2:00PM Water Cooler 6/28/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

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Readers, I set the timer on my alarm this morning, but didn’t actually turn it on. Bad Lambert! I’ll have UPDATEs shortly. UDPATE, 3:00PM That should do it! –lambert

Trade

“The next chapter for the Trans-Pacific Partnership” [East Asia Forum]. The TPP has a role to play as an organ donor, as Shiro Armstrong suggests, where countries and other groupings can take what’s good about the TPP and apply it in other agreements. The progress made in opening up Japanese markets, negotiating cutting-edge agreements on data flows and e-commerce, and putting pressure on countries to lift their game in response to US pressure in the TPP don’t need to go to waste.” “Organs” like ISDS?

Politics

Health Care

Anybody know what’s happening with this? I can’t find anything on Google showing it actually happened in the last 24 hours or the last hour:

Or was this just Neera in “Let’s put on a show!” mode?

“Warren Buffett calls ObamaCare repeal bill ‘Relief for the Rich Act'” [The Hill].

Hadn’t thought of Ron Paul as a comedian, but it’s been a strange year:

Then again, Trump seems to agree with Paul, at least for now:

UPDATE “For weeks, insiders in Washington have been wondering: Is it possible that the Senate’s wily majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, secretly wants his healthcare bill to fail?” [Los Angeles Times]. “‘The CBO changed the narrative in a bad way,’ a top GOP lobbyist told me. ‘It looks as if we will be sliding Obamacare back to the Democrats — which is what Trump wanted from Day One.’ What he meant was: If Republicans give up and leave Obamacare in place, they can try to blame Democrats for any problems that ensue. As the president tweeted on Monday: ‘Perhaps just let OCare crash & burn!’ …. But his chances of winning are eroding. According to some Republicans, he’s warming to the idea of taking a dive. It may be the only way he has to show Trump how difficult governing really is.” I don’t think teaching Trump a lesson is sufficient motivation. However, I think that McConnell (a) wants to stay in the catbird seat — i.e., come out looking good “win” or “lose’ and (b) protect his caucus. And I think both those motivations come before passing the bill, or protecting Trump. Personally, I would be happiest if everybody’s blame cannons got pointed at Paul Ryan. I just can’t bring myself to like the man!

UPDATE “McConnell is known as a deal-closer, but he’s never done policy this big” [WaPo]. “Now in the majority, McConnell is trying to use budget rules to pass this repeal on a simple majority vote with just Republican votes, unlike his past deals. However, after the meeting with Trump, in a subtle nod to his past, McConnell warned that if Republicans refused to compromise among themselves, he would go back to his old ways and find a Democratic partner to pass something that was much less favorable to conservatives.”

UPDATE Conservatives (like the left) know what the stakes are, even as liberals pretend to deny them:

New Cold War

Wowsers:

Wonderfully clarifying.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Obama removed a “motor voting” feature from the ACA exchange legislation that would probably have expanded the franchise because Republicans complained [Talking Points Memo (2015)]. I guess Putin made him do it.

UPDATE Please kill me now:

“Director of Heartland Engagement.” I love it. And may The Godd(ess)(e)(s) Of Your Choice, If Any, make sure that Democrats never, ever appeal to working class people, as such, no matter where they live or what their identity silos may be!

UPDATE “Democrats have debated extensively over whether their path to power goes through the white-working-class Rust Belt states or the diverse, well-educated Sun Belt. In 2018, this debate is moot. The Democrats don’t have the luxury of choosing where to compete in House races. They’ll have to target all of these areas” [New York Times]. Exactly. I don’t object to campaigning in Ossoff’s district (though one might raise objections to Ossoff’s campaign). It’s moving all the chairs onto Ossoff’s side of the deck that I mind. “The problem for Democrats is simple: There just aren’t many great opportunities for them to pick up seats in Democratic-leaning areas. Instead, they’ll have to compete in a lot of districts where they’re competitive but not favored.” Medicare for All would do that.

Stats Watch

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of June 23, 2017: “Purchase applications for home mortgages fell a seasonally adjusted 4 percent” [Econoday].

International Trade in Goods, May 2017: “Strength in consumer exports helped narrow the nation’s trade deficit in goods” [Econoday]. “Exports of capital goods, however, fell 0.4 percent to $43.4 billion in an indication of weakness in global business investment.”

Retail Inventories [Advance], for May 2017: “Inventories, after contracting in April, moved back into the plus column in May” [Econoday]. “[R]etail inventories rose 0.6 percent with this build concentrated in vehicles.”

Wholesale Inventories [Advance], May 2017: “Inventories, after contracting in April, moved back into the plus column in May” [Econoday].

Pending Home Sales Index, May 2017: “Pending sales have slowed for the 3 months in a row” [Econoday]. ” Final sales of existing homes don’t always move in line with pending sales but the latter’s ongoing decline is, like weakness in housing permits, a negative indication for the housing sector.”

Housing: “The inventory crisis is worst on the low end of the market, where demand is highest. The number of starter and trade-up homes currently on the market is down 15.6 percent and 13 percent, respectively, compared with a year ago, according to Trulia, a real estate website. The inventory of premium homes has fallen 3.9 percent” [CNBC]. “The supply situation has buyer confidence in the housing market dropping. Just over half of renters say they think now is a good time to buy, according to the Realtors. That is down from 62 percent one year ago. While about 80 percent of current homeowners think now is a good time to buy, they are not listing their homes for sale.”

Commodities: “The Shale Revolution’s Staggering Impact in Just One Word: Plastics” [Wall Street Journal]. “[The shale oil] boom in drilling has expanded the output of oil and gas in the U.S. more than 57% in the past decade, lowering prices for the primary ingredients Dow Chemical Co. ses to make tiny plastic pellets… Tons more will be shipping soon as Dow completes $8 billion in new and expanded U.S. petrochemical facilities mostly along the Gulf of Mexico over the next year, part of the industry’s largest transformation in a generation. The scale of the sector’s investment is staggering: $185 billion in new U.S. petrochemical projects are in construction or planning.”

Concentration: “It took just 81 days for this chip maker to die after Apple dropped it” [Quartz]. Pour encourager les autres

The Bezzle: “The explosive impact of blockchain technology” [TASS]. “‘Blockchain is one of the core straight-through technologies to drive all sectors of the Russian economy,’ said Nikolay Nikiforov, Minister of Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation. ‘The most rapid pilot projects and potential areas for rapid breakthrough are document flow related to LOC investments deals, the Masterchain Project, as well as projects on certain types of the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography’s transactions that may be executed in an automated 24/7 mode,’ added Nikolay Nikiforov.”

The Bezzle: “Inside Uber’s unsettling alliance with some of New York’s shadiest car dealers” [Quartz]. “In July 2015, Uber launched its Xchange Leasing subsidiary to finance leases and rentals for drivers in the US with poor or no credit. The program has been criticized for its sky-high terms and potential for taking advantage of workers, though Uber said it was designed to streamline and improve financing options for drivers. But two years later, Xchange has yet to become available in New York, one of Uber’s oldest, largest, and most profitable markets. Instead, the company has maintained partnerships with a small network of third parties that predate its leasing subsidiary, and which operate in the underbelly of New York’s auto-financing market, without much scrutiny.”

The Bezzle: “The internet of things: industry’s digital revolution” [Financial Times]. This is a good review of industrial IoT, which I’m totally sure won’t be hackable, and will be a lot more reliable than consumer IoT. Or simply be an excuse for rental extraction by “platforms”:

The Bezzle: “Falling out of love with Amazon’s Alexa” [Financial Times]. A joke:

Jeff Bezos: “Alexa, buy me something from Whole Foods.”

