2:00PM Water Cooler 9/15/2017

★★★TODAY★★★ Bangor, Maine Meetup: Today, Friday, September 15, at 6:00pm, the Bangor NC Meetup will be held at Giacomo’s with me, Lambert; I will be wearing a grey hoodie, a purple shirt, and will carry a black computer shoulder bag, or have it near me. Looking forward!

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“The Trump administration may still be hesitating over whether to keep a controversial provision for resolving investment disputes in the new NAFTA deal it is trying to negotiate with Canada and Mexico, but its two trading partners are not having the same doubts” [Politico]. “A USTR spokeswoman declined to comment when asked if the Trump administration had made up its mind on the issue, which could ultimately determine whether Congress approves or rejects the revised pact. Many Democrats say they will vote against the deal unless the ISDS provision is dropped. But major business groups have sent a strong signal that they could oppose the new NAFTA if ISDS is left out.”

“Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross confirmed without hesitation on Thursday that USTR is considering proposing the implementation of a “sunset” proposal in NAFTA, or a provision that would automatically terminate the deal after five years unless all three countries agree before then to renew it” [Politico]. “‘The five-year thing is a real thing,’ Ross said at the POLITICO Pro Policy Summit in Washington on Thursday, adding that it ‘would force a systematic re-examination’ of the free trade deal. ‘If there were systematic re-examination after a little experience period, you’d have a forum for trying to fix things that didn’t work out the way you thought they would,’ he said. But the Canadian and Mexican ambassadors to the U.S. quickly threw cold water on the idea, warning that such a provision would bring uncertainty to the business and investment environment and hurt industries in all three countries.”


2016 Post Mortem

“Hillary Clinton Looks Back in Anger” [David Remnick, The New Yorker]. Clinton: “I think Trump has behaved in a deplorable manner, both during his campaign and as President,” she said. “I think he has given permission to others to engage in deplorable behavior, as we did see in Charlottesville and elsewhere. So I don’t take back the description that I made of him and a number of his core supporters.” Here is what Clinton actually said:

You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.

Does “half” sound like “core” to you? Even taking the lawyerly qualification into account? Excellent service from Remnick who, as one would expect, doesn’t call her on the discrepancy. Well played, all.

“Is sexism what happened to Hillary?” [Matt Bai, Yahoo News]. “Clinton can — and does — point to plenty of evidence to suggest that attitudes toward women skewed the election against her… But it’s also true that a lot of recent Democratic candidates, all of them men, performed only incrementally better among these groups [who skewed against Clinton]. And as Clinton herself notes, she also lost among white women, which at least complicates the gender argument. To the extent that Clinton or some of her supporters see sexism as the principal answer here, then I think maybe they’re asking the wrong question. The relevant issue isn’t really whether gender matters in politics or in the society generally (it clearly does), but rather whether it’s the thing that matters most…..”

“The Intelligence of Hillary Clinton” [Ian Welsh]. Clinton’s reading of 1984 … isn’t even wrong.

“History Greenlights Bill Clinton Impeachment Drama ‘The Breach'” [Variety]. Too soon?

Trump Transition

“Trump’s new world” [Axios]. “The dramatically different information Trump receives daily under the leadership of Chief of Staff John Kelly is an under-looked factor in Trump’s decision to double down on his partnership with the Democratic leaders… The result: Trump gets mostly positive feedback for his turn towards bipartisanship. He watches cable news in the morning, and even “Fox and Friends” finds a way to praise his deal with the Democrats. He reads his morning news clips and briefing materials, which are managed by Staff Secretary Rob Porter, under the guidance of Kelly. And during the day it’s not possible for a staff member to sneak a story onto Trump’s desk that might rile him up and turn him in a wildly different direction in an instant… Kelly now has real control over the most important input: the flow of human and paper advice into the Oval Office. For a man as obsessed about his self image as Trump, a new flow of inputs can make the world of difference.”

“The strange case of Donald Trump and the missing infrastructure” [Gillian Tett, Financial Times]. “Dan Slane, a former Trump adviser who has been knee-deep in those infrastructure weeds… was given the task of creating a workable trillion-dollar infrastructure plan… He spent several months consulting with trade unions, business leaders and state politicians. Then, in tandem with Boston Consulting Group and CG/LA Infrastructure, he identified 51 ‘shovel ready’ projects. Some involved desperately needed repairs to existing infrastructure, such as the locks and dams on the Ohio River in Kentucky and Illinois; others were new projects like high-speed rail in Texas and Florida, new subway lines in New York and 30-mile-long water tunnels in California. The consultants estimated these 51 projects could deliver 260,000 jobs, and a big economic boost. And while the price tag was a hefty $230bn, Mr Slane proposed starting with 27 projects that were already planned out, in detail, and which could produce immediate revenues and thus attract private financing. ‘Every infrastructure fund in the world contacted me to get involved — Saudis and Chinese and others,’ Mr Slane tells me. ‘Finding the money is the least of the problem.’ In economic terms, the plan looks stunningly sensible (except for diehard fiscal hawks). In political terms, it seems attractive too. But when Mr Slane presented his ideas, something peculiar occurred: they vanished.” Sounds like Kelly should get Tett’s article on Trump’s desk.

“Schumer caught on hot mic saying Trump ‘likes me'” [The Hill]. Politicians like to be liked. That includes Trump.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“GIMME A BRAKE (LIGHT) A DIY Guide” (PDF) [DSA New Orleans]. A sample:

This is an excellent paper, rivalling the various Indivisible guides for clarity and logic — but directed, obviously, at a very different audience for very different goals. (Note to DSA NOLA: It would be handy for search if I could copy and paste text instead of having to take and crop a screen shot.)

“‘This week looks like a moment where it’s crystallizing in a lot of people’s minds that Bernie Sanders is the future of the Democratic Party,’ says Mark Longabaugh, a Democratic consultant and aide to Sanders’ presidential bid. ‘There’s an assumption within the Democratic Party that a progressive candidate is a weakness. That’s not a weakness, that’s a strength. We have to lose some of the timidity that the party has had for too long on policy issues. How did Donald Trump end up as president? The public is restless and extremely unsatisfied with the performance of government. You have to make an argument. Put big bold ideas on the table. The public may not agree with every aspect, but they’re going to give you credit for trying to do something. Bernie Sanders put it on the table and argued for it'” [US News]. “Just look at some of the names who stood next to him Wednesday to roll-out his universal health care pitch: Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey. All are prospective candidates for the presidency in 2020 – and 10 months following the party’s harrowing 2016 defeat, they found themselves moving towards Sanders ideologically and physically, as each waited for his call Wednesday to make remarks at a Capitol Hill podium.”

Lambert here: Personally, I don’t think it matters a hoot that Clinton’s trying to blow up the Great Sept of Baelor to sell her book. On the inside game: Democrat insiders with a Presidential itch skew left toward Sanders on #MedicareForAll. On the outside game: Lots of pushing left at the state and local levels (Our Revolution, DSA). Of course, everybody loves a train wreck, especially in the Acela Corridor, so Clinton’s getting plenty of celebrity-style coverage. Say, I seem to remember Obama was going to get into voter registration and redistricting. We haven’t heard much about that, have we? Maybe he could ask Clinton to help!

