2:00PM Water Cooler 10/10/2017

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“The final U.S. proposal on [NAFTA] investor-state dispute settlement comes not only with an “opt-in” provisions that effectively makes the whole process voluntary, but also rolls back two key investor protections private companies have been able to use under the mechanism in past U.S. agreements. U.S. business and agriculture groups have already signaled that a radical departure from the current U.S. approach to investor protections would be forcefully opposed by them” [Politico]. “[T[he NAFTA proposal the administration is expected to unveil would also eliminate “indirect expropriation” as an argument a foreign investor could use to file a claim. That would make it harder for a foreign company to win damages based on a government action that has only partially devalued an investment as opposed to a full seizure of the investment without proper compensation.”

“John Murphy, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, warned that the Trump administration was pushing several “dangerous” proposals in the NAFTA talks that the business group could not support” [Politico]. “That prompted several Democrats with a long record of voting against trade agreement to fire back at the Chamber and align themselves with the administration’s efforts. They included Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). It also included Sen. Sherrod Brown, who told Morning Trade last month that he regularly chats with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer about the NAFTA negotiations.”

“A new trade dispute between the U.S. and Mexico is taking root in the rich farmland northeast of Mexico City. Fed by growing American demand, the region has seen an explosion in berry farming…, drawing charges from U.S. growers that Mexico’s exporters are outflanking their goods with cheaper, year-round berries” [Wall Street Journal].

” If USTR was expecting scores of business leaders to bear their souls in public about the challenges of operating in China, that doesn’t seem to be on the agenda for today… only three companies — SolarWorld Americas, American Superconductor Corp. and ABRO Industries — will be on hand [at the USTR’s dual Russia China hearings] to share their perspectives” [Politico]. “Several groups that filed comments — such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Foreign Trade Council, the U.S. Council for International Business and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America — decided against testifying.”


2016 Post Mortem

Grifters gotta grift:

I like especially the question begging of “horrible monster,” though it’s hard to think of a better term for the architect of the Libyan debacle (not to imply that the term can’t be applied to most fully paid up members of The Blob).

Trump Transition

“Billionaire Robert Mercer and his wife Diana donated almost $200,000 to the legal defense fund of the Republican Party on the day that President Donald Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, financial filings show” [Newsweek]. “The Mercers are just one of several billionaire couples donating heavily to the fund in recent months, according to the filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC)….” So, wait a minute. Maybe the real problem with the Trump administration isn’t just Trump?

“These Are the Tax Issues Threatening to Divide Republicans” [Bloomberg].

“‘Trump’s speed in nominating judges has been perhaps the most successful aspect of his presidency,’ said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who specializes in judicial nominations. ‘Trump has easily surpassed Obama, Bush and Clinton at this point in the first year of their presidencies in terms of the sheer number nominated'” [HuffPo]. But Russia! Moron! [bangs head on desk]


“While Feinstein could be vulnerable to a primary challenge in liberal California, remember that the state has a top-two primary system — meaning that the two primary candidates with the most votes, regardless of party, head to the general election” [NBC]. “So say a Bernie Sanders-like candidate challenges Feinstein from the left: It’s possible that this challenger might not even make the runoff (because a Republican could get more votes in the primary). And even if this challenger makes the top two, Feinstein could win by consolidating the GOP/indie vote. Bottom line: It would be very hard to beat Feinstein from the left.”

“Bannon Plans to Back Challengers to Most GOP Senators Running in 2018” [Bloomberg]. “Bannon plans to support as many as 15 Republican Senate candidates in 2018, including several challengers to incumbents, the people said. He’ll support only candidates who agree to two conditions: They will vote against McConnell as majority leader, and they will vote to end senators’ ability to block legislation by filibustering.” And if the Democrats do in fact double down on 2016’s “Pied Piper” strategy, they’ll be helping him!


“Kaine to CNN: Hillary will speak on Weinstein ‘when the time is right'” [The Hill]. I’m filing this under 2020 for obvious reasons. 1.8 million of them.

“Starbucks’ Schultz still not running for president, launches series on Amazon” [Reuters]. “The new season of “Upstanders” chronicles the journeys of everyday people who, among other things, have successfully reached across ideological divides to find consensus on divisive issues such as refugee resettlement, climate change to needle-exchange programs. Upstanders launched last year on the Starbucks app, which has 19 million active users, and the chain’s in-store wireless network.”

Mark Zuckerberg still not running for President either:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“American Kakistocracy” [Norm Ornstein, The Atlantic]. “The moves undertaken now by Trump and his aides to sabotage Obamacare, after the embarrassing failures to enact a bill to repeal and replace it, are sadistic and outrageous.” No, they’re consistent with the conservative view that health care is a privilege and not a right. Of course, liberal Democrats can’t make that the centerpiece of their attack, since they believe that health care is a privilege, too (as ObamaCare’s insanely complex system of eligibility determination makes crystal clear). And so we get endless reams of huffing and puffing like this piece. I mean, does anybody really believe that ObamaCare eliminated “sadistic and outrageous” behavior — by the insurance companies? Ask NC readers!

“This is the America we deserve” (I’m sensing a theme) [The Week]. “The United States is a great nation. A superpower the likes of which the world has never seen. The single most essential guarantor of global order since 1945. The engine and overseer of worldwide economic growth and technological advancements over the same period. And yet here in the second decade of the 21st century, our political culture has descended into pure mayhem. It’s become a madhouse, a freak-show circus. Donald Trump is its ringleader, but the rest of us gamely play along, with some cheering him on, and many others relishing every opportunity to express our hatred of him and everything he and his party represents. It’s all heat and next to no light at all — a grim, sickening display. And it’s becoming increasingly difficult to imagine a way out.” In the Beltway, perhaps.

“How conservative states and liberal cities vie for control” [The Economist]. “At first glance, they seem unrelated: a fracking ban in Denton, Texas; a minimum-wage increase in St Louis, Missouri; and an anti-discrimination ordinance in Charlotte, North Carolina. Yet each was passed in a city then later overturned by a Republican-controlled state legislature. Legal observers see a trend in the rollbacks. Grassroots Change, a nonprofit organisation, counts 140 state bills introduced this year specifically to block municipal laws.”

“Trump’s popularity is slipping in rural America: poll” [Reuters]. “[T]he Republican president’s popularity is eroding in small towns and rural communities where 15 percent of the country’s population lives. The poll of more than 15,000 adults in “non-metro” areas shows that they are now as likely to disapprove of Trump as they are to approve of him.” First, these are not the Republican base in the wealthy suburbs. These are voters at the margin; and like the voters at the margins in counties that flipped from Obama to Trump, they are evaluating Trump based on his performance.

“Antifa in Theory and in Practice” [Counterpunch]. “American Antifa looks very much like a middle class wedding between Identity Politics and gang warfare.” With, I note sourly, plenty of agent provocateurs mixed in.