Alexa: “Buying Whole Foods.”

Bezos: “No, no, wait…”

But seriously: “[A]s the Bezos joke suggests, there is also a common perception that voice computing is a little bit — how can I put it generously? — rubbish. Like most artificial intelligence technology, it is intriguing and amusing but light years from being truly intelligent.” And even if it were… Anybody else remember Joe Chip’s fridge in Ubik?

Political Risk: “A trove of internal documents sheds light on the algorithms that Facebook’s censors use to differentiate between hate speech and legitimate political expression” [Pro Publica]. “While Facebook was credited during the 2010-2011 “Arab Spring” with facilitating uprisings against authoritarian regimes, the documents suggest that, at least in some instances, the company’s hate-speech rules tend to favor elites and governments over grassroots activists and racial minorities. In so doing, they serve the business interests of the global company, which relies on national governments not to block its service to their citizens…. The company recently pledged to nearly double its army of censors to 7,500, up from 4,500, in response to criticism of a video posting of a murder. Their work amounts to what may well be the most far-reaching global censorship operation in history. It is also the least accountable: Facebook does not publish the rules it uses to determine what content to allow and what to delete.” The outcome, from the headline: “Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men from Hate Speech But Not Black Children.” Not a good look for Zuck’s 2020 campaign. (I didn’t lead with the headline because as a data person the issue of overlapping sets is interesting to me, and as a data structure forms the logical basis of intersectionality.)

UPDATE The Fed: “Special Report – How the Federal Reserve serves U.S. foreign intelligence” [Reuters]. “The Federal Reserve’s little-known role housing the assets of other central banks comes with a unique benefit to the United States: It serves as a source of foreign intelligence for Washington. Senior officials from the U.S. Treasury and other government departments have turned to these otherwise confidential accounts several times a year to analyse the asset holdings of the central banks of Russia, China, Iraq, Turkey, Yemen, Libya and others, according to more than a dozen current and former senior Fed and Treasury officials. The U.S. central bank keeps a tight lid on information contained in these accounts. But according to the officials interviewed by Reuters, U.S. authorities regularly use a “need to know” confidentiality exception in the Fed’s service contracts with foreign central banks. The exception has allowed Treasury, State and Fed officials without regular access to glean information about the movement of funds in and out of the accounts, those people said. Such information has helped Washington monitor economic sanctions, fight terror financing and money laundering, or get a fuller picture of market hot spots around the world.” “Get a fuller picture of market hot spots.” What does that mean? Not that I’d ever question the integrity of our central bankers, or the perjurers, torturers, and entrapment experts who run our “intelligence community.” (I mean, hey, why do anything so crude as run drugs with Air America, if you can arbitrage advance knowledge of central banking moves. Eh?)

Five Horsemen: “Organic grocer Amazin’ leads the Charge of the Tech Wrecks after Gurgle is whacked by the EU meanies”

Five Horsemen Jun28

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 Greed (previous close: 48, Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 42 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jun 28 at 1:10pm.

Water

“Rivers Connect Us, and Salmon, and Orcas” [American Rivers]. On theCle Elum reservoir, among other sites.

Health Care

“CMS Highlights Counties With Limited Or Zero Marketplace Insurance Options” [Health Affairs]. Watch those swing counties in swing states…

Class Warfare

“Power Causes Brain Damage” [The Atlantic]. “The historian Henry Adams was being metaphorical, not medical, when he described power as ‘a sort of tumor that ends by killing the victim’s sympathies.’ But that’s not far from where Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, ended up after years of lab and field experiments. Subjects under the influence of power, he found in studies spanning two decades, acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury—becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view.” And it’s not like we don’t have examples.

UPDATE “Making Ivanka Trump shoes: Long hours, low pay and abuse” [AP]. Of course this is bad. But this story calls into the bucket of stories called “Bad Things the Political Class Notices Only When Trump Does Them.” All over Southeast Asia people are enduring “long hours, low pay, and abuse” making shoes, sewing clothes, breaking ships, working in construction, and on and on and on. But suddenly these workers are objects of tender concern, because of the person they work for. Not buying it.

UPDATE “What a New Survey from Alaska Can Teach Us about Public Support for Basic Income” [Medium]. Polling on the Alaska Permanent Fund. “The Economic Security Project and Omidyar Network will continue to unpack the data and share observations on what it means for the conversation on how to provide economic security for Americans. What about the Alaska Permanent Fund’s model creates support for universality? How does it impact financial risk-taking across different family sizes? What do the changes in support for the PFD over the last thirty years mean for building political support for unconditional cash?” Hmm.

UPDATE “Why Work?” [The Baffler]. “The first assumption I’m contending with here is that work, broadly conceived as a “metabolic exchange” with Nature, as “the everlasting Nature-imposed condition of human existence” (Marx, from Volume 1 of Capital) and thus as the trans-historical element of human nature, is the site on which human subjectivity—individuality—is conceived and constructed. In modern times, and in modern terms, it is where character and conscience get built… Not anymore. Work no longer serves these dual purposes of building character and providing income commensurate with effort. There’s not enough work to go around, and what there is has been reduced to a simulation of effort—pretend work in the cubicles and at the academic conferences—or backbreaking toil in the sweatshops, the office towers, and the offshore factories. The working world as we now experience it is an exquisite corpse, a collaboration between Charles Dickens, David Lodge, and William Gibson.” Hmm. Is the author confusing “work” with “labor”?

News of the Wired

“Structure-based control of complex networks with nonlinear dynamics” [PNAS]. If you like network theory….

“I Could Kill You with a Consumer Drone” [Defense One]. I can’t think why this hasn’t happened already. Then again, would we know?

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allegic to PayPal, and (d) 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 (PH):

PH writes: “Photo taken a couple of days ago of the first ripe wild berries growing in a
patch by the edge of our woods. They are blackcaps, or black raspberries
(Rubus occidentalis). Very tasty.”

UPDATE Now that that the 2017 Water Cooler fundraiser post is launched, I can say that directions for sending a check will include a request to send me a parallel email so I can thank you. I was not able to thank all you sent me checks this year, because I was unable to connect physical mail identities to online identities. Apologies!

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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.

144 comments

  1. todde

    It’s odd to me.

    We have ex presidents getting $400k for speaking fees and I am supposed to be concerned about who is on Putin’s payroll

    1. Cujo359

      .. and not yet presidents getting similarly large fees. I’m concerned about who is on Putin’s payroll, but I’m a lot more concerned about who is on Wall Street’s.

    2. jrs

      +1

      (oh I’m sure Trump is also in it for the money but I just don’t care WHOSE money it is)

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Everyone is for making money.

        From making a few bucks to just survive another day, to $150K/yr for running a small college so one might retire with some comfort in old age, to billions to fund one’s quest for immortality through blood transfusion, and pure water/air and organic vegan diet (all expensive), plus the muscle toning weight trainer.

    1. Altandmain

      Japan’s government debts are held almost entirely by its own people. The US could do this, although it would not work nearly as well, as there is some debt foreign held.

      https://www.thebalance.com/who-owns-the-u-s-national-debt-3306124

      The 30% of intergovernmental debt could be written off.

      A good chunk of the public debt could be written off. The problem is that there is no political will to do it in the US. Maybe if someone like Sanders won, it could happen.

      Brown has also called for an infrastructure program mirroring China’s. That could hypothetically happen, again but only with a Sanders or Sandernista President and government.

      For other nations
      It is not an option for nations like Greece though as they don’t control their own currency. The Euro is controlled by the ECB, which is why Greece has so little power. Many developing nations owe in USD, which they have no control over either.

      1. Vatch

        The 30% of intergovernmental debt could be written off.

