2:00PM Water Cooler 10/31/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“President Donald Trump and his administration are worried that foreign dominance in the solar manufacturing sector could pose a national security threat, which might influence the decision of whether to levy import barriers on the technology” [Politico].



“Virginia Governor – Gillespie vs. Northam” [RealClearPolitics]. The average of all polls: Northam 3.3% (Yesterday: 3.3%). Nothing new.

“Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie combined to raise a record-smashing $20.6 million between Oct. 1 and Oct. 26, as national money poured into Virginia’s marquee election for governor” [Richmond Times-Dispatch]. “The combined haul was nearly twice the record that Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli raised in the same time period four years ago, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in state politics.” Ka-ching.

“Northam raised $11 million and ended the period with $1.7 million on hand. Gillespie raised $9.7 million and reported $1.4 million in the bank” [WaPo].

New Cold War

A sampler of punditry:

“Thus we have Free Beacon neocons, never-Trump Republicans, the Hillary Clinton campaign, the DNC, a British spy and comrades in Russian intelligence, and perhaps the FBI, all working with secret money and seedy individuals to destroy a candidate they could not defeat in a free election” [Patrick Buchanan, Real Clear Politics].

“It sure looks like there was collusion between the Trump operation and Russia” [Ezra Klein, Vox]. “Two things are true about the indictments unsealed by special counsel Bob Mueller Monday: They don’t provide a “smoking gun” proving collusion between Donald Trump’s operation and Russia. They make it almost impossible to believe that there wasn’t collusion between Trump’s operation and Russia.”

“Hillary Clinton Shouldn’t Go Away. She Should Embrace Her Role as Trump’s Nemesis.” [Jeet Heer, The New Republic]. “With the Mueller investigation now besieging Trump, there’s no better time for Clinton to deploy her special gift of enraging Trump. More than any other politician, she can speak to the legitimacy crisis in his government, and the success of her bestselling memoir What Happened proves that there is a vast audience eager to listen.” Please kill me now.

“It is surely a scandal, and not just in the political sense, when the former chairman of a presidential campaign is indicted for work related to a corrupt foreign government. At the same time, it’s important to remember that Paul Manafort’s indictment is not evidence that President Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election” [Editorial Board, Bloomberg].

* * *

“How Manafort lost $600,000 in a shell company the government now says was used for money laundering” [Francine McKenna, MarketWatch]. The shell company was Lilred. “Lilred is an investment vehicle that was set up by Manafort to invest in a strategy that involved stripping the interest payments from a group of high-yield Ginnie Mae insured mortgages to create a collateralized mortgage obligation. Investors could buy those CMO securities, on margin, and use the high-yield interest payments to service the debt and capture a positive difference between the interest rates, or spread.” They call it an investment vehice because it’s designed to drive off with your money…

“Tony Podesta stepping down from lobbying giant amid Mueller probe” [Politico] Whoopsie. That was fast.

“Washington’s Legions Of Lobbyists See Danger In Special Counsel’s Indictment Of Manafort” [Buzzfeed]. “The threat of serving hard time for failing to disclose foreign lobbying work is rattling Washington’s multi-billion dollar influence industry following Monday’s 12-count indictment against Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates. And although the charges have largely been seen as a blow to the White House, Monday’s actions by special prosecutor Robert Mueller also sent shivers down the spines of Washington’s lobbyists, both Democrats and Repulicans.”

The mysterious (and 30-year-old) Papadopoulos: “[C]ourt documents unsealed by the special counsel’s office on Monday show that he was in communication with the highest-ranking officials on the campaign” [RealClearPolitics]. “Papadopoulos came to the Trump campaign in March of 2016 with little experience in the foreign policy realm compared to advisers on more traditional campaigns. Trump’s unconventional campaign did not attract the high-level foreign policy experts typically drawn to presidential contenders…. [T[he lack of a substantial foreign policy team created risks, some that might be coming back to bite him.” And: “[I]t’s the final footnote of the special counsel’s now-unsealed document on Papadopoulos that has all sides interested, and likely concerned: ‘Following his arrest, defendant PAPADOPOULOS met with the Government on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions.'”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Autopsy: The​ ​Democratic​ ​Party​ ​in​ ​Crisis” (PDF) [Karen Bernal, Pia Gallegos, Sam McCann, Norman Solomon]. Fun stuff, especially since the DCCC buried theirs. (This comes from a Nation article, but you might as well just read the real thing.)