“There are now signs that President Trump is succeeding in driving a wedge in the GOP between his base and the Republican Congress, blaming his own party for a lack of progress on Capitol Hill, something that could spell trouble for incumbents like Dean Heller in Nevada, Jeff Flake in Arizona, and possibly others” [National Journal].

“[I had a] dockside conversation a few weeks ago with a Maine lobsterman. He had a pronounced antipathy toward President Trump, but he espoused some distinctly Trumpian views of Washington and government. Yet, in the next breath, he was complimenting Bernie Sanders and blasting Democrats for choosing Hillary Clinton over Sanders for the presidential nomination last year” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. When you’ve lost the Maine lobsterpersons… But then there’s this: “Writing on the 16th anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11 makes me recall the brief period of unity that our country experienced after the horrendous events of that day. The harmony took poignant form when members of the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, gathered on the Capitol steps that night and sang ‘God Bless America.’ But not long after that, the fight over whether we should invade Iraq interrupted that brief period of political unity, and now things are worse than before.” This is utterly bizarre. The “political unity” between Democrats and Republicans on Iraq — thanks for your leadeship, Hillary! — was virtually complete. The fracture was between the political class taken as a whole, who wanted the war they got, and millions of voters, who (correctly) opposed it.;

“Occupy, 6 years later” [The Week]. “Why did Occupy fail? Perhaps because no one could convincingly articulate what the Occupy movement really stood for…. While it may seem heretical to consider the notion, even the ascendance of Donald Trump finds some of its roots in the Occupy movement. Both in its rejection of “the elites” and its manifestation of working-class resentment of the financial industry’s undo influence on government, the Trump train was the xenophobic right-wing offshoot of Occupy populist rage…. Occupy’s brief moment in the political spotlight may be best remembered as a confused curiosity. It may also be remembered as the spark of the socialist uprising within the larger Democratic Party, or a primer for the waves of confrontational street protest which have continued in various iterations throughout the decade.”

Stats Watch

Quadruple Witching:

Retail Sales, August 2017: “Soft is the assessment for the latest retail sales report which shows early Hurricane effects for some components and also downward revisions to prior months” [Econoday]. “There are not many signs of fundamental strength in August though restaurants did rise 0.3 percent with furniture up 0.4 percent and general merchandise making the plus column at 0.2 percent. Otherwise, give back is apparent in nonstore retailers, which have been very strong but fell 1.1 percent in August, and also building materials, down 0.5 percent after two sharp prior gains. Apparel is also weak, down 1.0 percent but again following solid gains….. This report scales back what had been an accelerating pivot higher for consumer spending which nevertheless remains on course as a contributor to third-quarter GDP. Yet the effects of Harvey, and also of course Hurricane Irma, still have to play out making September’s consumer spending results a difficult call.” And: “the three month rolling averages of the unadjusted data declined” [Econintersect]. And: “Survey evidence suggests solid confidence among consumers which should underpin spending over the next few months. Given uncertainties surrounding underlying trends, the overall market impact was limited with the data tending to be discounted” [Economic Calendar]. So, solid but melting into air? Apparently so: “The story is the weakness is weather related, as was the cpi increase, though not the downward revision for the prior month. (I suppose getting control of the weather would be a useful policy tool for the Fed to hit its targets?)” [Mosler Economics]. More:

The economy is to some degree path dependent, which in this case means that a slowdown in sales = a slowdown in income which can reduce future sales even after the weather issues clear up, especially given the declining growth rate real disposable personal income, the drop in the growth of borrowing, and the consumer dipping into savings to sustain spending.

In fact, with this month’s report and the downward revisions, as per the chart it looks like consumer spending has gone flat, and is now more in line with the deceleration of the credit aggregates previously discussed.

Consumer Sentiment, September 2017 (Preliminary): “Hurricanes Harvey and Irma did cut into consumer sentiment but not by much” [Econoday]. “[W]eakness isn’t the story of this report, rather unusual strength. The current conditions component rose 3 points to 113.9 for the best level in nearly 17 years. Assessments of personal finances, like those in the monthly consumer confidence report, are the best of the expansion in strength that belies weakness in wages but is consistent with strength in home values and also the stock market.” And: “The data overall continues to suggest a firm trend in consumer spending in the short term” [Economic Calendar].

Industrial Production, August 2017: “The biggest hurricane hit yet comes not in consumption but on the production side of the economy as industrial production fell 0.9 percent in August which is within Econoday’s consensus range but against a median call for a 0.1 percent gain” [Econoday]. “Hurricane effects are temporary and will be reversed yet they are certain to affect September’s report given extending disruptions from Harvey and Irma’s hit on Florida. The manufacturing component of this report tells a key story right now of the 2017 economy: four straight months of trouble that include two contractions. Regional surveys based on anecdotal responses from small samples, such as this morning’s Empire State report, have not been picking up this weakness.” And: “The market expected improvement this month in industrial production – and instead got a signiicant decline. Our analysis shows this month was worse than last month BUT the best way to view this is the 3 month rolling averages which also declined” [Econintersect]. “Manufacturing employment growth remains flat year-over-year.”

Empire State Manufacturing Survey, September 2017: “Overheating is the signal from Empire State’s manufacturing report where strength, which has been enormous, continues to build” [Econoday]. “New orders are up more than 4 points this month to 24.9 to signal the fastest rate of monthly growth in 8 years. Backlog orders are piling up at an unusually strong 8.9 while delivery delays, likely tied at least in part to the supply-chain impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, are at 14.6 which is a record in the 16 year history of this report…. This report needs to cool to avoid dislocations and extended delivery delays in the region’s factory sector.” And: “The data overall suggests the regional manufacturing sector is continuing to register strong growth which should also boost overall confidence in the outlook” [Economic Calendar]. But: “I am not a fan of surveys – and this survey jumps around erratically” [Econintersect].

Business Inventories, July 2017: “inventory-to-sales ratio is unchanged at a lean 1.38” [Econoday]. “Business inventories have been climbing in line with expectations for future sales but nevertheless ahead of current sales. Another build is expected for July but only a moderate one.”

Employment Situation: “Eleven states have reached new all time lows since the end of the 2007 recession. These eleven states are: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin” [Calculated Risk].

Small Business Optimism: See the charts: Optimism peaking while earnings down 11% [Mosler Economics]. Mosler comments: “Trumped up expectations continue even as earnings deteriorate.”

Commodities: “Texas Frac Sand In Demand” [Forbes]. “Millions of pounds of sand are pumped down each shale well in the hydraulic fracturing process, and while Wisconsin Northern White is still dominant, it is now used in only two-thirds of US fracs. That’s a lot of displaced market share, sources told Mergermarket. Regional Texas sand mines have become an attraction as companies bank on ‘Permian headlines’ and a diversity of sand types.”

