2:00PM Water Cooler 9/13/2017

Bangor, Maine Meetup: There will be a Bangor NC Meetup on Friday, September 15, 6:00pm, at Giacomo’s with me, Lambert. (I realize I’m “outing” myself to any locals who haven’t made the connection, but at this point my online identity is sufficiently gauzy — certainly to a professional — that it probably doesn’t matter much anyhow.) If anybody wishes to contact me, here’s my email: lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com.) Looking forward!

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“The government of British Prime Minister Theresa May is mounting an all-out effort to persuade U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing to drop a high-stakes trade remedy case against Canadian rival Bombardier because of the detrimental impact the dispute could have on jobs in Northern Ireland, where Bombardier subsidiary Short Brothers is based” [Politico]. Remember that Theresa May is owned by Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. Everything is deeply intertwingled.

“The U.S. International Trade Commission will vote Sept. 22 on whether the U.S. solar industry has been injured by low-cost imports, according to an announcement posted to the ITC website Tuesday. The case has the solar industry on tenterhooks, as domestic companies that install cheap foreign-made panels believe raising equipment costs will choke off their business. A Trump administration official has already signaled Trump would likely impose tariffs if the ITC determines there has been injury” [Politico]. Didn’t work with steel (so far), might work with solar. Hard to begrudge the Chinese the fruits of their intelligent industrial policy on solar, but that’s where we are.


2016 Post Mortem

“This makes Clinton a more unusual figure than she gets credit for being: Not only does she refuse to paint an inspiring vision of a political process rid of corruption, partisanship, and rancor, but she’s also actively dismissive of those promises and the politicians who make them.'” [Ezra Klein, Vox]. Interesting that Klein puts “corruption, partisanship, and rancor” all in the same bucket; I would expect a level of rancor, for example, to be necessary to eliminate Democrat corporate funding (and the strategists who launder it) in favor of the $27-dollar approach pioneered so successfully by Sanders. sAlso interesting that even people the Clinton camp considers friendly — see the Podesta mails — end up flagging comments like this.

“Clinton: ‘I would have been seen as a genius’ if I won” [The Hill]. Clinton is right; our famously free press always hails the winner as a genius.

UPDATE I debated where to put this:

“Revenge of the PUMAs” [Michael Graham, Progressive Army]. This is fun and worth a read, but I think Graham has the PUMAs wrong; they were not driven by racism, at least not as a personal animus, but by a combination of feminism as understood by professional women, loyalty to Clinton the person, and by outrage at cheesy institutional game-playing by the Obama campaign (Texas caucus fraud; Rules and Bylaws vote). In addition, as the only venue for what we would today call “resistance” to Obama’s faction, they became the catch-basin for an enormous variety of people, many with ill intent, across the political spectrum, which caused enormous stress to all concerned. It was an interesting historical moment, now past, and I think Graham vastly over-estimates the institutional power of the PUMA phenomnon. Oh, and there was an enormous amount of sexist anti-PUMA commentary, which really didn’t help matters.


“NEW ALABAMA POLL: MOORE LEADS STRANGE BY 14 POINTS” [Ballotpedia]. Damn. What’s that warbling noise?


“Former Maine Gov. John Baldacci wants Stephen King to run for office: ‘You’ve got a winner there'” [Washington Examiner]. King — a humanities major — has done a lot for the great state of Maine, including unsung but important efforts like grants for libraries and dental care, but Baldacci is a corrupt machine politician and a horrible human being.

Health Care

UPDATE “Bernie Sanders explains why he thinks everything short of Medicare-for-all is failure” [Vox].

So the question that we have got to ask ourselves is: Should health care in the year 2017 in the United States of America be a right of all people? Or is it just the privilege of wealth? In other words, if you got the money, you can go out and get pretty great health care. [If] I don’t have the money, well, I don’t get that health care.

Or should we join the rest of the industrialized world and say that it doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, young or old, healthy or sick — health care is a right. Every other major country on Earth has decided that health care is a right, and we’ve got to do the same. That’s No. 1.

No. 2: a very important question, which is virtually not discussed by the media or discussed here in Congress, and that is why is it that despite all those without any health insurance or who are underinsured, we end up spending almost twice as much per capita per person on health care as the people of any other nation?

Relatively fair treatment from Vox, which is interesting…

Beware of wonks bearing gifts:

Beware especially of liberal wonks who hope to hand the left enough rope to hang themselves. At some point, the political class has to be brought to an understanding of how money is created and the role of taxes, but it’s not clear to me what venue would be appropriate to do that, and a politician — one with both good political antenna and intellectual integrity — needs to take the first leap. Such politicians do exist, but they’re rare.

Realignment and Legitimacy


One reason we can’t have nice things is that Democrats declined to do this back in the halycon days of 2009, when they controlled all three branches of government and “hope and change” hadn’t yet evaporated.

“Meet the Juggalos Joining the Far-Left Resistance” [Mel Magazine]. Tempermentally, I am pro-Juggalo, but I don’t know enough about them to form any kind of judgment. Basically a declassé Burning Man? Without Silicon Valley’s self-regard and criminality?

“Himes, Blumenthal and Murphy Address Indivisible Greenwich on Resisting Trump Agenda” [Greenwich Free Press]. I rarely see Invisible in the press, as opposed to on the Twitter, so here is a story.

“What Today’s Democratic Party Can Learn From Yesterday’s GOP” [Governing]. This is an interesting comparison, so let me quote a great slab of it:

The GOP of 1977 offered no coherent message of any sort. President Richard Nixon had worked hard to fashion a law-and-order appeal to Southerners and the urban working class, but this had collapsed with his resignation in 1974. Three years later, the Republican Party was essentially saddled with its residual image as a country club enterprise dominated by corporations and affluent suburbanites, preaching little of consequence besides a visceral dislike of the New Deal and the Great Society. It was easy to say what Republicans were against. It was almost impossible to describe what they were for.

Ronald Reagan was a candidate skillful enough to erase the Republican message problem. Reagan’s 1980 campaign demonstrated that free markets and lower taxes, when wrapped in a package of genial optimism, constituted a tangible agenda that the average voter could grasp. But Reagan taught his party something even more important about the whole question of strategy: He showed Republicans that there was no need to choose between economic and social conservatism. The party could be made large enough, and policy choices could be made skillfully enough, to accommodate both strains of ideology. When the factions challenged each other, they could be brought together by the hard-line Cold War foreign policy that every strand of the Republican Party subscribed to in those years.

Democrats today are the party of racial and ethnic minorities and the urban professional elite. This is not enough.

As in 1977, there are two obvious strategies for the struggling party to propose. The first is to run as the party of the civil center, hoping to expand its urban professional base into the vote-rich and socially moderate suburbs of cities such as Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. This is essentially what Democrats did in 2006 and 2008, and it worked beautifully for them…

But the formula failed. Most of the centrist Democrats elected on Republican turf in 2006 and 2008 were wiped out in the 2010 elections for Congress and the state legislatures. Those who remained were almost all defeated in 2014 and 2016. The anxiety that affluent suburbanites felt about conservative doctrine in the closing Bush years ceased to bother them very much as soon as Bush was gone, and has shown few signs of returning. That is the main reason Democrats now control 31 legislative chambers to the Republicans’ 68 and have lost nearly 1,000 legislative seats in the past eight years.

You’d think centrism and civility would work for the Democrats in many places amid the embarrassments of the Trump presidency, but it doesn’t seem to be happening…. [T[he summer months produced a blizzard of op-ed columns, blog posts and speeches arguing that centrism was a dead end for Democrats and that the only viable alternative was a sharp turn toward plan B: a noisy and indignant populist crusade aimed at winning back the factory-town working class and struggling inner-suburban constituency that had defected to Trump in 2016. Bernie Sanders was the most visible champion of this idea. The Democratic Party, he wrote in The New York Times, ‘must make clear to the working families of this country that it is prepared to stand up for their rights,’ and ‘it must take on the powerful corporate interests.’