Stats Watch

Employment Cost Index, Q3 2017: “Wage pressures are emerging, led by average hourly earnings in the monthly employment report and also including the employment cost index which rose 0.7 percent in the third quarter in what is the third strongest showing of the expansion” [Econoday]. “employment cost index which rose 0.7 percent in the third quarter in what is the third strongest showing of the expansion. The year-on-year rate, up 1 tenth at 2.5 percent, is the second strongest showing…. With the unemployment rate at 4.2 percent, there’s not much slack, if any at all, left in the labor market which points to a possible flashpoint for wage inflation.”

Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, October 2017: “Overheating is the possible theme from the Chicago PMI” [Econoday]. “The lack of available labor means the Chicago PMI needs to cool before imbalances, including wage-push inflation, begin to appear. This report covers both the manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors.” And: “The results of this survey continue to correlate to district Federal Reserve manufacturing surveys – and generallly aligns with the overall trend of the ISM manufacturing survey” [Econintersect].

Consumer Confidence, October 2017: “strong throughout” [Econoday]. “The assessment of October’s jobs market is unusually favorable with only 17.5 percent of the sample saying jobs are hard to get, which is very low and down 1/2 percentage point from September. This reading will firm expectations for strength in Friday’s employment report. Another positive is confidence in the outlook for the jobs market where pessimists are making up an increasingly smaller share, at only 11.8 percent. The strong jobs market is translating into expectations for rising income. Here too pessimists are making up a smaller share, at only 7.4 percent.” And: “On a percentile basis, the latest reading is at the 91st percentile of all the monthly data points since June 1977, up from the 90th percentile the previous month” [Econintersect].

State Street Investor Confidence Index, October 2017: “Global institutional investor appetite for equities continued to diminish in October” [Econoday]. “The month’s sentiment shift shows risk appetites diminishing to the lowest level since March of this year, with all three sub-indexes dropping below the neutral 100 point reading, indicating institutional investors are paring down their equity holdings. Investors may be factoring in the effects of monetary policy normalization and the potential for a more hawkish chair at the Federal Reserve, State street noted.”

Personal Income (Monday): “Personal income growth continues to be depressed, which tends to keep spending down as well over time, though this month it had a nice one time increase due to the hurricanes, and the drop in the personal savings rate tells me it’s entirely unsustainable. Also the low inflation readings also support the notion of a general lack of aggregate demand” [Mosler Economics].

S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index, August 2017: “Case-Shiller home prices continue to move gradually higher” [Econoday]. “Home price appreciation is an increasingly important source of household wealth in what has been a low interest rate, low wage growth economy.” Home ownership is not weath. How many times do I have to say this? And: “Compared to their peak in the summer of 2006, home prices on both 10-city and 20-city indexes remain down about 4.3% and 1.8%, respectively. Since the low of March 2012, home prices are up 47.8% and 51.3% on the 10-city and 20-city indexes, respectively. On the national index, home prices are now 5.6% above the July 2006 peak and 45.6% higher than their low-point in February 2012” [247 Wall Street].

Retail: “As if Amazon.com Inc.’s assault on the retail industry weren’t already bad enough for traditional retailers, the e-commerce behemoth is also the low-price leader. On average, Amazon’s prices are 11% lower than the online prices offered by such competitors as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., Walmart’s Jet.com subsidiary and other specialty retailers” [247 Wall Street].

Retail: “Retail analysts say nearly a third of online purchases are returned, triple the rate of returns for in-store sales” [Wall Street Journal]. Fun fact!

Energy: “The rapid growth of renewable energy has reached a new milestone, with renewable sources contributing more than two-thirds of new power added to the world’s electricity supply in 2016” [Transport & Environment]. “Renewable energy, particularly solar power, has made massive strides in recent years, but the figures from the [International Energy Agency (IEA)]’s medium-term renewables market report took even experienced observers by surprise… [Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Seb Henbest] added: ‘We see two tipping points ahead. The first is when a new solar or wind project can compete directly with a new coal or gas plants in the absence of subsidies. The second is when that new solar or wind project is cheaper than continuing to run coal and gas power stations that are already built.’ He says tipping point one is either already, or almost, upon us in all major markets, and tipping point two could be just 10 years away.”

Commodities: “Solid demand for large stones” [Mining.com]. Maybe I should have filed this under “Realignment and Legitimacy”….

Commodities: “The London Metal Exchange plans to launch futures contracts for battery metals as soon as early 2019” [Wall Street Journal]. “The LME will work with battery producers and car makers on contracts for minerals such as cobalt and lithium that are used in batteries that power electric vehicles. Manufacturers are trying to manage risk in the mining of cobalt in particular.”

Shipping: “Unless carriers seriously commit to reducing capacity as the major east-west trades enter the slack shipping season, they could see significantly reduced annual contract rates in 2018” [The Loadstar]. Yes, what’s a cartel for, after all? More: “In spite of the recent rate weakness, load factors and vessel utilisation levels have been counter-intuitively strong for the best part of the year, which Drewry suggested may be one reason why carriers have been reluctant to pull services.” But also: “Container freight rates on the main east-west trade routes rebounded this week after nearly two months of continual decline” [The Loadstar].