Stats Watch

NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, September 2017: “fell 2.3 points in September to 103.0, led by a sharp drop in sales expectations, not only in states affected by hurricanes in Texas and Florida, but across the country.” Below consensus [Econoday]. “The most severe declines were registered in sales expectations, which fell 12 points to 15, and now is a good time to expand, falling 10 points to 17. But planned increases in capital outlays by small business owners also fell significantly…. The September survey indicates the frothy expectations of business-friendly health reform and lower corporate taxes have cooled noticeably in September. Moreover, NFIB noted that optimism may have actually declined more than its survey indicates, since it was likely that reporting members in Florida and Texas were underrepresented because of disruptions.” End of the Trump Bump?

Employment Situation: “Year over year growth has been decelerating for all practical purposes in a straight line, as per the chart. And the downward revisions in prior months are further evidence of the weakness which began with the collapse in oil capex at the end of 2014. And wage growth increased at least partially because the jobs lost were largely those of lower income workers” (charts) [Mosler Economics]. “Also, at this point with low levels of deficit spending, both public and private, the economy is more likely to be path dependent. In other words, a drop in employment and sales for any reason is also a drop in income which probably means less subsequent spending, less income, etc. etc. but it take another month or so of data to see if that’s what’s happening.”

Credit: “Appears to be leveling off at much lower rates of growth than last year, as reflected by weaker than expected data releases and revisions” (charts) [Mosler Economics].

Energy: “Citing data gleaned from the world’s biggest developers of coal-fired power plants, Urgewald found that of all the new coal generation expected to go online over the next decade, Chinese companies will build nearly half of it. Specifically, that means 700 new coal plants, with most to be built in China, and about a fifth outside the country” [Mining.com].

Manufacturing: “General Motors Co. is facing a supply glut and it goes beyond automobiles on dealer lots. Despite its drastic downsizing a decade ago, the top U.S. auto manufacturer by sales finds itself with too many factories that can turn out too many vehicles. The imbalance is undermining GM’s finances” [Wall Street Journal]. “Adding to the strain: GM must contend with its capacity glut at the same time the company is making costly investments in electric cars and self-driving vehicles.”

Retail: “The Szechuan sauce fiasco proves Rick and Morty fans don’t understand Rick and Morty” [Eater]. “Rick and Morty superfans, the ones who are giving the rest of us a bad reputation, like to “joke” about how you have to be smart to understand the show while proving over and over again that they don’t understand the show. Rick wasn’t saying the sauce was important, he was saying that nothing is important. Why not destroy a family over a sauce? Why do or don’t do anything? The fans responded by giving the subject of that joke an absurd amount of importance in their lives. They felt real anger over not getting their sauce, and they don’t mind taking it out on McDonald’s.” Life, again, imitates a William Gibson novel. Although, to be fair, if there’s one thing our economy knows how to produce, it’s anger.

Retail: “[L]ate Sunday, McDonald’s said it would bring back the coveted Szechuan sauce this winter — ‘a lot more,’ and at more locations, and for more than just one day. ‘We want to make this right,’ the company said in a statement” [MarketWatch]. Genius!

Retail: “The “Amazon effect” is hitting a wall at the high end of the retail market. Owners of big luxury brands including Swatch Group and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE are resisting Amazon.com Inc.’s pitches to join the marketplace, the WSJ’s Matthew Dalton and Laura Stevens report, undercutting the e-commerce leader’s bid to expand its reach and move up the profit-margin ladder” [Wall Street Journal]. Yeah. Louis Vuitton doesn’t sell at Walmart, either, for pity’s sake.

Retail: “Cristiano Ronaldo still reigns in the social media stakes. The 32-year-old former Manchester United winger is the athlete with the most valuable reach on social media, according to a new report from D’Marie Analytics, a social media research firm. A post by Ronaldo across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter is worth a cumulative $728,973.35, making him both the most valuable soccer player and athlete overall” [Moneyish].

Retail: “How AI Will Change Strategy: A Thought Experiment” [Harvard Business Review]. ” AI is fundamentally a prediction technology. As advances in AI make prediction cheaper, economic theory dictates that we’ll use prediction more frequently and widely, and the value of complements to prediction – like human judgment – will rise…. At some point, as they turn the knob, the AI’s prediction accuracy crosses a threshold, such that it becomes in Amazon’s interest to change its business model. The prediction becomes sufficiently accurate that it becomes more profitable for Amazon to ship you the goods that it predicts you will want rather than wait for you to order them.” Cool! And when we eliminate cash, Amazon can just deduct the cost of the goods from my bank account. In fact — just spitballing, here — the government might create statutory minimums for consumer spending. Why not?

Shipping: “Container shipping rates into the U.S. are on a downward spiral even as volumes into U.S. port gateways remain solid, a sign that vessel overcapacity is trumping stronger demand and the impact of carrier alliances designed to rationalize ship space” [DC Velocity].

Shipping: “Risk of fragmentation when it comes to autonomous ship regulation” [Splash 247]. “The International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) has warned that there could be global disunity when it comes to autonomous ship regulation with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) expected to take many years to approve laws governing this new technology phenomenon…. Long before IMO reaches agreement, a number of autonomous ships are set to be trading including the Yara Birkeland, a boxship conceived by fertilizer company Yara and tech firm Kongsberg Maritime, which is due to start trading in Norwegian waters towards the end of next year.”

The Bezzle: “HelloFresh, the meal-kit startup owned by Rocket Internet SE, aims to announce an initial public offering” [DealBreaker]. “This is great news for every wealth-hating self-abnegating maniac that has spent the last few months wishing that they could invest in a stock that is similar to Blue Apron but somehow even sh*ttier.”

Fodder for the Bulls: “Recent data on global gross domestic product (GDP) growth point to a modest and broad-based increase in real economic activity. In the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ Database of Global Economic Indicators (DGEI), world GDP growth (excluding the U.S.) was 3.5 percent in the second quarter on a year-over-year basis, up from 3.1 percent in the first quarter” [Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas].

Honey for the Bears: “Consumers Strain to Prop Up Recovery” [Bloomberg]. “On Tuesday, the Commerce Department reported that U.S. consumers boosted their July retail spending by the most this year. Analysts cheered, with some seeing less chance of a recession. Yet after a closer look, it appears that consumers are straining their finances to buy more makeup, baseball bats, couches and home-improvement supplies. For one, they’re packing on more debt…. Not only that, but families are also dipping more deeply into their cash reserves.”

Five Horsemen: “Internet Bubble fave Microsoft gives Facebook a run for the money” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Oct 10

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 84 Extreme Greed (previous close: 84, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 92 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 10 at 12:08pm.

Health Care

“Judicial Watch: Documents Show HHS Used IRS to Push Obamacare, Use of Confidential Taxpayer Information Raises Legal Questions” [Judicial Watch]. That’s very bad. Imagine income tax data being used by Obama’s “nudge theorists” (or, rather, the “White House Behavioral Sciences Team”) Ick.


“Tight oil export pipeline capacity expected to persist as Energy East cancelled” [CTV].

“A tree’s genetics picks its fungus, which grants drought tolerance (or not)” [Ars Technica]. “Pinyon pines, like other trees, need fungal partners. Trees can only draw in nutrients from the tips of their roots, and that is not nearly enough to support them. Fungi provide the trees with nutrients and minerals; in exchange, the trees feed the fungi some sugar so the fungi can grow…. seeds from drought-tolerant mothers only grew larger than their drought-intolerant cousins when in the presence of their attendant fungi. The tree’s genetics simply helped it recruit specific species of fungi.”