Could a populist politics of this sort possibly succeed? There are lots of reasons to be skeptical…. Nevertheless, it seems that the populist strategy is going to get a chance. Civil centrism has simply lost too many elections to retain much strategic credibility.

My own suspicion, though, is that the most important test of Democratic strategy next year will lie in the quality of candidates who can be persuaded to run for Congress and for state legislative seats.

Which is why, especially if you are on the left, the work that Our Revolution, DSA, and allied groups are doing at the state and local level is so important and interesting.


Presumably this reflects Kos editorial policy…

Stats Watch

Producer Price Index (Final Demand), August 2017: “In a report not affected by Hurricane Harvey, producer prices once again couldn’t live up to expectations” [Econoday]. “Though energy costs are a major wildcard right now, this report speaks to what is a persistent lack of price pressures in the economy, in this case at the base of the economy. Today’s report won’t be firming up confidence for tomorrow’s consumer price report where a rebound, like that expected for this report, is the call.” But: “[T]he impact of a weaker dollar and firm tone in internal demand will exert upward pressure on prices over the next few months” [Economic Calendar]. And: “The Producer Price Index surprisingly surged year-over-year. I would assume this is a Hurricane Harvey affect [i.e., taking refinery capacity offline]. Here is what the BLS said in part: ‘The Producer Price Index surprisingly surged year-over-year. I would assume this is a Hurricane Harvey affect. Here is what the BLS said in part: ‘Three-quarters of the August increase in the final demand goods index can be traced to prices for gasoline, which jumped 9.5 percent. The indexes for jet fuel, industrial chemicals, potatoes, home heating oil, and light motor trucks also moved higher.'” [Econintersect]. And then ther’s this: “Over half of the August increase in the index for final demand services can be attributed to prices for consumer loans (partial), which advanced 1.7 percent.” Consistent with the overall decrease in lending…

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of September 8, 2016: “Declining interest rates are invigorating mortgage activity, with purchase applications for home mortgages rising a seasonally adjusted 11 percent in the September 8 week after adjustment for the Labor Day holiday, while applications for refinancing, which are not seasonally adjusted, rose 9.0 percent” [Econoday]. But only building permits affect the real economy (though I’m not sure if post-purchase renovation is even tracked anywhere).

Retail: “The [new iPhones] are shipping into a lackluster market: Research group Gartner says the global smartphone market grew 6.7% in the second quarter, boosted mostly by emerging markets, and that Apple’s sales slipped 0.2%” [Wall Street Journal].

Retail: “Will an old-fashioned flip phone give my clients with iPhones the wrong impression?” [MarketWatch]. Betteridge’s Law. That said, if using a phone that doesn’t track your every move and send the data off to Silicon Valley presents the “wrong impression,” by all means feel free to purchase a smart phone. Or if you don’t want to spend the $999, a dummy smart phone.

Retail: “IPHONE X FACIAL RECOGNITION: FACE ID DOESN’T WORK IN MIDDLE OF HUGE APPLE EVENT” [Independent]. Presenter: “But the reality of it in your hand? It’s really something epic.” No. Epic is Bronze Age warriors butchering each other with swords and spears in Homeric verse. Epic is most definitely not a [family blog] phone, for pity’s sake. Oh, and the line is “It works at home!”

Retail: “The iPhone X is designed for a generation of selfie takers” [The Verge]. At its price point, 10% and up selfie-takers. If you shop at Hefty Mart, the iPhone Ex is not for you.

Retail: “How Secure Is the iPhone X’s FaceID? Here’s What We Know” [WIRED]. “[Marc Rogers, a security researcher at Cloudflare who was one of the first to demonstrate spoofing a fake fingerprint to defeat TouchID[,] says he has no doubt that he—or at least someone—will crack FaceID. In an interview ahead of Apple’s FaceID announcement, Rogers suggested that 3-D printing a target victim’s head and showing it to their phone might be all it takes. ‘The moment someone can reproduce your face in a way that can be played back to the computer, you’ve got a problem,’ Roger says. ‘I’d love to start by 3-D-printing my own head and seeing if I can use that to unlock it.'” Or, if a collective all used the same Nixon mask, they could get away with using one phone.

UPDATE Retail: “[A] theme that bugged me throughout Apple’s announcements today: how involved you need to be to use your phone. The iPhone X demo focused on facial recognition and mapping — transferring user expressions into the phone’s software and mapping it onto other functions, like Face ID, or Animoji. This stuff is cool, but it means that if you want to take advantage of Apple’s new marquee features, you have to stop what you’re doing and give the iPhone X your full attention” [New York Magazine]. Well, this is the attention economy…

Shipping: “Can anyone issue a House Bill of Lading..??” [Shipping and Freight Resource]. If you’re a shipping wonk, you’ll love this. If you’re a software developer, this presents one simple set of information flows to be managed.

The Bezzle: “Facebook and Twitter are the main names in [the social media] group, with one hitting all-time highs while the other is holding near its low. Despite being the preferred communication channel for the current U.S. commander-in-chief, Twitter still has been unable to monetize its platform, which has investors growing ever more concerned. However, Twitter’s most recent earnings report has restored some faith in the stock. On the other hand, Facebook has been steadily expanding and is taking a sizable piece of the online advertising pie” [247 Wall Street]. If you believe Facebook’s numbers.

The Bezzle: “Are top US startups really startups?” [Om Malik]. “Pitchbook, a data research company has come up with a list of top 14 most valuable startups in the United States. There are no real surprises — they are all ranked by valuation and they all are valued at north of $4 billion. They are all household names – barring Outcome Health and Samumed. And they have been around forever. They have thousands of employees and many have billions in revenue. What they are not is liquid on public markets. They have not IPO’d. In a different Silicon Valley, they will all be public companies and they won’t be deemed startups.” Uber is on the list, naturally.

The Bezzle: “SoFi Scandal Turning Quickly From ‘Nothing Was Sexual’ To ‘Everybody Is Having Sex With Everybody'” [DealBreaker]. “But after contact with a former SoFi employee, it seems like a reckoning within the online lender has been a long time coming. According to our source, the corporate atmosphere inside SoFi’s Bay Area offices were so riven with batshit sexual impropriety and intense employee over-management that it makes Uber look like Hobby Lobby…. ‘People would leave with a manager, go to the parking lot, have sex in the car, come back in and get promoted,’ says our insider.” Hoo boy. And: “In February, SoFi brought in $500 million from investors including Silver Lake Partners at a reported $4.3 billion valuation. In 2015, Softbank led a $1 billion funding round” [CNBC]. Since Silicon Valley is a small and incestuous commmunity that trades on inside information, it’s hard to imagine that investors, most especially including the VC investors, were ignorant of this. Therefore, they encouraged it. Uber was the same.

The Bezzle: “Washington is starting to move on self-driving vehicles. The Department of Transportation issued updated guidelines on regulating autonomous road technology…, even as Congress steps closer to writing legislation on self-driving trucks. The new federal guidelines follow a light touch the automotive technology industry wants so that it can develop and test new systems without having to meet cumbersome federal safety rules. The approach so far has allowed several states to work with companies advancing autonomous technology in trucking” [Wall Street Journal]. “Light touch.” Hoo boy. We know what that’s code for; I knew if I Googled “‘light touch’ regulation debacle” I’d find something! Let’s just wait ’til somebody gets killed, although, to be fair, it will have to be the right sort of person…

Fodder for the Bulls: “Momentum Appears To Have Swung Upward For Economy” [Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis]. “One of the keys to faster real GDP growth is a sustained rebound in nonresidential fixed investment (business capital expenditures, or capex), which grew very slowly in 2015 and then declined slightly in 2016. In the first quarter of 2017, capex rose at a brisk 7.1 percent annual rate.” A capitalist political economy that doesn’t invest in fixed capital is cruisin’ for a bruisin’…. More: “Although capex growth slowed moderately in the second quarter to 5.2 percent, several developments suggest that business investment is on the upswing. These include a strengthening manufacturing sector, an improving global economic outlook, a rebound in corporate earnings and profits, and a modest retreat in economic uncertainty. If these trends continue, firms may soon scramble to keep up with rising demand; that’s because many have delayed capital expenditure projects in the previous two years, when U.S. and global economic conditions were weaker and uncertainty was higher.”