Shipping: “Ship Glut Clouds Long-Awaited Recovery” [Wall Street Journal]. “Container shipping is emerging from a painful six-year slump, but a glut of tonnage that will hit the water over the next two years threatens to derail the nascent recovery.” Shipping fans here at NC will have seen that the trade press wringing its hands over this weeks ago.

Shipping: “Cosco raises $1.94bn to fund 20 boxships” [Splash 247‘]. “Cosco said the new mega ships will help the company expand the scale of its business, and the layout of shipping capacity and support for terminals along the routes under One Belt One Road initiative will also strengthened.”

Shipping: “Three U.S. private-equity firms have submitted bids to take over troubled German lender HSH Nordbank…, extending restructuring in a banking sector still weighed down by the heavy debt load left from the downturn in global shipping. The Royal Bank of Scotland RBS struck agreements earlier this year to sell some $600 million in shipping loans as it moved away from the sector. Now, state-owned HSH is rushing to find a buyer after suffering massive losses on shipping debt” [Wall Street Journal].

The Bezzle: “Loot Boxes Are Designed To Exploit Us” [Kotaku]. I’m not a gamer, which means I’m rapidly being left behind, culturally; but loot boxes look horrid.

Five Horsemen: “After last Friday’s eye-popping melt-up, the Fab Five have left their S&P 500 benchmark (SPY) far in the dust” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Oct 31

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 74 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 8:00pm. Newly sedate.

Our Famously Free Press

“Everyone loves push alerts, but there are problems. Like: What if readers don’t actually open them?” [Neiman Labs]. I hate notificaitions; they jumped the species barrier from iOS to OS X. I managed to turn them off on the Mac, but I haven’t figured out how to do that on iOS (I don’t want to turn them off app by app; I want to disable the entire functionality. My computers are my workspace, and I don’t want people yammering at me in it.)


Does anybody jog any more?

Class Warfare

“The Unseen Threat of Capital Mobility” [The Boston Review]. “Two new books link rising inequality to unseen forces: tax havens in economist Gabriel Zucman’s case, and overseas labor and environmental exploitation in historian Erik Loomis’s. The adverse consequences of the free movement of capital suffuse both narratives. Loomis recognizes that the threat of offshored jobs and outsourced supply chains is wielded to discipline the domestic workforce in the United States, and Zucman points out that tax havens have effectively allowed the wealthy to choose their own tax system and regulatory regime. They each question received wisdom and ideologically charged models in which “globalization” is an inexorable force innocent of politics or power, which operates to either universal benefit or at worst whose ill effects can be compensated. In fact, thanks to globalization, the economic body—what its ideological affiliates call ‘The Market’—is able to transcend the national body politic, to the benefit of multinational corporations and the wealthy individuals who own them.”

“Why You’re Not Getting a Raise” [The Minskys]. “A sure way to speed up wage growth again is fiscal stimulus. Government spending lifts aggregate demand directly and effectively. If enough spending is injected into the economy, it will create enough jobs to bring full employment. The momentum and labor scarcity created by the stimulus will force wages up and give workers and labor unions more bargaining power. A Job Guarantee Program, if ever implemented, would effectively set a wage floor in the economy, since any person working at a lower wage than the Job Guarantee offers will be given work in the public sector.:

“One of Arkansas’ top politicians relies on unpaid workers from a local drug rehabilitation center at his plastics company, which makes dock floats sold at Home Depot and Walmart” [Review News]. “Hendren Plastics, owned by Arkansas State Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren, partners with a rehab program under scrutiny for making participants work grueling jobs for free, under the threat of prison, according to interviews with former workers and a new lawsuit.” That reminds me of something…

“What makes me tired when organising with middle class comrades” [Guardian]. “What I’ve observed over and over again is this inherent need for middle class people to censor, control and mediate emotions. There’s a deep fear of conflict, loosing status and control. I’ve been told to be less angry on demos, less emotional at events and more serious. Stop telling me how to feel. When you’ve had a life of teachers, social workers and probation officers telling you how you should act, you don’t need the same mediating middle class behaviour in your collectives.”

News of the Wired

Zeitgeist watch:

“Inside the Mind of Thru-Hiking’s Most Devious Con Man” [Outside]. “For more than two decades, Jeff Caldwell has lured in hikers, couchsurfers, and other women (and they’re almost always women), enthralling them with his tales of adventure. Then he manufactures personal crises and exploits their sympathy to rip them off. Our writer corresponded with Caldwell while he was still on the run, and came away with an intimate look at the life of a serial scammer who’s found his easy marks in the outdoor community.”

