2:00PM Water Cooler 9/20/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Patient readers, f u cn rd ths, I will have anticipated weather-related travel delays successfully by putting together a post earlier than I would have otherwise done. Hence its pantry clear-out/less than current nature. Talk amongst yourselves! –lambert

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“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is shining the spotlight this week on seven Midwest states that depend heavily on foreign trade for economic growth by sending one of its top executives on a road trip. The goal is to listen to and share concerns about the future of trade deals like NAFTA and KORUS that President Donald Trump has put in the cross hairs” [Politico]. “‘I’m doing this in part because they were very keen to have Chamber people come out to them to talk about trade,’ John Murphy, senior vice president for international policy, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told Morning Trade. ‘What I want to zero in on is these are red states, in some cases deep red states, that are some of the most trade dependent places in the country.’ The seven states – North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas – collectively represent 43 electoral votes. Six of them voted for Trump last year, and Hillary Clinton narrowly won Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes. ”


2016 Post Mortem

“As we learn more about how Russia used social media as part of its campaign to help elect Donald Trump, what stands out is how easy it was. Spend $100,000 on Facebook ads, create a bunch of Twitter bots, and before you know it you’ve whipped up a fog of disinformation that gives Trump just the boost he needs to get over the finish line. Even if it’s almost impossible to quantify [so we don’t really know anything, do we?] how many votes it might have swayed, it was one of the many factors [ditto] contributing to the atmosphere of chaos and confusion[1] that helped Trump get elected” [The American Prospect]. It may be that in my absence, a Russki story will break. That said, if all it takes to neutralize a billion plus in Clinton campaign contributions is $100K in Russian Facebook ads and some Twitterbots, then then political class has a lot to answer for in terms of its ROI. And nobody should have the Democratic strategists who dominate the DNC another dime.

“Meet the woman who warned about Russian election meddling years ago—and got death threats” [Quartz]. Very poor (though it shows the resurgence of the “Russian meddling” talking point, no doubt due to Clinton’s book tour). First, the warning is thin and hypothetical. Second, the death threats have nothing to do with the meddling!

Health Care

“Unpacking The Sanders Medicare-For-All Bill” [Health Affairs]. “Although there is a fair level of detail about the transitional coverage options, the bill, despite its 96 pages, provides far fewer details about key [Universal Medicare Program (UMP)] standards (such as eligibility and enrollment) and grants significant flexibility to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop major program components. The Secretary is, for instance, directed to develop policies, procedures, guidelines, and requirements related to eligibility, enrollment, benefits, provider participation standards and qualifications, levels of funding, provider payment rates, medical necessity standards, planning for capital expenditures and health professional education, and regional planning mechanisms.”

“Gazette editorial: Is it time for health care for all yet?” [Charleston Gazette-Mail]. “Republicans have fought bitterly against the ACA, and presumably will resist Medicare for All. But we hope the project draws huge public support and becomes unstoppable.” Bravo, West Virginia!

A centrist looks at health care:

Priorities, priorities. On “Senate overwhelmingly backs sweeping policy bill to pump $700 billion into the military”:

“The Single-Payer Problem Liberals Don’t Want to Talk About” [Vice]. “[A]ll of that bloated spending does something else single-payer fans would do well to grapple with: It creates jobs. Often, these are good jobs, especially for people with a modest education. And what happens to those people—who are mostly women—is something Democrats and progressives need to get a handle on if single-payer is ever going to get real traction in Washington.” Here is a thread from one such women; and see discussion at NC here. But I’m having a little trouble wrapping my head around the idea of the private health insurance industry as a Keynesian job creator.

“Given the small numbers we are talking about in the context of the entire economy and given the fact that office and administrative skills are fairly portable to other sectors (non-health care establishments employ over 19 million people in such jobs), it is not at all clear that there needs to be any special program for reallocating those made redundant by this change. But even if there does not need to be such a program, single payer proposals generally contain one” [Peoples Policy Project].

Realignment and Legitimacy

“What Do Centrist Democrats Even Stand For?” [The New Republic]. What a lot of mush. “‘The left should acknowledge there are ways in which ideological diversity can be beneficial to Democrats in 2018. ‘I do think it’s really important for people not to impose purity tests,’ Kazin, the leftist Georgetown historian, told me. ‘You’re not going win in North Dakota with the same politics as in California or Massachusetts.'” Totally. North Dakota has a state bank, unlike California or Massachusetts. But we should follow North Dakota’s lead and have a United States Post Office Bank. And then make that a litmus test, along with #MedicareForAll.

The greatness that is Twitter:

Stats Watch

Chemical Activity Barometer, September 2017: “The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB) remained virtually unchanged in September despite the effects of unprecedented Hurricanes Harvey and Irma” [Econintersect]. “Compared to a year earlier, the CAB is up 2.8 percent year-over-year, a marked pullback from recent year-over-year gains.” And but: “This appears to be a leading indicator for industrial production” [Calculated Risk]. “CAB increased solidly in early 2017 suggesting an increase in Industrial Production, however, the year-over-year increase in the CAB has slowed recently.”