Commodities: “New drilling techniques make it possible to use fine-grained local sand instead of shipping in millions of pounds of the stuff from Wisconsin. Going local eliminates transportation costs that can exceed the value of the cargo itself, a proposition valuable enough to convince some investors to cash out of oil and plow the proceeds into Texas sand. The shift is a windfall for truckers, with one mining executive estimating it would take 120,000 truckloads to connect Texas sand mines with local drillers. Much of those volumes were previously moved 1,300 miles by rail” [Wall Street Journal].

Shipping: “Cargo Shipping 101: Goods Moved by Ships” [Port Technology]. What it says on the tin. “Growth in foreign trade agreements such as NAFTA (North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement), TPSEP (Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership) and AFTA (ASEAN Free Trade Area), is increasing the demand of cargo shipping market.”

Retail: “Macy’s Inc., the deeply troubled department store chain, says it will add 80,000 workers for the holidays. Most will be in distribution and warehouse operations as the company prepares the logistics for e-commerce sales and what Macy’s management hopes will be a busy fourth quarter.” [247 Wall Street]. “In Macy’s case, it cannot afford the October through December shopping period to be weak. Its downward spiral is already accelerating. So far, closing stores has been its only obvious strategy. It is also among the large retailers saying that online sales are their future. Hiring people will not make it so.”

Marketing: “The iPhone X is a case study in how Apple manipulates your desires” [Mic]. Naming, anchoring and charming pricing, planned obsolescence.

Marketing: “Apple’s Best Product Is Its Media Strategy” [Buzzfeed]. No other person or entity, no politician or even Hollywood franchise is so able to so fully peel away the layers of our daily reality in service to engineered desire. This is Apple’s specialty. Its entire purpose is to make you pay attention to it; to make you want it. And it is very, very good at that….” Worth a read. All the way to the end.

The Bezzle: “Here’s What Your Identity Sells For on the Dark Web” [Bloomberg]. “Underground markets also sell full identities of individuals just like you for as little as $10 apiece. They’re called fullz, “dossiers that provide enough financial, geographic and biographical information on a victim to facilitate identity theft or other impersonation-based fraud,” the report explains. Fullz can help a criminal get past those irritating “secret questions” that sites ask to verify your identity.” News you can use!

The Bezzle: “[P]arents clearly worry about getting judged for the [school] lunches they pack” [Moneyish]. “So time-crunched, judgement-avoidant parents are throwing money at the problem, literally. Yumble — which offers vegetarian, gluten- and dairy-free options — delivers school lunches to your doorstep in many East Coast cities for about $7-$8 per meal. Options include turkey kale balls, quinoa pizza cups and pulled beef sliders… Over on the west coast, Organic Kids LA will deliver certified organic items like herb butter salmon or or a Cali Goddess salad to your child’s school for between $6-$8 per meal. For another $4, you can get them a cold-pressed juice, $2.50 for a smoothie or $1.25 for a water.”

The Bezzle: “There’s still one big reason why people aren’t buying their groceries online” [Quartz]. “[T]here’s still one big reason why so many people still aren’t buying groceries online: They prefer to handpick items themselves.” No duh! “According to survey data from Morgan Stanley, 84% of people say they decided against ordering groceries online because they preferred to physically see and choose their groceries. That was unchanged from the results in 2016, when 84% of respondents also felt that way… Amazon has also struggled to get produce picking right for AmazonFresh, its grocery delivery service. At its Seattle fulfillment center, the company used to waste nearly a third of the bananas it purchased because Fresh only sold the fruit in bunches of five. Workers would discard any bunches of three or four, and tear off and throw out the extra banana on a bunch of six, a research paper by a student at MIT explained in 2015.” Well, what the heck. Groceries are a high-margin business. Oh, wait…

The Bezzle: “It turns out that when SoFi executives and employees weren’t banging the ‘collateral’ out of each other in parked cars or office bathrooms, they were being less than honest with loan applicants about how their loan applications were being evaluated” [DealBreaker]. “According to conversations with numerous former SoFi employees, the company’s “FICO-Free Zone” loan product actually relied quite heavily on evaluating applicants by their FICO score. After very publicly announcing in early 2016 that SoFi would no longer use FICO scores to evaluate loans, sources tell Dealbreaker that the company saw defaults tick up and made the internal to decision to reintegrate FICO data. No announcement of the shift back was ever made, the “FICO-Free” language disappeared from the website and some evidence of the SoFi’s move away from FICO was even scrubbed from the company’s blog…. But this whole thing seems less like a concerted effort to deceive than a big idea getting quickly out of hand. Our sources describe a hungry and motivated startup bent on disrupting the lending industry but handicapped by an inadequate algorithm and one simply too shorthanded to deal with a deluge of loan applications. It almost feels like Theranos 2.0, but with less turtleneck and more Fintech.”

The Bezzle: “You’ll never use a filthy public bathroom again if this start-up has its way” [CNBC]. “A San Francisco start-up called Good2Go wants to make it easy to find clean, well-lit bathrooms in any major city. And you won’t have to touch a single surface inside them, either. For now, Good2Go only works in downtown San Francisco, and its first partner is The Creamery, a cafe known as a hangout for start-ups, tech bloggers and venture investors.” Sounds legit. Me, I’m don’t want to touch the surface of a single venture capitalist, but we all have our quirks.

The Fed: “Last week’s news that Federal Reserve Vice Chair Stanley Fischer will retire next month leaves a gaping hole of four vacancies on the central bank’s board, and offers President Donald Trump an unparalleled opportunity to shape U.S. monetary policy for the foreseeable future” [DealBreaker]. “It’s hard to overstate how much these nominations will impact the future of the U.S. financial system. … And, while Trump’s nominations in other policy areas have ranged from curious to terrifying, all the rumored candidates for Fed posts have been a surprisingly vanilla and qualified group of standard Republican policymakers.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 75 Extreme Greed (previous close: 68, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 38 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 15 at 11:17am. Cruising altitude!

Health Care

“Joe Lieberman on Bernie Sanders’ Single Payer Bill: ‘Wonder Drug Stuff’ Sold at ‘County Fairs'” [Daily Beast]. Hat tip, Al Gore, for giving The Father of the DHS — and Obama’s mentor — a national platform.

“The Single-Payer Surge” [US News]. “[W]hen it comes to health care, Sanders is winning the long game, making single-payer a de facto part of the Democratic platform.”

“Love Bernie Sanders’ plan or hate it, he’s describing a model in which health care resources are allocated differently. He and his allies don’t want to build something new on top of a multi-payer system; they want to replace it with a single-payer system. The financing change comes with how we’d pay for care, not how we’d maintain what we have and add new benefits” [MSNBC]. “By any fair metric, this change would save an enormous amount of money. Republicans may balk for other reasons, but the cost argument is nonsense.”


“The claim that building more pipelines to carry Canada’s oil sands production to ports for export will unlock significantly higher prices for bitumen is not supported by either past or current market conditions, a new study shows” [Mining.com]. “According to Jeff Rubin, senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, overseas markets pay even lower prices for bitumen than in North America, so there is no economic case for additional pipeline capacity to tidewater or expanded oil sands production.”

