2:00PM Water Cooler 10/27/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has complained [in NAFTA negotiations] that the hostile legal environment for unions in the United States compared to Canada creates unfair labor market competition between the two countries. In response, Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill last month that would prohibit states from passing anti-union ‘right-to-work’ laws” [Portside]. Good for her.


2016 Post Mortem

“Fear and loathing on Hillary Clinton’s grievance tour” [The Week]. “Why, if you believe that miscellaneous ‘Russians’ — at one point she referred to a generic character named ‘Igor,’ which is funny if your level of engagement with Russian culture does not extend far beyond Rocky and Bullwinkle horizons — bought Twitter ads in the hope of targeting 60- and 70-something union retirees in Macomb County, Michigan, would you not think you really won? Also: “Now she is making what bar-napkin math suggests must be at least $700,000 a night.” Since the theatre had 3,500 seats, and the reporter paid $200 for a seat in the top row of the upper balcony, he could be right about Clinton’s gross. I’d love a transcript of one of these things….


“Virginia Governor – Gillespie vs. Northam” [RealClearPolitics]. The average of all polls: Northam 2.8% (Yesterday: 3.9%). Another new poll puts Gillespie ahead.


“Politics is not all that complicated. It is a game of incentives. And, right now there is no incentive for Republicans to split from the President” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “The fact is Republicans are getting a lot done on issues they care about. Conservative jurists picked for federal courts. Regulatory roll-backs. And, of course, the potential for tax cuts/reform…. Forget all the stories about the “breaking up” of the GOP. There are really only two things that matter for GOP in the next year: the Midterms and Mueller. A disastrous 2018 and a damaging report could recalibrate Trump’s currently solid hold on his party.”

“Kevin de León vows to back Medicare for all, signaling key issue in 2018 Senate campaign” [Los Angeles Times]. “State Senate leader Kevin de León’s opening salvo in the U.S. Senate race against Sen. Dianne Feinstein takes on one of the main frustrations progressives have voiced with her, a refusal to support single-payer health care.”


Of course, they could all be Blue Dogs…

New Cold War

“Trump delays release of some JFK assassination documents, bowing to national security concerns” [WaPo]. Not a good look.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“But meanwhile, where are the Democrats? Basically nowhere” [Eugene Robinson, RealClearPolitics]. “My advice to Democrats is to say the word ‘opportunity’ so often that it becomes the party’s trademark, then frame progressive policies in that context. My advice to Republicans, who are stuck with Trump, is to pray.” No. I don’t care about “opportunity.” I care about outcomes. I don’t want “access” to health care, for example. I want health care!

“Democrats used to campaign on class — and win. It’s time to do it again.” [Yahoo News (!)]. “But what if the answer isn’t so simple? What if it isn’t “either/or” — but rather “both/and”? As Democrats ponder their defeat and strategize about how to avoid similar disappointments in 2018 and 2020, it might be worth considering not just why they lost but why Trump won. In a sense, it all came down to class, because class is the space where economics and culture overlap.”

“Legal pot is the new gay marriage” [The Week]. “Booker’s bill is considerably more aggressive than even Bernie Sanders’ bill from 2015, which would have merely allowed states to legalize marijuana — thus formalizing the quasi-legal status of the eight states and D.C. that have legalized marijuana to varying extents. In comparison, Booker’s bill would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, pressure states into legalizing it, expunge federal marijuana use and possession crimes, allow marijuana convicts in federal prison to petition for resentencing, and create a community reinvestment fund to rebuild places hit hardest by the war on drugs.” I hate to say it, but good for Cory Booker.

“Senate Completes Creation of ‘Brown Utility Commission,’ Neutering PUC Independence With Confirmation Of Governor’s Former Top Aide Who Fired Oil And Gas Safety Regulators At Behest Of Occidental Petroleum” [Consumer Watchdog]. “The California Senate completed Governor Jerry Brown’s consolidation of the California Public Utility Commission in the hands of three of his closest former aides and two of his former appointees, guaranteeing half a decade of influence by the utility-friendly Governor long after he leaves office.”

“Prisons are important pieces in Ohio gerrymandering: Out of Line – Impact 2017 and Beyond” [Cleveland Plain-Dealer]. “Prisoners help boost rural Ohio’s influence in Congress. The census, taken in April every 10 years, counts where people are living at the time – whether it be in a house, a college dormitory or a prison.”

Stats Watch

GDP, Q3 2017 (Estimate): “A rise in inventories, likely the result of hurricanes, gave a boost to third-quarter GDP, at an inflation-adjusted 3.0 percent annualized rate which tops Econoday’s high estimate” [Econoday]. “Transportation snags and backup in the supply chain may have given a boost to inventories which rose $35.8 billion in the quarter and contributed 0.73 percentage points to the quarter’s GDP… But the core of the report is solid led by personal consumption expenditures which came in at a roughly as expected 2.4 percent pace and contributed 1.62 points to the quarter. Durable spending was very strong, at 8.3 percent and reflecting, at least in part, hurricane replacement demand for vehicles.” I suppose Hurrican Keynesianism is better than Military Keynesianism. And but: “The consumer spending declined. I am not a fan of quarter-over-quarter exaggerated method of measuring GDP – but my year-over-year preferred method showed moderate acceleration from last quarter” [Econintersect].

Consumer Sentiment, October 2017 (Final): “Consumer sentiment held steady and very strong over the last two weeks” [Econoday]. “Personal finances are near record levels reflecting gains for personal income as well as strength in home and stock values. The report says consumers are unusually optimistic on the economy, expecting good times during the year ahead and over the next 5 years as well and without interruption.”