ATA Trucking For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index, August 2017: “Trucking Data Improves” [Econintersect]. “I tend to put heavier weight on the CASS index which continues to show a moderate improvement year-over-year. The ATA data continues to wander all over the map – and is likely a result of seasonal adjustment issues and a smaller share of shipping now going to ATA members”

Retail: “‘Certain larger retailers [Toys R Us] that filed for bankruptcy had burdensome levels of debt resulting from their private equity owners’ uses of financing in acquiring the companies,’ tax and advisory firm BDO wrote in a September report” [MarketWatch]. “Toys ‘R’ Us plans to use the bankruptcy to restructure $5 billion in debt and create ‘a sustainable capital structure.’ The debt, $444 million of which was due next year, stems largely from a $6.6 billion leveraged buyout, led by Bain Capital, KKR & Co. KKR, and Vornado Realty Trust VNO, in 2005.” Ka-ching. Somebody should ask Bain’s Deval Patrick what he thinks about this.

Retail: “Amazon.com Inc., far from dominating the retail sector, is actually the weakest of the big U.S. players based on operating results, Moody’s Investors Service said Wednesday” [MarketWatch]. “Amazon’s stock has outperformed rivals, but it’s mostly based on the company’s growth story, and particularly the success of its cloud business, Amazon Web Services, [Charlie O’Shea, Moody’s vice president and lead retail analyst] wrote in a new report.” And this: “Estimates for the Amazon Prime membership base are also wildly inflated, O’Shea said, with some pundits betting the figure is as high as 85 million. Amazon itself has never provided a number, other than to say it is in the tens of millions.” So why aren’t any “activist investors” trying to “unlock value” by spinning off AWS, so the rest of the company can be valued like UPS or Kroger?

Marketing: “UPDATED: FTC Clarifies Rules, Sends Stronger Letters to Influencers and Celebrities” [The Fashion Law]. “While the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) did not necessarily appear to be doing too much by way of tangible action to follow up on the 90 letters it sent out this spring to remind celebrities, influencers and brands that they must clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships when promoting or endorsing products through social media (and not by way of a hashtag that reads, ‘Partner’ or ‘Spon’), that is not the case. As of last week, the FTC settled its first ever case against individual social media influencers and sent a new batch of letters to nearly two dozen others.”

Supply Chain: “Garment manufacturers rack up $370,000 in labor law violations” [Business Insurance]. “The California Labor Commissioner’s Office cited 14 garment manufacturers and contractors $372,135 for labor law and garment registration violations, including seven businesses that failed to obtain workers compensation insurance, the office reported on Thursday…. Investigators also confiscated 5,725 illegally manufactured garments with an estimated street value of $103,000 from six of the businesses, per the release….The agency is also pursuing wage theft investigations on those employers who failed to pay proper wages under the state’s labor code, the office announced.”

The Bezzle: “Goldman Sachs thinks fintech has as much potential as trading” [Quartz]. “Goldman thinks it can make $1 billion in extra revenue from its consumer lending business over the next three years, as much as it expects for its trading operations. Combined with new lending for the wealthy and companies, the bank expects to bring in $2 billion in additional sales from loans. Goldman co-chief operating officer Harvey Schwartz said it’s one of the fastest-growing lending platforms ever launched, even though he says the bank is taking its time with the nascent business. The bank’s digital consumer-lending arm called Marcus is expected to have lent out $2 billion by the end of the year. Goldman isn’t known for consumer lending, but stricter rules have forced banks to look for new ways to make money.” Logo idea: Golden sacks.

The Bezzle: “Vending machine startup hopes to put bodegas out of business” [Boing Boing]. “A vending machine’s choice and a grocery store’s logistics, with “data” bridging the gulf? Maybe they’ll be restocked by Ubers or Amazon drones? Hopeless. But never underestimate the power of a VC toy business to destroy the thing it cannot sustainably replace.”

The Bezzle: “This Silicon Valley start-up wants to replace lawyers with robots” [WaPo]. Atrium “founder” and Y-Combinator partner Justin Kan: “In Silicon Valley, we want everything to be transparent.” Kidding, right?

The Bezzle: “Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp., a “blank check” company created by venture firms Social Capital and Hedosophia, priced 60 million shares Thursday at $10 a share. The stock rose as much as 4 percent on its first day of trading” [Bloomberg]. “A company for carrying on an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is.” A little bit frothy, no?

The Bezzle: “[Loftium], a service in Seattle… will provide prospective home buyers with up to $50,000 for a down payment, as long as they are willing to continuously list an extra bedroom on Airbnb for one to three years and share most of the income with Loftium over that time” [New York Times]. “Loftium expects to appeal to young workers and families who are looking to buy their first home for roughly $600,000 or less. The program is being introduced on a small scale in Seattle, but Loftium said it believed there were about 40 other cities where it could give prospective buyers the boost they needed. It hopes to branch out to four more cities — perhaps Chicago, Denver or Raleigh, N.C. — within a year.”

The Bezzle: “Monsters of the Financialized Imagination: From Pokémon to Trump” (PDF) [The Transnational Institute]. “The example of Pokémon GO represents not only the monetization of data – the discovery of new ways to commodify and sell it, once collected – but also its financialization: the ability to make money now from the pre-emptive anticipation of profit yet to come, the selling of future potentials as present-day products. Capitalism today, driven by the FIRE sector, is increasingly fixated on transforming tomorrow’s promises into present-day, commodified exposure to risk. It does not so much matter if a start-up has a sustainable business plan or even a product to sell as long as investors can sell its shares for more tomorrow than they bought them for yesterday. Pokémon GO and other products are created thanks to an economic ecosystem eager to capitalize not merely on the prospect of future revenues, but on the value of the promises themselves.” As Loftium, just above.