Our Famously Free Press

“But a new report from the Pew Research Center shows that the reality is more complex. Creating what he calls a “information-engagement typology,” researcher John Horrigan identified five distinct groups of people based on their interest and engagement with new information: The Eager and Willing represent 22 percent of the U.S. adult population and have the highest levels of trust in information sources as well as the most interest in improving their own digital literacy. The Confident (16 percent of adults) in contrast are just as have just as much trust in information sources, but don’t feel a strong desire to improve their digital skills” [Nieman Labs]. Handy table:

There doesn’t seem to be a bucket for “Eager, Willing, and Wary.”

“Tagging fake news on Facebook doesn’t work, study says” [Politico]. “]The study] found that tagging false news stories as ‘disputed by third party fact-checkers’ has only a small impact on whether readers perceive their headlines as true. Overall, the existence of ‘disputed’ tags made participants just 3.7 percentage points more likely to correctly judge headlines as false, the study said. The researchers also found that, for some groups—particularly, Trump supporters and adults under 26—flagging bogus stories could actually end up increasing the likelihood that users will believe fake news. That’s because the sheer volume of misinformation that floods the social media network makes it impossible for the fact-checking groups Facebook has partnered with—like Politifact, FactCheck.org and Snopes.com—to address every story. The existence of flags on some—but not all—false stories made Trump supporters and young people more likely to believe any story that was not flagged.” “Trump supporters and young people” is a pretty big bucket….

“Facebook Hires Former NYT Public Editor Elizabeth Spayd To Build User Trust” [Forbes]. Oh. Alright.

“Large, surprise layoffs are under way at RealClearPolitics, which has blossomed from the dream of two Chicago businessmen junkies into a journalism staple for politics junkies” [Poynter Institute]. “Co-founder Tom Bevan confirmed that 20 of 70 full-time employees will exit as an economically driven restructuring takes place, with two verticals closing, including one on sports.The bread and butter politics unit is not unscathed, and those notified included Alexis Simendinger, its respected White House correspondent.” That’s a shame.

Hurricane Alley

“Truck driver is FIRED for giving plywood to Hurricane Irma victims after he tried to deliver it to Home Depot that was shut for storm” [Daily Mail].

“There are 325,510 flood-damaged cars currently on the road — a 20% increase from last year, Carfax found in an analysis released Tuesday. That number doesn’t include vehicles affected by Harvey and Irma, but there could be hundreds of thousands more water-damaged cars as a result of those floods. Historically, half of flooded cars have ended up back on the road, [Basso, a spokesman Carfax] said” [MarketWatch]. “Water damage can take weeks or months to affect a car. The moisture can short the car’s electrical system and compromise safety features such as air bags and anti-lock brakes. Flood-damaged cars also present another, less obvious, concern: health issues. They can develop mildew and mold, which can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks. In Houston, recent tests have revealed that much of the floodwaters are toxic — not exactly the kind of stuff you want lingering beneath your floor mats.”

The 420

“‘It’s high time to address research into medical marijuana,” Hatch said today in the Senate. “To be blunt, we need to remove the administrative barriers preventing legitimate research into medical marijuana, which is why I’ve decided to roll out the MEDS Act. Our country has experimented with a variety of state solutions without properly delving into the weeds on the effectiveness, safety, dosing, administration, and quality of medical marijuana.'” [Quartz]. A staffer having a bit of gentle fun? Now, to be fair to Hatch: “Hatch also urged his colleagues not to ignore mounting evidence that cannabis has medicinal benefits. He cited to the case of ‘a young man’ from Utah who takes 17 epilepsy medications daily, none of which help with his seizures as much as medical cannabis could. The senator said his ‘friend’ and others continue to suffer while the federal government does nothing and there may be safe, effective treatment available.”

Class Warfare

“A pain specialist at one of our nation’s leading medical centers told me earlier this year that while many Americans become addicted to opioids after prescriptions to alleviate physical pain from injury or illness, many more are self-medicating for emotional pain, escaping lives barren of opportunity. Economists now say that a part of the decline in the labor participation rate in recent years is due to people who, because of opioid addiction, have left the workforce” [Cook Political Report].

“Cities still haven’t recovered from the recession — their revenues last year (accounting for inflation) reached just under 98 percent of what they were in 2006, the year before the recession started — and if the expectations in this report bear out, they might never fully recover before the next downturn” [Governing]. Thanks, Obama! “Noting that cities have limited taxing power compared to states, the [National League of Cities], report says ‘cities are stuck between a rock (property tax caps) and a hard place (limited online sales tax authority), often resulting in the increase of fees for services.’ Such a ‘patchwork approach,’ therefore, isn’t likely to capture the full value of the current economic expansion. (More on the report here.)”

News of the Wired

“Food Deserts and the Policy Power of Maps” [Governing]. “In partnership with the city, Hopkins researchers created 14 maps that break down food deserts and grocery locations by each council district. Being able to truly see the problem has helped the city address it, says Holy Freishtat, the city’s food policy director. Using the maps, the city started offering tax credits in 2016 to food retailers who open or renovate stores in or near food deserts. Shortly after the incentive passed, a grocery store opened in East Baltimore in an area that was previously a designated food desert. “The maps are really the cornerstone of how we are driving policy,” Freishtat says. “It was crucial for us to have numbers, to have need identified in some capacity.” The city has also modified its building code and changed policy to allow hoop houses (less-permanent greenhouses), Freishtat says.”

“Hackers could program sex robots to kill” [New York Post]. Gibson’s next series, after he gets the Clinton novel out of the way.

“History of technology: How China sidestepped QWERTY” [Nature]. “Attempts to improve the Chinese typewriter, such as the MingKwai, paid off only after the 1970s, in the computer age. Then, the IME transformed the Chinese keyboard into a ‘smart’ peripheral, much more sophisticated at taking instructions from the user than its static, rather stupid alphabetic cousin.”

* * *

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:

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. dcblogger

    Trump is a completely horrible president and you can be sure that much of the world regards the whole of the United States of America as a basket full of deplorables for allowing him to get elected.

    1. sleepy

      Yes, Trump is a horrible president.

      Yet it wasn’t that long ago much of the world considered the US to be awesome because of Obama. PR is fickle.

    2. jrs

      of course the people of Iraq probably regard the u.s. as a basket of deplorables for allowing W to get elected (well not that he was actually elected the first time at least but …), and the people of Libya might regard it as a basket of deplorables for getting Obama elected etc. Or who knows they may have a somewhat nuanced understanding and see the U.S. more as the fake democracy it mostly is.

      1. Montanamaven

        Add the Russian people probably look at us as a basket of deplorables with delusional tendencies who are easily susceptible to propaganda and easily divided and conquered by elite kleptocrats.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Schumer and Pelosi disagree. Or, rather, they may think he’s horrible in the way that Warren G. Harding or James Buchanan were horrible, as opposed to how Adolf Hitler was horrible. This despite knobs-to-11 yammering by Democrats for a solid ten months that Trump and Hitler were twin sons of different mothers.