Dear Old Blighty

Maggie Thatcher’s 70’s dinner party recipe:

“Mystery Starter.”

Class Warfare

“Who Killed the ERA?” [New York Review of Books]. One theory: “[Robert O. Self] observes further that ‘it was not feminists’ analysis of American society that fell short,’ but rather their failure ‘to manage the political narrative of the ‘crisis of the family.'”

“Meet The New York Times’s First Gender Editor” [Teen Vogue] (from the Department of “SEXUAL HEALTH + IDENTITY”).

“The study [by David Harding, a UC Berkeley associate professor of sociology and three co-authors] shows that if people are sentenced to prison rather than probation, the probability of imprisonment in the first three years after release increases by 18 percent among nonwhite individuals and 19 percent among white individuals” [Daily Californian]. So the carceral state is a self-licking ice cream cone?

“This term at the U.S. Supreme Court seems likely to end with an assault foretold—on America’s public-employee unions. It will come in a case called Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, which was granted review on September 28. Janus challenges—for the third time in five years—the financial stability of public employee unions. By coincidence, these unions are an important pillar of the Democratic Party” [The Atlantic]. “This is a constitutional dispute conjured more or less out of thin air over the past five years by Justice Samuel Alito… The Abood court was wrong, Alito wrote: ‘free-rider arguments … are generally insufficient to overcome First Amendment objections.'”

News of the Wired

“Why Do We Sleep?” [JSTOR]. Kidding, right? Anyhow: “The mystery of sleep keeps getting deeper. A recent serendipitous discovery by a group of graduate students led them to prove that jellyfish seem to sleep. It’s a pretty remarkable discovery, not least because jellyfish don’t really have brains. It calls into question very purpose of sleep, which, despite years of study, is still not understood.”

“It’s almost never possible to evaluate the utility of an algorithm by looking at the code or measuring it against a mathematical formula. To evaluate the risks or benefits of an algorithm, we need to study its impact in people’s lives, whether in controlled lab conditions or in the wider world” [Medium]. Should be obvious, but isn’t.

“Modern psychology (as I’ve argued at greater length elsewhere) is broadly corroborating the Buddhist view of our situation: We are naturally afflicted by confusion, including cognitive biases, and this confusion is indeed abetted by feelings, and one consequence of all this is needless suffering. With Buddhism’s diagnosis of the human predicament getting more and more scientific validation, maybe it’s time we started paying attention to the Buddhist prescription” [Wired]. Arriving at this conclusion after a long tour through tribalism and attribution bias.

* * *

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 (AL):

AL: “​Beargrass on the Highline Trail at Glacier National Park this summer.”

Readers, thanks for the nice pictures of plants! Now I have a little bit of a stash.

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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. WobblyTelomeres

    Re: How AI Will Change Strategy: A Thought Experiment

    Will someone please pass Bezos a handkerchief?

  2. Huey Long

    Retail: “[L]ate Sunday, McDonald’s said it would bring back the coveted Szechuan sauce this winter — ‘a lot more,’ and at more locations, and for more than just one day. ‘We want to make this right,’ the company said in a statement”

    We live in a nation where Szechuan sauce from McDonald’s is coveted.

    The above line is going to be my new answer to the question “Can you believe we elected Donald Trump to the the office of president?”

    The current answer of “We got the president we deserve” usually segues into a discussion about the works of Howard Zinn that never ends well.

    1. DJG

      Huey Long: The same thought crossed my mind. And like so many U.S. products, the first ingredient is high-fructose corn syrup.

      And the Szechuan sauce riots occurred just after the massive welcome for All Things Pumpkin Spice.

      After the Days of Pondering the Meaning of Game of Thrones and Its Finale.

      Trump is P.T. Barnum. He’s typical of the business class and is probably a more pleasant person that the subtly slimy Zuckerberg. So Trump is a symptom. So is Szechuan sauce. Too bad the sick patient is self-government.

      At least my Russian handlers serve me good rye bread. With extra butter.

      1. Wukchumni

        P.T. was a huckster’s huckster…

        “Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.”

      2. Huey Long

        At least my Russian handlers serve me good rye bread. With extra butter.

        I’m still trying to get on the Russky payroll ;-). Until then I’m stuck travelling to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn to get my rye and butter fix.

    2. polecat

      Good Gods ! I believe we have the very first President of the Szechuan Crown … always hot ! headed, with a hint of saccarine sweetness .. but reaking of a sour after-taste.

    3. Adam Eran

      Warren Buffet says “Gambling is a tax on ignorance.” (And P.T. Barnum said “No one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American public”) Any wonder we have a casino magnate as chief executive?

    4. JTMcPhee

      “Thou shat not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his ass, nor his effing pseudoSzechuan sauce…”

  3. TMoney

    Tax Reform Idea of the day.

    Corporations are people – so sayth the Supremes. (Citizens United) So, they can file 1040’s with a standard deduction and be subject to the same tax rates as people. No overseas accounts that aren’t reported etc.

    Seems like the right thinking patriots in charge ought to be able to get on that. Nice and consistent, fair too.

    1. Altandmain

      Can we throw corporations in jail then for bad behavior?

      How about if we do, then we get a certain amount of the equity? Say a certain percentage for bail?

      1. Huey Long

        How about if we do, then we get a certain amount of the equity? Say a certain percentage for bail?

        Sounds like a sneaky way to nationalize industries vis-à-vis the FBI and courts. Count me in!

        1. Nordberg

          My crazy thought is to suspend the stock from trading and pay not dividends while the company rehabilitates. That is what Jail for a company should look like.

          To play on the above, the profits go to the equity holder, the US (or State) government general fund. Talk about a rise in policing for revenue.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Re “jailing corporations:” Most places, if you, the corporate “person,” fail to pay your “franchise fee,” after a time the Secretary of State is supposed to revoke your charter. https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Corporation One way to “jail” a corporation. Or even “kill” it…

          Of course, ” the law” we all so touchingly accept as, well, “the law,” has, like an enormous tentacled great malignancy, grown over and suffocated such pettiness and punctiliuosness…

          Doesn’t happen much in practice, except for little businesses with no clout.. in the early days of the Empire, corps were much more under the thumb of “the law.” http://reclaimdemocracy.org/corporate-accountability-history-corporations-us/ And these days?

          Shows what money and power and concentration on a goal of selfish material benefits can do, over time…

    2. Anon

      I’m trying to figure out if there’s any way to tax multinational corporations without there being an easy way to game it, especially for industries that derive much of their income from IP (tech). Formulary apportionment might be the closest, but that can be gamed too.

      I do think that pass-through entities should not have limited liability. Pick one: personal liability for the owners (as with a sole proprietorship or general, non-limited partnership) and pass-through tax to the owners’ individual tax returns; or limited liability (as with a corporation) and corporate tax, combined with tax when corporate profits are passed onto shareholders as dividends (the double taxation the investor class complains about).