Climate Risk: “For Hurricane Irma, total insured and uninsured loss for both residential and commercial properties, including damage from both flood and wind, is estimated to be between $42.5 billion and $65 billion.* Of this, an estimated $13.5 billion to $19 billion in insured loss is attributed to damage from wind for both residential and commercial properties” [Econintersect]. “Flood loss for residential properties from Hurricane Irma is estimated at $25 billion to $38 billion. This includes storm surge, inland and flash flooding in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Of this flood total, insured residential flood loss is estimated at $5 billion to $8 billion and uninsured residential flood loss is estimated at $20 billion to $30 billion. As a result, an estimated 80 percent of flood damage to residential properties from Hurricane Irma is not covered by any flood insurance.”

Five Horsemen “Amazon fever just ain’t what it used to be” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Sep 19

Health Care

“What We Talk About When We Talk About Single Payer” [Health Affairs]. “Often times, we hear the terms ‘universal health coverage’ and ;single payer’ used interchangeably. This is misleading. Universal health coverage literally means that everyone is covered. According to the World Health Organization, universal health coverage must meet three criteria: equity in access to health services, quality that improves health, and protection against financial risk. In contrast, single payer presumes universal health coverage but also provides insight into specific financing, administration, and delivery characteristics—specifications that are notably absent from the term universal health coverage.” And this:

Obamacare’s essential health benefits have been hotly debated as part of the recent repeal and replace discussion, and it would be no less controversial in a single-payer system. Single-payer critics often describe this as an example of government rationing of care. But guess what, we already ration care in the United States. We just do it based on price, ability to pay, type of employment, and the color of your skin. In contrast, in countries where the government ensures universal health coverage, that rationing is centralized, both in terms of what is covered and when you can get it. This approach is often achieved with the help of waitlists—a symbol of equitable distribution of resources or government interference in individual decision making, depending on one’s perspective.

To put this another way, there’s always a line. It’s just that in the United States, you can jump the line if you have the money.

“Multi-generational Impacts of Childhood Access to the Safety Net: Early Life Exposure to Medicaid and the Next Generation’s Health” [NBER]. “We find strong evidence that the health benefits associated with treated generations’ in utero access to Medicaid extend to later offspring in the form of higher average birth weight and decreased incidence of very low birth weight. Later childhood exposure to Medicaid does not lead to persistent health effects across generations. The return on investment is substantially larger than suggested by evaluations of the program that focus only on treated cohorts.”

Our Famously Free Press

“Benjaminson talked about tips for reporters. Remember that the flood waters are likely a cesspool of hazards, filled with gas and oil, fire ants and snakes, as well as sewage. Before the storm, get cash from the ATM, which will likely be out after the storm. Bring sunblock, insect repellant, nutrition bars, water, and all the supplies you’ll need to make it through days of coverage. Stole, who slept in his car during the Baton Rouge flooding, reminded journalists to bring plastic sealable bags to keep notebooks and phones dry” [National Press Organization]. From reporters who covered Katrina, Sandy, and floods in Baton Rouge.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

How did we ever let uniforms like that take root in this country?


“In the UK, which is more likely than most countries to escape desertification and mass famine, official and unofficial plans for the future are informed by the idea of a “Lifeboat Britain.” This ugly diction isn’t meant to suggest that this island could use its relative safety to rescue some of the hundreds of millions fleeing from a brutalized south. Rather, the lifeboat evoked here comes from the grim, self-preserving logic of “lifeboat ethics,” which holds that everyone will be jostling for a place on the raft, and some must not be let in” [The Baffler].

Class Warfare

“More bad news for American workers: Pay raises will be dismal next year” [MarketWatch]. “Pay raises for U.S. employees are not expected to improve next year, according to a survey released Monday by global professional services company Aon, based on a survey of over 1,000 companies. Base pay is expected to rise 3% in 2018, up slightly from 2.9% in 2017. Spending on variable pay — incentives or bonuses — will be 12.5% of payroll, low levels not seen since 2013. This suggests a ‘pessimistic view of corporate performance in the coming year,’ Ken Abosch, a strategy and development analyst at Aon, said in a statement.”

“Interactive Infographic: Where Wages Have Risen, Are Rising or Could Soon Rise” [Sourcing Journa]. Interesting. Here’ s the map:

(Data compiled by Sourcing Journal from news accounts and official sources.)

“Model Language for an Anticorruption Citizen Suit Provision in Community Development Agreements” [Global Anticorruption Blog]. More:

Community Development Agreements (CDAs) are contracts between extractive companies and the local communities that reside near their operations. The contracts are designed to funnel some of the financial and non-financial benefits of the project to those who are most likely to be negatively impacted by their inherent destructiveness. Some developing states require CDAs from extractive companies as a precondition for granting permits, and the World Bank publishes model regulations for CDAs—recommendations that hold significant sway for many developing states. The World Bank’s model regulations are often referenced, or adopted wholesale, by countries with capacity constraints.

The World Bank model CDA, and many of the existing national laws which govern CDAs, include required, substantive terms such as monitoring components, dispute resolution systems, etc. However, CDAs have not traditionally included provisions that might allow the contracts to be operationalized in the anticorruption fight.

Sounds like we could have used a CDA with the landfill….