      I mean, you don’t go to dinner with Hitler. Schumer and Pelosi did. So there you are!

      1. Oregoncharles

        The entire German power structure “went to dinner” with Hitler, the ones that hadn’t fled the country.

    4. todde

      Wait, it was Putin, Comey, Sanders, Obama, Biden, CNN, Fox News, Facebook, The New York Times, and Jill Stein that allowed Trump to get elected.

      Well, at least according to Hillary that is.

    5. sierra7

      So, how do the two major parties motivate the approx 80M registered voters who did not vote in the last pres. election????????
      So far we see a continuing decline in the number of registered voters who choose to exercise their voting rights. Something is horribly wrong.

  2. Sid Finster

    HRC harps endlessly about misogyny, but if Team D had pulled some random unknown woman not named HRC off the bus, coached her in Team D talking points, and ran her for president with the kinds of institutional advantages that the Clinton Campaign enjoyed, this random woman would have clobbered Trump.

    People don’t hate you because you’re a woman, HRC. They just hate you.

    1. Watt4Bob

      Reminds me of that old saying;

      If one or two people say you’re an a**hole, maybe you are, maybe you’re not, but if everyone says you’re an a**hole, you’re an a**hole.”

      1. PKMKII

        The way I always heard it was, “If one person is an a-hole, then they’re an a-hole. If everyone is an a-hole, then you’re the a-hole.”

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      “but if Team D”

      Hillary wasn’t on the ballot in 2010. In 2012, Obama’s margins in the individual states weren’t that great. The unprecedented minority turnout really mattered.

      I’ll give you the novelty factor of a woman candidate, but one of Sanders’ strongest assets is he isn’t a Democrat.

      Can you imagine a ticket headlined by Timmy Kaine or god forbid, Joe Biden? If you thought the reaction to Sanders in states with low levels of internet access was bad, how would Timmy do? I would propose loyalty and nostalgia were powerful factors for Hillary in the election that other candidates would have to overcome.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Although Ossoff isn’t a woman, I think his relative decline versus Hillary stands exemplifies the problem Team Blue affiliated candidates will have especially when you see the over performance of less traditional candidates such as the ones featured in SC, Montana, and some of the state pick ups who did not receive $30 million or even help with postage.

      1. sleepy

        Hillary Clinton: ‘Nobody Said A Word’ When It Was My Fake Severed Head

        That should’ve told her something right there! /s

      2. IowanX

        Thanks for spotting that! And indeed, a meme fully crafted for roll-out!

        Also, thanks for turning comments back on. Happy Meet-up!

  3. Watt4Bob

    “A pain specialist at one of our nation’s leading medical centers told me earlier this year that while many Americans become addicted to opioids after prescriptions to alleviate physical pain from injury or illness, many more are self-medicating for emotional pain, escaping lives barren of opportunity.

    Having recently done a course of opioid medication during recovery from a motorcycle accident, I think I can add a bit of perspective to the topic.

    When getting off opioids after illness or injury, it helps to have a good life to return to.

    If you have been taking opioids for some time due to injury or illness, it is hard enough if you have a loving family and a good job to return to.

    Now consider the fact that what many folks using these medications, instead face the prospect of facing abject misery once again, unemployment and the tense family life that goes with it, all without the pain-killers they’ve come to rely on.

    1. Richard Jackson

      A few years ago, I took pretty high doses of opioids for 3 weeks, after a painful surgical procedure. I was groggy and couldn’t get much of anything done the entire time.

      When I ran out of pain meds, I didn’t call for a refill, and just stopped abruptly. I was worried, but I had no withdrawal symptoms at all. The pain was a bit worse for a while, but by then, tolerable, and overall, I felt better.

      A friend had a different surgery and was hospitalized on pain meds for only 3 days. He improved, and was sent home without meds. His pain was better, and he didn’t ask for them. Within 12 hours, he went into withdrawal, at home, for several days.

      We both had families and jobs to return to.

      I think this illustrates the extent that unknown and unpredictable individual differences, and probably heredity, can play in drug dependence. That doesn’t discount the role of poverty, unemployment, and hopelessness, however.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        “…to escape lives barren of opportunity”.

        A few years ago a group of scientists announced the results of a ten-year study of the causes of human happiness. (Early on they actually decided that “happiness” was the wrong thing to study as it described a short-term giddy state so they ended up studying “contentment” and its causes instead).

        The top factor cited was “a sense of progress”. People who felt they were making progress, in their jobs, in their hobbies, in their relationships, in any major aspect really, were the most content. Those with no sense of progress in their lives were the least content.

        I’d think this is very deeply-rooted in human experience, a Neanderthal man who had succeeded that day in rolling a few more boulders up to protect his cave probably felt content as he sat down to his meal of charred bison. Today we have a few billion people in emerging countries who are doing a little better day by day, now for the first time they have a bicycle or a telephone or a fridge…but we have tens of millions in the developed world losing ground on all fronts with no progress in sight. The boulders just won’t roll the way they used to.

    2. Yves Smith

      There are some of us who can’t abide opiates. Had horrible dental pain once, and the Vicodin only made things worse, as in barely dented the pain and made me feel nauseous and even crappier in other ways. So we can’t get any relief from really bad pain.

      1. UserFriendly

        That just means you have a naturally higher tolerance, like me. If you ever need the stronger stuff it will work and if you’re anything like me you won’t have a problem putting it down without detoxing. Assuming they probably gave you 5 mg vicodin (which is 1/2 as potent as oxy). That is such a mild dose, they let doctors call it in to pharmacies. A Junky would kill themselves on the acetaminophen in vicodin before he ever got enough opiate to feel it.

        1. Yves Smith

          Actually even though I referred to it as Vicodin out of convenience, I insisted on the version with ibuprofen since I avoid acetaminophen like the plague. But the big point was not that it didn’t do much for the pain but that it made me feel AWFUL. No way am I gonna take that stuff. Ugh.

  4. L

    Slightly off topic but Steve Bannon gave a talk the other day before an investor’s conference in Hong Kong. Before the talk he had told American press that he would heavily criticize China and in particular state that we were at economic war with China. The talk itself was closed to the press but according to The Diplomat the language he used was much softer and he even inserted some specific praise for Chinese premier Xi Jinping:

    Xi is very impressive. He really understands what’s in the best interests of his people. He is very smart, very tough but fair. He is direct and to the point – just like President Trump. That is why they like each other so much.

    Later noting:

    “Chinese way of running their economic system is quite brilliant. I tip my hat to them… there isn’t a world leader Trump respects more than the president of China. ”

    I wonder how will language like that play in Peoria?

    1. Lee

      I watched Bannon on Charlie Rose. He portrayed the Chinese leadership as admirably effective with interests antagonistic to our own. He went on to describe the US as a Chinese tributary state. I don’t disagree insofar as it is agreed that our capital owning class is the responsible party and chief beneficiary functioning as compradores in this arrangement.