“‘Dollhouses of Death’: NH woman’s crime-scene dioramas have taught investigators” [Manchester Union-Leader]. “They’re no ordinary dollhouses. Using a magnifying glass and dental and jewelry tools, [Frances Glessner Lee] created startlingly realistic crime scenes, with blood-spatter patterns on floors and furniture, victims in rigor mortis, and details such as real tobacco in miniature cigarette butts. Many of her ‘victims’ were women.”

“We’re in a ‘Dream Deprivation’ Epidemic” [The Cut]. “To [University of Arizona psychologist Rubin Naiman], dreams are equal parts magic, science, and mystery. Mostly, he defines dreams by what happens in their absence: irritability, depression, weight gain, hallucinations. Erosion of reason, memory, and immune system functions. A loss of spirituality. In the paper, Naiman notes that we’ve known of these consequences since the 1960s: When researchers ran experiments depriving subjects of only REM sleep, they found that most of the negative side effects mirrored those of total sleep deprivation. Alarm clocks are a common enemy of dreams, Naiman notes, because waking up to the trill of an alarm clock ‘shears off’ our dreaming periods (‘Imagine being abruptly ushered out of a movie theater whenever a film was nearing its conclusion,’ he writes).”

RIP Fats Domino:

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please put it in the subject line. Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (CR):

Northeast Ohio Maple.

Also, it would be nice to have more 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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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the NC fundraiser. So do feel free to use the dropdown and click the hat to make a contribution today or any day. Here is why: Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of small donations helps me with expenses, and I factor that trickle in when setting fundraising goals. So if you see something you especially appreciate, do feel free to click the hat!


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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Dikaios Logos

    re: Jogging

    Huge numbers of people in DC, including nationally known names and faces, still go jogging. They call it running, but it’s basically always jogging. Maybe the true dark force in America is the ghost of Jim Fixx?

    1. Wukchumni

      Jogging, tennis, dancing, golf, bowling, etc.

      There’s a lot of physical things we don’t really do that much anymore, compared to the heydays of us being in action.

      I blame this contraption.

    2. Huey Long


      Do people still jog?!?

      Hmmmm, I never considered jogging to be a trademark Acela Corridor thing but perhaps it is. Here in NYC there’s joggers everywhere, at least in the “professional” neighborhoods that have gentrified.

      I rarely see folks out jogging in my neighborhood which is dominated by Soviet emigres.

    3. Chris

      At 56 I still go four times a week, just waiting for H at the moment…. former soccer player. And, we have hills here and I have learned to love the hill and the fun of coming down the other side.

      In answer to the Wolf, I like it that jogging conditions my body to do things that I wouldn’t otherwise be able.

      Treadmills, exercise bikes, gyms??? Phfffftttt

  2. dcblogger

    this is not a good thing
    “Amazon’s Potential Defense-Bill Windfall Spurs Industry Concern
    Amazon has quietly been formalizing and expanding its relationships with several federal agencies as Congress is weighing an online marketplace provision that could enrich the e-commerce giant by billions of dollars per year, Bloomberg Government has learned.

  3. dcblogger

    time to stop blaming the white working class for Trump
    White Spite: Why Education Is at the Center of Trump’s Politics of Resentment
    There’s a myth that the largest share of Trump supporters are uneducated, unskilled, in rural areas and just frightened of change. But the bulk of his supporters were suburban, college educated and making over $70,000 a year.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      People know that, at least peripherally. They just counter it by pointing to the oft-repeated fact that the precincts that helped elect Trump voted for Obama, and that makes them traitors because they should have known better than to vote for Trump.

      Trust me, you can’t win with some of these people. I have one following me around on social media right now denying fervently there’s no attempt by the establishment to silence alternative news sources. It’s all a “whatever-wing” fantasy on my part, and that those news sources are clearly full of lies and disinformation. Indeed, her commitment to attacking me on this topic makes me wonder who’s paying her.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The well off are and will always be where they have been.

        The swinging voters, they are valuable…must be won over to clinch victory. Rather than blaming them, the vote-seekers should kneel before and beg them to come back (“Give us another chance” – how often have we heard that in our personal lives?)

    2. RUKidding

      Agree. However those white suburban Republicans making $70 large might be surprised when Trump and the GOP provide them with a huge tax increase. That is, if any of the bigger elements of the current tax legislation get passed. It’s a big bad old hammer to those citizens who are more well-heeled and typically in professional jobs, but who aren’t really all that rich.

      Cut back drastically on what you can put into a 401 (k) plan (as lousy as those are)? Giant tax increase for you, if you currently are putting in anything close to the maximum amount.