New Home Sales (Wednesday): “Nice uptick, but subject to revision and at best indicating continued very modest growth well below the last cycle with a population that’s maybe 10% higher than it was 10 years ago” [Mosler Economics].

Shipping: “The impact of a devastating hurricane season is starting to wash up in logistics sector earnings. Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Irma in Florida and Maria in Puerto Rico knocked out power to millions, damaged thousands of homes and disrupted the flow of goods across whole regions. Companies as diverse as Anheuser-Busch InBev and Harley-Davidson say sales suffered in the wake of the storm. That translates into fewer motorcycles and cases of beer for trucking fleets and railroads to move” [Wall Street Journal].

Retail: “Drugstores haven’t faced the same online competition as retailers. But that may be about to change, with Amazon.com Inc. reportedly looking to buy a pharmacy-benefit manager, paving the way for the company to negotiate prices with drug makers and enter the retail pharmacy business” [Wall Street Journal].

Banking: “[Amazon] already has a small-business lending arm that has doled out more than $3 billion to more than 20,000 of the merchants on its e-commerce platform” [Bloomberg].

Shipping: Corporate capture of the International Maritime Organization: How the shipping sector lobbies to stay out of the Paris Agreement” (PDF) [InfluenceMap]. “This research found that at the most recent IMO environmental committee meeting 31% of nations were represented in part by direct business interests. The IMO appearsthe only UN agency to allow such extensive corporate representation in the policy making process.”

Shipping: “Authors of IMO ‘corporate capture’ report respond to criticism” [Splash 247]. “UK-based non-profit InfluenceMap’s Corporate capture of the [International Maritime Organization] report, issued on Monday, has been one of the talking points around this week’s environmental talks at IMO’s headquarters in London. It states leading shipowner organisations and flags of convenience hold too much sway in formulating ship emission cutting legislation at the IMO.”

Shipping: “Internet of Ships falling down on security basics” [Naked Security (DK)]. Plenty of horror stories. The conclusion: “There are many routes on to a ship, but the satcom box is the one route that is nearly always on the internet. Start with securing these devices, then move on to securing other ship systems.”

Shipping: “Why is blockchain so hot right now? Part of the explanation lies in the technology’s mystique. Even with all the press on the subject over the last two years, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a topic so often discussed, yet so poorly understood. The most common questions seemed to be “What is it?” followed by “What does it do?” Although those questions are simple enough, the answers are not. I attended a session at the [the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals] titled “Blockchain 101,” hoping to enhance my own understanding, but came away knowing only slightly more than I did before I went in” [DC Velocity].

I think I’m gonna change my name to Lambert Blockchain:

The Bezzle: “Sex wearable is coming to track your performance and judge you” [CNET]. “It’s basically a Fitbit for your [sic] man bits that tracks thrust speed and velocity.” And: “Forget dick pics. Now we have to worry about dick status updates.”

The Bezzle: “Hipcamp, The Airbnb Of Camping, Is Changing Flyover Country Into A Big Welcome Mat” [Fast Company (MN)]. “The company’s online platform allows you to search for and rent campsites on privately owned land, but it aspires to much more—to transform the way Americans behave and see themselves. By opening up private land, Hipcamp is trying to change flyover country into a big welcome mat. ‘We’re creating community across the political divide and the consistent geographical line that marks the split, usually between rural and urban,’ [Hipcamp CEO and founder, Alyssa Ravasio] says…. Hipcamp increased from 2,000-plus private camp options available on its site in October 2016 to more than 17,000 today. There are 1,833 hosts and 2.2 million campers who used the site last year.” Unregulated campgrounds. What could go wrong? And will there be banjos?

The Bezzle: “Uber believes it has SEC nod for earnings approach that mirrors business model” [Francine McKenna, MarketWatch]. “The ride-hailing service contends its customers are the drivers — not the passengers — and it merely facilitates their trips. Securing the SEC’s blessing of this view of its business model would allow the company to report financial results without disclosing how much money drivers are taking home.”

The Bezzle: “Alphabet’s Waymo will begin testing its robot cars in Michigan next week to see how they perform in snow” [Reuters]. The final paragraph: “One challenge for Waymo may be human drivers. Many self-driving vehicles from numerous companies have been struck by inattentive or careless drivers in California, according to reports to filed with the state.”

The Bezzle: Wait ’til they try this trick with robot cars:

The Bezzle: “Shadow Banking Gets Bad Rap, So Treasury Wants to Erase the Term” [Bloomberg]. “‘The word ‘shadow’ could be interpreted as implying insufficient regulatory oversight, or disclosure,’ Treasury said in a 163-page report released Thursday, which advocates an easing of restrictions on asset managers and insurers. Use of the term is ‘particularly inappropriate’ for investment companies that are overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission and file routine reports to the agency, Treasury added…. The Financial Stability Board — a panel of international regulators — admits in regular footnotes to its reports that it doesn’t mean the term as a pejorative. But the Treasury points out that the FSB doesn’t remind people of that when it issues press releases. So, the Treasury is offering an alternative — and decidedly less nefarious — term: market-based finance.” Oh. OK.

Concentration: “From the very beginning, a core part of Amazon’s strategy has been taking advantage of public benefits not available to its competitors” [Vice]. “The process [of siting Amazon’s second headquarters] has unfolded like the work of a seasoned pro, and that’s because it is. It started back in 1995, when Bezos was founding the company, and famously decided to base it in Seattle instead of the Bay Area. His reasoning, he told Fast Company a year later, was so that Amazon could avoid collecting sales tax in more-populous California, gaming a sales tax loophole that predated the rise of online shopping.”