Fodder for the Bulls: “The long slump for dry-bulk shipping companies may be ending. The Baltic Dry Index, the key measure for the cost of moving commodities like coal and iron ore, is hovering near its highest point in nearly three years” [Wall Street Journal]. “[S]hip brokers say an improving global economy along with China’s moves to limit its own production of industrial materials are fueling the upturn.” (On the other hand…)

Demographics: “According to the [Census Bureau] report, the CPS/ASEC-based estimates of the number of US households in March 2017 was 126.224 million, just 405,000 above the 125.819 million estimate from the previous year’s report. This meager gain, if ‘accurate,’ would reflect a sharp slowdown in household growth” [Calculated Risk]. “As folks who regularly read my report know, however, part of this sharp slowdown in growth reflects the substantial downward revisions in US population estimates that were released at the end of last year. To remind folks, late last year Census released its ‘2016 vintage” population estimates, which incorporated an improved methodology for estimating net international migration that resulted in material downward revisions of the US resident population, as shown in the table below.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 62 Greed (previous close: 53, Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 36 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 12 at 12:17pm. Finally!

Guillotine Watch

This (via a Women’s Wear Daily interview with Anna Wintour) reminds me of something:

(Caption: Vogue’s John Currin cover of Jennifer Lawrence. According to Wintour, the painting is in Currin’s possession. Currin’s works fetch upwards of $2 million at auction.”) Of this:

Candy! Of course, Wintour is a very smart lady, and no doubt the reference is knowing and ironic. So what the heck are our elites thinking?

Class Warfare

“The myths of recovery: Why American households aren’t better off” [MarketWatch]. “Off the top, the figures published by the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday are encouraging…. As this chart clearly illustrates, notionally, we are in the ‘new historical peak’ territory…. Alas, notional is not the same as tangible. And here are the reasons why the tangible matters probably more than the notional”:

1) Consider the following simple timing observation: real incomes took 17 years to recover from the 2000-2012 collapse. And the Great Recession, officially, accounted for only $4,031 in total decline of the total peak-to-trough drop of $5,334. Which puts things into a different framework altogether: the stagnation of real incomes from 1999 through today is structural, not cyclical. The “good news” are really of little consolation for people who endured almost two decades of zero growth in real incomes: their life-cycle incomes, pensions, wealth are permanently damaged and cannot be repaired within their lifetimes.

2) The Census Bureau data shows that bulk of the gains in real income in 2016 has been down to one factor: higher employment. In other words, hours worked rose, but wages did not. American median householders are working harder at more jobs to earn an increase in wages. Which would be OK, were it not down to the fact that working harder means higher expenditure on income-related necessities, such as commuting costs, child-care costs, costs for caring for the dependents, etc. In other words, to earn that extra income, households today have to spend more money than they did back in the 1990s. Now, I don’t know about you, but for my household, if we have to spend more money to earn more money, I would be looking at net increases from that spending, not gross. Census Bureau does not adjust for this. There is an added caveat to this: caring for children and dependents has become excruciatingly more expensive over the years, since 1999.

There are more reasons, but these will do to go on with. This is an excellent antidote to mainstream tub-thumping and pom-pom waving, and a must-read. Oh, and if anyone is wonder why both 2008 and 2016 were “change vs. more of the same” elections, this is why.

News of the Wired

“Why Hotel Wifi connections are a hacker’s dream come true” [International Business Times].

UPDATE Winter is coming:

* * *

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 allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please put it in the subject line. Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant:

From the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, here is a second example of “painting with plants,” which I would tend to file under “Interesting Ideas” because I don’t like the color combination much.

Query: Now that it’s Fall, I need to figure out what to do with my ginormous sunflower patches. I think a normal gardern would root them up, because they’ll look messy and neglected in the snow, but that sounds like work. Also, they seem to be bending earthward all on their own, no doubt, like us, because of gravity working on their weakening fibers, and if they do that, and rot in place, not only will their minerals rejoin the earth in which they grew, their seeds will implant themselves there. What do readers think?

Readers: Do feel free to use the dropdown and click the hat to make a contribution today or any day. Here is why: Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of small donations helps me with expenses, and I factor that trickle in when setting fundraising goals. So if you see something you especially appreciate, please click the hat!


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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. marym

        Annoying about the date, isn’t it – but at the end of the first page is reference to the recent Republican repeal effort.

    1. fresno dan

      September 13, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      You know, its funny (no its not) how Iraq, Afghanistan, et al – there is ALWAYS money….and NOBODY ever puts forward the proposition that we can’t go to these places cause we can’t pay for it…..but somehow, ACTUALLY saving American lives with healthcare is too damn expensive……

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Not sure if this is necessary:

        4 percent income-based premium paid by households
        Revenue raised: $3.5 trillion over ten years.
        The typical middle class family would save over $4,400 under this plan.
        Last year the typical working family paid an average of $5,277 in premiums to private health
        insurance companies. Under this option, a typical family of four earning $50,000, after taking
        the standard deduction, would pay a 4 percent income-based premium to fund Medicare for All –
        just $844 a year – saving that family over $4,400 a year. Because of the standard deduction,
        families of four making less than $29,000 a year would not pay this premium.

        Is this even necessary, if college tuition can be free?

        Why not just tax drug companies more (to make up for this funding source)?

        1. B1whois

          Hmmmm. I plan to retire in Uruguay, where I can buy health coverage for $50-100 per month. I wonder if I will also be forced to pay health care taxes for services that I can not use?
          Just being totally selfish here…

      2. Huey Long

        Although I’ve enjoyed the foodfights over at Godlikeproductions.com and lurking over at MoA during the recent comments holiday it sure is great to be back!

        Now, on to my actual comment:

        I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking lately about why there’s always money for war and never money for things like healthcare and infrastructure. My conclusion is that without the imperial project the economy would tank so hard that people would be out in the streets with pitchforks and torches looking for elites to lynch.

        I mean without a credible threat of Marines hitting the beach, airstrikes, or color revolutions what else is there to keep the petrodollar afloat?

        (More info on the Petrodollar system: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/forex/072915/how-petrodollars-affect-us-dollar.asp)

        I predict that we’ll continue funding the imperial project until we have our own Suez Moment. Until then, count on more propaganda and lies about how things in the good ole’ US of A keep getting better and better while more and more of us succumb to the effects of despair.

        Oh, and after our Suez Moment, don’t count on things moving leftward; after all, the vast majority of the small arms in this country are owned by ‘wingers, not lefties.

        1. Yves Smith

          “Petrodollar” is a myth. Please do not promote that idea.

          The US was running trade deficits in the last 1960s. I could go through the reasons why but it would take a lot of space. That is why it kept repegging the $ v. gold (BTW cheating happens all the time on pegged currency systems like the gold standard, so they are not magical or sacrosanct).

          The requirement of being a reserve currency like the dollar is that you are willing to run ongoing trade deficits (they are necessary to allow for overall economic growth) so as to get your currency offshore in the hands of trading partners. The reason other countries are willing to let us run trade deficits on an ongoing basis is they WANT to run trade surpluses. That’s official policy. That’s what mercantlism is about. The country running a trade surplus can have employment levels above what its domestic economy would support. By contrast, the trade deficit country is effectively exporting jobs.

          This has nothing to do with oil. Nothing.

            1. Yves Smith

              Sorry if I sounded a bit tart. This is a widely promulgated notion even if it is incorrect, and to your point, it would not surprise me to see military-surveillance state types flogging it to justify our Middle East misadventurism.

          1. Oregoncharles

            IIRC, the “petrodollar” meme started when OPEC pushed up the price sharply in response to a ME war (so many, memory fails me as to which one). They wound up with huge dollar surpluses, which they needed to recirculate, in part by depositing some in US banks, or of course by buying expensive weaponry.