        I assume you are referring to intragovernmental debt. How could this be accomplished? Wouldn’t this immediately limit Social Security and federal government pension payments to what is currently being collected in taxes? In other words, people’s monthly payments would be reduced. What am I missing?

      2. Detroit Dan

        The U.S. central bank can and does buy debt held by foreigners. This is no obstacle as far as I know.

        1. Altandmain

          That’s fair, provided everyone is willing to sell. OF course, a premium could always be offered to buy the foreign debt. In that case, more money would have to be created with a large enough premium.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Maybe it’s self-defense.

            Foreigners buying means they can complain about too much borrowing (not sure if it does any good).

            It’s a minor inconvenience for having the exclusive right to print the globe’s reserve currency…those evil foreigners (excuse the xenophobic slight here) just can’t stand the empire printing as much money as it wants.

            So, likely, they won’t sell all their holdings.

            Gotta to have some leverage (while people are still being diplomatic before resorting to realpolitik tactics).

    2. Jim Haygood

      Spot the weasel words from Ellen Brown’s assertion:

      ‘An interest-free debt owed to oneself that is rolled over from year to year is effectively void – a debt “jubilee.”’

      You got it: interest-free. For now, that’s correct. Japan’s 10-year government bond yields 0.05%. Shorter tenors are negative.

      https://www.bloomberg.com/markets/rates-bonds/government-bonds/japan

      History shows that inflation and interest rates are cyclical. Japan reached 23% inflation in 1974, twice as bad as the US.

      While there’s no sign of inflation today, Ellen Brown is willing to project zero inflation forever. That’s an insane bet to make, because losing it means collective doom.

      When interest rates finally do rise on Planet Japan, we will get to witness a “coercive jubilee.” Earth to Ellen:

      http://tinyurl.com/y976lpah

      1. Synoia

        Please read the history:

        History shows that inflation and interest rates are cyclical. Japan reached 23% inflation in 1974, twice as bad as the US.

        Why? An oil importing economy, with NO domestic oil fields? possibly?

        The inflation of the ’70s was cost push resulting from the tripling of the oil price in 1973. The inflation linked labor contracts were wise, but not the cause of the inflation.

        1. Jim Haygood

          So crude oil will never return to its Summer 2008 price of $147/bbl? You’d be willing to extend this chart sideways for the next 30 years?

          http://www.mrci.com/pdf/cl.pdf

          Not me, bro. Japan still has no oil. The next commodity spike could tip it over.

          1. optimader

            Before or after the asteroid strike?

            Taleb correctly asserts along the lines of predicting 6 months? maybe, predicting 1 yea?, well a good exercise, keep correcting it. Predicting 5 years? hardy har har..

        2. dandelion

          During the oil crisis, Japan (along with the Netherlands) were specifically selected by OPEC to serve as examples. They didn’t get high-priced oil from OPEC — they got NO oil at all. I was living in Germany at the time, and all of Europe was sending any excess they could to the Netherlands so the Dutch wouldn’t freeze to death that winter. That “example” was the reason Japan went so heavily into nuclear power, as did France, for the same reason.

      2. Detroit Dan

        ??? Debt owed to oneself is obviously not a problem. In the U.S. the interest on the debt paid by Treasury to the cental bank is returned to the Treasury. So it doesn’t make any difference what the interest rate is.

        1. Jim Haygood

          With $14.4 trillion of the near $20 trillion in federal debt held by the public, the interest rate matters.

          At today’s rock-bottom rates, interest expense in the federal budget is a comfy $225 billion. Should interest rates “normalize” back to 5 percent, this figure would double after a few years, adding another quarter-trillion to the deficit.

          1. Detroit Dan

            But, ridiculously, the “debt held by the public” includes the debt held by the central bank. And the central bank is a part of the government for most practical purposes, including the fact that they give the interest right back to the federal government.

            At any rate, the central bank can easily monetize (eliminate) the debt at any time as they been doing under quantitative easing, with no discernible effect.

          2. djrichard

            Rates will never normalize. The 10Y has been dropping in yield since 1982. Giving the Fed Reserve less and less room to raise their fed funds rate without inverting the yield curve.

            If we want to get to 5% and above we’d have to undo the monetary policy that Volker put in place back then.

            And even then, the interest doesn’t matter because … you want to know what the holders of US debt (outside of the Fed Reserve) are doing with the interest they earn? They buy more US debt with it. If they had something better to do with the money, they wouldn’t be buying US treasuries in the first place, as that’s the yield of last resort. It’s a time capsule to swap currency with the US Gov for a period so that they don’t lose out on inflation.

      3. Oregoncharles

        It doesn’t happen often, but you missed something important, Jim: she’s referring to the fact that the Fed returns the interest the Treasury “pays” to it, so as long as the Fed holds them, the bonds are “interest free.” As several people pointed out, but I wanted to put a point on it.

    3. JohnnyGL

      It’s basically an accounting trick. Swapping an asset of zero maturity (money) for one with a longer term maturity (bonds). Lots of “Serious People” will tie themselves in knots fretting about it, but it doesn’t do much. Quantitative Easing involved buying up lots of Federal Debt and did little more than juice the capital markets, at most. It had little effect on the real economy (small mortgage refi boom).

      This is the point that MMT folks are making. Creating/destroying money does little for inflation. Creating/destroying demand for real resources DOES impact inflation.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Maybe that how the spy agencies have been funded – borrowing from the Energy dept and the FDA.

        “Let’s cancel those debts. We’re on the same side.”

    4. John k

      Fed bought 4T securities, mostly treasuries. For years buying more than treasury issued to fund deficit. Some of this was the 1T treasuries china sold to fund their capital flight… so much for fears china might dump treasuries. They did!

      So treasury pays interest to fed, who gives it back to treasury.
      Could just as easily shred the securities, as treasury does when people pay taxes with cash. (Or, let the digits continue shifting from treasury to fed and back again. What’s the diff?)
      So that’s maybe 3T of national debt gone. Still too much? Do it again.
      Rich people and china that sold their treasuries were just getting back the cash they previously spent buying the treasuries, which they then used to bid up assets, bringing housing back to prev peak and equities to new peak, as fed wished, and keeping rich happy, also as fed wished.
      Problem is not fed debt, it’s household debt, robust growth of which has maintained the paltry 2% GDP growth. And growth of household debt already down over a third since mid 2016, and falling… very ominous.

      1. djrichard

        Some of this was the 1T treasuries china sold to fund their capital flight… so much for fears china might dump treasuries. They did!

        LoL, interesting. I guess there was a confluence of interests. The PBoC wanting to unwind the printing of yuan (their own QE) to keep the yuan from weakening in the face of capital flight. Capital flight in the first place, which is a bet against how long the PBoC can keep that up. And then the US Fed Reserve getting in on that action to bid up the price of bonds.

        Used to be, the Fed Gov needed the foreign central banks to recycle the US dollars they hoovered up from their exporters back to the US so that the US economy wouldn’t be starved of US currency. So we send them our US treasuries in exchange and let them hoard that instead. I suppose if the foreign central banks end up hoarding US currency again, that it doesn’t matter to the US as those dollars are now coming off the printing press from the Fed Reserve. And it doesn’t matter to the foreign central banks as they’ve already printed the local currency to buy those US dollars from their exporters in the first place – those horses have already left the barn.

        So treasury pays interest to fed, who gives it back to treasury.

        Yes, but what happens when the bond matures? Does the Fed Reserve similarly hand that payout back to the Fed Gov? I don’t think it does. I think the Fed Reserve uses that payout to reduce its balance sheet (i.e. to extinguish the printing it did in the first place to buy the bond).