Concentration: “Why Don’t We Build Amazon a Goddamn Stargate While We’re at It” [Riverfront Times]. “Governor Eric Greitens made a big futuristic splash yesterday when his office announced that a hypothetical Hyperloop would be included in the state of Missouri’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters….Stargates, also known as Astria Porta in Ancient and Chappa’ai in Goa’uld, have existed for millions of years — the one in Antarctica, for example, is estimated to be 50 million years old. They were constructed by the Ancients; it was their greatest achievement. Can we not simply reverse-engineer their work?”

Concentration: This was a joke three years ago [Know Your Meme].

Now it’s coming true:

Naked Capitalism would be hard to find in that scenario….

Five Horsemen: “Massive blowout in Amazon as Microsoft busts the top off the chart.” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood]. Lambert here: What’d Microsoft do? Put a MagSafe connector on the Surface?

Five Horsemen Oct 27

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 72 Greed (previous close: 71, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 89 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Oct 26 at 11:17am.

Our Famously Free Press

“Platforms are not strategies, and they won’t save news” [Mary Hamilton, Medium]. “Seriously. If someone else’s algorithm change could kill your traffic and/or your business model, then you’re already dead.”

“Building trust online by partnering with the International Fact Checking Network” [Google]. Google (and Facebook) have more money than God. How come they have to outsource this stuff? Nevertheless: “Today we’re announcing a new partnership with the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) at The Poynter Institute. As a nonpartisan organization, IFCN is committed to promoting excellence in fact checking and building a community of fact checkers around the world. IFCN has developed a widely accepted Code of Principles for fact check organizations. Signatories range from the Associated Press to the Washington Post, PolitiFact and Factcheck.org, to Correctiv (Germany), Aos Fatos (Brazil), and Africa Check.”

“[T]he majority of students had no idea that algorithms were filtering the news content they saw on Facebook and Google. When asked if Facebook shows every news item, posted by organizations or people, in a users’ newsfeed, only 24 percent of those surveyed were aware that Facebook prioritizes certain posts and hides others. Similarly, only a quarter of respondents said Google search results would be different for two different people entering the same search terms at the same time” [The Atlantic].


“How Chicago Gets Its Guns” [Pro Publica (JB)]. “Most of the guns police seize come from Indiana and other states where firearms laws are more lax, police and researchers have found. After they were purchased legally, most were sold or loaned or stolen. Typically, individuals or small groups are involved in the dealing, not organized trafficking rings, experts say. Unlike the drug trade — often dominated by powerful cartels or gangs — illegal gun markets operate more like the way teenagers get beer, ‘where every adult is potentially a source,’ said Philip Cook, a researcher at the University of Chicago Crime Lab who’s also a Duke University professor.”

Class Warfare

Access to banking:

Surely all those branches didn’t exist for the sole purpose of accounting control fraud?

News of the Wired

The iPhone X:

Facebook really doesn’t like it when you travel:

“Sleep in glass pods suspended 1,200 feet up the side of a mountain in Peru’s Sacred Valley” [CNBC]. This seems to be a zeitgeist thing — glass bridges in China and Switzerland, a firm that stages dinners suspended from a crane high in the air — and I don’t think I like it much. Life seems vertiginous enough already, right now.

* * *

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 (JB):

JB: “From Calaveras Big Trees” State Park. I’ll say!

Also, it would be nice to have some pictures of people’s gardens buttoned up for the winter, for those of you for whom winter is coming. And fall foliage, ditto.

* * *

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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. Pavel

    Amazing what the world is coming to — or at least the first world. Here in the UK the iPhone X starts at £999 for the measly 64GB model. This is for something which is eminently prone to:

    * Theft
    * Breaking
    * Loss

    I don’t have the UK price at hand but according to MacRumors an iPhone X screen repair will be about $250.

    Imagine people walking around with a thousand pounds of breakable electronics on their person at all times…! (Not to mention paying for the privilege of having their every movement and purchase tracked.)

    1. Arizona Slim

      First thing I did, after unboxing my low-dollar smartphone, was wrapping it in one of those bulky protective cases. It ain’t pretty, but it keeps my phone intact when I drop it.

    2. Jane

      I thought the $1319 Cdn price tag for the 64GB model was steep but £999 is $1686 Cdn so definitely pricier in the UK. Got to give it to the industry, historically tech prices drop as the product improves: radios, VCRs, computers, video games, car phones; cell phones are the first hardware tech I can think of whose prices have risen over time rather than fallen.

      1. Massinissa

        “I thought the $1319 Cdn price tag for the 64GB model was steep but £999 is $1686 Cdn so definitely pricier in the UK.”

        Brexit at work?

    3. JBird

      I just checked. With everything, it’s $1149 to preorder. I’m a mac devotee, but that’s just bananas.

      1. subgenius

        I recommend you get over that – they have been going downhill for years

        no more final cut pro
        mac desktop trashcan (appropriate name, although burn barrel would have been more apropos)
        ixnay of the magsafe

        the only plus I can still see is the BSD core to the macOS, but I can see a future where iOS is all…

        If only more software vendors would follow bitwig and make professional products available on linux we could drop the only 2 of the 5 horsemen that are are currently unavoidable.

          1. subgenius

            We tend to use da Vinci, due to the issues with apple’s supposed pro desktops…windows sucks, but the raw beef is much greater (we are mostly into the vfx side)….but each to their own.

        1. TroyMcClure

          I too dumped the rotten apple when upgrading my composing rig and everyone under 45 is doing the same. The only composers left still tethered to apple are A-listers that don’t even write most of their own stuff these days anyhow. Farm it out to and endless churn of “aspiring” composers who get no writing credits/royalties but one heck of a referral for their next “internship” doing the same for the next X-Men movie.

          But I digress…apple for pro use in audio is a joke as of 2017.