      Cut back drastically or eliminate the mortgage interest tax break? Good luck with that.

      Cut back drastically on other types of deductions, like charitable contributions? Another big tax hike.

      Yes, yes, I know: not everyone has the ability to “enjoy” these benefits of our current tax code (flawed as it is), but the $70k+ suburban crowd utitlizes most or all of these tax breaks. And I’m not holding my breath that some foundational tax “break” will really make up for the current tax cuts/breaks that will be lost by this crowd.

      But I’ve witnessed this crowd over and over voting against their own interests all in the delusional belief that somehow, some day, Republican tax cuts will benefit them, not just the 1%.

      Never has yet.

      Granted – offering Clinton as the other choice was, well, uh… clearly a losing proposition. Why Clinton ever thought she could garner votes from this particular cohort of voters is way beyond me. But of course, neither Clinton, nor her vaunted advisors, sought my sage (cough cough) advice. Oh well.

  4. Huey Long

    Why You’re Not Getting a Raise” [The Minskys]. “A sure way to speed up wage growth again is fiscal stimulus. Government spending lifts aggregate demand directly and effectively. If enough spending is injected into the economy, it will create enough jobs to bring full employment. The momentum and labor scarcity created by the stimulus will force wages up and give workers and labor unions more bargaining power. A Job Guarantee Program, if ever implemented, would effectively set a wage floor in the economy, since any person working at a lower wage than the Job Guarantee offers will be given work in the public sector.:

    Any change in policy towards promoting full employment will be smothered in the cradle by the business community by any means necessary. Full employment will screw with worker discipline and the existing social order which is not in the business community’s interests.

    This has become clear to me now after reading the recent posts here that quote Michal Kalecki.

    My question is what can be done to neutralize their influence? This seems like quite the tall order given their high levels of status and power in the US, not to mention their ownership of all the major propaganda outlets.

      1. Huey Long

        Is a general strike even feasible in today’s day and age? I

        foresee the state security apparatus snatching up the strike’s entire leadership apparatus and imprisoning them in pre-dawn raids and then locking them up in one of our political prisons, AKA “control unit.”

        1. jrs

          general strikes aren’t legal in the U.S. unlike in many other countries is my understanding. However, that’s why they call it civil disobedience.

          No wobbly telomeres is not the only wobbly as they are active on issues like prison labor strikes right now, but the modern IWW is still a relatively small movement.

          1. sleepy

            Are you sure? I recall in the late 70s/early 80s in Memphis when the police, firefighters, and teachers were all out on strike, the local trades union council scheduled a meeting to call for a general strike which was cancelled at the last minute when the employers decided to negotiate. Not saying that the general strike would have necessarily been legal just because the council scheduled it, but it seems to have been considered as such as an available tool.

        2. visitor

          A technique that has been used successfully, though rarely (Canada and Finland come to mind), is a mass resignation of the employees. When nurses suddenly threatened to bring the entire health system to a screeching halt in this way, their demand for a salary raise were taken much more seriously.

          True, when this happened in Finland, the parliament seriously considered passing a law to compel nurses to continue working, even if they had rescinded their work contract according to all legal niceties (form, deadlines, etc).

          I suspect that in the USA, where notice can be verbally given in a matter of days, this kind of nuclear option could in some cases be even more effective.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I don’t have the joke, but I do have the punchline: “Socially liberal, fecally conservative.” One place to start, in terms of “neutralizing influence.”

    2. Samuel Conner

      I wonder to what extent (achievable) policy changes that facilitate the formation of worker-owned cooperatives as a modality of new business formation might help. I have the impression that there have been some recent favorable developments in terms of changes in some states’ laws that have made the formation of co-ops a bit easier. It’s not a panacea, of course, but perhaps one tool in the toolkit of what is sure to be a long and hard struggle.

  5. Googoogajoob

    Re: Loot Boxes

    I do game myself and it has become incredibly frustrating to watch how many games are now trending towards paid content, usually in the form of cosmetic items. While they normally have no advantage in altering the gameplay, people will shell out big dollars for these items (For example, in one game I play some rare cosmetic items can command prices above $200 USD). However, the most notorious example I’d mainly reference the Counterstrike Skins Gambling websites and the shady behaviors that come with it.

    In general it’s frustrating given that I recognize how exploitative these mechanisms are but there is a demand for these things because people want the content no matter how minimal it may be to their experience

    I’d link a bunch of stuff but I’m on mobile and it’s clunky enough typing this out.