        Rich people and china that sold their treasuries were just getting back the cash they previously spent buying the treasuries, which they then used to bid up assets, bringing housing back to prev peak and equities to new peak, as fed wished, and keeping rich happy, also as fed wished.

        My only quibble would be that I think all Fed Reserve thinking devolves and pivots around one thing: is there demand for their liquidity pump? If not, then there’s deflation. Then it doesn’t matter who they make happy – they’ll do whatever it takes to prevent deflation. And if that means screwing over the 99%, so be it. And if that means risking the election of a Caesar, so be it.

        Nothing personal (it’s just bidness), but they knew the 99% didn’t have any more debt capacity. The only player left at the table to take on more debt was the 1%.

        Problem is not fed debt, it’s household debt, robust growth of which has maintained the paltry 2% GDP growth. And growth of household debt already down over a third since mid 2016, and falling… very ominous.

        Bingo. Until we rehabilitate some of the 99% to be players again, our economy is going to languish forever more. This is not a good outcome. But it’s the outcome that Japan seems willing to embrace. Japan didn’t want the bad debt to default. Hence where they are today.

        And it’s an outcome that US seems willing to embrace as well. That’s why I voted for the fly in the ointment, the Trump that would be Caesar.

      1. Jim Haygood

        No need to make stuff up. The Fed owns $2.46 trillion of Treasury securities (call it 12.5% of $20T) and $1.78 trillion of mortgage-backed securities.

        https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h41/current/

        Though guaranteed by federal agencies, the MBS does not count as federal debt, since the borrowers (homeowners) are responsible for repaying it and will be foreclosed if they don’t.

        1. Detroit Dan

          Sorry, the $10T includes the intragovernmental debt — another form of money that the government owes itself (the $10T includes $4T+ held by central bank and $5T+ held by other Fed govt agencies)

    5. Benedict@Large

      Actually, if you do the accounting entries correctly (i.e., for a fiat currency), you’ll see that when the U.S. (or any fiat issuer) borrows in its own currency, it is borrowing its own debt, which is nonsensical. The net increase in liability for such borrowing, no matter the amount, is zero.

      1. Jim Haygood

        Currency is a liability, but a non-interest bearing one. Currency and debt both being liabilities does not make them identical. Equity and debt are both listed on the liability side of the balance sheet, but they aren’t identical either.

        Moreover, $1.55 trillion of currency in circulation is small vs nearly $20 trillion in debt. Even if this currency could be redeemed for the debt which “backs” it [it can’t], nearly $18.5 trillion of debt would remain outstanding.

    6. Inquiring Mind

      It’s starting from the premise that the issuance of the “debt” raised funds which are “owed”.

      In accounting terms, the Gov bonds are an exchange of funds from a cash instrument to an interest-bearing instrument. No (substantial) value is created in the exchange, thus nothing is technically owed over and above what already existed. The balance sheet stays balanced.

      (Same way that you are no richer, and certainly not more likely to spend money by transferring $1000 from your checking account to your savings account).

      Retiring the bonds wont cause inflation and is slightly dis-inflationary to the economy as a whole because it removes the interest income stream from the private sector.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        What if your daughter depends on the checking account, as does the insurance company with auto payment, while the son uses the savings account or plans to use that money in the future so the savings account has been converted to certificates of deposit?

        Then, moving money around from one to another account can have liquidity problems.

        And Uncle Guardian Sam comes along and says to the son and daughter, ‘There is more money in the thin-air safety box. I will spend it and let it trickle down to you. How about $10 for you to shine my shoes and another $20 to flip some burgers?’

        And the son and the daughter reply: We are the owners. Not you, uncle Sam.

    7. djrichard

      I don’t see how this works the same way in the US. When bonds held by the Fed Reserve mature, the US Fed Gov pays out the coupon value. So far so good. But the Fed Reserve doesn’t return that payout back to the US Fed Gov. Rather, the Fed Reserve will use the payout to reduce it’s balance sheet.

      Unless of course, the idea is for the Fed Reserve not to reduce its balance sheet and instead keep increasing it so that the US Fed Gov can reduce its balance sheet. [Is that how this hangs together in Japan? Seems like hiding the salami. Not that that’s a bad thing, but let’s simply be honest about the National debt – that it’s not an issue. Rather than go through the gymnastics of leveraging the central banks balance sheet.]

      Even if that is the idea, I believe the Fed Reserve has a vested interest in reducing its balance sheet, as that is used as part of the determination in what goes into the 6% profit it keeps and distributes to its member banks. Basically, the 6% is based on surplus after COGS is subtracted out, and COGS in the case of the Fed Reserve is the monetary value of the currency they printed.

      1. djrichard

        P.S. if you want to reduce the deficit, you need to get the US Fed Gov itself into the currency printing business. And until the Fed Gov is willing to experiment with greenbacks again, about the only other option that has surfaced has been the platinum coin. As was explained during the debates over the platinum coin, the Fed Gov could simply keep coining them and sending them over to the Fed Reserve to retire debt held by the Fed Reserve. Have to think the Fed Reserve would not be happy campers holding a dead asset like that. Lol, “let them eat platinum coins”. Would serve the bastards right.

        There might be some interesting things that happen if the Fed Gov nationalized the Fed Reserve. But England’s done that and so far it doesn’t seem that it’s really changed anything. The opportunity that England really missed out on was simply retiring their central bank and the factional reserve system that it supports, so that all banks would revert to S&Ls. In which case, the Fed Gov of England would be the issuer of their “silverbacks”. Note, but even with that, the function of the Fed Gov in recycling of surplus in the economy (from the winners back to the losers) doesn’t really change. It’s still a function of three things: Fed Gov spending, taxes by the Fed Gov and bond issuance by the Fed Gov. Which is another clue that the federal debt doesn’t matter.

    8. Oregoncharles

      I think it was Rand Paul that proposed the Fed solve the debt-limit problem by “burning the bonds” – simply destroying the federal debt instruments it’s holding. Unless the Fed sells them, those are effectively cancelled already, since the Fed simply returns the interest payments (so why the silly exercise?)

      it may not be 40%, but it’s enough to have a major impact.

      Incidentally, Japan seems to have flat disproved a large portion of monetary theory; the same thing’s been happening here.

  2. marym

    Re: human chain protest

    Here’s the event link.

    Not just Neera, but sponsors are OFA, Moveon, Planned Parenthood, etc.

    Quick look at moveon and ppact recent tweets, didn’t see anything specific to this.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        The tweet is from Planned Parenthood, which opposes single payer. Even if the signs were there, it’s unlikely PP would present photograph that shows them.

        1. Vatch

          That’s an oversimplification. Planned Parenthood (and NARAL) would support a single payer system that would allow payments for abortions along with other medical procedures. But many states and the federal government have laws or regulations that prohibit the use of government funds to pay for abortions.

          1. Pat

            Not really. See that means ignoring how hard they are fighting for ACA which kept the Hyde Amendment rules in place. IOW, no abortion except in the case of rape, incest or a pregnancy that threatens the life of the woman. Are you trying to say that the California single payer plan was more restrictive than that?

            And we know that PP came out against it.

            There comes a point where you have to recognize that actions do speak louder than words.

            1. marym

              What Pro-Life Democrats Want from the DNC
              “Democrats for Life of America is asking the Democratic National Committee to alter its pro-choice party platform and make clear it supports candidates who oppose abortion.

              Democrats for Life of America delivered a list of requests to Perez that the group wants the DNC to fulfill in order to reach out to, and welcome, more pro-life Democrats into the party, according to Day.

              A copy of the list shared with The Atlantic calls for “a public statement on the Democratic National Committee website and a letter from the chairman to all state and local party chairs explaining that the party does not support an abortion litmus test and pressuring people to change their position on life” as one in a series of actions the pro-life group wants to see from the DNC.