      1. JeffC

        And I firmly believe that in exchange for limited liability, corporations should have to give up first-amendment “rights,” particularly political speech or donations. There is no coercion here and so no violation of the amendment. It’s an exchange. You want a corporate charter from the state? No political speech for you!

        1. Allegorio

          Since it has been gospel that corporations only function is to make profit so that all corporate speech is commercial and commercial speech has always been subject to regulation, until the radical corporatists have taken over our government.

      2. Mo's Bike Shop

        Limit charters to five years max. All stockholders have a share-weighted vote on dissolution or reincorporation.

        I mean they say it’s all about stockholder value. /s I suppose.

  4. Synoia

    AI is fundamentally a prediction technology.

    So is Economics and Chrystal Ball Gazing, and Tarot Cards.

    The problem with predictions is Chaos, in human affairs (and probably all others) driven by non-linear feedback.

    Here then is my suggested test for AI system:

    Some number, lets say 12, of 7 year olds sitting around a table. One is chosen at random to whisper a secret to the left (or right, direction is immaterial), and the message recorded in writing (probably by an adult).

    When the message arrives at the 11 the child, the message received by the child, is repeated to the AI by that child. The AI, must then repeat what the first child said.

    Testing software in complex systems integration, is one of the few jobs that exists where where one is paid, and paid very well, to deliver bad news to management :-)

    1. Wukchumni

      I bought a Chinese-made crystal ball @ Wal*Mart a few weeks ago, and peering into it, I couldn’t believe that it predicted our president would give IQ tests to cabinet members.

      So, I returned it for a refund…

    2. clarky90

      Re AI
      “The Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition, celebrates the beauty and complexity of life as seen under a light microscope. It attracted over 2000 entries from 88 countries.

      Here is a selection of the winning and commended images from the 2017 competition.”


      I find “glimpsing the infinite” a humbling antidote to the machinations of the “know it alls”. They imagine that they are our rulers. Nope, not at all, ever

      The movies and images are beautiful!

  5. Altandmain

    Bernie Sanders had an editorial in Vice recently about free universities:


    See the following too:

    I have always found it a reflection of how out of touch our elites and their Pravda like press is that they think that it is a mystery why so many young people supported Bernie Sanders.

    They have developed a economic system that literally wages class warfare the hardest on generation y.

    – Limited jobs that pay a living wage
    – Very high university tuition costs and interest on debt
    – Even grads have it hard
    – No universal healthcare
    – Employers unwilling to train

    I don’t think that they truly understand that they have a legitimacy crisis.

      1. Huey Long

        +1 on the Powell Memo!!!


        I miss the 70’s! So many incriminating primary source documents and recordings date from this era:

        The Church Committee Reports:


        The less well known but equally sumptuous Pike Committee reports:


        …And of course, the Nixon White House tapes! Some of my favorite segments:

        Nixon on Bohemian Grove:

        Nixon drunk dials Haldeman:

        Nixon on Jews and Blacks:

  6. Roger Smith

    Oh my… That Zuckerberg PR-VR tweet. I feel like a fly on the wall directly inside the mind of a faux-genius gone mad. Truly sickening.

  7. Wukchumni

    Goooooood Afternooooon Fiatnam!

    We had started a minor pullback from Cashbodia, with Heir America still making regular runs, but promising to do less of it, lest they be accused of a bolder incursion, back in the world. For the regular grunts like us, it was just measly c-rats, or MRE’s as they were sometimes called, you know, Money Ready to Ease.

    1. polecat

      Sari-rapped boy sitting the Oracles appartment floor holding what appears to be a utensil

      “These IS no Silver Spoon !”

  8. dcblogger

    This report from Fluvanna Count, Virginia indicates there is an anti-Trump Tsunami on its way

    We’ve been pushing through with a volunteer organization that far exceeds the entire coordinated campaign for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General in our district. We had almost five hundred Democrats show up in rural Fluvanna county last weekend, something you’d have been laughed out of the room for suggesting was possible even a year ago.


    1. Huey Long

      Fluvanna county went 51.7% (7,025) for Trump vs 42.4% (5,760) for Hillary in the most recent presidential contest, is nearly 20% black, and is a mere 37 minute drive from Charlottesville.

      I’m not so sure that the “anti-trump tsunami” is on it’s way just yet. Fluvanna County has a fair amount of dems to begin with and plenty of black people that are likely still riled up after the Charlottesville debacle. Who’s to say that the Trump administration specifically is driving their high volunteer turnout?

      I’ll put more stock into a mass rejection of Trump once we start seeing this sort of thing occur in several different rural areas of varying demography across several states.

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        My humble opinion is that in the red states, you will see a passive rejection of Trump in that most Republicans (a) will not admit they voted for him and (b) won’t bother making it to the polls for whatever else pops up.

        The turnout for the Alabama Republican Senate runoff (Roy Moore vs Strange Luther) was abysmal considering the money spent (the runoff consisted of both candidates proclaiming how much they loved Trumpism). If Strange Luther hadn’t blatantly sold his soul for Session’s senate seat by tanking the investigation into Luv Gov Robert Bentley, he probably could have won outright.

  9. allan

    Bridges need ‘staggering’ repairs [Rochester D&C]

    Bridges owned by New York’s local governments need a whopping $27 billion in repairs, a report Tuesday said.

    Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said his findings show municipalities face “staggering” needs to repairs its bridges. Three quarter of repairs are in New York City: $20.4 billion of the $27.4 billion estimated for all local bridges.

    The report found some good news: The number of “structurally deficient” locally-owned bridges has declined in recent years.

    Nonetheless, the report comes at a time of uncertainty for state and local governments as Congress and President Trump consider changes to infrastructure aid. …

    And that doesn’t include the bridges owned by the state.
    Is it time to put pictures of the administration’s infrastructure plan onto milk cartons?

      1. jsn

        When we can kill as many people with our bridges as we can with our ships, we’ll start investing in bridges again. We’re getting there.

          1. Ivy

            Self-navigating bridges! What could possibly go wrong?

            Awaiting the first autonomous ship incident, perhaps in some fjord. In the event of power loss (Nork EMP attack, Russian hackery, anything, etc) do they just drop anchor, but what about deep water? Can enough anchor chain be carried, and would the maneuver do any good with some large vessel? Or is there some double-secret auxiliary process to stay seaworthy and out of further harm’s way?

            Way above my pay grade, back to swabbing the deck.

      2. polecat

        Guess the Navy will have to cough up and cancel the contract of their latest flag ship, the U.S.S. Snake Pliskin …

  10. Wukchumni

    I guess the salient question is, which McDonald’s food item would be best enhanced by slathering Szechuan sauce on it?

      1. Wukchumni

        Growing up in LA, I lived not too far from a faux McDonald’s in the City of Industry, where not one customer was ever served, as it was used exclusively for making tv commercials.

        It was kind of hidden away in a cluster of giant warehouses and off of the main drag…


    1. Propertius

      Well, to quote a former co-worker of mine, “If you add enough chiles, you can make anything taste good.”