    1. DonCoyote

      I’ve played 4X games since they were single player, and they always had “random” content (Civ and goody huts, for example) that could benefit some players more than other (computer) players. When they become multi-player, the random content was still usually there, but yes, to a greater or lesser extent most 4x multiplayer games for a long time have let you “pay” to become better in the game, whereas FPS shooter games have resisted this. I don’t know if it’s inevitable in FPS, but I suspect so, at least in the short term.

    2. ChrisPacific

      The problem with loot boxes is that they work, in the sense that they are a more efficient means of monetizing users of free games than the alternatives. So we can expect to see them appear more and more unless we decide to regulate them.

      An analogy for the non-gamers: imagine a slot machine that dispenses stamps, little pop culture figurines, or other collectible items (if you have any kind of collecting instinct, substitute whatever kind of item gets you going). You get one free spin per hour. You can spin more often but it will cost you $1 every time. Most of the rewards are common and virtually worthless, but a select few are rare, highly coveted, and worth hundreds or thousands of dollars on eBay.

      Typically rewards are cosmetic and have no impact on gameplay (the ability to purchase game advantages with real money is frowned on in gaming because it creates a sense of unfairness, which is toxic for competitive online games). However, they usually look really cool and are a source of envy for other players that see them. A typical example would be ‘skins’ that change the way your character looks. For example, you might (assuming proper licensing and permissions) have a skin that makes your character look just like Yves Smith, announces “Yves here!” at the start of every game, substitutes in-game voice lines with common Yves Smith catchphrases, and so on. That’s a silly example, but the point is that they are tailored to what the audience will find appealing.

      They are all designed to appeal to our lizard brain to some extent (they combine collecting and gambling, two very common vices) but some are more exploitative than others. The benign ones (including the Blizzard variants like Overwatch and Heroes) offer alternative ways to obtain all content so that nothing is exclusive to loot boxes, and are transparent about pricing and odds. The nastier ones will force everyone through the loot box mechanism for the rarest and most unique content and will disguise the real cost as much as possible, with the aim of getting you to spend far more than you intend. People vulnerable to this kind of thing can end up spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars this way without realizing.

      They don’t work very well on me, because my brain is good at calculating and estimating odds. I’m not opposed to paying real money for them if I think I will get value in return, but the ‘fair’ price as determined by my internal calculation is invariably a small fraction of the price they are asking, so I never get them. More specifically, I will take the ‘free’ ones and spend the ‘free’ currency on them, but I’ve never stumped up real money to increase my chances. But I think I am unusual in this regard, and the numbers seem to bear this out.

  6. DonCoyote

    Just remembering those other hiking con artists:

    The “Other” ACA (American Camp Association) and their “$260K for 26 minutes” speech keynote speaker ($10K per minute!) Hillary Clinton.

    Summary: Lot of summer camps were exploiting the visa program to bring in foreigners as camp counselors and paying them peanuts. So a non-profit organization blows 10% of it’s total annual budget to bring in HRC.

    “There can be no doubt that Hillary Clinton was and is aware of the industry’s focused immigration interests. Of course you can make the default argument that this is just the way things are done in American politics and that there is no proof that any quid pro quo will ever take place, but it appears even more cynical to accept $260,000 from this organization in the context of these immigration and economic issues than the bottomless pockets of Goldman Sachs.”

    Even more cynical indeed. HRC = “Her Royal Cynicalness”?

    1. Wukchumni

      For a long time now in Sequoia NP-say 25 years, the seasonal help for the concessionaire has come from the country d’jour, and it’s varied from places such as Thailand, Poland, France, Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, etc.

      It’s also common to see foreigners working @ ski resorts.

      1. Octopii

        And as lifeguards. One of our local communities was unable to open their pools on time this year due to an inability to get their usual young Eastern European lifeguards through immigration. We’re all still not sure why they couldn’t have been hiring American college students and local high schoolers all these years. Guess our kids don’t like the idea of “slaving away.”

    2. Arizona Slim

      Speaking of outdoor con artists, I have met a couple of them. I worked with one in a bike shop, and that guy could spin yarns like no one’s business. The boss finally fired him, and then he filed for unemployment and got it. But not for very long. Last time I saw him, he appeared to be homeless.

      I met the other one on the streets of Tucson. He claimed to be a long-distance bicycle tourist, and he had all the right gear.

      I figured that he’d probably want to get to know some local touring cyclists, so I invited him to the meeting of a club I belonged to. Meeting was a few hours and very near where we were talking. He never showed up. I couldn’t help thinking that he probably didn’t want to be caught in some lie or the other.

    3. Huey Long

      Summary: Lot of summer camps were exploiting the visa program to bring in foreigners as camp counselors and paying them peanuts.