“Irma pushes Florida’s poor closer to the edge of ruin” [AP]. “Dimas needs to replace the income from his rental trailer, already condemned after being split open by the wind. Dimas had used that money to help feed his two teenagers and pay for the rescue inhalers he needs for his asthma. Losing it will only make it harder for Dimas to do what he says is one of his favorite things — providing free or cut-rate food to those who have even less.” Natural disasters. What’s natural about them?

News of the Wired

“One area that [WaPo Senior product manager Joseph Price’s] team is currently working on is the upcoming release of notifications on both Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home platforms” [Washington Post]. “For instance, if there’s breaking news, the Post will be able to make a user’s Echo chime and flash green, at which point the user can ask ‘Alexa, what did I miss?’ or ‘Alexa, what are my notifications?’ Users will have to opt in before getting alerts to their device, and they’ll be able to disable alerts temporarily through a do-not-disturb mode.” So “technology” will have made news delivery both more costly, less informative, and less informative — though possibly more authoritative — than the written word. This nutty project strikes me — like so much of tech these days — as removing affordances, rather than providing them. Agnotology proceeds apace.

“Viral Emmys 2017 Red Carpet Puke Has the Internet Abuzz” [Teen Vogue]. Stress-induced, no doubt. The photo comes from Twitter, and the story hook is ‘It was whoever wrote Spicer into the Emmy’s,’ but what interests me is that “nobody seemed to react to it who was walking the carpet.” So how often does this happen, and is our perception of “the Red Carpet” affected in any way?

“For worriers, expressive writing cools brain on stressful tasks” [MSUToday]. “‘Worrying takes up cognitive resources; it’s kind of like people who struggle with worry are constantly multitasking – they are doing one task and trying to monitor and suppress their worries at the same time,’ [Hans Schroder, an MSU doctoral student in psychology and a clinical intern at Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital] said. ‘Our findings show that if you get these worries out of your head through expressive writing, those cognitive resources are freed up to work toward the task you’re completing and you become more efficient.'” Works for me! Though I don’t have the chops to evaluate the study…

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

EU writes: “This past weekend I made the pilgrimage to see one of NC’s rarest (and most beautiful!) wildflowers (a bit more common up in your neck of the woods), Gentianopsis crinita (fringed gentian). Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!”

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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. NotTimothyGeithner

    If Mad Magazine has its old historical submission process, its very possible a number of cartoons were made by Pulitzer winners. Many creative types have submitted parodies or weird versions of their work to Mad over the years because it would hurt their standing with the boring people.

    1. cyclist

      Exactly. So the KKK guy who was planning to vote for HRC was suddenly swayed to vote for Trump by seeing an ad on his Facebook ‘blacks are the root of all our problems’ group. And they claim thousands of such ads were purchased? Given the total amount divided by thousands means they didn’t pay much per ad… It all comes across as an insanely desperate attempt to link something to Russia.

    2. sid_finster

      Well, most of the ads at issue were placed in 2015.

      Those wily Russians have managed to use their Jedi mind tricks to shift an election over a year before it happens!

      But even though these same Russians are so clever that they understand the US political system better than professional consultants and have superpowers worthy of a comic book villain, it apparently never occurred to them to spend a few hundred grand more and get a friendly Congress.

      What a load of [familyblog].

    3. todde

      I know liberals who’ve waited 25 years to vote against a clinton, and my conservative friends skipped all the way to their polling booth.

    4. WheresOurTeddy

      Trump performed slightly worse with whites than Romney in ’12.

      Clinton HEMORRHAGED support from the “Obama Coalition”.

      No white surge. Sorry, identity politics people.

      We told you Bernie in June or Trump in November, but did anyone listen to us…?

  2. Jim Haygood

    Epic error unveiled:

    The Federal Reserve announced that, for the first time in nine years, it would start reducing the size of its $4.5 trillion asset portfolio starting in October.

    The U.S. central bank kept interest rates unchanged, as widely expected, but said it would start to shrink its balance sheet by $10 billion a month.


    Attempts to “sweat out” a huge increase in base money — as the US did from 1871 to 1896 and Great Britain did in the 1920s — invariably end in tears.

    Since no theory stipulates what the appropriate size of a fiat currency issuer’s balance sheet should be, the conservative approach after ballooning it during a crisis is simply to leave it the hell alone. That is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    Now watch J-Yel waltz out of office before the long-tail effects of her monetary leech therapy blow our beloved Bubble III to smithereens, leaving her hapless successor to get tagged as “the 21st century Andrew Mellon” while enterprising people pick up the wrecks after the Yellen purge.

      1. JustAnObserver

        Yes & if we knew the maturity composition of this balance sheet it would seem to be a straightforward, if not simple, exercise to calculate the shrinkage rate over time.

        Maybe now is a good time to revive Audit The Fed.

    1. Sue

      Yes. Naked Capitalism already posted article(s) on the tapering and Fed had explained how they were planning to proceed. There is plenty of liquidity in my opinion in the money market, lots of money hoarding , not enough productive recapitalization and large non-financial corps have become big players on lending/credit market,(they hold significant amounts Treasuries i.e for repos, they are holders of other corp’s bonds, etc). See for example these two interesting Financial Times articles

  3. Tim

    Regarding Loftium, its amazing how far people will let the rent seekers down their knickers. If you sign up to be a slave to us and AirB&B for 3 years and give us all your profits over that time, we’ll spot you $50k for a down payment. I’m sure the terms are terrible for the homebuyer/future renter.