  11. Wukchumni

    Retail: “The “Amazon effect” is hitting a wall at the high end of the retail market. Owners of big luxury brands including Swatch Group and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE are resisting Amazon.com Inc.’s pitches to join the marketplace, the WSJ’s Matthew Dalton and Laura Stevens report, undercutting the e-commerce leader’s bid to expand its reach and move up the profit-margin ladder” [Wall Street Journal]. Yeah. Louis Vuitton doesn’t sell at Walmart, either, for pity’s sake.

    How about a hybrid store: Neiman Wal*Marcus?

    1. bronco

      Swatch is high end? Don’t they make cheap pink plastic wristwatches? You can find those at dollartree

      1. Wukchumni

        For whatever reason, the most expensive complicated Swiss watch with moon phase, stopwatch, etc. worth a few hundred thousand dollars, tells exactly the same time as a Swatch.

        Both do 0 to 60, in one minute flat.

  12. Propertius

    “How conservative states and liberal cities vie for control”

    This certainly makes me glad I live in a state where the constitution decrees that the local ordinances of home rule cities supersede state law:

    It is the intention of this article to grant and confirm to the people of all municipalities coming within its provisions the full right of self-government in both local and municipal matters and the enumeration herein of certain powers shall not be construed to deny such cities and towns, and to the people thereof, any right or power essential or proper to the full exercise of such right.

    The statutes of the state of Colorado, so far as applicable, shall continue to apply to such cities and towns, except insofar as superseded by the charters of such cities and towns or by ordinance passed pursuant to such charters. (Colorado Constitution, Article XX, Section 6)

    1. Spring Texan

      Yes, you are lucky. Didn’t know about that in Colorado.

      It’s been appalling here in Texas. With our odious governor claiming there is “no freedom” in Austin, but even conservative cities have had all sorts of stuff blocked. :-(

      Not to mention the city that banned fracking. :-(

  13. Carolinian

    Thnx for linking Diana Johnstone’s Counterpunch article on Antifa. She suggests that not only are they infiltrated, but they also show a suspiciously pro-Eurozone agenda.

    The main technique is guilt by association. High on the list of mortal sins is criticism of the European Union, which is associated with “nationalism” which is associated with “fascism” which is associated with “anti-Semitism”, hinting at a penchant for genocide. This coincides perfectly with the official policy of the EU and EU governments, but Antifa uses much harsher language.[…]

    The moral of this story is simple. Self-appointed radical revolutionaries can be the most useful thought police for the neoliberal war party.

    Meanwhile in America

    Antifa USA, by defining “resistance to fascism” as resistance to lost causes – the Confederacy, white supremacists and for that matter Donald Trump – is actually distracting from resistance to the ruling neoliberal establishment, which is also opposed to the Confederacy and white supremacists and has already largely managed to capture Trump by its implacable campaign of denigration. That ruling establishment, which in its insatiable foreign wars and introduction of police state methods, has successfully used popular “resistance to Trump” to make him even worse than he already was.

    Of course one could argue that the pressures to “make Trump even worse” are also coming from the Republicans, his doofy son in law, the generals and perhaps most of all his disastrous pick for Vice President. But then they are also members of the “ruling neoliberal establishment.” Down here in the South we had a group that also liked to wear masks and pointy hats too. Johnstone suggests that by embracing a culture of violence Antifa could, ironically, be embracing the very essence of what they claim to oppose: fascism.

  14. Alfred

    That “Mystery Starter” of Mrs. Thatcher’s really epitomizes lower-middle-class cuisine, doesn’t it? A holy trinity of unholy ingredients, one modern and industrialized (so quick and easy, so labor-saving! the tin doubling as a throw-away vessel in the chilling phase!), another branded (not just any cream cheese, but “Philadelphia”!), and the last exotic (curry powder!); the surprising (but only slightly!) result of their combination and yet the comforting familiarity (indeed the richness!) of the concoction’s high fat and salt content; the simplicity of a preparation so straightforward that even a busy wife who holds down a job outside the home (trying to make the two ends meet! on a government stipend, perhaps?) can manage it; the requirement of a major appliance — a fridge — expensive enough to have been purchased, in all probability, on time or credit; the ersatz elegance of a cheap presentation (in ramekins! no, individual ramekins!); and last but not least — the thrifty use not only of the consomme tin but also of leftovers (which, if good enough for the cook, are surely good enough for guests!) and the parsimonious garnish (“a black olive” — Just the one, dear; waste not, want not!). A vile recipe nestled within an altogether delicious post, splendidly revealing of the belly and tastes of a tawdry electorate. Ah, the good times! Et ou sont les neiges d’antan?

    1. Auntienene

      Hey, don’t knock tinned consommé! I use it to make French onion soup. If I had to make my own, I’d have to plan a couple of days ahead at some expense because beef bones are not poor people’s food anymore. It’s a lot of work.

    2. kareninca

      “A vile recipe nestled within an altogether delicious post, splendidly revealing of the belly and tastes of a tawdry electorate.”

      It’s very easy to make fun of people who have fewer resources than one has oneself. Meanness almost writes itself; there’s so much of it around; it’s as cheap as can be. Empathizing with people who have less, and sharing with them, and taking joy in their small pleasures (knowing that one’s own pleasures are small to someone else); well, that’s not easy for some people. It’s funny how that affects elections.

  15. Wukchumni

    Would you like them lent
    on a house?
    Would you like them spent
    with a mouse?

    I do not like them lent
    on a house.
    I do not like them spent
    with a mouse.
    I do not like QE
    here or there.
    I do not like tapering

    I do not like greed aiding them out of a jam
    I do not like them, Uncle Sam-I-am.

  16. Jonathan Holland Becnel

    The New Orleans Mayor and City Council races will be contested this Saturday, OCT 14.

    There are 18 candidates, of which 3 are always in the NOLA MSM: Michael Bagneris, Latoya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet. And to no ones surprise there all fucking Neoliberals.

    Cantrell seems to have the best social media and word of mouth but it’s a lol a bunch of empty platitudes. Stuff like New Orleans must get better! We need to harness our abilities! Etc etc

    Ugh, no policy whatsoever.

    I’m 6 candidates in for my little article on the race and they’re all either garbage or carpetbaggers coming after Hurricane Katrina.

    OTOH one of the candidates for District B, Andre Strumer, actually came to a Louisiana Socialist Network meeting to listen and hear our thoughts.

  17. clarky90

    Re “Lack of information about the murder of 59 Country Music fans in Las Vegas ten days ago”.

    When “we” want to know about a crime, the amount of information is immense.

    However, if “we” don’t want to know, we are back in 1920s Chicago, investigating the Mafia. “I didn’t see nothing!”

    I found this random crime scene story this morning on my news feed;

    “They requested the Fitbit data, which showed she had walked 370m after returning home from the exercise class, far more than the 38m it would take her to go from the car in the garage to the basement in Dabate’s (the murderer) telling of what happened.

    The Fitbit also registered Connie moving roughly an hour after Richard said she was killed before 9.10am. Facebook records also showed Connie had posted as late as 9.46am.

    Detectives would also come to doubt that Richard left home that morning, after his home alarm system indicated he used a key fob to activate his home alarm from his basement at 8.50am and then disabled it at 8.59am from the same location.

    Dabate (murderer) also told investigators he emailed his boss from the road after getting the alert about the alarm. But records from his Microsoft Outlook account showed he sent the email from the IP address associated with his home…..”


