at the end caught my eye:

    I cede the wider landscape to folks like Erin Griffith at Fortune, Alyson Shontell at Business Insider – not to mention William Alden, Eric Newcomer, Ellen Huet, Johana Bhuiyan and, of course, Yasha Levine and Mark Ames. Aimee Groth is doing the Lord’s work on Zappos and the Downtown Project and Mike Isaac is making up for lost time by breaking scoop after scoop on Uber over at the New York Times.

    Why did the laudatory “Aimee Groth” bit catch my notice? Because, as it happens, deep in the Comments section of the same Links page an NC user had posted a link to a Taki’s Magazine piece “Vegas Knows What to Do With a High Roller”, by Joe Bob Briggs, a.k.a. satirist John Bloom, who some of us wrong-side-of-40-ers still remember fondly from his days as the host of TNT’s short-lived hosted-creature-feature series Monstervision. Briggs’ piece is a trenchant skewering of the self-same Aimee-with-an-I-and-two-EEs Groth, self-made professional shill for tech grift-preneur Tony Hsieh, who is a human metastatic pseudopod landed-in-Vegas from the very Silicon Valley Swamp the Pando author publicly renounces in his piece. Briggs:

    Aimee Groth went to Vegas to write what she calls “gonzo journalism”—in fact, according to her publisher, “fearless gonzo journalism”—without carrying the tool kit. She needed a stick of dynamite and a bazooka for targets that were huge and inviting, but ended up approaching them like a Vassar coed writing a sociology paper on sexual harassment.

    Her book is called The Kingdom of Happiness: Inside Tony Hsieh’s Zapponian Utopia, and it describes a journalism project that was kind of doomed from the start. In 2013 Groth quit her job as an editor at Business Insider in New York in order to immerse herself in the hipster commune–cum–start-up accelerator–cum–urban renewal project–cum–weirdbeard performance-art scene known as the Las Vegas Downtown Project, initiated by Zappos.com cofounder Tony Hsieh, who believes that life should be based on the Ten Principles of Burning Man. Hsieh is one of those Silicon Valley capitalists who believes life is an extended version of summer camp, so even though he’s well into his 40s, he’s still collecting merit badges.
    “If you’re going to write a book about Las Vegas and call it ‘gonzo,’ you’d better be ready to get down and dirty.”

    He constantly spouts “better living” bromides normally not heard outside Deep South sports arenas and feel-good megachurches, including ideas derived from self-help books, positive-thinking books, management-theory books, the rave code (Peace Love Unity Respect), the Aspen Ideas Festival, the culture of SXSW in Austin, the wisdom gleaned from Silicon Valley’s sacred mountain in Eden, Utah, where Summit Series gurus dwell, the Electric Daisy Carnival, Further Future…and I hope I haven’t left out any of the other gatherings where people live in luxury yurts and ingest psychedelic Molly crystals while dancing in animal costumes. I don’t know if they have a name for this mindset in Silicon Valley, but I would suggest Nirvana Aggregator.

    All of this would seem to be incredibly fertile gonzo grist, were it not for the author’s fatal flaw: “I was inspired by his vision and was willing to follow him anywhere.” She was dazzled by Tony Hsieh’s personality and his vision for downtown Las Vegas, even though she never tells us quite what was so compelling about it, and so she lost her gonzo credentials right away.

    The full piece is well worth a read, much more than the Pando one, which for all its amusement value is all about its own author, as appear to be most of the entries in his literary dossier.

    1. subgenius

      Nirvana Aggregator???

      Perfect. It’s an orgone accumator for the singularity crowd…how could it lose?

      Crazymaan to front it, board of NC commentariat….there’s money in them thar hills…musk, thiel, etc would be unable to resist.

      As long as the .com is free, we are golden…

      1. Huey Long

        Ha! I love the Reich reference!

        Unfortunately, according to godaddy.com we can’t get our paws on Orgone.com.

  21. ewmayer

    “John Kasich and Bernie Sanders to debate Obamacare repeal during CNN town hall” — Bernie, on the right side of the wrong debate.

  22. fresno dan


    Todd for instance asked Clapper if he would know if the FBI had a FISA court order for surveillance. Clapper answered unequivocally: “Yes.”

    Clapper made it clear that he would have known if there were any kind of surveillance authority against “the president elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign.”

    Todd realized this was an important question and re-asked it, to make sure Clapper heard it right.

    “You would be told this?” he asked.

    “I would know that,” Clapper answered.

    Todd asked again: Are you sure? Can you confirm or deny that a FISA warrant exists?

    “I can deny it,” Clapper said flatly.

    It wasn’t until the fourth time Todd asked the question that Clapper finally added the caveat, “Not to my knowledge.”

    Even so, there was no way to listen to the March 5th interview and not come away feeling like Clapper believed he would have known of the existence of a FISA warrant, or of any indications of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, had they existed up until the time he left office on January 20th of this year.
    Clapper’s statements seem even stranger in light of James Comey’s own testimony in the House on March 20th.

    Comey was saying that he hadn’t briefed the DNI because between January 20th, when Clapper left office, and March 16th, when former Indiana senator and now Trump appointee Dan Coats took office, the DNI position was unfilled.