    I guess people that can’t figure out how to save 50k but can otherwise afford a home must not be very good at dodging rent seekers to begin with.

    And while those slaves learn to hate the rent seekers they’ll be apprenticed to become rent seekers themselves. People always become like those they hate.

    It’s an embarrassingly good business model they’ve got there I’d have to say.

    1. Anonymous

      It all depends upon who sets the AirBnB rental price. If the homebuyer sets the price, it would be logical to set it at the top end of the local price range, thus limiting potential “guests” quite effectively but still adhering to the terms of the deal with Loftium. If Loftium sets the price, it would be logical to set it below the bottom end of the range, as there is no marginal cost for them to keep the room at full occupancy.

    2. polecat

      I think the startup principals mis-named their biz. venture ..
      Should’ve named it ‘Liftoffeum’ !

      “Reach for the $ky”

    3. Arizona Slim

      Good thing they’re starting up in Seattle. If they tried it here in Tucson, our County Assessor would go all medieval on them.

      A few years ago, this office went through the local AirBnB listings and raised the listers’ property taxes to the residential rental property level. Let’s just say that this created a lot of unhappiness among the listers.

    4. a different chris

      >[Loftium], a service in Seattle… will provide prospective home buyers with up to $50,000 for a down payment, as long as they are willing to continuously list an extra bedroom on Airbnb for one to three years and share most of the income with Loftium

      Hmmm… so what happens if a tree falls over on the neighbor’s roof? If they find out Joe the Underpaid Mechanic is “partners” with Ridiculously Valued Silicone Valley Firm, in the property the tree started out in, do you think they sue Joe?

      I sure don’t. Get me some popcorn.

    5. clinical wasteman

      Accumulating $50,000 is not quite a crossword puzzle that only the witless can’t solve. That’s the equivalent of almost 3x my annual income from part-time & freelance “white-collar work” (translation). If I tried to save any of it, that would mean going to meet the putative mortgage lender after sleeping on London’s freezing streets.
      Complete agreement though about the business model, or miraculously self-perpetuating scam. Does anyone know whether the following breathtaking variation also exists in the U.S? Apparently banks in the UK are eager to hand out mortgages to upscale young people on the condition that the borrower promises to become an absentee landlord. If the high-end debtor can prove a few years later that s/he has successfully bled enough money out of his/her tenants, s/he may be considered as a candidate for more debt without that covenant later.
      I couldn’t believe this either when I first heard it a couple of years ago, but in rare encounters with the qualifying class since then I’ve repeatedly heard it talked about as the self-evident norm, simply what “you” (assuming your membership of that unpleasant but upholstered social subset) “have to do”. It may even be what some of those people (the ones who also tend to say “council housing ha ha ha!”) mean by “housing crisis”; if so that would explain why Guardian, BBC etc discovered a “crisis” about 20 years late.

  4. marku52

    Apparently many InsCos in Houston are denying flood coverage payments because the flooding was caused by rain alone, not by wind driven water.

    (Family Blog Comment)

    1. allan

      … and Mexico catastrophe bonds holders are safe and sound:

      …The recently issued FONDEN 2017 catastrophe bond, that provides the Mexico government with a $360 million source of earthquake and named storm disaster insurance protection, is likely safe from this quake event.

      The FONDEN cat bond was triggered by the 8.1 magnitude quake that struck off the coast of Mexico on September 8th, which is expected to exhaust the $150 million Capital-At-Risk Series 113 tranche of Class A notes which are exposed to earthquakes striking Mexico.

      That September 8th earthquake was close to the edge of the parametric trigger box, where as this recent M7.1 quake struck right in the heart of the parametric zone being so close to Mexico City, the area with the highest insurance and reinsurance market penetration in the country.

      But at M7.1 this second quake is likely not high enough on the richter scale to trouble the cat bond, which is still going through a calculation process right now, despite the fact this earthquake looks to have been much more severe in terms of damage and impact to lives. …

      Never play a game of chance where the casino makes the rules.

        1. Kevin

          I worked there for 3 years out of college. It sits in a bowl that was once a lake. even without earthquakes it is difficult to find a run of unbroken concrete when walking the sidewalks. Loved it though – the people were extremely friendly and the food amazing.

        2. polecat

          They should retained have those Aztec floating gardens, rather than over-build onto liquifactionable marshland/lake bed !

      1. Kfish

        Same thing happened in Brisbane, Australia in 2011. One insurance company (Suncorp) made quite a name for itself and gained a slew of new customers by being the only one to pay up all of its flood claims quickly, with no quibbling.

      1. ambrit

        Most insurance policies have blanket exceptions for “Acts of God.” (Said ‘Acts of God’ being one of the apocryphal books of the Bible suppressed at the Council of Trent). /s

  5. marym

    BCBS, AHA, AHIP oppose Graham Cassidy


    Although we support providing states with greater flexibility in shaping health care options for their residents, we share the significant concerns of many health care organizations about the proposed Graham-Cassidy bill. The bill contains provisions that would allow states to waive key consumer protections, as well as undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing medical conditions. The legislation reduces funding for many states significantly and would increase uncertainty in the marketplace, making coverage more expensive and jeopardizing Americans’ choice of health plans. Legislation must also ensure adequate funding for Medicaid to protect the most vulnerable.