      1. L

        While I would not call it a tributary state I would agree with the analysis that our moneyed class is working to route cash out to their benefit.

        That said his buildup was that he would criticize them heavily then instead he blows kisses behind closed doors. That is hardly consistent and that is exactly the “insider behavior” that the Bannon campaign so decried in others.

        As to effective that depends. They are effective at protecting their (the leaderships’ interests). As to protecting the people I disagree. I would argue that to a great extent the interests of the Communist party runs orthagonal both to their peoples’ interests and to our own.

    2. a different chris

      >I wonder how will language like that play in Peoria?

      Probably pretty good…. I think they would hear it as “China takes care of their own, why shouldn’t we?”.

      Contrasts jarringly with the ISDS bit of news. “Major business groups” oppose it. Now seriously, isn’t the current belief that a business should take care of itself regardless of any other conditions and let the world sort it out? So if not having ISDS would disadvantage foreign companies, wouldn’t it be in these “Major business groups” wheelhouse to oppose it?

      Or maybe they aren’t really Major American Business Groups. If so, why do they get a seat at the head of our table?

      1. Chris

        I suspect that the impact of foreign corporations applying ISDS inside the U.S. is much less than that of U.S. corporations applying it in other countries. (No data, though…)

      2. L

        I would say yes and no. To the extent that it is parsed as “they take care of their own” I suspect that yes, that would be accepted. But Bannon has already said that publicly. It is the part about complementing them for being effective, good for their people, and crucially, being respected by Donald Trump.

        For people expecting a trade war or even any measure of “looking after our own” the idea that Trump secretly likes and respects Xi will not be welcome. For the folks who wield torches I suspect that the idea that he respects him more than any other will be horrific, possibly true, but still horrific.

  5. flora

    re:“Hillary Clinton Looks Back in Anger” – David Remnick

    I remember Nixon as a shrewd politician. The only time this assessment of him changed was when he publicly went into self-pity mode.

    Hillary’s public self-pity tour is making Nixon look dignified by comparison.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I’m still waiting for Hillary to break down on national TV.

      Nixon did. Right before he resigned.

      OTOH, Nixon went back to CA and almost died. Phlebitis. He had a pretty severe attack in the fall of 1974.

      After that incident, Nixon remained in low-profile mode for years.

    2. Montanamaven

      Such talk was not a matter of wishful conspiracy thinking. Scott Shane, of the Times, recently published an article in which he, with the help of the cybersecurity firm FireEye, detailed the Russian efforts against Clinton in the campaign, far beyond the hack of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta’s e-mail accounts. Shane reported that a “cyberarmy” of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bloggers and bots with fake American identities spread disinformation about Clinton on various platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

      Robert Parry torn this Scott Shane mem to shreds. Parry on debunking Russian thousands of bloggers spread disinformation

  6. Knifecatcher

    Any analysis of “Why Occupy failed” that doesn’t include any reference to the violent multi-city paramilitary crackdown, coordinated by the FBI and DHS, can’t be taken seriously. The article mentions groups being busted up by local governments but that doesn’t quite capture the state sanctioned violence inflicted upon the various encampments.

    The message was sent loud and clear – anyone choosing to “occupy” does so at risk of life and limb.

    1. Enrico Malatesta

      I’m troubled with the meme that Occupy WS is a failed movement:

      – it unmasked elements of the surveillance division of the Deep State
      – it provided terminology for expressing the Class Warfare that we are told daily doesn’t exist
      – it planted so many seeds that will continue to germinate and bloom

      1. L

        I would suspect that the meme is out there because some people very much want it to be out there. In much the same way that some people very much want the narrative that “single payer is unworkable” to be widely accepted.

    2. polecat

      Said crackdowns couldn’t of happened @$ effectively without the cooperation of those multi-city status quo DEMOCRAT mayors !

    3. XXYY

      The idea that Occupy “failed” is no doubt part propaganda designed to shape popular history, but also, I think, partly an inability of many people to understand what a “movement” is. We saw this endlessly during the time Occupy encampments were present in cities all over the country. Reporters and pundits would constantly ask “what do they want”? In other words, what specific legislative or other objectives was Occupy created to produce? Their perplexity seemed genuine in many cases.

      This is a profound misconception on two levels: (a) that Occupy had some kind of centralized leadership or stakeholders that “wanted” something and was somehow issuing orders to the Occupiers, and (b) that it is impossible for a collective or large scale project to exist that doesn’t have specific, presumably political objectives.

      So, by this reasoning, the lack of specific legislative or other political attainments by Occupy means the effort “failed.” Conversely, if the result had been the passage of the Occupy American Cities Act or something, no matter how vacuous or pointless, Occupy would have been a success.

      Success or failure depends on how success is measured. We need to redefine the metric of success for our popular movements.

  7. nippersmom

    Lieberman cited that switch from employer plans as another personal problem he had with the bill, saying “by and large people are satisfied” with options provided in the workplace.

    Which “people” are those, Joe? The ones you served with in the Senate?

    Joe might want to join the real world and realize that many people don’t have “options provided in the workplace”, and those of us who do are not “by and large satisfied” with paying inflated premiums for care that may still be expensive or inconvenient to access.

    1. L

      While I agree with you that his assessment of “people” is probably a bit off there is a kernel of valid warning there. People may be unsatisfied with the crappy, costly, always changing, high-deductable HMO ‘plans’ that they get. But if those are replaced with something that is perceived to be worse or if the opponents of single payer can make them believe that this will be worse then the bill will face serious problems.

      Keep in mind that for many people the ACA made things worse not because they have less coverage but because they have higher premiums and the argument that their lifetime costs are supposed to be lower does not seem to take hold.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Yah, and that’s the pitch that peddlers of fear, uncertainty and doubt are already feeding subtly, and not so subtly, into the public discourse, isn’t it… Amazing how artfully and artlessly this can be done. Especially in places where people are acculturated to giving all content a fair hearing, and judicious study. But it’s a useful heads-up…

  8. relstprof

    “Republicans may balk for other reasons, but the cost argument is nonsense.”

    This goes for the ‘cost argument’ Democrats too.

  9. Synoia

    According to survey data from Morgan Stanley, 84% of people say they decided against ordering groceries online because they preferred to physically see and choose their groceries.

    Ok I’m going full evolutionist here, under the Theory that everything we do, our behavior, is based on some evolutionary advantage.

    Evolutionary advantage: The Children Learned “good behavior” and passed the behavior on to their children.

    We humans spent hundreds of thousand of years, if not millions, as Hunter-Gatherers. I’d assert the KEY skill of a gatherers (typically female) is the selection of “good produce” aka: fresh veggies.

    I’d assert the “gathering” of “good veggies” is baked into our DNA, and gathering (aka: shopping) is somehow deeply satisfying, because those who picked poisonous (or just insufficient) plants eliminated their DNA from our collective gene pool.

    Trying to prevent females from going shopping, that is “gathering,” appears to try to swim again a long trend in human evolution.

    Just as trying to change men’s behavior away from “hunting” is futile.