    1. Tom

      That’s pretty chilling.
      How soon til a city’s connected self-driving cars, digital billboards and in-store sensors also chime in with their log of an individual’s activities? The walls of the digital panopticon are closing ever nearer.

  18. Pelham

    Didn’t the NYT get rid of or reassign its entire environmental staff a couple of years ago? And now they’ve appointed a gender editor?

  19. Wukchumni

    In regards to luxury goods:

    I like the Rolex adverts that often have tennis stars as spokespersons, which is odd-because nobody keeps time in tennis.

  20. Left in Wisconsin

    Thank you so much for continuing to provide NAFTA updates. This seems to be one place where Trump is actually acting on principle. I’m shocked. I truly thought he was a 100% bullsh1tter.

  21. annenigma

    Samantha Power called Hillary “a monster”, the first public figure to do so, thereby becoming a de facto Russian propagandist who led the led the way for subsequent de facto Russian propagandists – if you subscribe to Peter Daou’s rationale.

    So following the screwball logic of the consensus mass delusion about Putin/Russia being behind everything, there can be no question (allowed) that:

    Putin cast a spell on Samantha Power to get her to call Hillary Clinton a “monster”, probably by planting the word “monster” in her subconscious via targeted social media ads – a subliminal, subversive puppy ad no doubt.

    Then, evil genius that he is, Putin began a successful influence campaign to sway Obama to name Samantha Power to the post of UN Ambassador.

    By naming her to the post, Obama rewarded, reinforced, and gave credibility to Power’s “monster” characterization of Hillary Clinton.

    Therefore, Obama was in fact a crafty de facto Russian propagandist who set the stage for both of Hillary’s defeats.

    Hence, Obama engaged in de facto collusion with Putin.

    That’s What Happened, folks!

    1. tooearly

      “Monster”, for sure. “Horrible”, spot on. But “Horrible Monster”? I would say that is just going too far…

      1. John k

        Confront Russia. Explaining Ukraine.
        Must eliminate Assad.

        What more would a horrible monster have done? Iraq? She is BF with that guy…

  22. epunonymous

    So Disney saw fit to promo the latest Star Wars trailer during Monday night football. So insensitive and shows how far corporate diversity really goes.

    Also, it is hard to find a two minute thirty six second ad break but it’s hardly a core demo for nerds.

    Also the Star Trek disco is flailing. Paramount in shambles. Creatives on the outs. Netflix up in arms… And the rumor is the show will be wrapped up this season and recast as a serialized series… Think American Horror story.

    All despite public promises that this is a real and permanent cast along with being set in the “prime time line” (read as not a spin off or reboot)

  23. Wukchumni

    Was talking with an aged top flight LA lawyer friend awhile back about the ongoing demise of the LA Times, and he told me back in the day 20 years ago, their reporters would interview him and ask pertinent questions, now he tells me that he has to school them, as they know nothing.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      Believe it or not, that may be why they were hired.

      When I was working for a major news media conglomerate, I was informed I couldn’t do a story on a subject about which I had a great deal of knowledge and experience because that knowledge and experience wouldn’t let me be unbiased. Instead, another reporter who had never dealt with the subject was assigned.

      This happened numerous times. And then there was the “education reporter” who did a feel-good story about a child with a genetic condition and apparently didn’t feel it necessary to verify the name of the condition with either the family or the handy medical dictionary ten feet from her desk. She wrote for all the world to see that he had “Von Willy Brandt’s disease.”

      Our modern media don’t want people who know enough to ask tough questions. The modern “journalist’s” job is to take down whatever they’re told and spew it back out, and I’m willing to bet the city editor tells them who to contact for any “alternate view.”

      1. Wukchumni

        We were talking about it over too many glasses of wine, and he told me he thought the qualifications to be a reporter for the LAT now might be:

        Going at least into the 2nd page of google when researching a story.

        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          The five Ws and the H must each be hidden in a separate paragraph.

          And none of them are allowed in the first three paragraphs.

        2. albrt

          See, that is your friend’s blind spot. The newspaper’s lawyer’s associate checks two pages in on Google to see if the story is likely to create liability.

          By contrast, there is no reason whatsoever for a journalist to waste time checking Google on anything the approved source says. The Google algorithm can be adjusted later to make sure whatever the approved source said is not fake news, and any contrary source is fake news.

  24. Livius Drusus

    Re: Buddhism and mindfulness, while I understand that some individuals might benefit from meditation I doubt it offers much in the way of social applications. People should be emotional and angry about what has happened to the United States and the rage that we saw last year during the election is the natural and predictable result of decades of policies that have hurt the majority of the American people. It is unfortunate that some of the rage was targeted toward immigrants, Muslims and women but this should not surprise anyone. Richard Rorty predicted what would happen if we stayed on the course we were on back in 1998:

    Members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers – themselves desperately afraid of being downsized – are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

    At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking for a strongman to vote for – someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots


    The Wired article reminds me of that Dave Chappelle bit where he criticizes people who tell their depressed friends to read The Secret. How are you going to tell somebody in an objectively awful situation that they just need to meditate or think positively? It is like telling a hungry person that they just have a bad attitude about starving to death.


    Anger and other feelings can sometimes produce positive change. The abolitionist movement and the labor movement were driven by righteous anger, the kind of righteous anger we need more of today. But I can see why Wired would push this aloof, Jedi-like strategy for coping with modern life. Wired‘s affluent, professional-class readership would prefer to escape into mindfulness than deal with the reality that the policies they have supported and benefited from have ruined millions of lives.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Dogen achieved enlightenment working in the kitchen.

      If people think they can escape into mindfulness, they are doing something new…perhaps American Zen is yet another product of our creative genius.

      Mindfulness, for me, is to focus on the task at hand. Anger and rage gets in the way.

      On the other hand, rent-extracting, running a Ponzi scheme on Wall Street, stealing land, or creating chaos globally, usually is done with cold-blooded calmness.

    2. Elizabeth Burton

      Meditation isn’t about ignoring or escaping emotions. It’s about being in a state where, when the emotions arise, one recognizes them, accepts them, and lets them go so the mind is free to pursue what needs pursuing.

      As Livius Drusus notes, and as I suspect most people will admit if they’re pressed, violent emotions interfere with thinking, and we need to be thinking if we’re going to fix this mess. I see plenty of anger and outrage every day—and it’s usually from people who aren’t doing anything except being angry and outraged.

  25. Propertius

    While doing a little background research into the BAR statement that:

    Slavery remained legal in New England, New York and the mid-Atlantic region till well into the 1800s

    I was surprised to find out how very true that was. It turns out that Massachusetts, for example, never outlawed slavery on its own – slavery was only abolished there by the 13th Amendment.

    New York passed “gradual abolition” in 1799, but that didn’t free those who were already enslaved. They weren’t all freed until 1827, which certainly matches my definition of “well into the 1800s”.

    Somehow, I had always assumed that most of these Northern states had followed the lead of Vermont (which abolished slavery in its original constitution in 1777) or Pennsylvania (which abolished slavery in 1780). That’s what I like about NC – it perpetually challenges my assumptions.