          1. subgenius

            If you haven’t yet, I would suggest taking a look at the aforementioned bitwig…renegade ableton code crew based in Berlin, available on mac, windows, and linux. A very interesting DAW, should you be in to such things…

            I know many in the composer category you alluded to, too…every other person I know seems to be a musician, covering the entire spectrum of styles and fame.

          2. howseth

            I’m an old guy with withering ears (way over 45) – However, I use Logic Pro X to record – have to say Logic Pro has gotten better – and it’s half the price since my first foray with it in 2007. (I do use 3rd party plugins as well).
            Meanwhile, my 2011 iMac seems to be holding up – after a replacement SSD. I still want to believe in Apple mojo – my cheap android phone – is clunky – the programming is weird to me.

    4. Chris

      Yes, Pavel, a Hobson’s Choice of Alphabet or Apple knowing your life, probably better than you do

      1. subgenius

        AOSP & f-droid are your friends….

        But it’s up to you to take the necessary steps

        ps – steganography and obfuscation work…

  2. Huey Long

    RE: BoA Branch Closures

    Can anybody tell me if BoA finances check cashing joints and payday lenders, or if BoA controlled Merrill does any IB work or bond underwriting for payday lenders?

    This could simply be a case of a bank closing money-losing branches, but when it comes to banks these days you really never know.

    1. ArcadiaMommy

      At a minimum, I would think they get some kind of fee for processing the transfer from the loan sharks’ account to the borrower? So clearly they are fine with the concept. I recall a conversation with an acquaintance whose husband was some sort of lobbyist for Wells Fargo that payday lenders provided liquidity to those who were “underserved” by traditional banking. Barf.

    2. DJG

      Huey Long: Through a series of mergers as ABN Amro fled the US of A back to the Netherlands, I ended up at Bank of America. I’ve never dealt with such nasty people. So closing down the branches likely has two causes: Their “people skills” and their extremely poor management. I recall them demanding a percentage for counting loose change in the change machine: That kind of helpful attitude will keep the customers rolling in.

      1. Huey Long

        Through a series of mergers as ABN Amro fled the US of A back to the Netherlands, I ended up at Bank of America.

        I ended up with them when they bought out Fleet, and you’re right; they’re quite the nasty bunch!

        1. Procopius

          I’ve despised them since I was forced to use them in Thailand because they got the contract as the Military Banking Facility when we still had bases here. I changed banks as soon as I got reassigned back to the States, but the bastards bought my bank and immediately screwed up my direct deposit (made a mistake on my social security number) and also imposed a fee on my checking account which had been free for many years.

      2. Big River Bandido

        I recall them demanding a percentage for counting loose change in the change machine…

        This actually happened at TD Bank (supposedly a more “consumer-friendly bank”); they have recently settled a class action lawsuit in which part of the settlement was a slap on the wrist financial penalty ($2 million), plus discontinuing use of the machines.

        So consumers get twice the benefit: they get nickled and dimed, *and* they lose the convenience of the service.

        1. Vatch

          “The uploader has not made this video available in your country.”, which in my case, is the USA.

          1. ambrit

            The same here Vatch. Has Lambert fled back into the arms of his pre-Victorian literary cousins in Canada? (He peered at the screen with a knowing look.)
            I earlier needed help from Messire Eustache de Saint Pierre to get a video of Steve Martin doing “King Tut” from an early SNL. I hope the revised NAFTA doesn’t include American style copyright rules.

    3. lyman alpha blob

      The tweet does say closed or sold, so not all the branches were completely shut down – they’re just not affiliated with BofA any more.

      I’d be interested to know BofA’s fee structure for ATM withdrawals. My guess is withdrawals from BofA branches are free for BofA account holders but those customers would pay a fee for withdrawals from non-BofA ATMs. So BofA builds up a nationwide customer base and then closes off the means of withdrawing cash easily directly from BofA and kaching!!!

    4. Vatch

      This web site says that the major banks are intertwined with the payday loan companies, although I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the information:


      5. The major banks funding payday lending include Wells Fargo, Bank of America, US Bank, JP Morgan Bank, and National City (PNC Financial Services Group).

      6. All together, the major banks directly finance the loans and operations of (at minimum) 38% of the entire payday lending industry, based on store locations.

      A document is supposedly at:


      But when I clicked on it, I got the “Page not found” error message. Somebody is not properly maintaining that web site.

    5. Frogman

      BoA branches are currently open in Port Angeles & Sequim in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula so map isn’t 100% correct.

  3. ebr

    Re: Sex Wearables — throw in high scores, a leaderboard, and micro-transactions & you have yourself a business. (that is /sarcasm fyi. Sadly, also a viable business plan)

    1. PKMKII

      Have to call them macro-transactions. No one is going to want to associate their genitals with something “micro.”

        1. ambrit

          Hmmm… Several puns involving “going long” or “going short” tumesce in my raddled imagination.
          Too true that choice list. Does anyone see “small” as a portion choice at any fast food place any more? Not to mention ‘cheap.’ I still get the odd look whenever I ‘dine’ at a fast food joint and ask for the child sized offering.

    2. neighbor7

      Gary Shteyngart’s novel “Super Sad True Love Story” has already envisioned this world …

    3. uncle tungsten

      It is rumored that the next iWatch will come with a “supersize me” link to the wearable. A small injector will pump just the right amount of aphrodisiac and away you go. The pun was intended.

  4. DJG

    Portside article about NAFTA, unions, and Canadian unions: Here is a paragraph from the underlying article at New York Magazine about the three sponsors:

    On Wednesday, Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Kirsten Gillibrand announced their agreement — and introduced legislation to ban “right-to-work” laws throughout the United States.