            IOW, it’s a special case of running trade deficits/surpluses. Looks like the special case got confused with the general one. Essentially the same for “Eurodollar,” which seems to be where it started. But as I said, I’m shaky on the details. (Not disagreeing, just trying to fill in the history.)

            The big question: is there really a net advantage to being a reserve currency? It’s starting to look very harmful, one more aspect of the hugely expensive empire. No, I don’t expect Yves to answer that. It’s one of the really big questions that thread through NC.

    2. The Insider

      The thorny issue was never the funding, which I think everyone understood would come from higher taxes. The thorny issue was what to do with the massive insurance industry.

      Either the insurance industry could be effectively subsidized by government to keep it alive (the Obamacare approach, more or less), resulting in the cost savings disappearing; or it could be killed off by government bypassing it to pay providers directly, resulting in massive job losses and destruction of corporate capital.

      In reviewing the Sanders bill, it looks like the favored approach will be the “kill the insurance companies” approach. I think the supporters of the bill will be unpleasantly surprised by the number of people who have friends and family members that work at insurance companies and don’t want to lose their jobs – and the number of people (and pension plans) that are invested in the insurers and don’t want to lose their investment.

      (I see there is also a provision aimed at eviscerating compensation for pharmaceutical companies – again, some unpleasant surprises ahead on just how much of the economy is dependent on that particular revenue stream, not just the drug companies, but retailers, advertisers, media that depend on advertisements, and plenty other companies downstream from them. Goose, golden egg, etc.)

      Anyone thinking there is an easy way out of this mess hasn’t looked closely enough at it.

      1. shinola

        It’s not like the ins. industry isn’t already trying to automate away as many humans as possible.

        Some parasites can make their host think that the parasite is part of the host’s own body…

      2. Huey Long

        Can the Gordian Knot be cut here?

        I.E. Kill the insurance companies, pension off all employees over 55, hire the rest into the new US NHS-type agency, and then downsize it slowly through attrition?

        Or perhaps launch the US NHS concurrently with some sort of modern day WPA agency to keep the coders and middle management folks gainfully employed (I’m not terribly worried about whether or not the C-suite folks land on their feet or not)?

        1. a different chris

          >(I’m not terribly worried about whether or not the C-suite folks land on their feet or not

          I would like them not to, there’s another part of their anatomy I would prefer… but the problem is simple math. Even if, say Anthem pays Joe Swedish & Cronys 100million per year (and that’s probably not far off), they have 53000 employees. Divide that out and it’s only – yeah, I know if you’re one of the sclubs it would make a nice Christmas bonus, but it the wider view of things – it’s not even 2K/yr per employee.

          So the (family blog)-heads go away but we haven’t really dented our massive healthcare budget. There is too much make-work, yet it isn’t the fault of the low level people specifically doing it.

          A really hard problem.

          1. JBird4049

            How much does all the execs just below them make? I am pulling numbers out of my posterior, 1 at 100 million and let’s say 4 at 50 million, 8 at 25 million, 50 at 500k. So 5.5 million / 53000 at 10000 per employee.

            It’s not just one insurance company. It’s all the insurance, pharma, medical equipment, and advertising. Each one has over paid leadership and insurance and advertising is completely unneeded. Why else are we paying so much more than anyone else l? Yes, taking it apart would be hard, but keeping it up because of that is like keeping a war going be it would be bad for business.

      3. marym

        Both the Conyers House bill and the Sanders Senate bill contain provisions for insurance industry workers. People who support a Medicare for All universal insurance system should consider this issue and evaluate these provisions.

        To better determine the impact and identify further solutions, we need an analysis of this workforce. That would include whether these are US workers (as opposed to offshore), normal attrition rates, availability of jobs elsewhere in the insurance industry, expected job openings within the expanded public insurance system, and people currently working only to have health insurance.

        In the larger picture, there’s tons of work that isn’t getting done all across the country, because of austerity, offshoring, downsizing, and the general failures of our economy. There should be plenty of work available for people with all levels of skill and interest…..but that’s another discussion.

      4. NotTimothyGeithner

        This was the reasoning behind the public option. A public option with a Ted Kennedy style dropping the Medicare age every five years slowly would have helped absorb the cost, but the time for this particular compromise has passed. The Democratic refusal to pass what they campaigned on in 2008 is at fault for the situation we are in, but the time for half measures has passed.

        Besides, if single payer can be passed, a jobs program can be passed at the same time.

        1. Darn

          Exactly, the sort of prez and Congress that would pass single payer wouldn’t have qualms about doing a fiscal stimulus to get to full employment. That’d make it easier to re-employ redundant insurance ppl.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            How many people would drop out of the work force with a reliable healthcare system, creating job openings and having an upward pressure on wages? How many parents working for healthcare reasons would quit to be stay at home parents especially with the cost of child care?

            The economic savings from a sensible healthcare are staggering. It almost overshadows the moral dimension: people not dying due to a lack of healthcare. Almost.

      5. Oregoncharles

        Since universal health care would greatly increase the demand for health care, this is a rare case for retraining; that is, the now-unemployed insurance clerks can become phlebotomists, etc., and perform a real service. Some of them are even already doctors. That would also solve the problem of insufficient medical personnel.

        If Bernie’s plan doesn’t say this, it should.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      They are way behind the arc – vending machines (and thats all they are, just marginally more sophisticated than coin operated ones) like that are ubiquitous in Japan. Its not unusual in Japan to find that in small villages the old local store has been replaced by a line of specialist vending machines on what would have been the front window.

  1. Stephen V.

    Re: Sunflowers: If I’m not mistaken Blue Jays and more will appreciate your Sunflower seed heads en place.!

      1. lyman alpha blob

        And don’t forget the squirrels. When I’m able to get my sunflowers to actually grow (not this year), the squirrels generally rip the heads right off them and carry them away before I’m finished appreciating the blooms. I suspect the neighborhood foxes in turn appreciate the fattened up squirrels.

        Hakuna matata.

      2. JacobiteInTraining

        I had a wonderfully long string of sunflowers planted this year up on the mountain – with high high hopes for bountiful sunflower seed production to feed my chipmunks – but an entitled set of deer apparently intervened and ate all but one that had grown its flower/seeds above 6 feet.

        I feel like my capital gains sunflower tax rate was increased by the deer unilaterally (and, I might add, quite capriciously) beyond what I felt I could reasonably afford. And now the chipmunks will pay the price in starvation through the winter!!!

        Unless, of course, I do the private/charitable thing and provide for them out-of-pocket. I think next year I will investigate 503(c) status for my row of sunflowers, as presumably any off-shoring of seed production that I might try and, ahem, squirrel-away, is now being tracked and investigated much more rigorously post-Panama Papers. :p

      3. Gary

        The flowers feed the birds, and the birds feed the cat. I too feed the cat, and plant the flowers. It’s the circle of life!

        Only if you eat the cat… ha ha!
        Here is Texas, we’d plow under what ever is left in the early spring.

          1. clinical wasteman

            If — as Alex Cockburn argues must be the case somewhere in one of his memoirs* — the cat considers Lambert a stern and inscrutable God because he causes things to happen ex nihilo, then Lambert must be extrinsic to the food chain**, which implies — praise the Stern and Inscrutable! — that the cat is safe.

            *Not sure which memoir: I think it’s ‘A Colossal Wreck’, but it may be ‘The Golden Age is in Us’. The anecdote is a dirty bomb of pathos: the story of a cat who (quite rationally, given available information) blamed Alexander for one of the California earthquakes: it (cat, not earthquake) ran away immediately but astonishingly returned after many weeks, only to remain hopelessly ‘God’-fearing/suspicious of A.C. ever after.
            **Gary Indiana — no not the city, America’s best surviving prose writer! — harbors few friendly sentiments towards his deceased father or his New Hampshire childhood in general, but in his second-latest book “I Can Give You Anything But Love” he does quote the following piece of paternal wisdom: “What kind of God would invent the food chain?!”

  2. Bruce F

    I’ve always let my sunflower patches rot in place. Over the winter they feed critters and the following spring I like to see all the volunteers that pop up.