    But Comey had said the counterintelligence investigation dated back to July, when he was FBI director under a Democratic president. So what happened between July and January?

    If Comey felt the existence of his investigation was so important that he he had to disclose it to DNI Coats on Coats’ first day in office, why didn’t he feel the same need to disclose the existence of an investigation to Clapper at any time between July and January?

    Furthermore, how could the FBI participate in a joint assessment about Russian efforts to meddle in American elections and not tell Clapper and the other intelligence chiefs about what would seemingly be a highly germane counterintelligence investigation in that direction?

    Again, prior to last week, Clapper had said he would know if there was a FISA warrant issued on this matter. But then on April 11th, law enforcement and government officials leaked – anonymously, as has been the case throughout most of this story – that the FBI had obtained a FISA warrant for surveillance of Trump associate Carter Page.
    Is it a FARA (Foreign Agent Registration Act) case involving former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn or a lower-level knucklehead like Carter Page?

    Since FARA is violated more or less daily in Washington and largely ignored by authorities unless it involves someone without political connections (an awful lot of important people in Washington who appear to be making fortunes lobbying for foreign countries are merely engaged in “litigation support,” if you ask them), it would be somewhat anticlimactic to find out that this was the alleged crime underlying our current white-hot constitutional crisis.

    Is it something more serious than a FARA case, like money-laundering for instance, involving someone higher up in the Trump campaign? That would indeed be disturbing, and it would surely be improper – possibly even impeachable, depending upon what exactly happened behind the scenes – for Trump to get in the way of such a case playing itself out.

    But even a case like that would be very different from espionage and treason. Gutting a money-laundering case involving a campaign staffer would be more like garden-variety corruption than the cloak-and-dagger nightmares currently consuming the popular imagination.
    But when it comes to the collusion investigation, there are serious questions. A lot of our civil liberties protections and rules of press ethics are designed to prevent exactly this situation, in which a person lingers for extended periods of time under public suspicion without being aware of the exact nature, or origin, of the accusations.

    It’s why liberal thinkers have traditionally abhorred secret courts, secret surveillance and secret evidence, and in the past would have reflexively discouraged the news media from printing the unverified or unverifiable charges emanating from such secret sources. But because it’s Donald Trump, no one seems to care.

    We should care. The uncertainty has led to widespread public terror, mass media hysteria and excess, and possibly even panic in the White House itself, where, who knows, Trump may even have risked military confrontation with Russia in an effort to shake the collusion accusations.

    Curiouser and curiouser
    Although unless evidence is provided, it seems to be (forgive me – I can’t resist) Trumping up traffic tickets into murder charges….

    “It’s why liberal thinkers have traditionally abhorred secret courts, secret surveillance and secret evidence,…”
    Of course, is Trump merely collateral damage and the real intended “victim” is Putin?

    1. Carolinian

      Isn’t Taibbi just playing dumb here? There is that alternative explanation–the whole thing is a ratf*ck cooked up by Brenner and other Obama operatives in order to cripple and get their revenge on Trump for improbably winning the election. Here’s betting that no “independent” investigation would finger team Dem for attempting an intelligence agency coup and that if it did so such an investigation would immediately be denounced by the press as tainted. Maybe the real solution is for the hysterical Dems and rabid media to calm themselves down.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        If one wants to launch a denial-of-service cyber attack, one just keeps sending fake news, the entity under attack will have no time, no bandwidth for anything else.

      2. 3.14e-9

        Not entirely fake, but more Trump-Russia hysteria, which will be good for at least a couple of news cycles — until the smoke starts dissipating, at which point there will be “yet more shocking evidence” of Trump’s Russian connections.

        Buried in the seventh paragraph of the WaPo story, below two videos and links to related stories — in other words, beyond the point where most readers stop reading, we learn:

        For almost anyone in government, discussing such matters with an adversary would be illegal. As president, Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.

        Still further down, 17th or 18th paragraph and now buried under four videos:

        The Post is withholding most plot details, including the name of the city, at the urging of officials who warned that revealing them would jeopardize important intelligence capabilities.

        So WaPo has the information but thinks the American people don’t have a right to know.

        Somewhere around paragraph 24:

        The officials declined to identify the ally but said it has previously voiced frustration with Washington’s inability to safeguard sensitive information related to Iraq and Syria.

        Previously? As in, “since January 20?” I imagine we’d have heard about it if that were the case.

        I have complained to my rep before about her fear-mongering Trump e-mails and said I resented the hysteria being used to raise funds for her 2018 campaign. As of this one, I unsubscribed. Up to this point, I thought it was important to at least know what my elected rep is doing (I voted for her), civic duty and all that. But it’s clear that her only agenda is to get rid of Trump. That, and working her way up the Democratic Party hierarchy.

        “Mildly nauseous” is an understatement.

        1. Greg

          +3.14e-9 Silly fella. The latest formula for success is closely tied to Trump. Here is the BIG secret though – the formula works only if you attack Trump (for anything and everything) doesn’t matter the reason. If you attack Trump, you are correct and he is in the wrong by default. So don’t worry about minor things like ‘facts’ – no one is really looking for them.

          This phenomenon is very similar to pop-singers adding rap to their songs, no talent ‘celebrities’ dating some wanna be rapper just to be in news …. you get it – that’s latest trend.

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