    [NY Mag article is dated 20 Sept 2017]

    The sooner we collectively kill off the feudal idea of “right to work,” the better. Right now, though, we’re only what—sixty, seventy–years too late?

    1. Scott

      Why didn’t Democrats pass legislation in 2009 to eliminate it?

      It was one of the few policies that I could think of what would actually, you know, help the win elections. But then I realized the the purpose of the DNC isn’t actually to win elections, it’s to raise money from Wall Street, Hollywood and Silcon Valley to pay for consultants.

      1. Huey Long

        Why didn’t Democrats pass legislation in 2009 to eliminate it?

        Yeah, Captain Hope’N-Change failed to deliver labor any meaningful legislation during his eight years in office.

        Labor was essentially told “We put some friendly faces on the NLRB and in the judiciary. Be thankful, and forget about card check or right to work preemption.”

      2. Sid_finster

        “…the purpose of the DNC isn’t actually to win elections, it’s to raise money from Wall Street, Hollywood and Silcon Valley to pay for consultants.”


    2. Henry Moon Pie

      Good luck with that. The Rs ads write themselves.

      And it’s a bad look anyway. With the basically insurmountable barriers to organizing under the Wagner Act these days, a focus on making sure the money keeps flowing, much of it ending up in the Ds campaign coffers. How about repealing Taft-Hartley?

      Maybe unions would be better off with less bureaucracy and more member participation. Do it like the Wobs: you come to the meeting, you pay your dues, you voice your opinion and you vote.

      1. Huey Long

        How about repealing Taft-Hartley?

        Here here!

        Repealing Taft-Hartley would bring back:

        The Closed Shop
        Jurisdictional Strikes
        Secondary Boycotts
        Common Situs Picketing
        A Ban on Right-to-Work
        A Ban on presidential interventions in strikes
        Supervisor’s Unions
        Employer Nuetrality

        Hopefully this happens before I die. I would absolutely love to see the yacht and learjet owning class in tears!

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          That would actually change the balance of power rather than just trying to preserve the ability of the current DC-focused unions to use their dwindling income to prop up a Democrat Party that has done nothing but betray them.

          Close down the Washington offices of all the unions. If you’re going to draw a salary from a union, you should be out organizing. Lobbying Congress and the White House for anything is useless whether they’re Ds or Rs.

      2. a different chris

        >The Rs ads write themselves.

        They not only write themselves they’ve already been written and burned into the brain. True or not, there they are. So what are you risking?

        The thing is the D-time is well past the point (no House, no Senate, no Pres, vanishing amount of Govs, vanishing amount of State leges..) where saying “That’s not true!!” can be considered a winning strategy, even if you could show me what you’ve won by saying it.

        How about “hell yeah that’s how we feel, America rocked (when we had strong labor)”. Stand up to the bully for once, again whaddya got to lose now. I often wonder what Steve Gilliard would say at this point, he always made sure that us white people realized that something was better than nothing when you were looking at absolutely nothing at all…. but things have sunk so low would he still feel that what has become nothing more than an orderly, but continuous retreat should be sustained? Or is it time to dig in and really declare full throated opposition?

        (like the rest of your post, just think the time to avoid things is past)

      3. DJG

        Henry Moon Pie: So? Let’s repeal the Wagner Act and Taft-Hartley. And let’s not pre-defeat ourselves.

        Just as Lambert keeps reminding us, Who would have though five years ago that the momentum is now toward single-payer health insurance even if the current couple of bills don’t pass? For years, John Conyers carried on the fight almost single-handedly. And now we have influential physicians stumping for single-payer.

      4. uncle tungsten

        Looks like Hollywood actors and staff could do with a real union. Now that is a progressive cause they might rally behind. Maybe an actors guild or something that has tenacity, guts and get past the old flogging of the McCarthy days.

  5. Wukchumni

    I guess i’ve seen maybe 10,000 giant sequoia trees in a myriad of groves here on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada.

    They are like an iron fist encased in a velvet glove, and the bark has the feel of hundreds of layers of paper-mâché, and using only your hand pressure, you can push the bark in about an inch.

    My favorites are the trees you can sleep in, as almost every tree of age has fire scars from conflagrations of the past, and on some the fire went into the heart of the tree and burned upwards 20-30 feet before burning itself out. I’ve slept in about a dozen trees.

    This one is called the Room Tree, and it sleeps 4 people:


    When a giant sequoia dies, they typically just fall over, and often break into 2 or 3 sections on the ground, and when glimpsing them from the vantage point like this link, it has the look of a multi stage rocket that fell off the gantry, with the roots resembling flames, somewhat.

    This tree will take about 2,000 to 3,000 years to decompose into the ground, as they are just as long lived as they are long dead.


  6. John k

    Mj the new gay marriage…
    Fine. But isn’t it time Medicare for all should be the new gay marriage?
    Challenging the senior CA right wing senator on that issue is an excellent step.
    Granted, she provided the vote that stopped a balanced budget amendment, and further granted that, at the time, made me furious… in my defense, I was an idiot back then.

    1. ArcadiaMommy

      Oh I think it is! So many people are now 1099 workers or have to start their own businesses because of weak hiring and poor compensation that they are becoming clued in to the horrendous costs and brutality of the “individual” marketplace. When I tell people that my boys and I use Indian Health Services and describe how it is reasonable to use they are amazed. While it is not fancy (no valet parking, no Starbucks, dodgy neighborhood) it has worked for us the last couple of years. Now we are lucky to be very healthy and our visits tend to be for kiddie accidents (bike crashes, stitches, bad colds, etc.). I don’t have any experience with a chronic illness or severe injury within the IHS system. But we just could not afford $1600 / month with a $13K deductible when we had a reasonable alternative. MJ (in my experience) is so widely accepted at this point, also largely because of the distrust that more and more people have with respect to current health care standards in this country.