  3. Dan


    I wonder how inconvenient this will be to those in a meeting or classroom will be who want to do a
    sneak peak at their messages/email, and now have to lift their phones to their faces to unlock them.

    Else, a whole lot of people will be ID-ing themselves with a view straight up their nostrils…

    1. Neoluddite

      I have a question about these i-Thingees…do they always lock themselves and therefore need to be unlocked before you can use them again?

      I use a very low end smartphone and I turned off all locking systems when I took possession — I just pick it up and it works — just like all of my old flip phones used to work. I can actually disable and re-enable the locks at will!

    2. grizziz

      Without knowing the details of the facial recognition system, I would freely speculate that a border control agent could take the phone, put it up to your face and grant the entire content of the phone accessible to the state in which you crossed. Naturally, the new adopters of this phone will feel immune to this possibility because of their perceived protected status .

      1. Fiery Hunt

        That, grizziz, has always been my thought. Passwords, pin numbers you select are controlled within your head. Physical “keys” (like your fingerprint or your face) to unlock your phone, door, whatever, is controlled by whoever controls your body…be it a cop or a mugger.

      2. nowhere

        This isn’t any different than TouchId. And you can always disable biometrics and only use PIN/password when going through a border crossing.

    3. My ugly face

      This face-recognition thing is highly disturbing. I use Advance System Care, or used to be exact. Started to download their latest version and face-id function was included so I aborted installation.

      If adding up all the things that now is going to register your face it looks very unnerving.

      Maybe I now enter tin-foil hat land but is the deal that the surveillance apparatus cannot use camera surveillance as efficiently as they want due to lack of data so now gadgets will collect the faces and forward them to the agencies through the backdoors they have?

      1. aliteralmind

        Although undeniably cool, such as the animated emoji, I shudder at the thought of using my face to unlock my phone. I picture a bad guy or bad cop viscously grabbing the back of my neck, forcing me to unlock my phone.

        Thankfully in iOS 11, you can set unlocking the phone to use a passcode and not your face. And thankfully you can use very complicated pass codes if you like,

  4. Sid Finster

    Apparently Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are not in favor of Sanders’ Medicare-For-All efforts.

    I see this as a not all bad thing – if Pelosi, sitting in the safest Team D seat in the country (San Francisco!) cannot even offer token support for a bill that will never pass the Team R Congress, we now know beyond all doubt where he loyalties truly lie.

    Remember this, the next time some Team D jockey tries to bully you into falling into line, or tries to guilt you into voting with the “but they really mean well, just Mean Republicans…” act.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The long term effects of “yes men” have rotted the minds of Democratic leadership. Pelosi (I can’t imagine who would give Schumer the time of day) was briefly America’s most prominent female politician before the Presidential race heated up. She probably has so much praise heaped upon her by random well wishers she likely believes she can do anything. She will always be the first female Speaker. 43 noting her Speakership in his 2007 SOTU was a good couple of lines.

      I think Pelosi believes she is protecting the caucus by taking on the role Obama served for the Democrats, but in reality, Schumer and Pelosi are painting the Democratic Party as hopelessly corrupt as I don’t think the leadership grasps where they stand in the eyes of the public. Nomiki Konst postulated Al Franken’s office must have received a number of phone calls over his lack of support for the Sanders bill prior to his late in the day endorsement yesterday.

      1. Kim Kaufman

        I agree with you about Pelosi. I also believe she knows if she were to step aside, there are only worse Ds who would take her place. So for me, it’s mostly the status quo is as good at the Ds are going to get right now. It’s like “Let’s impeach Trump.” Oh, wait, then we’ll get Pence. #GetPenceFirst.

      2. PH

        The “yes man” culture is real, but the unfortunate lock preventing change has been success and why the pols think they succeeded.

        Success in DC is getting re-elected. Has nothng — or not much — to do with policy.

        This generation came of age in the 80’s. Felt “accused” of over-spending on poor and African-Americans, and not supporting the military.

        In swing districts, old line Dems tried to face down the racism, radical fundamentalim (abortion, prayer in school), and xenophobia of radical right wing of Repub party with DLC catechism.

        Mostly, it did not work. The South and parts of West went solid Repub and abandoned.

        But it seemed to work when Clinton was elected President. And worse (longterm), Clinton seemed to have the economic formula to raise all boats by simply being nice to Wall Street when the Bubble ensued.

        Pelosi and Schumer cling to the illusions of the 90’s. Harris, Gillibrand, etc are all the same.

        We need to look to other pastures. Maybe find a state Attorney General, and run him or her for President.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Not that I have any faith in the new stands of Booker, Harris, and Franken, they are lesser celebrities compared to Pelosi who has both novelty and singular position. They don’t receive the praise and blind worship a figure such as Pelosi will receive. Given her safe district, she doesn’t even have to campaign and face voters.

          Politicians want to be liked. Washington is Hollywood for ugly people. Nixon wanted to be liked, and the protests against him ate at him. He concocted a bizarre belief in a silent majority ready to defend him, partially because the people he would be meet would be overwhelmed to meet the President. Most electeds are friendly and even disarmingly charming in person. Its how they became elected.

          These lesser politicians despite attempts to label Harris as a rising star (a huge mistake as she has been watched since she first won statewide office in 2010) don’t receive praise anyone who can make a claim to either a singular position or trailblazer status will receive. When Booker voted no on the drug importation bill, I doubt there was a single non-lobbyist who offered any kind of approval. When Pelosi claimed to have been fighting for single payer for decades and promised it would never happen, she no doubt received praise from people eager to associate with a celebrity who would gladly denounce Pelosi if she was a mere Congressman, not Speaker or in the leadership. The “yes men” aren’t merely telling Pelosi, “great idea boss,” but are telling her she is an inspiration and how lucky mere plebes are to be in her presence. The result is she believes she can defend the Democratic Party from the barbarians who want good government. She can’t even recognize the need to “officially change” positions.

          Franken was recently out peddling his celebrity as Al Franken in recent days to argue against single payer as a pie in the sky. His celebrity won’t bring out supporters or was based in the view he had progressive politics. Harris clearly thought or was sold on the notion of selling herself as a new Obama. No ground swell of support appeared, and older voters loyal to Hillary and Bill aren’t simply going to follow Clinton henchmen to other candidates. They both demonstrated the ability to learn, but I don’t believe either receives accolades as “inspirational” from random people.

          1. PH

            With few exceptions, Dem pols have few strong policy views.

            One of the great shocks of my life was learning that most Hill staff do not care about public policy.

            It is about “the game.” Surfing the vagaries of public opinion. Getting a few publicity coups back home. Raising money from lobbyists. Getting re-elected.

            Pelosi rose to power as a fund-raiser. So did Schumer.

            To win the game, they think, you raise a lot of money and avoid “pitfalls of sixties and seventies” — like anti-war rhethoric or tax the rich rhetoric.

            They win in safe districts. Occasionally they win in purple states. They tell themselves that they accomplish as much as the voters will let them.

            They think they understand the world more clearly than anyone else.

            They are utterly lost.

  5. Anon

    Re: Vox

    Lambert, this paragraph is a gem here:

    What Happened has been sold as Clinton’s apologia for her 2016 campaign, and it is that. But it’s more remarkable for Clinton’s extended defense of a political style that has become unfashionable in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Clinton is not a radical or a revolutionary, a disruptor or a socialist, and she’s proud of that fact. She’s a pragmatist who believes in working within the system, in promising roughly what you believe you can deliver, in saying how you’ll pay for your plans. She is frustrated by a polity that doesn’t share her “thrill” over incremental policies that help real people or her skepticism of sweeping plans that will never come to fruition. She believes in politics the way it is actually practiced, and she holds to that belief at a moment when it’s never been less popular.

    Ah, so it’s incrementalism yesterday, today, and tomorrow, forever and ever.

    1. jsn

      “incremental policies that help real people”, like?
      I honestly can’t think of one “incremental” policy that didn’t do more harm to more real people than the few real people who may have in some way benefitted from them. What am I forgetting?