              The group also wants the party to drop the section of its platform opposing the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding of abortion in most circumstances.”

              Sigh. Add to reasons why the Dem establishment would rather “save” the ACA than consider what real universal healthcare would be.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                The question about abortion and fetus I have is this – A fetus is not person. But what is it? We don’t feed a discarded fetus to dogs, do we? It seems to demand some dignity.

              2. Jeremy Grimm

                “Pro-Life Democrats”!? I guess the Democratic Party really is a big tent.
                Do these Pro-Life Democrats have large amounts of money to drop into DNC coffers and Pro-Life PACs? Well given what the Democratic Party stands for I guess they will be most influential.

                Does it matter what the DNC stands for? The Democrats and Republicans should be pressed by their constituencies to dump ObamaCare and dump the Republican Don’t-Care program and pass a viable single payer program. It should be made a matter that will decide the future survival of all Representatives and Senators of all parties.

        2. Benedict@Large

          Why is Planned Parenthood against single payer? What difference could it make to them?

          Or is this just another instance of the ass kissing they’ve been getting into lately? Because if that’s it, they’re off my Christmas card list.

          1. Pat

            http://progressivearmy.com/2017/06/25/planned-parenthood-supports-shelving-single-payer/

            Not an answer to your question, but just to prove that they are somewhat consistent.

            My opinion, their board and directors can’t afford single payer – literally. Single payer either makes them redundant, or it makes them strictly an abortion provider. And those running the overall organization of Planned Parenthood are very well paid. As I said recently, I’m sure there are a whole lot employees and volunteers who would love to see single payer happen, but they also aren’t likely to be getting anywhere from almost $400,000 to near a million for working in the clinics, unlike the directors who are either media personnel or fund raisers.

            1. jrs

              yep redundant or if for some reason single payer didn’t cover abortion (in order to get it passed pretty much) then only an abortion provider.

              If single payer didn’t even include *birth control* including IUD insertion, birth control implantation, sterilization both male and female when desired, well that would be a pretty piss poor single payer bill, so I’d have to assume any single payer bill worth anything would. So what would PP do with birth control and basic health check ups taken care of?

              1. Biph

                Couldn’t they just take patients and bill the govt like any other clinic, doctor or hospital does under any other single payer system?

                1. Jeremy Grimm

                  Couldn’t the abortion rights hot potato just wait by the side for consideration. Single payer is hard enough.

                  1. Jean

                    That’s a political approach, Jeremy. Dems have conceded much ground this way.

                    What is practical (for the people/electorate/citizens), if and when outlined, may have the power to overcome the political.

                    Also, where has the slippery slope ever gotten us?

                    1. Pat

                      If it wasn’t clear that Planned Parenthood was just fine with the slippery slope from their endorsement of the candidate who would consider further restrictions on abortion versus the candidate who said no, then this conversation would not have started. They not only wouldn’t support single payer they wouldn’t support ACA.

                      I have been called unrealistic because I noticed bull like that. And every friggin lie and bad excuse about the passage of ACA and most of the rest of the neoliberal garbage done by the Democrats in the last nine years. And believe it or not I get what fuels your position. But throwing out the versions of single payer in Colorado and California for abortion is cutting the nose off to spite your face. And it is exactly what corporate neoliberal political asses want. It means neither side gets what they need and the struggle remains unfocused.

                      And frankly pro-choice forces are wrong to narrow this to a healthcare issue. It is more a civil rights issue and even more a religious freedom issue. But start fighting it that way and both “parties” might lose a wedge issue they don’t give a dang about.

                  2. Biph

                    Sorry maybe I wasn’t clear I was talking about PP’s ability to provide a range healthcare services for women just as they do now. They would seem to have something of a competitive advantage on range of women’s health issues under a single payer system.

            2. Oregoncharles

              Aren’t they running clinics? Under single payer, woudn’t they then get paid for all the services OTHER Than abortion (dropping the Hyde Amendment would help, of course>)
              This makes less sense all the time.

        3. phaedras

          Yeah, it’s really confusing that Naked Capitalism which seems to have so much nuance is so black on white on single payer. Either you underestimate the importance and ferocity of the abortion debate or you don’t care what happens to women if the right isn’t protected. PP making difficult decisions in an intensely hostile environment should not relegate them to corrupt colluders on this site.

          1. justanotherprogressive

            “the ferocity of the abortion debate”……..
            That “ferocity” seems to exist in the minds of the few that think that it is the ONLY issue in the world……

            The number of abortions is going down every year……and quite frankly, abortions aren’t on my list of the most important issue in my life, but healthcare is pretty high up there…..

            If single payer outlaws funds for abortions, PP can still exist for that purpose – it’s just that will be its only purpose. And apparently THAT doesn’t please PP’s board……

            Sorry, but the issue IS black and white for me: Should we give up all the benefits of single payer plan because PP board members stand to lose money? NOPE!

          2. Jeremy Grimm

            The abortion “debate” hardly deserves that designation. A debate requires some level of reason and restraint in the discourse and I recall no such discourse and nothing which might qualify as a debate. As a male, the hard lines of both sides repulse me. On one side women receive no rights and on the other they receive unrestrained rights. What of the rights of a woman’s parents and male partners to at least participate in — at very least be aware of — a decision which will affect them all? This issue is deadly poisonous.

            As for single payer and the place of abortion in that issue — I don’t see how or why anyone would drag the bitter pill of abortion into that arena unless they were intent on crashing single payer. So go take care of your children.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Discounted future earnings to the present value.

              A concept I first encountered in accounting.

              And the other one I picked up elsewhere – potential and one’s future. You can rob someone of his or her future. That is, taking away something that doesn’t exist at the present time, but likely will in the future.

              That is, something can be tangible, capable of being robbed, without fully existing in its complete form.

              Can we rob a fetus of its future (as a person)? Can we discount that future to its present value?

              1. Jeremy Grimm

                Please do not bring Neoliberal style Market talk into the abortion “debate”. There are values other than the value of money — present or in the future.

                1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                  Talking about a fetus’s future is neoliberal market talk?

                  Its future as a person.

                  Not its future as a wage earner.

                  A person is not a wage earner, or more than just a wage earner.

                  1. Jeremy Grimm

                    A person is a Producer-Consumer? — borrowing from “the Telling” by LeGuin. Unless you place values within a monetary framework I don’t understand how you could make use of the concept of discounting any sort of future — to a present value.

                    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                      A person is more than a producer-consumer.

                      As for value, it’s not just monetary value; it can be life-value, human-experience-value, etc. And with a little indulgence, I ask the readers to imagine that that value to be given a recognition at present.

                      Can we say to ‘have robbed a fetus of its future’ the way we say someone has robbed another living person of his/her future?

              2. dandelion

                Well, we don’t demand someone donate a kidney to ensure the future of a person, one who’s even already living and therefore not simply “potential.” Because living people have a right not to take that risk. Pregnancy, labor, and delivery irrevocably change a woman’s body, often for the worse, health-wise. And women do still die of pregancy-related complications and/or during labor and delivery.

                I find it very hard to argue that someone else should determine, or have any say at all about, just what a woman will and will not risk her life and health for.

                I also find it curious that in these abstract discussions of the potential of the fetus, the word “woman” doesn’t even come into play. When she, the fact of her life and her body, is the first cause — without her, there is no fetus. Yet somehow the argument skips right over her, as if the fetus is in a jar.

                Come down out of the clouds and into the realm of blood, vomit, incontinence, hemorrhoids, vitamin deficiency, calcium loss, flattened feet, hip injury, back injury, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, thrombosis, abruption, episiotomy, vaginal tearing, c-sections, hemorrhage — and then, with that context, talk about just what the fetus is, in the interior of a woman’s real, mortal body.