  7. L

    Regarding this piece: “Politics is not all that complicated. It is a game of incentives. And, right now there is no incentive for Republicans to split from the President” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report].

    I have to say thank you for putting me on to her writing. To my mind though the most important point in the piece is this one:

    Here’s why this matters: Angry people vote. Complacent people sometimes vote and sometimes don’t. And dispirited or disillusioned people stay home.

    That is the basics of all victories. If the DNC cared about winning as opposed to fundraising they would take that to heart. But signing up voters it seems,is just not what they *do* only slinging tote bags.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Cook Political Report is small-c conservative, almost stolid, in its views; they’re like old-fashioned horse race reporters. But I like that because I can discount it properly; I don’t have to factor in which factions they’re part of and umpty-million talking points (“Why are they saying this now?” is driven at CPR by the election cycle, and — within reason, here — not by who’s zooming who how in the political class…

  8. allan

    GDP 36,000

    President Donald Trump’s top economist is doubling down on claims that corporate tax cuts would spark economic growth and boost incomes.

    Kevin Hassett is chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Hassett says the plan to slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent could increase the size of the U.S. economy by $700 billion to $1.2 trillion over a decade. …

    Actually, it doesn’t matter what fantasies Hassett spins.
    They have the votes, and their donors won’t take no for an answer.

    1. Kokuanani

      The repulsive Ed Gillespie is the Republican candidate for governor in VA. [Election is in about 10 days.] His non-stop tv ads include one in which he claims he’ll lower taxes and that this will create “57,000 new jobs in VA.”

      We need to kill this whole “tax cuts —> jobs” myth with fire.

      1. flora

        Been there, done that.

        Income tax rates go down on the upper incomes and businesses in a big way. State income taxes go down on the middle and working classes in a small way.
        Sales tax, local property taxes, county user fees/assessments go up for everyone including the poor, to cover the ensuing state budget shortfall.
        The upper 20% income/large businesses spend less a percentage of their income on purchases /fees and property taxes than the bottom 80%. Top 20% see net decrease in combines state/local tax/fees as a percentage of income. Bottom 80% see a net increase in combines local/state taxes/fees as a percentage of income.
        That still isn’t enough to fill the budget hole, so state services and state funding to k-12 education gets cut.
        Talk about a bait and switch.
        What a deal.

        1. flora

          adding: the increased sales tax/user fees/ property taxes won’t be enough to fill the budget hole. That’s when the real fun starts. Then the no-tax-ever crowd will start talking about selling off the public state properties to fill the budget hole created by tax cuts. Sell off state-own govt buildings and rent them back (from their crony friends). Sell off water treatment plants, or turnpikes, or state govt -owned medical facilities, or prisons.
          The “cut taxes and riches will follow” pitch is a con. The ultimate end seems to be privatizing as much state property as possible. That will cost 80-90% of the state’s taxpayers far more over the long run than the current state income tax structure.
          There’s a sucker born every minute. There were plenty of suckers in my state, until they saw how they were getting fleeced and finally wised up. Education is expensive.

  9. diptherio

    The net neutrality meme that “was a joke three years ago” is actually something I saw (or something very similar) in the early 2000s while I was working at a student-run non-profit. And it wasn’t a joke, then. It was a warning about what the telecoms had planned for the internet, then still in its relatively early years. So no surprise that it’s being implemented in Portugal…let’s hope everyone else sees that and says “no thank you.”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I would swear I wrote a post with a different graphic that had the same idea, pre-2008. But I couldn’t find it. The idea was that corporations would turn the Internet into cable. Which they seem to be doing.

  10. diptherio

    A company added the word “Blockchain” to its name and its shares surged 394%

    …because efficient markets.

    1. skippy

      Seriously…. so much now days makes the divergence of wages to productivity pale in comparison… when prices and value have zero correlation…

      Disheveled…. Can you even call a Scotts box on Bernays bathtub acid a – market – …

      1. ambrit

        Good heavens mate. Is a “Scotts box” what I think it is? It just might be both the oldest ‘profession’ and the oldest crime in history.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      There was a magazine/website about 20 years ago called Individual Investor (II) that was more skeptical than most about the .com boom. I may be misremembering the details somewhat, but they thought the stratospheric rise of any stock with a .com affixed to the company name was a bit ludicrous and decided to have a little fun with it. There was some website selling Harley trinkets and other biking paraphernalia called biker.com (ticker: BIKR) and after the website touted it as the next big thing it went from penny stock status to ~$10 a share pretty much overnight before falling almost as quickly, likely because the website described in detail exactly how they were trying to make a worthless company become valuable based on nothing but hype.

      We never seem to learn.

  11. Kokuanani

    Wow, the Walther article from The Week [“Fear and Loathing on Hillary Clinton’s Grievance Tour”] is terrific!!! Thanks for linking.

    Now if only I had some non-brainwashed friends I could send it to.

    1. Quentin

      Hillary has achieved Mother Goddess status simply by achieving nothing—except tons of cash. The devotees of a cult are by definition deaf, blind and dumb. The deity encourages their fervour daily by bestowing glamor and celebrity on their dull, everyday lives.

    2. Arizona Slim

      I especially enjoyed the conversation between the Ann Arbor mother and her 9-year-old daughter.

      Mom: Wasn’t that great?

      Daughter: It was boring.

      And here I thought I was the only one who thought Hillary was a boring speaker.