      This is a big scam at the Jersey Shore too. A lot of the summer labor for the boardwalk concessionaires is brought in from overseas, paid peanuts, and housed in rentals owned by the employers where the workers are charged odious rents.

      1. a different chris

        It was quite a few years back, but we went to “Colonial Williamsburg” and darn near everybody who worked there and in the area was Ukrainian (or maybe Russian, it was a long time ago). It was hilariously ironic.

        (looks around suspiciously – hey, now I realize they were practicing for their US takeover… like any good spy, they had a long term plan, and were starting with a dig into the deepest part of our history. Unfortunately, they didn’t realize that Americans know squat about our history so that whole thing was just a waste of time. Probably staffed with Pakistanis or some such now…)

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          A little over thirty years ago, my wife and first-born and I went to Disneyworld. We spent one day at Epcot and dropped by the Bavarian biergarten. There we were waited upon by a young lady from Germany. Things weren’t too busy, and we asked about her home. She said it wasn’t the same as it used to be. The Turks were taking over, she said.

          Just a true story with a few levels of irony in it.

  7. marku52

    “They call it an investment vehice because it’s designed to drive off with your money… ”

    Too funny, Lambert!

  8. shinola

    “Autopsy: The​ ​Democratic​ ​Party​ ​in​ ​Crisis”

    It may be well worth it if you take the time to read the PDF. I’ve only made it through the first 12 pages (of 33) so far but nearly every page has 1 or more sections that made me want to copy & paste here in comments.

  9. Nick H.

    Re: Gaming/Loot Boxes

    I’m not a huge gamer anymore but I’ve been blown away how everything has changed in the past 10 years or less. As a consumer it used to be a pretty simple decision: If I spend upwards of $60 on this game, will I get an equivalent value of content? But now it seems everything revolves around microtransactions, loot systems, and pay-for expansions/DLC — so you rarely buy a ‘full’ game anymore, and never know (if you like the game) how much you’ll end up spending on it. Which feels wrong, and hurtful to younger gamers who might not have the perspective to know that their lizard brains are being prodded into addictive behavior.

    With that said, the major issues I think are still pretty well relegated to online multiplayer games…if you want to compete online and be competitive against other people, you’re going to have to pay a lot for it (in either time or money, usually both) — That’s the target market being taken advantage of here. But if you just want a good single-player experience there are still a lot of good, new RPG/Grand Strategy games out there with a lot of content that you can spend a lot of time with– and won’t be nickeled and dimed along the way.

    1. Huey Long

      I’m not a huge gamer anymore but I’ve been blown away how everything has changed in the past 10 years or less. As a consumer it used to be a pretty simple decision: If I spend upwards of $60 on this game, will I get an equivalent value of content?

      I too used to play a lot of games and have noticed this trend starting with World of Warcraft. I never played, but I remember my brother used to and he had to pay some sort of subscription fee which was a huge turnoff for me.

      It looks like the MBAs in the gaming industry have expanded upon the subscription model and have come up with many more “revenue streams” to fleece the gamers with. When I play games these days I usually stick to old DOS abandonware games. They’re free, fun, and let me re-live my youth!

      1. Kurtismayfield

        Playing World of Warcraft gave me a glimpse into the mindset of “getting the right cosmetic gear at all costs”. The lengths people would go through just to complete the cosmetic stuff on their characters blew my mind. I can see how that would translate into loot boxes.

        The truth is that video games have been getting more and more exploitative of addictive behaviors for a long time. The marketing (some of the comments on Kotaku point some of the blame right back at them), the yearly releases of barely updated content, the dlc on day one. Loot boxes are just the final transformation of gaming to a slot machine.

        My advice is to stick to GOG, humble bundles, and indie games.

    2. ABasLesAristocrates

      I never buy AAA games until they’re below 50% of the original price with all DLC included. In practice this means indie developers get most of my entertainment dollar, as by the time a AAA game reaches this level it has usually been exposed as overhyped and not that much fun to play.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The bugs are fixed by then or at least someone has made a good mod to fix it. After Survival Mode on Fallout 4, I totally regretted all the time I wasted on “Very Hard” building a jet empire and building a pyramid to store my power armor collection. Don’t worry, I played the Fallout demo in 1997, and the Restoration Mod for Fallout 2 is the only true fallout.

        1. RMO

          To me the worst trend in gaming by far is the practice of publishers outright killing games – they make a game which has most of the actual resources on a server they control, when they figure they’re not worth keeping going they shut the servers down and leave the customers with nothing (unless the game has a massive fanbase with a few geniuses in the mix who are able to reverse engineer the server software). I won’t even consider buying a game with this sort of design. Ross Scott seems to be the lone online voice decrying the practice.