      1. Montanamaven

        “Incrementalism ” and “pragmatism” are weasel words for “Hey, you deplorables, listen to your betters and just accept the gruel we give you.” This is a remark right out of Dickens. And It is not just an “unfashionable ” style, it’s immoral Mr. Vox. He sounds like something out of “The Hunger Games.”

        But the elephant in the room is that, to my mind, we are talking about someone a tad delusional and also just a teensy …oh, what’s the word for thinking everybody is out to get ya?

        1. JBird4049

          The pragmatic incrementalism is so slow it cannot pump fast enough to keep most from eventually drowning, which is obvious and has been for years. The refusal to see that is one of the reasons I have given up on the Democratic Party, or at least its current leadership.

  6. Annotherone

    “Juggalo ” – another new term to learn, thank you. I’ve only just managed to slide SJW into my mental index card drawer.

    I’m wondering whether the Juggalos should re-think the lettering on the front screen of that video though – unless part of their agenda is to seriously reduce the population. Might not be all bad though – slowing climate change could be a side effect…it’s an ill wind an’ all that ;)

  7. Lambert Strether Post author

    Democrats capture GOP-held state seat in red Oklahoma AP. Here is the pinned tweet on Jacob Rosecrants’s Twitter account:

    And this, from Red Dirt Report:

    However, [Rosecrants] was surprised by the lack of enthusiasm of the teacher community after he declared his candidature. He added even if he opened up to all the Democrats most of his volunteers are former Bernie Sanders’ supporters.

    And here (sadly, on Facebook) is Our Revolution canvassing for Rosecrants.

    Oddly, or not, the national coverage doesn’t mention this; but see quoted material above:

    the most important test of Democratic strategy next year will lie in the quality of candidates who can be persuaded to run for Congress and for state legislative seats.

    This race is an example.

    1. flora

      ” However, [Rosecrants] was surprised by the lack of enthusiasm of the teacher community after he declared his candidature. He added even if he opened up to all the Democrats most of his volunteers are former Bernie Sanders’ supporters.”

      Not surprising at all if you consider that AFT (American Federation of Teachers) heads declared for the un-Bernie candidate before they’d even taken a poll of members preferences. (AFT lost several members over that premature jump. ) There seems to be a lot of ‘wait to see which way the wind blows’ in various voting interests and both parties right now.

  8. PlutoniumKun

    “The government of British Prime Minister Theresa May is mounting an all-out effort to persuade U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing to drop a high-stakes trade remedy case against Canadian rival Bombardier because of the detrimental impact the dispute could have on jobs in Northern Ireland, where Bombardier subsidiary Short Brothers is based” [Politico]. Remember that Theresa May is owned by Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. Everything is deeply intertwingled.

    This is even more complex than it seems at first glance. The Bombardier factory was formerly Shorts, an aerospace company notorious for not hiring catholics. Loyalist staff members famously were the source of military parts sold to South Africa in the Apartheid years. Support for the company was therefore always politicised – there were (as the link above shows) moves by Irish American politician to block purchases of Shorts aircraft and parts because of its alleged discrimination.

    Apart from its importance for jobs, this makes the plant absolutely crucial for the DUP. If it shuts down (and as Bombardier is in serious trouble – its new C-series looks like being a flop – this seems very likely), then the DUP would be on the receiving end of a huge backlash from its supporters. It would be impossible for it to continue its deal with the Tories. The only possible means the Tory government could save the jobs would be by way of big defence contracts, and that would cost billions. Its potentially a huge political headache for May.

    1. Darn

      Your comment seems to reduce to, it “seems very likely” Shorts will close making it “impossible” (because of the situation thirty years ago) for the DUP to stay in bed with the Tories. But the DUP have nowhere else to go, an early election risks electing Corbyn, something the DUP’s constituents would fear more than Shorts closing.

    2. makedoanmend

      PK, I would have thought Trump’s stance on obtaining good business deals for the US, its corporations, and supposedly for workers might have a more profound affect on May’s limp ploy to sway opinion and hence alter Boeing’s actions. But, yes, the history of Bombadier doesn’t make for good PR either, and the DUP’s ability to “deliver” for its constituency will suffer if the jobs go. However, my guess is that the average DUP voter will not budge an inch. They could, I suppose, go to the TUV but I don’t think the TUV can deliver much more than rhetoric these days either. (not disparaging rhetoric, btw.)

  9. geoff

    File under Syraqistan:

    “The U.S. Department of Defense is reportedly still funneling billions of dollars’ worth of Soviet-era weaponry to anti-Islamic State groups in Syria, with questionable oversight.

    In a joint report published Tuesday, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) allege that the Pentagon has given up to $2.2 billion worth of weapons to groups like the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG.

    The program sidesteps long-established checks on international weapons trafficking, the report alleges, and appears to be turbocharging a shadowy world of Eastern European arms dealers.”


    What could go wrong?

    1. Oregoncharles

      A bunch of Murray Bookchin anarchists (the YPG) could become major players in the ME, to the eternal consternation of Sultan Erdogan. Thus ending Turkey’s membership in NATO.

      Of course, that’s hardly the only place it could go.

    2. Plenue

      Any pretense that any group in Syria we’re supplying that isn’t the Kurds are fighting ISIS can be easily dismissed by looking at a battle map. The only factions that still have any point of contact with ISIS in Syria are the Syrian Army and the Kurds. Putting aside the entire issue of if there even are any ‘moderate rebels’ left, anyone other than the Kurdish forces we might be supplying literally, physically, cannot get to ISIS. The last point of contact between ISIS and a US-backed ‘rebel’ force, in southern Syria along the Jordanian border, was encircled by the SAA months ago during their push east.

      This propaganda claim is entirely reliant on people not spending five seconds in Google to find a situation map. For the record, I mostly use http://syria.liveuamap.com/, which seems to be pro-opposition in its bias but is updated frequently.

  10. kilgore trout

    You can either leave the sunflower heads in place, or cut them off and hang them (possibly in a place less accessible to cats) as bird feeders one at a time over the course of the winter. The stalks are best tilled under while still green, or chopped up by hand and tossed in the compost pile. Or do a combination of all 3 options–leave some in place, chop some, and take some heads to use as bird feeders.

  11. Jim Haygood

    Historically, September has been the weakest month of the year for stocks. The star-crossed month’s most notorious outing occurred in 1929, when the Dow Industrial average peaked on Sep 3rd and proceeded to shed about half its value by late October.

    Well, the pattern ain’t workin’ this year. Far from a gloomy appraisal of reality taking hold as folks returned from summer holidays and hurricane evacuations, instead the S&P 500 reached record highs yesterday and today, leaving it only 2 points short of the big round number of 2500.

    As one would expect, the good Dr Hussman has outdone himself in denouncing this latest outrage committed by foolhardy buyers, some of whom are functionaries at central banks and sovereign wealth funds, and others of whom toil in corporate treasury departments. Based on stocks’ extremely high valuation compared to sales and earnings, Dr H projects the S&P 500 will produce a negative return between now and 2029.

    Although Dr H is probably right about the poor 12-year return forecast, he just can’t get it through his stubborn skull that valuation tells us nothing about what stocks will do for the next month or even the next year. If they’re going up, nothing bad happens to the economy, and the collective mood isn’t too over-the-top speculative, then stocks likely will carry on rising until one of these factors changes.

    Last week AAII’s sentiment survey of its members showed 29.3% bullish; 35.0% neutral; and 35.7% bearish. Link:


    Is this how the opulent splendour of Bubble III ends, with small investors hunkered in their bunkers, rather than punting on inverse VIX funds to gleefully hoover up nickels ahead of the approaching steamroller? I reckon not!

    Facebook, the champ among our Five Horsemen of the Techpocalypse, has motored to an eye-popping 18 percent gain since April 26th. In other words, Zuckerberg’s in his flivver and all’s well with the world.

  12. Lambert Strether Post author

    This is how Bernie Sanders wants to implement single-payer health care Think Progress, playing it reasonably straight, for a Tanden operation. This is interesting:

    Within the first year, the bill would expand traditional services covered under the government-run Medicare program to include prescription drugs, dental, vision, and hearing aids. Residents older than 55 and younger than 18 will become eligible for Medicare within the first year of implementation.