  12. Wukchumni

    “But what she thinks really sealed her fate with undecided voters was a conspiracy theory surrounding child molestation and human sacrifice and the Illuminati at Comet Ping Pong, a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. Call me crazy, but I think that anyone willing to believe on the basis of a Reddit thread that one of your chief pleasures in life is sitting down with your friends to eat yeasted flatbread made from the corpses of kidnapped rape victims in the basement of a D.C. restaurant has probably already made up his mind about you one way or the other.”

    It feels weird having both a President and an also ran, that are even more hideous than you had imagined…

    Any word on the toppings?

    For Hillary, sour grapes would be perfect~

  13. allan

    Modern academia in two snapshots:

    Professor quits over denied Dakota Access pipeline seminars [AP]

    A University of North Dakota journalism professor said Thursday he’s quitting because the school would not let him conduct seminars on the Dakota Access oil pipeline protest.

    Mark Trahant said he was put in charge of a journalism lecture series and proposed two pipeline protest topics that were rejected. Last year he wanted to hear from reporters who covered the protests, and this year he suggested talking about how the protest played out on social media.

    Trahant didn’t say specifically who turned down his requests, other than to say “it went up to both the provost’s and president’s office.” He said he was “disappointed and disgusted” because he doesn’t believe the Grand Forks college is an institutional leader in the state. …

    Trahant, 60, is in his third year as endowed professor of journalism at the school. He is the former editor of the editorial page for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He also worked at The Seattle Times, Arizona Republic, The Salt Lake Tribune, Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Navajo Times, Navajo Nation Today and the Sho-Ban News. …


    US Treasury Cites Koch-Funded Research In Critique Of Consumer Protections

    In a rare instance of one federal agency publicly attacking another, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued an 18-page report Monday excoriating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed arbitration rule, which would prevent financial institutions from preventing class action lawsuits from customers via consumer contracts. In doing so, the department cited a paper co-authored by a George Mason University law professor who works for several campus centers heavily funded by the billionaire industrialist, free-market evangelist and far-right political donor Charles Koch. …

    Not only has Zywicki benefited from the Kochs’ academic funding and supported their agenda, he’s gone to bat for them directly in the public sphere, defending the Kochs and their donations for outlets including National Review. In one piece, Zywicki admits, “I’m involved in all sorts of way [sic] with the Koch Foundation and many organizations that it supports. I count as friends many people at the Koch Foundation and even some at Koch Industries.”…

    1. Bill

      this is funny, because in my memory, it was dodgy to say you loved your job, or they’d try to pay you as little as possible…

      1. ABasLesAristocrates

        Must have been from a time when they didn’t pay everyone as little as possible. My employer is very clear: you will love your job (or at least make a convincing show of it) or you will be eliminated.

  14. Summer

    The Bezzle: “Uber believes it has SEC nod for earnings approach that mirrors business model” [Francine McKenna, MarketWatch]. “The ride-hailing service contends its customers are the drivers — not the passengers — and it merely facilitates their trips. Securing the SEC’s blessing of this view of its business model would allow the company to report financial results without disclosing how much money drivers are taking home.”

    Somebody, anybody help me understand how that MarketWatch and the SEC could not throw in a question about Uber’s driverless car programs and how that would affect what it considers their customer base.
    What company has plans to eliminate their alleged customer base?
    And it’s not so hard to create a platform to facilitate trips, the real work of Uber is going to be eliminating competition and paying off the officials to help them do it.

    1. artiste-de-decrottage

      Excellent point! We are totally sold out by the business press and the regulator.

      Also I think one of the key VC investors in Uber had mentioned as much somewhere about the point being building monopolies, not technology – sans the “paying off officials” part of course.

    1. subgenius

      Perfect for our bond villain Lone Skum, I would say – he seems to have first appeared in 1961 under the pseudonym Ernst Stavros Blofeld..

  15. Wukchumni

    The Bezzle: “Shadow Banking Gets Bad Rap, So Treasury Wants to Erase the Term” [Bloomberg]. “‘The word ‘shadow’ could be interpreted as implying insufficient regulatory oversight, or disclosure.

    I heard if Wall*Street sees it’s shadow, there’ll be 6 more months of winner.

  16. Katy

    “Booker’s bill is considerably more aggressive than even Bernie Sanders’ bill from 2015, which would have merely allowed states to legalize marijuana”

    Holy cow. Cory Booker: “In it to Win It 2020”


    1. Henry Moon Pie

      What matters to me is home grow, and removing THC from Schedule I won’t guarantee that. Chances are the feds will end up licensing growers, and if it’s limited to Big Pharma, things will go from bad to worse.

      The beauty of cannabis is that we can grow it ourselves and know how it was grown. Want to trade that in for some pill from J&J? No thanks.

      I’d wonder about Corey’s ties to PHARMA and whether this is their initial move to take over the market before it’s too late.

      1. Summer

        You’ll know Big Pharma’s influence has arrived when we start seeing what has never been seen before: Cannibus use leading to death.

      2. Katy

        I’d wonder about Corey’s ties to PHARMA and whether this is their initial move to take over the market before it’s too late.

        Yikes! That thought hadn’t occurred to me. Of course Booker would be the one to let Big Pharma loose with medical marijuana. Then you can patent it, regulate it through the FDA, and prevent competition.

        That thought is infuriating.

    2. Big River Bandido

      I see this much more cynically than a lot of my fellow NC readers. Booker can confidently present a bill that’s “considerably more aggressive than even Bernie Sanders’ bill from 2015”, knowing full well that he’ll be able to burnish his progressive cred with a bill that will never pass. He can please progressives who are satisfied with empty symbolism, and appeal to his corporate masters who insist on real substance — all at the same time.

      And he’ll never really be tested on the issue.