                1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                  A fetus’s future.

                  And the woman’s future.

                  And their future (together, if there is to be one).

                  They should all be on the table…one at a time, when it is time, and all together, when it’s so.

                  I figure a fetus is not a person, no one ever talks about its future.

                  Maybe it’s the first time (to me) that we talk of a fetus’s future.

                  And it’s not ignoring the woman.

                  One time asking a question is not ignoring other considerations.

            2. WobblyTelomeres

              If single-payer supports birth control access, no questions asked morning-after-pill access, IUDs, and sterilization (tubal ligation/vasectomy), then I’m all for it.

              As I told some right-wing acquaintances, if it is just about money, then the smart play is to hand out free birth control on every street corner. If it is just about abortion, then the smart play is STILL to hand out free birth control on every street corner.

              1. Jeremy Grimm

                I believe we are in agreement — for the most part. However — I believe whether single-payer supports or does not support birth control access or morning-after-pill access, IUDs, or sterilization (tubal ligation/vasectomy) or any other of a range of related medical/ethical issues — should NOT be dragged into the single-payer issue.

                1. WobblyTelomeres

                  That is where we disagree. The price paid by HALF OF OUR POPULATION by not having access to birth control is evident to anyone. The surest way to keep women in poverty is to remove control over their own bodies. The surest way to help women out of poverty is to give them control over their own bodies.

                  Half of our population.

                  What don’t you understand about that?

                  I escorted at an abortion clinic for over two years. Carried a concealed firearm. Walked rape victims past walls of screaming lunatics who accused them of murder, of killing babeez, of knowingly choosing to burn in hell for eternity. Sigh. Some talk the talk. Some walk the walk. Deal with it.

                  It is wrong. Simply wrong to refuse this. To force (forced birthers) a young woman, a rape victim, to carry her rapists’ baby to term is not something I would force on anyone. Certainly not on my daughter. Or yours.

                  My opinion, I know that.

                  1. phaedras

                    This. The willingness to dismiss critical medical realities of half the population within a society where the handmaids tail is frighteningly resonant is the fundamental reason why your “logical, reasonable, practical” analysis is bullshit. I also can get cancer, heart disease, lyme etc and want it covered, but a significant and powerful component of our society wants to treat women’s health insurance like car warranties. Boys get bumper to bumper while women, intersex and trans people get catastrophe only. I am a whole human and single payer is supposed to mean whole health insurance: body, mind, teeth and vision. Acknowledging that abortion could sink single payer should make that obvious.

                    1. JTMcPhee

                      Sorry, I have to tee off on what might be just a slip of the keyboard by you, phaedras, but it is not, repeat with loud emphasis, NOT INSURANCE, goddamit! It’s HEALTH CARE! Everyone included, for all purposes.

                      If “we” could ever wrap “our” heads around unity of purpose and people at all, it should be around this item.

                      But no, it’s a strange-attractor power issue, and the few with axes and curettes to grind will always tap into it, in service whether consciously or not to the Few who are looting and raping the rest of us. And laughing at how easily the Bernays sauce can be ladled over the cooked geese…

                      “We” are mean enough to want to protect the “right” to sublet “our” apartments to whoever “we” want, because markets and property. “We” like to have lots of interest and “return” (profit, not repayment) on all our “investments,” a rentier deal if ever there was one.
                      “We” or a whole lot of “us” think taxes fund national government operations, and tax cuts are good ideas for “Us.” Way too many of “us” sort of, or more strongly, believe and accept that maybe Putin is behind all ills, and that bombing brown wogs increases “security,” and it’s ok that “defence” is a jobs program and death watch for the culture.

                      Stupid effing humans.

                  2. justanotherprogressive

                    Don’t bring abortion into the single payer argument. It is a dangerous and emotional strawman designed to thwart the interests of most people in this country!

                    In 2014 there were about 1 million abortions performed in this country according to the latest numbers I could find online. Seems to me that there are more than 1 Million women in this country…..

                    Are you really willing to give up the chance of providing adequate healthcare to the 320 Million people in this country for less than 1% of the population that might have to pay for their own abortions? While I would prefer that whatever single payer plan we come up with pay for abortions also, because it is a necessary medical treatment, I am not in any way shape or form willing to hang up single payer healthcare on this issue and I am beginning to deeply resent those people who are!!!

                    1. justanotherprogressive

                      Sometimes we have to look at the big picture and let our “pet issues” go for another time…….

                    2. Jen

                      And comprehensive access to contraception under medicare for all would greatly reduce the need for abortions.

                    3. relstprof

                      The idea that abortion is simply a secondary issue is wildly ahistorical. Were you around in 2009?

                      This issue can’t be ignored until after. It has to be part of the discussion. You’re living in fantasy if you think our politics can ignore it and still pass single-payer.

                      Access to birth control and abortion will have to be decided as part of the whole single-payer politics.

                      Best to start arguments for birth control/abortion access/etc rather than arguments against.

                      That way SCOTUS will have to deal with challenges afterwards. This is a matter of political pragmatics.

          3. flora

            Don’t conflate MedicareforAll with a single, hot-button, medical procedure. It’s a distraction. The abortion question rages whether the conditions are private health insurance, Obama care, Medicaid, or Medicare For All.

            Currently, Medicaid must cover birth control. The Hyde amendment [1] is the current controlling legislation for govt programs in termination services. Most states comply with federal guidelines, but not all.

            Should middle-aged men experiencing heart attacks be denied Medicare for All because of the Hyde amendment? Should young expectant mothers be denied Medicare for All because of the Hyde amendment? Should children with high fevers or broken bones be denied Medicare for All because of the Hyde amendment? Would your say the Hyde amendment is overly lax in its exceptions?

            [1} the Hyde Amendment, which currently forbids the use of federal funds for abortions except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest, has guided public funding for abortions under the joint federal-state Medicaid programs for low-income women.

            1. flora

              Adding: I’d hope that PP would welcome MedicareForAll. Heart attacks, high fevers, broken bones, those aren’t PP’s usual bailiwick.

              (and I’m in a state where termination providers have been murdered. so don’t start.)

            2. marym

              The abortion question rages whether the conditions are private health insurance, Obama care, Medicaid, or Medicare For All.

              Agreed, adding that anti-abortion people don’t just want not to pay for it, they want it to be illegal.

              As a pro-choice person, I’m reluctant to give any ground.

              If all other aspects of reproductive care, and abortion within the Hyde limits, were covered by a publicly funded universal healthcare system, and anti-abortion people accepted abortion as legal and private, that would give support to an argument for leaving further abortion funding to private individuals or supporting organizations.

              However as long as the assault on the legality of abortion itself, assorted regulations designed to close clinics or shame women, harassment at clinics, and violence continue, opposition to public funding seems like just another mechanism to control women, particularly economically vulnerable women.

              If identity-politics Democrats, or Planned Parenthood want to broaden their support base, they ought to be able to articulate this better than I have, and to make some demands of their “pro-life” recruits, rather than sacrifice single payer advocacy.

                1. flora

                  Well, yes, this is funny, reading the lengths Shkreli’s defense attorney is going to in order to create a “pity defense.”

                  However, your opening tag, I do hope you aren’t implying that Shkreli’s mom, by carrying him to term, is somehow responsible for his actions . Well, no, I know your not really implying that. But the opening tag could leave that impression.

  3. Vatch

    Concentration: “It took just 81 days for this chip maker to die after Apple dropped it” [Quartz]. Pour encourager les autres…

    A few years ago I learned the words “oligopsony” and “monopsony” from Naked Capitalism. They’re related to, yet different from, their companion words “oligopoly” and “monopoly”.