  10. tommy strange

    Yeah I saw that 1984 quote yesterday. And confirmed to me, she really is just stupid. A world famous book that is undeniably written about ‘experts’ and technocrats creating a modern slave society, is somehow a warning to listen to elite experts? my god. And of course, I doubt she knows Orwell supported the POUM and CNT….even though Homage is his 2nd most read book. Elite people never stop to astonish me how disconnected they are from history, including economic history, and social movements. OH and thanks for opening comments! I love your comment section!!!! such hard work though…I won’t muck it up, I promise. I can’t imagine how you all keep this up!!!

  11. Jacqueline


    Long time lurker here. Just a note of appreciation for the work you do at NC. Water Cooler’s selection of links and your intelligent framing strike me as hard work. That you pull it off on a daily basis is nothing short of laudatory to this reader.

  12. Jess

    Regarding the five categories of information literacy: Note how it conflates improving digital skills with information literacy. Total bullshit. I’m in a different category altogether: I love acquiring information from digital sources — NC being foremost among them — that I have found to be factual, accurate, and propaganda-free. But I have little to no interest in improving my digital skills just so I can spend more time hunched over a keyboard or a smart phone. I have never uploaded a photo to Facebook from my phone, and don’t know how. I have never used GPS, on either my phone or my car, and don’t know how. I can, however, find my way just about anywhere using an old-fashioned printed map. I do not have or use Siri, Alexa, etc. Nothing in my house is wired to the internet except my computer. The only two apps on my phone that didn’t come with it are one to adjust the volume on my hearing aids and one to check my email.

    At some point someone is going to have to recognize that being a slave to apps and screens is not worth the effort, or the results, to many people. Tech should be a tool, not a master. Sadly, nowadays it looks like you have to have two degrees to function: one in your chosen field of endeavor, and one in Comp Sci.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I’d like to see more efforts directed at improving social skills. I don’t think that all of this tech is helping.

      1. The Rev Kev

        But, but, tech is so profitable! And social skills you can just learn for free with a little practice.

    2. justanotherprogressive

      Bingo! You have it exactly right!

      Use the technology that works for you and ignore the rest – that IS how human control technology and it is soooo simple to do – but most people can’t figure that out.

      As you point out, slaves to technology that have to have the latest whatever simply because it is the new tech toy are just that – slaves……

    3. Chris

      ” There doesn’t seem to be a bucket for “Eager, Willing, and Wary.” ”

      The authors’ categorisation has fallen for the myth of the average. This profile of Todd Rose spells out the problem quite neatly:

      In addition, there’s a common error of thinking which mistakes familiarity with the latest technical gizmo or app for “information literacy”, and characterises all youngsters as being “good with the cyber”.

      I’m in my mid-60s, and don’t use Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, or check email on my phone. However, I have a recent PhD in informatics, and consider myself to have a high degree of information literacy.

      As to the value we all derive from NC, there’s no need to feel modest when you blush, Lambert…

      1. CanCyn

        Chris @ 9:03. Agreed! I’m a college librarian, mid 50s. I don’t use FB or linked in or Twitter either and I would also call myself highly information literate and absolutely don’t fall into any of PEW’s categories. In my world, we know there is a huge difference between the information literacy confident vs the information literacy competent. Just because you rate yourself as good at something doesn’t mean that you actually are. Further, just because you can FB, Tweet and Instagram, etc. easily doesn’t mean that have you even a clue about the online world & its privacy, security and credibility problems.

  13. Kevin

    “Truck driver is FIRED for giving plywood to Hurricane Irma victims after he tried to deliver it to Home Depot that was shut for storm”

    How long before compassion and empathy are considered felonies?

    1. Watt4Bob

      And how stupid does Home Depot look for missing this giant PR opportunity.

      They could have turned this truck driver’s gesture into an example of their good corporate citizenship and turned it into free advertising.

    2. justanotherprogressive

      Better yet, when will all of these people who “grew up” on Ayn Rand finally disappear from this earth? Maybe then empathy will make a comeback…..

    3. Edward E

      That trucking company is a really bad one but they actually gave him a break, he could have been prosecuted for load theft and that would really haunt the rest of his life. If he was a good worker he can recover from this and with his driving experience possibly land a much better job. Hopefully a great company will help him out, I certainly hope so. There are still good companies out there.

    4. Edward E

      I remember hauling food and poor hungry people wanting me to help them out. It’s hard but you have to be careful, protect your load and your income if you wish to not lose everything to wind up living under a bridge somewhere because of a poor decision.

      1. witters

        A Short Lesson in Business Ethics

        Q: What happened to you?
        A: I made a Poor Decision.
        Q: What was that?
        A: I – through weakness of will – fell prey to the vice of compassion.

  14. neighbor7

    Bet I’m not the only one who would enjoy (maybe even subscribe to?) an expanded, stand-alone Bezzle.

    Anyway, ditto on the great work (Yves too), and perspicacious sense of humor.

  15. ewmayer

    Re. The Bezzle: “You’ll never use a filthy public bathroom again if this start-up has its way” [CNBC]. “A San Francisco start-up called Good2Go wants to make it easy to find clean, well-lit bathrooms in any major city.”

    The Bezzle here extends to said startup taking the exact same name as a car-insurance-in-monthly-installments-for-the-income-challenged company whose ads are a staple on cable TV. Just append a dot-com to the name to view the latter firm’s site.

    1. todde

      “John Kenneth Galbraith’s greatest contribution to economics is the concept of the bezzle, that increment to wealth that occurs during the magic interval when a confidence trickster knows he has the money he has appropriated but the victim does not yet understand that he has lost it. The gross national bezzle has never been larger than in the past decade.”

    2. Mr. Vandalay

      This comes from Chapter VIII of John Kenneth Galbraith’s classic volume, “The Great Crash 1929”:

      “In many ways the effect of the crash on embezzlement was more significant than on suicide. To the economist embezzlement is the most interesting of crimes. Alone among the various forms of larceny it has a time parameter. Weeks, months or years may elapse between the commission of the crime and its discovery. (This is a period, incidentally, when the embezzler has his gain and the man who has been embezzled, oddly enough, feels no loss. There is a net increase in psychic wealth.) At any given time there exists an inventory of undiscovered embezzlement in – or more precisely not in – the country’s business and banks. This inventory – it should perhaps be called the bezzle – amounts at any moment to many millions of dollars. It also varies in size with the business cycle. In good times people are relaxed, trusting, and money is plentiful. But even though money is plentiful, there are always many people who need more. Under these circumstances the rate of embezzlement grows, the rate of discovery falls off, and the bezzle increases rapidly. In depression all this is reversed. Money is watched with a narrow, suspicious eye. The man who handles it is assumed to be dishonest until he proves himself otherwise. Audits are penetrating and meticulous. Commercial morality is enormously improved. The bezzle shrinks.”

      So glad to see Comments again. Thanks to all who contribute, but most especially our gracious hosts.

      1. skippy

        “the business cycle”

        I often view it as the psychological cycle. What I find interesting is the camps that inevitably make money the cornerstone of it all e.g. the money aspect drives such cycles and not the human agency that precedes it.

        disheveled…. second your other thoughts….