    1. Huey Long

      Somehow, I had always assumed that most of these Northern states had followed the lead of Vermont (which abolished slavery in its original constitution in 1777) or Pennsylvania (which abolished slavery in 1780). That’s what I like about NC – it perpetually challenges my assumptions.

      Most of the history you learn in K-12 and even collegiate gen. ed. courses is geared towards propagandistic ends and getting you to make assumptions like the one you mentioned regarding northern slavery.

      The “rah-rah USA USA” motif found amongst most Americans is no accident and has been carefully cultivated. A lot of our uglier historical moments, such as the Phillipine-American War and Woodrow “14 Points” Wilson’s Occupation of Haiti are rarely taught and have disappeared from the collective American consciousness.

      Other ugly historical moments simply get the “limited hangout” treatment such as race relations in America.


      For example, we all study Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in school and the struggle for civil rights for black folks in the south during the 1960’s. Many movies have even been made depicting these times, such as Mississippi Burning and Selma.

      What is never discussed in history class is the phenomenon of the “Sundown Town” which existed throughout the US through the 1960’s. To discuss this phenomenon in class would destroy the narrative established during the study of the civil war and cemented during the study of the civil rights movement of “south racist and bad, north progressive and good.” The fact of the matter is that America’s been an awful place to be black since 1619 regardless of which side of the Mason-Dixon line one lives on.


      Anyway, I’m glad NC is challenging your assumptions and encourage you to keep delving into the illustrious history of our republic. I majored in history, much to the chagrin of the “what are you gonna do with THAT major?” crowd, and am happy I did. I find it very satisfying to be able to pull back the layers of BS that compose many popular historical narratives and get at the truth.

      1. Heidi's Master

        Another item to consider is what the Union army did after the Civil War. The army was shrunk and participated in the pacification of the Native American tribes. Their mission was hardly a good progressive cause. Skeptical mind might question the moral narratives of the Union.

    2. bruce wilder

      The conventional narrative for Mass and slavery is that slavery was abolished by adoption of its state Constitution in 1780, confirmed by court rulings later that decade.

    3. voteforno6

      In the case of slavery in New England and the Mid-Atlantic, it’s a difference between the abolition of the law, and the abolition of the institution. It was still legal on the books in some of those places, but in reality had essentially died. The major difference between those states, and the ones that eventually formed the CSA, is that the former never formed a slave society, while the latter did.

  26. George Phillies

    ” No, they’re consistent with the conservative view that health care is a privilege and not a right. ”

    Good work on figuring this out. Many non-conservatives do not understand this point, sometimes expressed as “the notion that there are positive rather than negative rights does not make sense.”

  27. Elizabeth Burton

    Bottom line: It would be very hard to beat Feinstein from the left.

    Well, that’s what the corporate media, which barely pay attention when a progressive wins these days beyond paying lip service and dismissing the success as only to be expected given [choose your favorite]. It’s why I make sure to give any progressive running and/or winning as big a splash as I can within the limitations of a Facebook group.

    Hey, if it could win the election for Trump…

    One of the biggest obstacles to change in the status quo is that so many people have been convinced its useless to fight. There is also a deeply embedded belief that winning is everything. Right now, part of the job is just getting the word out there are alternatives, that they are committed to cleaning the outhouse, and that even if they lose—that’s progress.

    Tom Wakely, the guy who held Lamar Smith to the lowest percentage in his career with no help whatsoever from the state Democrats, is now running for governor. And again being ignored, even though the Democrats apparently can’t find a single corporate or self-funding millionaire shill to run. If you only listen to the mainstream media, there is no Democrat running for governor in Texas.

    In short, all progressives can look forward to the Bernie Sanders treatment from the MSM, which puts the burden on the rest of us to make enough noise they’ll be heard as they spend their weekends talking to people instead of donors.

    1. John k

      She won’t lose from the left if nobody from the left challenges.
      A better case is she won’t lose from the right because she already has a lock on that position.

  28. Wukchumni

    Shipping: “Container shipping rates into the U.S. are on a downward spiral even as volumes into U.S. port gateways remain solid, a sign that vessel overcapacity is trumping stronger demand and the impact of carrier alliances designed to rationalize ship space” [DC Velocity].
    One interesting aspect of the container shipping biz, was quite often they would go back full of scrap metal or recyclables to China, and the only way it worked was via a ‘free ride’.

    China enacted “Operation Green Fence” in 2013, and they are now picky picky picky on both of those imports, so much so that the recycling biz has largely collapsed in many parts of the USA, as in reality, the lions share of it was going back to the middle kingdom.

    Recycling is largely a feel good exercise now, and the way we do it is simply criminal, in those giant blue bins where nothing is separated, requiring sorting down the line, but now, many of the places that sorted it are gone, whoops.

    This article is typical, in that they miss the big picture of why hundreds of recycling places have closed in the Bay Area, and China isn’t mentioned @ all.

    “Bay Area residents have far fewer options to cash in on recyclables than they did several years ago. The value of plastic, glass and aluminum has decreased, prompting hundreds of recycling centers to close their doors in the past two years and putting pressure on the existing centers, which are struggling to meet the demand with little funds.”


    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      We have single stream. Well, two buckets, one bucket is supposed to be for paper, but that seems to be bureaucratic inertia. The one city paper is now shopper sized.

      All aluminum is removed from bins before pickup. Nothing else has any value.

      There’s one 206-year-old lady in quality walker tennis shoes who I always give a smile and a nod whenever I see her doing her round when I’m on my bike ride in to work.

      If I cried instead, she’d probably tell me to toughen up.

  29. The Rev Kev

    Re: Amazon can just deduct the cost of the goods from my bank account. In fact — just spitballing, here — the government might create statutory minimums for consumer spending. Why not?
    I can do one better than that. We already punish savers and reward speculators in the new economy. Remember when Bush the Younger’s advice to Americans was to go out and shop in the face of international terrorism? How about we go full bore and put a negative interest rate of 10% on all savings accounts thus forcing people to spend it or lose it. The British did something like this several years ago to their savers and they were patting themselves on the back on how clever they were.
    Let’s get with the times people. After all, we have departments of consumer affairs but when was the last time you heard of a department of citizen’s affairs?

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      My savings account has a negative rate of whatever current inflation is. Moving to a Credit Union is on my short list. Make it slightly less negative.

  30. Wukchumni

    “A wise man does not try to hurry history. Many wars have been avoided by patience and many have been precipitated by reckless haste.”~~~
    Adlai Stevenson

  31. allan

    SEC Asked to Probe Trades of Student Loan Firm Navient [Bloomberg]

    A series of well-timed trades before the Labor Day weekend in shares of student loan giant Navient Corp. spurred the AFL-CIO to ask regulators for a review of possible insider trading.

    The labor organization on Tuesday urged the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission “to examine the trading in Navient’s common stock on Aug. 31,” according to a copy of the request obtained by Bloomberg News. The trades occurred before public disclosure of a letter from the Department of Education to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau marking a critical shift in Trump administration policy. …

    Nothing to see here, move along.
    According to Roberts Alito PLC, no quid pro quo, no problemo.