    In the second year, eligibility for Medicare would be extended to people older than 45; in the third year, the eligibility threshold would move down to 35. By year four, anyone who is a resident of the United States would be entitled to enroll in Medicare — though it’s unclear how the drafters intend to define “resident.”

    This is how Teddy Kennedy planned to expand Medicare. It’s politically smart, as the endowment effect of ObamaCare shows. But then there’s this:

    But this bill does force a conversation about achieving universal coverage in an ambitious way.

    Ah. A conversation. Note that wonks at Vox and in the political class as a whole prefer the complex and fragile to the rugged and simple out of pure self-interest, since complexity and fragility = walking around money for the 10% (see any number of large IT projects). Note also that liberals, including most especially Schumer and Pelosi, are fully capably of cutting an ACA-supportive deal with Trump — “It’s bipartisan!” to head single payer off at the past. Neoliberals, out of ideology and a need to service the donor class, will oppose single payer as long as they are able, no matter their friendly words. And the left, while thanking the Senators who support #MedicareForAll — yes, even the odious and opportunistic Cory Booker — will shortly need to start asking “What have you done for me lately?” in terms of universal concrete material benefits, especially for the working class. I’d start with a Post Office Bank, since a Debt Jubilee is probably a bridge too far.

    1. Lloyd

      “Resident” = “Citizen” perchance?

      Otherwise it simply acts as yet another magnet to attract foreigners to the U.S.

      There is the option of covering non-citizens and then billing their home governments with funds subtracted from balance of trade, foreign and military aid and other mechanisms.

      1. sparkylab

        “Resident” = “Citizen or Permanent Legal Resident”

        I’m a member of the latter group (UK+Irish citizen) – we get omitted all the time in discussions like this. In my two decades here, I’ve noticed that a lot of American-born citizens seem to assume that getting a ‘green card’ means you become a citizen, too.

        1. JustAnObserver

          Interesting question then arises re those on e.g. H1B visas.

          o Do they pay for their own health care ?


          o Do their employers continue to pick up the tab ?

          No prizes for guessing the answer, this question was purely rhetorical.

          Could end up killing the H1B, train your own replacements, scam … another reason for supporting Medicare-for-all.

      2. JTMcPhee

        Given that most of the world has broad national health care already, albeit with warts and corruption and limitations, and that many USians choose “medical tourism” to travel to “foreign” nations, to get not only affordable but better quality care in other countries, and that the US is such an unfriendly place even to citizens born here and is unlikely to get any more kindly, why would foreigners be attracted here by some implementation of universal health care of the kind that our power structures and rulers would ever allow? Other than nativist suspicions, is there any support for the notion of some presumed magnet effect, in hard studies?

    2. JTMcPhee

      Again, let us not pump too hard for a expand-and-continue “Medicare-for-all,” which would include all the warts and endemic failures of the existing structure. Include the G-DD-n ICD, CPT and HCPCS coding and all the ridiculous overhead that goes with it? Who will decide the formulary contents? Will there still be prior authorizations and utilization reviews? how about Medicare Replacements and supplements? And what about the endemic corruption, and fraud, and other related sneaky stuff, the kind that lets certain ophthalmologists or interventional spinal pain doctors loot until the rule makers catch up with them and change the rules and do some cursory enforcement actions? Continue “fee-for-service” as the payment model? How to assure availability of medical care to small remote populations in rural areas?

      Let’s remember all the folk tales and chestnuts that remind us that when you rub the magic lamp and the genie comes out the spout and grants you three wishes, you need to frame those wishes very, very carefully…

  13. Terry Afer

    A technical point, but the solar panels trade issue is not at all as big a deal as the steel one would have been. Trump’s proposed steel tariffs were based on a “national security” exception to the WTO, which arguably allows any country to impose tariffs on almost anything it claims is important to national security. Nobody knows for sure, because the national security rule has never really been invoked, at least not definitively. Apparently Trump’s cabinet, except Wilbur Ross and Bob Lighthizer, believes that if Trump goes down that road, the WTO may fall apart, or at least that other countries will follow suit with national security tariffs of their own on US goods (global warming tariffs on Koch Brothers products, maybe?). Anyway, a potential trade war and maybe an end to the WTO system.

    The solar panel case is more ordinary. Under WTO rules, basically, a country with a dying industry can impose special “safeguard” duties for up to three years to allow that industry to “adjust.” The US has done that about six times, and IIRC WTO panels have thrown it out each time, so the relief has only lasted 18 months. Still a significant step if Trump does it, but nothing like what might have happened with steel. So Trump’s minders may let him get away with it.

  14. Kim Kaufman

    I originally wanted to comment on the leave it or not sunflower issue but others have covered it well enough. I had an opinion but, based on others’ suggestions, now I have none.

    I did want to comment on yesterday’s plant painting picture. I have several books with pictures like this and tried, in my early years, to do my own version. For one thing, I don’t have the discipline to do mass plantings of only two plants which is what makes these kinds of pictures so appealing. But I always love looking at them. I also tried the cottage garden look but that’s too much work – and gophers love those plants the most. So I have a “if it’s still alive and blooms that’s good” kind of garden.

    All spring and early summer, I read what Lambert bought for his garden. But in southern CA, planting anything in spring/summer is like burning money. So we wait until fall. And this year, although I’m not trying that hard yet, there is a noticeable lack of plants available. We’ve lost several good nurseries in the area also. It seems growers are growing fewer varieties of plants, perhaps the need to have smaller inventories. I’m ready to buy stuff to fill in bare spots but haven’t found anything appealing yet. I’m pretty bored with the whole thing but a little work would go a long way on making things look good. I also may try some vegetables, like chard which have pretty leaves which might work color-wise with some of the succulents, although the different water requirements may not work.

  15. Oregoncharles

    “At some point, the political class has to be brought to an understanding of how money is created and the role of taxes, but it’s not clear to me what venue would be appropriate to do that, and a politician — one with both good political antenna and intellectual integrity — needs to take the first leap. Such politicians do exist, but they’re rare.”

    Sen. Jeff Merkley? For a Democrat, he’s not too bad.

    And to repeat, I think there are political implications of MMT that make the political class very, very wary. In particular, I think it would make the income tax non-viable; people would stop co-operating if they thought it didn’t “pay for” the services they receive. Its function in MMT is pretty abstract. I’ve never seen that addressed by MMT economists; I think that might be essential before it’s adopted publicly. Privately, more or less on the sly, might be another matter. They could just stop talking about the deficit.

    1. JBird4049

      With the warning that I am an economic klutz, I don’t think learning that the current fad of austerity modern economics is just not that hard, if you want to learn. I think since the donor class (the people who paid for the winners’ elections) likes austerity and mainstream economics is more of a cult than something real politicians don’t want to learn that.

  16. HAL

    The Democrats who Can’t Quit Hillary Clinton — Pretty Great

    For this set of ride-or-die Clinton fans, the entirely valid notion that relitigating the 2016 primary for three months and increasing the media presence of a deeply unpopular figure might hurt the Democrats is irrelevant to the more important goal: personal catharsis. For them, Clinton bears no responsibility for her loss. Her decision to surround herself with incompetent morons wasn’t a mistake, and neither was her failure to campaign in key swing states. Voting for the Iraq War? Convincing Obama to destroy Libya, creating an opening for ISIS? Not her fault. She was simply wronged by the world, and the world must suffer for its insolence. The midterms don’t matter. Public perception of the Democratic Party doesn’t matter. Even Hillary’s abysmal approval rating (39 percent) doesn’t matter. All that matters is that Hillary Clinton gets the glory she deserves, and that everyone who stood in her way is punished.

  17. a different chris

    I am the subject of a continual fight between two internal demons – the EnviroNazi and the GearHead.

    The EnviroNazi would say to just leave the sunflowers die in place, as you suggest.

    But the GearHead wants you to clear the patch with one of those Russian flamethrowers, and I think it’s winning this battle.