  4. Jess

    Don’t know if it was already posted in Links but the Venezuela Supreme Court building was attacked by grenades thrown from a police helicopter and there was some kind of announcement by a renegade military type that seemed to suggest a coup?

    Anyone more up on this?

      1. Oregoncharles

        Latest report is that many suspect it was just theater – might depend on which side you’re on.

        As an attempted coup, it was nonsense. One person with megalomania? Just a protest? Hard to tell yet.

  5. Altandmain

    Why the Democrats won’t wake up:
    https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/06/27/why-democrats-wont-wake

    It Makes Absolutely No Sense for Assad to Launch a Chemical Attack Inside Syria
    https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/06/it-makes-absolutely-no-sense-for-assad-to-launch-a.html

    Who Stopped California’s Single-Payer Plan?
    https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/06/who-stopped-californias-single-payer-plan.html

    5 Things That Democrats Do Constantly, Yet Accuse Others Of Doing
    https://medium.com/@caityjohnstone/5-things-that-democrats-do-constantly-yet-accuse-others-of-doing-69899ab32cd8

    1. Byron the Light Bulb

      Yes, I too hit up the indie music press when I needed the geo-political low down on Assad being seen in the light of day for the first time in months on the tarmac of a Russian air base in Latakia yesterday. A little disappointed that Paste Mag didn’t get to ask Brother Bashar, as a Londoner, what he thought of the 20th anniversary of OK Computer’s release. It’s not like Assad has zero control over his own safety in Syria and cannot travel without a Spetznaz regiment. Assad is the Morrissey of the ME and Syria is the rest of the Smiths. They just aren’t going to get back together.

      1. Katsue

        Assad has actually made quite a few public appearances this past month, and no bodyguards in sight. Which doesn’t mean he didn’t have them around behind the camera, but a motivated individual could easily have killed or seriously injured him at several of those events.

  6. none

    Another joke: Bezos spent almost as much on Whole Foods as I did last time I was there. (Not mine, heard it at work).

  7. hreik

    Black raspberries are incredibly delicious. They also make an outstanding jam. And pie, w a very VERY thin layer of mix of cream cheese and raspberry on the bottom crust, then the filling then a lattice crust atop.

    1. JohnnyGL

      They’re tasty. I was finally getting a good crop this year and my wife made me sell the house! I should have put a contingency that gave me the right to all of this season’s raspberries produced on the property! :)

      1. Randy

        Wild berries compared to tame berries are like fresh picked garden vegetables compared to the crap veggies purchased on the “reduced for quick sale” shelf in the store. Wild berries will put your taste buds into ecstasy while tame berries are just meh in comparison.

        You have to really work for usable quantities of wild berries though. They don’t just drop into your pail and go from there on to your pantry shelf or freezer. Last summer my wife promised to go pick wild blackberries this summer, I will remind her of that promise.

        1. hreik

          Completely agree. Nugget like bursts of intense flavor. The wild blackberries can be very seedy, just an fyi. They are lovely tho.

  8. DJG

    Hmm. Is the author confusing “work” with “labor”?

    Hannah Arendt 101: Sure seems to have confused labor for work. The distinction is explained in The Human Condition. Work and wealth do indeed make us human. So: Why work? Maybe it is necessity (and ask the Greek philosophers about Ananke).

    1. jrs

      well labor performed for money may in many cases prevent work (as in caretaking – so throw the kids in daycare and the parents in an old folks home while one goes to a job however pointless. As well as other socially beneficial work), if I’m using these terms right in this context.

      So wage labor is often the enemy of work, but that is really nothing new

            1. WobblyTelomeres

              ^^^^ took the blue pill

              “You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”―Morpheus to Neo

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                Perhaps it’s better to say ‘fruit of one’s work?’ for those who want to avoid pills?

    2. jrs

      “Once upon a time in America … [] if you worked hard, you could earn your way and make something of yourself. In this sense, a market in labor both produced character and distributed income it developed the individual’s moral capacities and allocated economic resources, imperfectly but transparently.”

      Good it started with “once upon a time” because this sounds like quite the fairy tale. I can’t imagine it being possible without free land. But also people in America have always done corrupt things for money, you can call it “work” as it is after all “business” but nevertheless.

  9. DJG

    “Chair of Heartland Engagement.” And it seems that this term was not invented by Monty Pythons Flying Circus.

    Here in the Great Lakes States, “Heartland” is a term that applies only to Indiana, because the Hoosiers likely patented it. And within Indiana, it applies to areas like Columbus, which brought us Mike Pence. Indiana north of West Lafayette is not Heartland.

    So “Heartland” has all of the accuracy of “white working class,” “the war on terror,” or “Latino,” for that matter.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I am sure that the phrase that they are looking for is: “And may the odds be ever in your favor!”

    2. meeps

      “Director of Heartland Engagement.”

      What a Pinterest-perfect engagement announcement! The Democrat Party wants everyone to know the wedding is officially on! Please save the date! <3

      The Heartland Institute:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Heartland_Institute

      The Democrats won’t lose one more race running Republican candidates, courting moderate suburban Republican voters, thank you very much. If only they’d seen the light sooner and run as Libertarians. Whew! They won’t be making the same mistake twice! ;)

  10. WheresOurTeddy

    “Power Causes Brain Damage” [The Atlantic].

    Let’s do a thought experiment: How many instances from history come to mind that *don’t* completely support the hypothesis?

    Because I’d file this one under “well, obviously”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      “I will sacrifice my brain health absolutely to gain absolute power. You people should be more grateful.”

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      Does exercise of Power cause brain damage … or does it’s exercise select for certain kinds of people?

  11. Cujo359

    “‘The CBO changed the narrative in a bad way,’ a top GOP lobbyist told me. ‘It looks as if we will be sliding Obamacare back to the Democrats — which is what Trump wanted from Day One.’ What he meant was: If Republicans give up and leave Obamacare in place, they can try to blame Democrats for any problems that ensue. As the president tweeted on Monday: ‘Perhaps just let OCare crash & burn!’

    I’m never impressed with Democrats when they call doing nothing about a problem smart strategy. Are conservatives any more likely to be impressed by this GOP strategy? Blaming others for a problem you had an opportunity to fix and didn’t isn’t a good look for most people, particularly when so many of us are affected by the problem in one way or another.

    1. Ian

      what part of this Bill is about fixing healthcare, except in a conjob way? Obamacare collapses and the Single Payer becomes much harder to stop as the Dems will own it. For the sake of the established interests in Big Pharm, Big Insurance and other parasitic creatures it is needed for the GOP to take one for the team to extend this monstrosity.

      1. Mark P.

        In realpolitik terms you’re right. The problem for the established interests here is that some number of the Reps — more so than the Dims — sincerely believe their ridiculous blather about the wonder-working powers of the free market in the healthcare context.

        1. Cujo359

          Right, and whether the GOP’s politicians really believe in free markets, their voters do. The GOP has sold them on the idea that if they were just in charge, they’d fix health care by letting markets roam free. They’re in charge now, and I don’t think accomplishing nothing and continuing to blame the other party is going to sit well with those folks. It seldom sits well with me when the Democrats try it.

          Of course, in the reality most of us find ourselves in, that Repubblican prescription will do as much good for health care as leeching does for a hemophiliac. But true believers never let doubts get in the way of a good story, do they?

      2. Cujo359

        How health care is paid for affects how much access people have to it. If you can’t get the health care you need, then fixing the health care system doesn’t do you a damn bit of good. So, while their proposed solution is nuts, Republicans are not wrong to say that fixing how we pay for care is an important part of providing it.