  32. Wukchumni

    “For no deity is held in such reverence amongst us as Wealth; though as yet, O baneful money, thou hast no temple of thine own; not yet have we reared altars to Money in like manner as we worship Peace and Honour, Victory and Virtue, or that Concord that twitters when we salute her nest.”~~~


    1. John k

      Once upon a time there was a golden calf that nearly everybody worshipped, save only a very few radicals…

  33. ewmayer

    Update form the SF Bay Area – Local newscaster mentioned that every last firefighting airplane in the *country* is either already in the North-of-SF-bay region, or on its way there. Wow.

    I can feel cool ocean air pushing in from the West as I write this, meteorologist on same newscast said that will help the firefighting efforts tomorrow, then Thursday will be worse again du to winds, then improving heading into the weekend. Current burned-area estimates are over 100,000 acres – when things get into those ranges I wish folks would switch to square miles (1 sq.mile = 640 acres), in terms of which that translates to over 150 square miles burned, and still growing due to 0 containment in many areas.

    Still no word on what started it all – my sister (who lives in Marin county) was bandying about rumors of arson, i.e. some firebug driving around and setting fires, due to sheer number of sub-fires, but the aforementioned weatherman said that with the kinds of high winds that prevailed the night the blaze erupted it’s possible for embers to have wafted literally miles from the firestorm on the high ridge (Atlas Peak) where the first blaze was reported. I.e. a single spark – either accidental or deliberate – may have touched it all off. All speculation at this point, though.

    1. Wukchumni

      Wow, it sounds like all of the fires might join up, yikes!

      Every wildfire always gets the arson label, but i’ll tell you what…

      I do trash pickup a couple times a year on a mile stretch in town here, and by a wide margin, the commonest item is cigarette butts, it’s ridiculous how many i’ll pick up, 300-500 of them on average for both sides of the road combined.

      All it takes is one of those still lit hitting a tiny bit of brush, and presto!

      Instant fire…

        1. skippy


          More than a few barn fires have been the result of damaged glass refracting light like a magnifying glass, not to mention hay stacked or getting wet [leak in roof] causing decomposition [heat].

  34. meeps

    Are Lambert’s tips being covered by the fundraiser for the time being? I don’t see the top hat in the Water Cooler today.

  35. D

    From the article linked to the above referenced The Verge twit pic of Zuckerberg’s Cartoon [Oculus Rift VR™] Avatar in Puerto Rico (emphasis mine):

    A cartoon Mark Zuckerberg toured hurricane-struck Puerto Rico in virtual reality – Also, the Moon

    Mark Zuckerberg put on an Oculus Rift this afternoon and used Facebook’s new virtual reality platform, Facebook Spaces, to transport himself to Puerto Rico the Moon, and his house. , …. He used the opportunity to discuss what Facebook is doing to aid relief — including donating $1.5 million and sharing data with the Red Cross — but it was all pretty strange to watch for what perhaps should have been an obvious reason: Zuckerberg was represented by a floating cartoon character.
    Zuckerberg seems to have realized that the experience didn’t translate for viewers. He responded to comments a day later, saying, “When you’re in VR yourself, the surroundings feel quite real. But that sense of empathy doesn’t extend well to people watching you as a virtual character on a 2D screen. That’s something we’ll need to work on over time.”

    Oh my no creep (trying to get this past moderation, otherwise …), and the actual inhuman reality in Puerto Rico has not been, and likely will never be, extended to you. Just like the misery you’ve created in the neighborhoods directly surrounding your Campus™ bordering East Menlo Park and East Palo Alto. And Work on this, Mark, instead of trying to push your insane VR™ – which isn’t reality at all – down everyone’s throat with no majority consent: you donating™ chump change from the billions of Facebook taxes offshore (e.g.) that should have filled US coffers, had our Public Servants not betrayed us , means absolutely nothing.

    You proclaim empathy, Mark? Oops, I stand corrected, you only proclaim a sense of empathy, whatever that means.

  36. ewmayer

    Up-update on possible cause of the wine country wildfires: Local 10pm newscast mentioned fire officials who cited sparks from power lines brought down (more likely by falling trees and branches than directly) by Sunday night’s high winds. Announcer said that is still “highly speculative”, but it could explain the multiple fires erupting in such a short timespan, some of which are far enough apart as it to be implausible that wind-carried embers from a single original source could have caused them all.

    1. Oregoncharles

      I thought the common timing implied a traveling arsonist, but the powerline explanation makes sense.

    2. skippy

      Same problem down under not long ago, heat stress [ambient temp and load demand] and poor line maintenance.

  37. kareninca

    Re meal-kit companies. I got a glossy flyer in the mail from one a couple of days ago. It wasn’t HelloFresh; it wasn’t Blue Apron; I’m not going to name it. I flipped through the flyer. It was mostly photos of their employees. Page after page; photo after photo; solo shots; group shots, on and on. Loads and loads of employees. Suddenly I realized – not a single one appeared to be over 30. I guess that all old people in SF have been killed by some special sort of plague? That prevents them from being hired by start-ups? So I emailed them this:

    Dear XXXXXX,
    I received a flyer from your company in the mail today, and when I flipped through it I was startled. The flyer showed photos of many of your employees. The thing is, as far as I can see, you don’t have a single “older” employee. It wasn’t hard to work out the percentage, since it seems to be zero. Did that happen somehow by magic? I know loads of people in the workforce (or who are looking for jobs) who are in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and even a few in their 80s. They are perfectly competent. So, I prefer to patronize businesses that don’t discriminate on the basis of age. Of course I don’t know if you do, but the photos are very striking. Just as a practical matter, I would have thought that you might want to appeal to the occasional older person as a customer, since older people tend to have more money for services like yours. I guess I’ll wait until a flyer arrives that looks a fair bit different, before I order.
    p.s. If the answer is that you have “older” employees, but you prefer not to show their photos, I’m not sure that that is much better. Nor would only hiring “old” people who don’t look old, be so great.

    The thing is, I’m sure they don’t care if they get customers. They are working on start-up money from investors. Who needs a profit? The business is just a party site, and something to talk about, and the point is to unload it on someone else to cash in at some point. So there is no need to try to appeal to the biggest potential market – older people who’ve accumulated money who are foodies who are tired of meal prep after decades of cooking. They’d rather focus on the vanishingly few Millennials who can afford this service; that’s so much more fun.

  38. Procopius

    “And yet here in the second decade of the 21st century, our political culture has descended into pure mayhem.” For some reason this made me think of Constantinople in the sixth or seventh centuries CE, after the Western Empire fell under control of the “barbarians.” For a while, they still cooperated as co-Emperors, but eventually (I don’t recall the details) the Byzantines came the consider their realm as THE Roman Empire. I also don’t remember the details, but I vaguely recall that it was around that time their politics descended into mayhem (Rome, and later Ravenna, had done so within a decade of Augustus). It seems ridiculous to me, but Byzantine politics were dominated by the fans of two sports teams. They were chariot racing teams, so probably more comparable to NASCAR, but it was as if fans of the Cubs and the Mets dominated our political scene and engaged in civil war every time they had an election. Maybe that’s the way we’re headed.

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