    We believe that coverage could be at risk for tens of millions of Americans under the Graham-Cassidy proposal….

    This proposal would erode key protections for patients and consumers and does nothing to stabilize the insurance market now or in the long term. In addition, the block grant to provide support for the expansion population expires in 2026, thereby eliminating coverage for millions of Americans.


    Full statement PDF

    Screen shot of full statement

    1. a different chris

      >would increase uncertainty in the marketplace

      I’m not supporting Graham-Cassidy at all here, but I had to laugh: what is more uncertain than a medical bill?

  6. Jim Haygood

    Feelin’ left out from this assembly of $140 billion in personal wealth at Steve Forbes’ party:


    On the other hand, one does feel better after perusing this deeply bizarre photo of ex-GE chair Jack Welch looking like a tiny rotund gnome in fashionable bowling shoes, as his tanned, long-legged trophy wife Suzy towers half a foot over him.


    Well, say that you’ll be mine, baby all the time, Susy Q — CCR

  7. Tim

    ” it’s kind of like people who struggle with worry are constantly multitasking – they are doing one task and trying to monitor and suppress their worries at the same time”

    Not a Psychologist here, but is this news? This sounds like the working definition for chronic depression. Brain tires out and gives up as a result of this dynamic, which gives the appearance of being “depressed”.

    Doing anything expressive/creative is indeed a coping mechanism, hence so many artistic professionals having chronic depression.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      Journaling saved my sanity and had the secondary benefit of waking me up to the reality of the abusive situation I was living and exposing my kids to. I recommend it to anyone and everyone.

      1. ambrit

        It helped me wake up to the fact that I was the one being abusive. (Long time, generational, ‘Family Tradition.’)

  8. Kevin

    “It’s just that in the United States, you can jump the line if you have the money.”
    FWIW: The same is true in Canada.

    Thanks for all you do Lambert! Amazing.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think we can deduce a definition of money from that sentence.

      What is money?

      Well, I know you don’t give money to a decent girl you want to impress on the first date. You can give her roses, chocolate or many other things, even soap or detergent. But not money. So, this is another angle to figure out the definition of money.

    2. Kurt Sperry

      The same is no doubt true in most of the word’s nation states. People with lots of wealth are, in terms of movement, residency, even citizenships, essentially immune from all sovereign borders.

    3. PlutoniumKun

      Except the dirty little secret of private hospitals in countries with universal healthcare is that…. they kill people. The mortality rates in small private hospitals are almost always significantly higher than big public hospitals, especially teaching hospitals. In countries with single payer/universal healthcare, the rich hoping to skip queues usually end up in beautiful private hospitals with carpets and private rooms and mortality rates higher than public hospitals*.

      Quite simply, big urban hospitals with a high turnover of patients almost always have the highest success rates in a wide variety of diseases and conditions. There are returns to scale which can’t be replicated, no matter how much money you spend on an individuals treatment. This is one reason why highly centralised systems like the NHS manages to get such excellent results with such a modest budget.

      *I’ve heard of one small super exclusive oncology centre in New York that actually selects and interviews potential patients, solely to keep their ‘success’ statistics high by rejecting those with poor outlooks.

      1. Steve

        We might be talking apple and oranges, if so apologies, I speak to US healthcare… I can’t agree with your statement, please provide more than a bald conclusion. Cite and/or provide third party statistics regarding countries offering universal healthcare…. my sincere thought is in these systems — the national HC system will not allow the beginning of treatment when you are determined to have a certain diagnosis, so people with means go elsewhere, as such Any success is better than what is offered via “normal means”.
        My basis for the request is antidotal only; a family member of my wife, with unlimited financial backing, had serious health issues and was denied admission into a big hospital for the reason that he was not likely to survive treatment, thus he went private.

  9. Anonymous

    Here is why we have to talk about Russia’s political meddling as if it’s a real thing.

    The Deep State, with permission from the top levels of the prior administration was spying on Trump’s election team. Highly illegal. Probably traceable back to Clinton, probably Obama too, if the investigation ever got

    The Dems know this. They have to hide their snooping behind the allegation that the Russians were involved
    in supporting Trump’s campaign. If they can make that story plausible they have an excuse. If not they’re
    in deep trouble.

    This is why the Russia angle has to continue.

    1. Arizona Slim

      All the hoop-de-doo about Russian political meddling has inspired me to learn about Russia and its people.

      Just about have the Russian alphabet memorized. And I’m beginning to be able to sound out words.

  10. Ned

    If you hate Amazon, are a Prime member–for the video of course!, split your order into lots of small packages each of which they lose money on.

    1. ocop

      They typically will bundle orders made within a day or so, negating this strategy unless you space things out time-wise. We take the music/video credit for “slow shipping” whenever possible (rarely, these days as Amazon is pimping “Prime Pantry”; No thanks). There are few things you truly need in two days.

  11. lyman alpha blob

    RE: The Single-Payer Problem Liberals Don’t Want to Talk About

    Yeah, about those jobs created for the poor womenfolk we should be so concerned about – I’ve known several women who worked in the health insurance business and they all hated their jobs, especially those whose jobs were to find every way possible to deny claims to the sick.

    And then there’s the fact that if single payer were to pass, the government would likely need to hire more workers to administer the new system which would offset at least some of the job losses in the private sector.