  17. Wukchumni

    “Sleep in glass pods suspended 1,200 feet up the side of a mountain in Peru’s Sacred Valley” [CNBC].

    Those are more like comfortable and stable ‘portaledges’ that big wall climbers use, to bivy overnight on vertical walls.

    I like sleeping in a hammock but my rear echelon is only about a foot above the ground, no biggie.

    I ran into a couple of fellows putting up a new climbing route on Angel Wings-the biggest vertical wall south of Yosemite, in Sequoia NP.

    A visual:


    You have to walk 15 miles just to get to the approach, and the climbers I talked to had to do it twice on account of how much gear they had, so they’d walked 45 miles before they had moved an inch vertically up the wall. It took them 8 days to get to the top and they slept in a portaledge every night. It took longer than they thought it would and they ran out of food except for garlic powder, which they told me they ate dry, yikes!

    That’s dedication combined with desperation.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think we can safely assume robots won’t be replacing those human climbers any time soon.

  18. el_tel

    not from a link today (sorry – but has been recently) but as events are moving quickly I just wondered if I was the only one who wonders if EU politics might be about to be upended somewhat courtesy of Spain – particularly if the nationally imposed catalonian election doesn’t go the national government’s way….? We live in interesting times.

    1. ABasLesAristocrates

      Link from today: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/10/catalonia-independence-171027145635868.html

      Either the Spanish government is determined to turn this into a civil war, or they think they can crush the Catalan people so completely that they’ll never attempt self-determination again. Either way, civil war is what they’re likely to get. Even the Catalan people who started out anti-independence are on the bandwagon now. Nothing like an oppressive colonial power to get everybody on the same side.

  19. Allegorio

    “Fear and loathing on Hillary Clinton’s grievance tour”

    Hillary Clinton was absolutely right that there is a vast right wing conspiracy and she is its most prominent promoter

    $700/night, who in their right mind would pay that much to see a war criminal, Wall Street Trolls, AIPAC? It’s like a side show tour featuring Adolph Hitler unbowed.

  20. Ptolemy Philopater

    “Kevin de León’s opening salvo in the U.S. Senate race against Sen. Dianne Feinstein takes on one of the main …”

    Senator Feinstein on Medicare for all. “Those campaign contributions have got to come from somewhere!”

  21. Summer

    “I think I’m gonna change my name to Lambert Blockchain…”

    Lambert Blockchain, Inc…then your personhood will be totally covered.

  22. Summer

    “Why Don’t We Build Amazon a Goddamn Stargate While We’re at It” [Riverfront Times].

    If a hyperloop is so integral to business success, that they don’t have one in Missouri shows what they think of all the other businesses there that helped to make the state before Amazon.

  23. ABasLesAristocrates

    Is it really a good idea to create a prison planet dystopia at the same time you’re pursuing immortality? Is the world – or even Silicon Valley – so full of people who want to drink Soylent, “Like and share if you agree”, and have their Fitbits evaluate their sexual prowess for eternity?

    I’ve never been so glad to be poor as I am when I think about the longevity/immortality I won’t be able to afford.

  24. Summer

    Concentration: “Why Don’t We Build Amazon a Goddamn Stargate While We’re at It” [Riverfront Times].

    I had to come back to this because it’s like shooting fish in a barrell.

    “The tube would use magnets, somehow, to blast passengers at top speed from one side of the state to the other in about 30 minutes time. ”

    You know, that urgent meeting about the meeting…
    But I’d like to see it in use as people in Missouri try to outrun some tornadoes. Actually, that would be a good selling point (if they thought things that helped average citizens were good selling points).

    1. uncle tungsten

      Diapergate might be a better name as the deceleration from that speed to arrive calmly at the terminus might just clear the bowels en route.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      The conclusion:

      If, thanks to Russia-gate, the Times succeeds in scaring Americans into believing that the country is being hit with an epidemic of “fake news” even though no one knows what the term even means; if it can persuade readers that news is “disinformation” simply because it comes from a Russian outlet; if it can convince them that “Kremlin-aligned agents secretly built fake Facebook groups to foment political division” even though “Kremlin-aligned” can mean just about anything under the sun – if it can do all those things, then it can persuade them to turn their critical faculties off and believe whatever the U.S. intelligence agencies (and The New York Times) tell them to believe.

      The integration of the corporate media and the so-called “intelligence community” will thus be complete. Instead of information, the result will be a steady stream of CIA propaganda aimed at dulling critical faculties and preparing the public for one imperial misadventure after another

      One or two iteractions of the scandal back, I remember much pearl-clutching about Russkis “creating division” through Black Lives Matter. I think this tweet properly skewers that talking point:

      I mean, come on.

      1. knowbuddhau

        “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” Voltaire

        “Eureka!” War-mongering propagandists, on reading Voltaire /s

      2. kiers

        What “fake news” really means: home-shore censorship.

        they don’t wanna fix the MONEY divide, they wanna exacerbate it; when people grumble online too readily on “hot button” flash points (because society has been divided), simply call out “Russia”…or “Fake News” and censor. Rinse. Repeat. Pass more tax cuts.

  25. Daryl

    > “Hipcamp, The Airbnb Of Camping, Is Changing Flyover Country Into A Big Welcome Mat”

    There are actually already some campsites on AirBNB. Had a good chuckle looking at one with absolutely no amenities about 10 minutes away from a national forest with free dispersed camping.

  26. hman

    BOA closes branches.. What a joke..
    The whole place should have been shut down and several layers of top management should be in jail..
    Branches close on Fri. and open under new name and management on Mon..

    1. ambrit

      Do like a local did here in H’burg. Transform a closed bank branch building into a dentists’ office, or a Peoples’ Clinic, or a homeless shelter…

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