    3. VietnamVet

      It is great that the comments are back. The Bezzle is at the heart of the West’s decline. Since 1980s politics and capitalism have been directed to enrich a small cadre of families and financial managers at the cost of everyone else. It is a taboo in corporate media. But, if one acknowledges it; most of the diversions, scapegoats and policies in 21st century become transparent.

  16. PH

    Tett article quote (i do not have FT subscription) sounds like standard appeal for “public private partnerships” — in other words pay rent to Wall Street to finance Govt projects we can finance ourselves.

    Says there are 27 projects with revenue streams available to pay back funding. Great — no need for Wall Street then because Feds already have big funding program in place to give up-front money to locals to do roads and bridges (scope of Sloan proposal — based in other articles on Sloan proposal quickly found on internet). Same up front funding used for LA Metro, to be repaid with local sales tax.

    I also saw references to loosening regulatory restraints — which means further gutting NEPA, a law intended to prevent wasting money and causing harm with poorly thought out projects. NEPA is valuable, and, in any event, is a straw man for rightwing propaganda. NEPA is not preventing roads and bridges.

    In short, this guy Sloan brought nothing new to the table. Wall Street and minions have been peddling public private partnership scam for years. It is not popular.

    In my view, what is needed is a big infrastructure program including wastewater treatment and water supply as well as transportation.

    No one — no one — has yet dared propose it because no one wants to pay for it with deficit spending or tax hikes on rich or shuffling money from war surveillance bureaucracy or in any other way.

    Lack of infrastrucure plan is not result of some unfathomable bureaucratic in-fighting. It is more simple: no one wants to pay.

  17. Stanley Dundee

    Economists now say that a part of the decline in the labor participation
    rate in recent years is due to people who, because of opioid addiction,
    have left the workforce” [Cook Political Report].

    Perhaps the arrow of causality points the other way?

    Getting to truth from the sayings of economists often requires this sort of inversion.

  18. TarheelDem

    There is some reason that I remember not trusting the opinions of Senators from Connecticut and Indianapolis. I just can’t remember what that could be, but it affected very much how I viewed Joe Lieberman’s obstruction and Evan Bayh’s disinterest in single-payer health care solutions.

    1. UserFriendly

      Hartford is nicknamed the “Insurance Capital of the World”, as it hosts many insurance company headquarters and insurance is the region’s major industry.

  19. cripes

    Has anyone noticed that London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan and Rowan Atkinson of “Mr Bean” fame look alike? Especially when he talks.

    Or perhaps a cross between Rowan and Kalpen Suresh Modi of Harold & Kumar fame?

    There’s some hidden significance there.

  20. audrey jr.

    San Diego’s descent into third world status is booming: not only do we have a hepatitis A epidemic but three huge water main breaks in one day, one of which completely shut down eastbound Interstate 8. The City of San Diego is literally bleaching and scrubbing the streets of the downtown area. Let the (hunger) games begin!! And don’t get me started on the ginormous potholes now present on what were recently pristine local roads.

    1. Wukchumni

      Tijuana-adjacent turned into LA, which is a bit odd, as they used to be pretty vocal about not being like the City of Angles, not so long ago.

  21. audrey jr.

    Forgot to thank Yves and Lambert for re-opening the comments section. Missed you all terribly. Now I’ll never get anything done! The comments section at NC is every bit as good as the incredibly thoughtful links and posts that Yves, Jerri Lynn, Lambert and co. produce for us on a daily basis.

  22. cripes

    In Chicago, they have private contractors do paving and pothole-filling, and six months later it’s falling apart. The joke is there are only two seasons here: Winter and Construction. This is no accident. Naturally, the crews are almost 100% Mexican, who I don’t imagine are to blame for this. It’s a rolling disaster, someone must have investments in tire repair, strut and suspension work.

    On the other hand, homeless encampments are removed from under Wacker Drive, viaducts by Lake Shore Drive and so forth, to accommodate bike lanes and concert-goers, who might be offended by the sight of rough sleepers.

    Nothing escapes the reach of the looters.

  23. Basil Pesto

    That’s the thing about Orwell, he has both the literary and soothsaying ability of a horoscope writer. That is: he’s a mediocre novelist, and his brand of glib allegorising is so pliable that it can be cramponned onto by people of pretty much any ideological persuasion who will read it and go “ohhh yeah, that’s totally what [adversary] is doing!”

    1. Massinissa

      Cant that sort of be said of all written works? As an example, the Bible has been used to justify just about anything imaginable.

  24. Basil Pesto

    Re: Occupy – I think that’s a salient point. Perhaps more to the point, and loathe as I am to admit it, I think Bannon recognised this and shaped the campaign to reflect it. Indeed I think he touches on it in a recent interview, insofar as he saw a weariness of political-/crony-capitalism in the public and recognised the opportunity to drive the civic backlash, with trump as a vessel, in a right-wing, nationalist direction which obviously suits his worldview, as opposed to a leftward, dem-socialist/Sandersian direction.

    Re: SoFi – It would be interesting to get a group of crack primatologists to study behaviour in silicon valley. I don’t even think I’m joking, it could be legit fascinating.

  25. sierra7

    Thank you for bringing back the comments section. I can’t imagine the work that goes into trying to monitor this site. NC has probably the most diverse and interesting commenters of all the ones I visit on a daily basis. Thanks again.

  26. Darthbobber

    Excellent piece from leMonde on, among other things, the convergence of interests on the destruction of any prospects for resurrecting detente with Russia.
    Apologies if its been posted and I just missed it.
    One excerpt:
    “Historians will study this period when there was a convergence in the objectives of the US intelligence agencies, the leaders of the Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic Party, the majority of Republican politicians and the anti-Trump media. That common objective was stopping any entente between Moscow and Washington.”

    Each group had its own motive. The intelligence community and elements in the Pentagon feared a rapprochement between Trump and Putin would deprive them of a ‘presentable’ enemy once ISIS’s military power was destroyed. The Clinton camp was keen to ascribe an unexpected defeat to a cause other than the candidate and her inept campaign; Moscow’s alleged hacking of Democratic Party emails fitted the bill. And the neocons, who ‘promoted the Iraq war, detest Putin and consider Israel’s security non-negotiable’ , hated Trump’s neo-isolationist instincts.

    The media, especially the New York Times and Washington Post, eagerly sought a new Watergate scandal and knew their middle-class, urban, educated readers loathe Trump for his vulgarity, affection for the far right, violence and lack of culture (9). So they were searching for any information or rumour that could cause his removal or force a resignation. As in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, everyone had his particular motive for striking the same victim.

    The intrigue developed quickly as these four areas have fairly porous boundaries.”

    And much more.

  27. Foppe

    You just can’t make this stuff up, but feeding people rope to hang themselves with is allowed. In that vein, here’s Anderson Cooper asking Hillary whether she’s ‘forgiven’ her non-voters. Her majesty the Pope’s words: “No Absolution”.

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