        1. Jen

          True. Unfortunately, as with neoliberals, they are neither interested in paying for care, nor providing it. Personal responsibility/Because markets. Same argument. Same result: go die.

  12. Jeff N

    Boss Jim Gettys: You’re the greatest fool I’ve ever known, Kane. If it was anybody else, I’d say what’s going to happen to you would be a lesson to you. Only you’re going to need more than one lesson. And you’re going to get more than one lesson.

  13. PKMKII

    Just so we know who we’re dealing with, Bustos favored permanently extending the Bush tax cuts, is a member of “post-partisan” political group, and wants to balance the federal budget. But hey, first woman to represent her district, that’s auto-progressive points, right?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      If she wants to balance it by taking money from the F-35 program, and change the tax cuts so only those in the 99% pay less, we should be all for it.

      But some really smart people have learned to give balance budget a bad name by dressing the Pentagon in HUD’s clothing.

      “Let the government spend what it deems is wise!!!”

  14. Cujo359

    Lovely image of the day at Space.com today. I love photos of nebulas, and this is a particularly good one of the Iris Nebula. Enable javascript for the space.com domain (if you’re using NoScript) and then go to June 28 (if it’s not what appears at first). The only direct link I have is to the image file itself, and I’m not sure how the publisher feels about such things.

  15. Cujo359

    re: “The internet of things: industry’s digital revolution”, I can’t read FT articles, but it would be irresponsible not to speculate..

    I can’t wait until machines like this are accessible via the Internet. What could possibly go wrong?

    1. duck1

      Their stellar reputation in the metal fab universe resulted from the unique advanced design of the Steely Dan.

  16. Z

    Why would the republicans want to truly change a healthcare bill whose structure can be traced to the Heritage Foundation? The entities that fund the Heritage Foundation also fund the republican party. It is predictable … and has been predicted by some … that the republicans would make a token “effort” to change the bill in an attempt to assuage their voters, but that it would never pass, by design.

    The republicans got their Kabuki too, it’s just that their voters aren’t as rapt by it as the demo-zombies are.

    Z

    1. justanotherprogressive

      Perhaps because that healthcare structure (Romneycare) was created in 2006 before Tea Party times when Republicans still had the tiniest bit of empathy for their fellow man? A lot has changed since then…..

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The GOP had no empathy prior to 2006. They had no empathy in 1984.

        The GOP motivation is simple. They promised everyday to repeal Obamacare, never expecting to win the Kerry states plus Ohio and a mix of a few other states in Presidential elections. Since Obama was a hard right Republican for the most part, there isn’t much for the GOP the do now that they control all the branches.

        I recommend the famed Mittens 47% video, the whole thing. Mittens is taking questions from brain dead donors who know nothing about the state of the U.S. or politics. The Republicans who aren’t as stupid as those donors are under those same donors thumbs.

  17. ewmayer

    U.S. top court takes up fight over ancient Persian artifacts | Reuters

    So, if the court allows the suit to proceed, victims of the 1997 Hamas bombing – in which 5 died – *can* sue Iran, but victims of /11 – in which thousands died – *cannot* sue Saudi Arabia – gotcha. And looking to seize cultural treasures … yowsers. How about we apply the same logic and disproportionate compensation demands to the thousands who died in the most recent Israeli ‘lawn-mowing’ in Gaza?

  18. ewmayer

    Democrats in the Dead Zone | Counterpunch

    “The long-held view from the DNC suites is that it’s fine to lose as long as you lose profitably.”
    And
    “Amid the endless ironies of the heath care saga, let us never forget that ObamaCare originated out the rightwing Heritage Foundation and the savage caps on Medicaid slated in the GOP version of its TrumpCare bill were originally proposed in 1997 by Bill Clinton and greeted with wild acclaim on the editorial pages of the New York Times.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      That makes Bill look like one of the few charmed ones with the ‘it’ factor.

      “When he does it, however many times others have done it just as well, you’re compelled to applaud and admire its majesty. What a magnetic person!”

      And there are still many people alive today who voted for him twice…fooling, sorry, mesmerizing many people many times and many years.

  19. robnume

    Clearly the Democratic Party is a, in the words of the B52’s, “Party Out of Bounds.” “What can you do to save a party: Parcheesi, Charades, a spur of the moment Scavenger Hunt or Queen of the Nile?”

  20. Jeremy Grimm

    RE: “Structure-based control of complex networks …”: I couldn’t get much from the abstract but reading into what was there it seemed to relate network structures to controllability theory. I am surprised that such insights — if I am correct in my conjecture of what the paper covers — should receive notice in PNAS.

  21. Jeremy Grimm

    RE: “I could kill you with a consumer drone”: This little article should receive far more notice than it seems to have received. A drone is a perfect device for sabotage. Forget about killing. Drone air vehicles could take out that little dish on top of most retail outlets that clear credit card purchases. A drone mouse could drive a needle into a fat cable inside a firm — and break off the end before hiding. A mouse like that could disable an air-craft carrier and send it back for months of repairs. It could shut-down an airport … or a particular person’s car.

    Much of the hi-tech we buy with DARPA money builds two-edged swords and daggers. The only wonder is that no one has made “creative” use of them yet.

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      I used to tell my students that they could take out an army with suitable quantities of Radio Shack 4wd RC trucks, acetone, and hydrogen peroxide. But, Radio Shack trucks are hard to find these days.

      1. JTMcPhee

        And of course those Evil Wogs are doing back to the Imperial forces what the Imperial forces have done to them (and others): “The Drones of ISIS,” http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2017/01/drones-isis/134542/ Says the Troop, “NO FAIR! We are supposed to drone YOU, and you are supposed to JUST DIE!”

        And I build (assemble is more accurate, these are mostly pre-built needing only a few screws to join the parts) and fly mostly electric-motor-powered foam-plastic scale radio controlled models, pretty simple and slow, with a flying time of about 6-8 minutes and a range of a few hundred yards (beyond which my aging eyes can’t see their orientation to control them any more), with no “first person video” equipment that would be like the “smart weapons” and war toys of much larger scale that are for sale to pretty much anyone with enough cash in the World Arms Bazaar. But anyone with a Paypal account can go to Banggood.com and a bunch of other “Chinese” Markets-Rule “trade” sites, and order up some pretty sophisticated and much larger stuff — fixed-wing, helicopters and what we think of as drones, the quadcopters. These have GPS steering, can fly pretty fast over programmed flight paths to designated spots, and can carry quite a payload over many miles. https://www.banggood.com/Wholesale-Toys-and-Hobbies-c-133.html This stuff is pretty cheap, and from my experience, more reliable and with better performance than a lot of milspec stuff. http://www.iar-gwu.org/node/144

        And the logistics are built into the Great Globalized Trade Network, so you can order your incipient weaponry, pay by Paypal, and have express delivery to your favorite little bunker or sniper nest…Getting the warhead material is child’s play (literally) in the fokked-up parts of the world that the Global War on Everything Decent And Kind has chewed up and rubbleized… with more on the way, thanks to all the incentives that drive the Racket that is War, every day…

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      To assassinate a dictator with a drone drone*.

      *A stinger-equipped drone drone. Real life drones don’t have stingers.

  22. Liberal Mole

    “I Could Kill You with a Consumer Drone” – Well that’s a good Seth Rich theory.

    1. JTMcPhee

      One vid of someone who’s actually armed a consumer drone, and commentary from liberals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_EHQM7YgkQ

      I could fill pages with links to all the potential mayhem that not only drones carrying small arms, but drones carrying poisons and plague diseases and all kinds of other horrors, are already in the real world. And DARPA and the rest of the world military security disease are way ahead of simple stuff like this…

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