    And finally, why is it that when a huge private TBTF company decides to lay off thousands or tens of thousands of workers in one fell swoop, which happens not at all infrequently, that’s just good business according to the punditry, but when a government policy threatens to do the same, then all the talking heads are suddenly so concerned about the jawbz?

    1. curlydan

      Yes, those jobs are paper pushing jobs–or e-file pushing. A total waste of many minds.

      If single payer were to pass, it might unshackle many workers from their corporate, employer-based health care jobs and actually encourage entrepreneurship. In essence, we’d lose unproductive, boring, bureaucratic jobs and gain innovative jobs. How terrible!

      1. marku52

        Well if you rely on the Army of the Unemployed to keep the Little Folk down, I guess you might think it’s a bad thing.

      2. a different chris

        The thing to note is those people may lose their jobs, yes, but there is one big difference from the day before: they won’t lose their healthcare.

        If they even had it. No shocking COBRA bills, no sick spouse suddenly uncared for…

        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          ‘But they won’t lose their healthcare”

          That’s just about perfect for the job loss FUD. Raises the more fundamental issue. I would have blabbed on about manufacturing jobs.

          Imagine what would guaranteed health care would do to the corporate labor pool?

          1. WheresOurTeddy

            One of the largest beneficiaries will be businesses who actually offer health care.

            Why any business that isn’t actively involved in the health bezzle isn’t for Single Payer is absurd. It’s a way to externalize a cost! That’s their whole jam!

    2. Arizona Slim

      I can see more than a few Wendell Potters in their ranks. This is gonna be fun — all of the exposes.

  12. PKMKII

    Thought on what to do with the healthcare insurance workers displaced by Medicare for All: Most of the workers that can be integrated into the new system are ones that are closer to the actual healthcare. Coders are still needed, the staff that used to interface with the insurance companies now interface with Medicare only, customer service roles would move into the expanded Medicare bureaucracy. It appears that it’s the more general, removed administrative jobs that would have no place in the new system.They’re knowledgeable on insurance in an abstract sense, just not much in the way of specific medical knowledge.

    So, have the government set up a new public corporation that provides non-healthcare insurance (your home/auto/renters/etc.), with the specific goal of hiring those displaced by Medicare for All. Give it a name with a catchy acronym, like Healthcare Insurance Group Reinvestment Corporation, or HIGR (pronounced “higher”) Corp. for short. Maybe spin it off into a worker’s co-op eventually.

    1. a different chris

      Yes and there are (probably ridiculously, but this ain’t gonna change) privacy issues, but with a single system think of how we can track down and “kill” disease vectors.

      That seems a better job than hounding people out of their trailers for unpaid bills. And you don’t have to be a PhD to do a lot of the data grunt work.

  13. Cynthia

    This concern that meaningful healthcare reform, that is single payer, will somehow lead to massive layoffs in the healthcare industry is way, way overblown, bordering on fear-mongering, IMO. First of all, since when has any industry ever been concerned about cutting labor costs, especially when the labor that needs to be cut is more of a cost than a benefit to them? And in healthcare, why should anyone be concerned about seeing lots of useless and unnecessary jobs being lost in the industry, especially when you’re someone who is struggling to pay your medical bills or having to go on public assistance in order to have affordable healthcare?

    The way I see it, all of this pushback on reform is due to the fact that healthcare is a heavily subsidized industry that has very close ties to government. Which is the same reason why higher education is pushing back hard on reform. When you have the government subsidizing a lot of jobs, whether they are in healthcare or higher ed, most of these jobs are secure no matter how useless or unnecessary they are. In other words, when money is just handed to you, you lack the motive to spend it on things that are useful or necessary. This is largely why hospitals in general are engaging in so much wasteful spending these days.

    Also, most hospitals today are non-profits, which includes most teaching and church-affiliated hospitals. This means that most hospitals today must spend most of their profits. And they do this mainly by adding more useless or unnecessary jobs to the payroll. Furthermore, productivity is only monitored at the direct patient care level. Which explains why job cuts are invariably made on the frontlines of care, leaving back office jobs virtually untouched, regardless of how unproductive they are.

    Even though I don’t know much about the kind of jobs people have in higher-ed, outside of actual teaching, of course, I do know a great deal about the kind of jobs that people have in hospitals. And believe me, an increasing number of these jobs have absolutely nothing to do with caring for patients, much less adding value to the so-called “patient experience.” For instance, the other day I went to a mandatory class taught by one of the many armchair nurses employed in “The Center of Excellence,” which is nothing but an Orwellian rebranding of the term “The Department of Nursing Development.” The class was supposed to be 8 hours long, but the armchair nurse who taught the class finished it in less than 4 hours, and the lunch provided was served long before it was time to eat lunch! Never mind that all the stuff that he taught us was a bunch of worthless nonsense.

    As far as I am concerned, the class and food were a total waste of time and money. More proof that money means nothing to hospital budgets when it doesn’t involve direct patent care. At least that’s true for teaching hospitals. If hospitals like mine really were concerned about cutting labor costs and other kinds of waste out in their budget, why are they paying an employee 8 hours to do, at the very most, 4 hours worth of work? Why isn’t someone who is in charge of the budget not looking into this matter? Oh, I forgot, hospitals only care about labor productivity when it involves direct patient care. Anyone who does armchair work or works in the back office is totally exempt from being the least bit productive.