  18. Paul

    Create the venue.
    Given the general state of political life opting to use an established venues is likely to be an instant turn off.

  19. cm

    Truly awesome high school class: building a house. Third successful sale just completed. They are showing a profit.

    On Tuesday, the third house designed and built by Sherwood High students closed escrow. Like the other two before it, this dwelling went on the market at the end of the school year and found a buyer over summer vacation.

    Architecture students designed the houses. Juniors and seniors in the advanced construction classes spent their 70-minute class framing walls, installing windows and doors, and laying hardwood floors. Teens in the interior design class selected the finishes and the environmental science classes enhanced the landscape.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I’ll be damned. Sometimes you come across an idea that is so simple and yet so brilliant you wonder why it is not common practice.

    2. Arizona Slim

      I want to be in that class. Even if I am several decades too old for high school, I want to be there.

    3. Fiery Hunt

      But here’s the deal…the school district ponied up $250,000 for the project. At 16 students in the actual construction class, that’s $15,625 per student carpenter.

      Great experience I know…I helped build similar projects in junior college and it was a great learning opportunity!…but for most high school districts, this would be impossible.

      Another case of money making privilege.

      1. windsock

        Sherwood School District loaned the high school about $250,000 for the first project. The home sale repaid the loan and funded the two-year construction of a second house that shares a driveway.

    4. aletheia33

      speaking of which, the wonderful trilogy THE TIMELESS WAY OF BUILDING, A PATTERN LANGUAGE, AND THE OREGON EXPERIMENT deserves mention here.
      published in the 1970s, it tells how communities can design and build their own municipal buildings and similar ideas.
      from the dust jacket: “at the core of these books is the idea that people should design for themselves their own houses, streets, and communities. This idea may be radical (it implies a radical transformation of the architectural profession) but it comes simply from the observation that most of the wonderful places of the world were not made by architects but by the people.”
      time to brush it off and get moving!

  20. Medbh

    One thing to keep in mind about the sunflowers is that they’re supposed to be allelopathic (they secret a toxin that suppresses or kills other plants). I had read about the issue while trying to figure out what to do with my huge patch of leftovers.

    This is my second year of growing them, and the birds love them. However, they spread the seed everywhere and now the sunflowers are starting to get more domineering. I think in the future they’ll go in an isolated area so I can mow around them and not have worry about the birds flinging seeds everywhere.

    I had a couple of volunteer sweet peas grow with the sunflowers, so I was kicking around the idea of keeping the stalks and using them as a trellis for sweet peas next yea. Not sure how that will work out over time with the leeching chemicals issue, but thought it’d be pretty cool if it worked.

    1. moving left

      I haven’t had a problem with sunflowers suppressing other vegetables. Maybe it depends on the variety of sunflower or the particular vegetable. I really like the idea with the peas, and I doubt the dead stalks would pose a problem.

  21. Kfish

    Re: the Vogue cover. Maybe the NYC elite (or Wintour, at least) have realised that they are living out the last days of Versailles, and have decided to embrace that role? “Yes, we are the court of Louis XVI. We shall be the most beautiful, the most glorious, until the darkness of the Revolution comes, and everyone shall remember us for it.” After all, everybody remembers Marie Antoinette.

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      I keep telling my wife that I need to start building artisanal guillotines. The world will beat a path to my doorstep.

      1. Oregoncharles

        (Not sure how this is going to post, because I messed up. Responding to Lambert, not Wobbly.)
        About the sunflower patch: it’s a garden writing cliche that some seedheads remain decorative through winter. Sunflowers? the only way to find out is to try it. Since that is also the easiest, I recommend it. If you don’t like the look, cut them down (don’t uproot them) next year. You can let the stems lie on the ground, where the snow will soon cover them, or chop them up and compost them (more work). Personally I mix and match, depending on the place. But then I have a 5-yard compost pile, because I let the weeds grow and then composted them; even quantities of chopped blackberry vines. I also use hedge prunings as mulch under trees and such.

        It’s been a while since I grew sunflowers other than Maximilian (perennial), but I suspect you’ll find they need disturbed soil to germinate well. That would argue for hoeing through the patch in early spring, once everything’s broken down a bit. In your case, as soon as the snow permits. It’s such good exercise. You could find out for sure by hoeing only half the patch, see what happens.

  22. JBird4049

    On that class warfare, the harder I push “change or more of same”‘is a big big reason Clinton ( and all the acceptable Republicans ) lost the more I get” Berniebros, racism, Clinton’s corruption what corruption? ” Even though I remember much of the politics of the last years and what I don’t know there are books for that, I am the closed minded one.

    I can accept being wrong, even an idiot, but too many people seem to want to believe that it was everyone but the Democratic Party especially its leadership’s neoliberalism. When I keep reading similar put downs of poor whites as some do for blacks, as being mostly responsible for their fate in addition to the whites being responsible for the last election results, I want to scream.

    It reminds me of the slippery reasoning of addicts. It’s been an awakening for this now former Democrat.

  23. cripes


    The issue of “citizens” or “residents” qualifying to participate in a US universal health system, is mostly a non-issue in countries that already have modern health care.

    Residents, (who serve in the military), contribute payroll, state, sales and municipal taxes on the same basis as everyone else. Those who are in school, retired or whatever, do so on the same basis as everyone else. So what?

    If I were hit by a car or a heart attack in Canada or Argentina, I would be given medical care. So execute comity pacts if it makes you feel better.

    Or maybe…Global Single Payer For All?

    1. JBird4049

      To kinda paraphrase Ghandi, a modern America, it’s a wonderful idea. But although I am pushing for some form of real national healthcare and not the pseudo example of Obamacare, I am not sure a national healthcare system of any type that covers everyone is coming anytime soon. Considering that since the 1930s the medical industry has defeated it.

      So if the very idea of a national system for American citizens has been defeated for eight decades, any attempt to tie in an international healthcare system seems a delusional dream.

      1. cripes


        I forgot to use the /sarc/ tag.

        More the point is that many countries have little problem providing health services even to visitors, but we are discussing whether legal, tax paying residents should be included?

        It’s ridiculous.

        1. JBird4049

          No worries.

          It is hard to be satirize, or even be sarcastic about politics today. The boundaries keep getting pushed out by reality.

  24. jw

    Juggalos and the DSA/left socialists are natural allies. I’ve been talking/writing about this for years. The closest analogy for me is the “lumpenproletariat” that formed the revolutionary vanguard in Algeria and Vietnam. See for example the Wretched of the Earth by Fanon. The real revolutionaries were not trade unionists; they were those who were shut out of traditional means of ascent and resistance. The juggalos of the Midwest are those who have been penalized by the war on drugs, the war on the poor, and the war on human sexuality. In Vietnam, the Viet Cong relied a great deal upon bandits, as did the PLA in China. Hip hop, including ICP, is a cultural bridge that can unite working and non-working classes. Tupac after all joined the Communist Party when he was a teenager.

    1. clinical wasteman

      riotous applause!
      This needs to be said — and acted on — loudly and often.
      Yes something superficially like it is too often spouted glibly or romantically by student/professorial radicals and others, without proper care for all the complications. But how much more whimsical is the implied alternative of a revolutionary alliance between strictly ‘respectable’ subsets of the working and microbourgeois classes?! Another word for that would be an anti-Deplorable alliance, “colorblind” inasmuch as it makes the ‘lumpen’ of all ‘races’/nationalities its enemies.
      There’s at least a case to be argued that the French, Haitian and countless postcolonial revolutions imploded when they lost sight of what you say here.
      ‘The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon’ is maybe the best piece of real-time historiography ever written, but its opportunistic use by intellectuals and other Professional leftists to ‘prove’ that ‘lumpen = reactionary’ has done horrible damage over the last 160+ years.

  25. XXYY

    Re. Theory vs Practice, there is also this:

    In theory, theory and practice are the same thing.
    In practice, they aren’t.

    Words to live by.

    1. CraaaaaaaaaazyChris

      The version of this I’ve heard before is, “the difference between theory and practice is small in theory but large in practice.”

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