    What this all tells me is that hospitals need to take a closer look at their entire list of jobs and decide how purposeful and productive they really are. If these jobs truly don’t serve a purpose, get rid of them. If they aren’t productive, scale them back. And if they are overly productive as well as highly purposeful, which is the case for most direct patient care work, then increase staffing in patient care areas. Even things out, if you will. There are plenty of nurses shuffling paper in the back office and doing armchair work in the Ivory Tower of Excellence that can easily be shifted over to do direct patient care work. Their skills might have gotten a little rusty over the years, but with a little bit of time and practice, they’ll soon become just as productive and purposeful as all the other nurse on the frontlines of care. And no need to worry about layoffs. After all, the last time I checked there were over 300 job openings in nursing which entail direct patient care! Those numbers don’t lie, by a long shot, in fact.

    1. PKMKII

      The common thread with hospital and higher ed bloat is that they’ve both fallen victim to the private sector mentality of thinking they need rockstar executives in order to operate at maximum. Joe Lhota’s the chief of staff at NYU Langone. His experience in healthcare prior to that? Just healthcare financing at Arthur Andersen of Enron fame, nothing to do with actual care. But hey, he got on the teevee and looked professional after Sandy, so bring him on with a plush salary. And because these “rockstars” don’t have any experience in the field, they do what they know: bring on more managerial bloat, more c-level execs with pretty but vacuous resumes (see: the “qualifications” for Equifax’s head of IT Cybersecurity), and focus on squeezing down costs with no regard to the mission statement, so they can afford to hire more managerial bloat.

    2. nippersmom

      This concern that meaningful healthcare reform, that is single payer, will somehow lead to massive layoffs in the healthcare industry is way, way overblown, bordering on fear-mongering, IMO.

      I have to disagree with you there, Cynthia. I don’t think it’s “bordering on fear-mongering”; I think it is well across that line.

  14. AJ

    RE: Russian election influence.

    I’ve read a ton of MSM articles on “Russia hacking the election.” There is a lot of agreement that “Russia definitely influenced the election” but very little specifics on exactly how this was accomplished. So far, what I can gather is that they:

    1) “hacked” the DNC emails by asking for the password.
    2) “influenced” the election by releasing the truth contained in the emails.
    3) Ran some fake-news FaceBook ads

    Is there something I’m missing? All this seems pretty mundane and the US has definitely pulled worse in Latin America and the Middle East.

    1. Ian

      Much of the rest of the World only wishes that this was the extent with what the US has pulled in interfering with other Countries elections. There is no comparison.

  15. Synoia

    In the UK, which is more likely than most countries to escape desertification and mass famine

    But not flooding from rising sea levels. My birth area, East Anglia, is an average of 8ft above sea level. The fens, birthplace of my Father and north of Cambridge which surround the “Isle of Ely” are below sea level, and were drained by the Dutch.

    Ely is famous for Lady Godiva.

    London’s not looking so good either. “Thames Barrage.”

    1. divadab

      Don’t forget a highly possible ending of the Gulf Stream’s warming effects – which would make most of the UK treeless tundra. Flooded treeless tundra.

  16. Pat

    … there’s always a line. It’s just that in the United States, you can jump the line if you have the money.

    I might make that “It’s just that in the United States you can’t even get on the line unless you have money until you are deathly ill, at which point you jump right into the ER.”

  17. Jim Haygood

    Well, sha-zayum, as Gomer Pyle used to say: both the Dow Industrials and the S&P 500 closed at records today, despite J-Yel’s diabolical plan to slowly drain the punchbowl.

    Billionaire Mike Bloomberg is perplexed:

    “I have absolutely no idea. I cannot for the life of me understand why the market keeps going up,” Bloomberg said in an interview with CBS News’s Anthony Mason Tuesday.

    Bloomberg’s bemusement derives from failing to internalize Jim’s First Law of Markets: “It doesn’t have to make sense,” recently restated by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson as “The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.

    1. Ian

      Back when I was trading I knew a trader that used Astrology reasonably successfully to make money. For me, I settled on Wyckoff and VSA for my understanding of the markets.

    1. divadab

      This is a surprise to you? How many of his promises did he actually keep in office? Just another self-promoting salesman, climbing the social ladder with a brilliant line of patter and no scruples.

      1. Wukchumni

        He was like a presidential Jackie Robinson, that is if Jackie had a .173 batting average and was prone to unforced errors.

  18. allan

    Ethics watchdog gives thumbs-up to Cuomo plane trip, scrutinizes others [Albany Times Union]

    The state’s lobbying and ethics watchdog panel [JCOPE] signed off on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s free private jet ride to the Virgin Islands last week that was paid for by a Manhattan billionaire.

    Cuomo’s use of the jet for a humanitarian mission to the storm-ravaged island was sanctioned even as the billionaire, John Catsimatidis, will benefit from a bill just signed by the governor. …

    Surely this was a mere oversight oversight … oh, wait …

    … JCOPE has faced questions from government reform groups about its independence from the Cuomo administration. Six of the 14 commissioners are appointed by the governor’s office, and all three of the executive directors since its inception in 2011 have worked for Cuomo, including the current director, Seth Agata, who previously served as Cuomo’s counsel. …

    In the unlikely event that Cuomo 2020 gets off the ground, the attack ads will write themselves.

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