          As for Fallout 4 – I didn’t have to deal with any bugs because I foolishly bought the game at release without checking the minimum system requirements! My old computer flat out couldn’t run it at all and it wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I built a new machine and finally got to start playing it. My old computer had been happily running everything I threw at it until Fallout 4 and I had kind of forgotten that it was nearly ten years old. Things sure have changed in the intervening years. The 1TB hard drive I used in the new machine is smaller than the RAM modules. Quite a change from the spinning WD drives in the old computer.

  10. marku52

    Hadn’t seen this elsewhere, found it at Pat Lang’s place. A banker finally convicted of a crime. Amazing! How did Obama fail to stop this? Currency front running at HSBC:

    “U.S. prosecutors have said that Mark Johnson, formerly head of HSBC’s global foreign exchange cash trading desk, schemed to ramp up the price of British pounds before executing a trade for Cairn, making millions for HSBC at Cairn’s expense. ”

    There’s more at Pat’s place

    1. John k

      Foreign banks that didn’t contribute enough just might Be touched.
      Domestic Wall Street banks and their managers are untouchable, personally protected by both the NY fed branch and the mother ship.
      What about Lehman? They had previously earned the enmity of the rest of Wall Street and were abandoned. Don’t rock the boat!

  11. jsn

    “The mysterious (and 30-year-old) Papadopoulos”

    What? So Trump should have hired Podesta instead?

  12. Thomas Williams

    RE: Why You’re not getting a job”

    Why not try the easy – and free – fix first? Get foreign workers out of the US workforce. We don’t have a shortage of qualified carpenters, ag workers, waiters, computer programmers. We have 10’s of millions illegals working here and several million legal guest workers. Stop being a tool of the Neolibs by advocating more spending at a time when that will be politically doomed to fail. Toss out foreign workers, REAL unemployment will fall. Real wages will rise. The REAL GDP will grow A virtuous circle ensues.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      Government spending to boost the economy is antithetical to neoliberal policy. And those “10’s of millions [of] illegals” are, as keeps being pointed out over and over and over, US workers aren’t interested in pursuing. Indeed, I wonder right now what will result from ICE’s hyperactivity when the next agricultural cycle comes around and there aren’t enough hands to do the work.

      Or maybe they’ll just ship them out of the detention centers to do the work as slaves. That seems to be the current trend.

      1. Fiery Hunt

        Underpaid brutal jobs? …yeah, Americans not interested.
        Real wage jobs? Americans would take ’em in a heartbeat.

        Exploitation of immigrants (both legal and illegal) hurts EVERYONE.

        1. Elizabeth Burton

          I’ll preface by saying there’s a smidgeon of ad hominem in the following rant, so I won’t be annoyed if the moderator(s) choose to toss it. However, I’ve heard this rubbish about “exploited immigrants” once too often.

          Here’s the thing. The phrase “exploitation of immigrants” is a statement of privilege. None of those workers consider themselves “exploited” when the work they’re doing is what they came here to do. The exploitation comes in when they’re taken advantage of by the employer class—and they are fighting back. You won’t hear about it, of course, because it’s not in the interest of the corporate media and their exploiter class owners for anyone to know. That allows people to get all indignant about “exploited immigrants” from the comfort of their ignorance.

          Exploitation of all workers “hurts EVERYONE.” And part of that exploitation is the immigration laws that decide who has a right to come here to work and who doesn’t. That became clear the minute the owner class started importing legal workers willing to accept less. Which only became possible, really, once the labor movement was effectively gutted.

          Many of those undocumented workers don’t live here. They sneak across the border to do the work then go home till the next round. They’re lied to and cheated and abused, and that needs to stop. However, the assumption they’re helpless victims is ridiculous, and using that myth to demonize them—and that is precisely what saying that if the jobs paid enough we wouldn’t need them does—is maddening and condescending.

          The nonsense that if those jobs just paid enough US workers would be thronging to take them is another indicator of someone who has never spent even one day out in the hot sun harvesting whatever. Furthermore, most US workers wouldn’t have a clue how to go about it, which is another indicator these myths are fueled by privilege because the person propagating them clearly thinks that kind of job requires no skills whatever. It’s an elitist, classist viewpoint that says “anything done with hard labor by hand is an easy job anyone can do.”

          Yet another example of why we’re in this mess. Add to it fifty years of people being told they’re losers if they have to work hard for a living and should stop being lazy and shiftless and get an education so they can bet a better job, and you have the perfect storm that brought us Trump and the Knights of the Koch Brothers Roundtable.

          1. Fiery Hunt

            Having spent brutal 12 hour days doing roofing work in the blazing CA summer heat, I’d bet I’m FAR more qualified to comment on hard labor than those with a giant chip on their shoulder defending the “dignity” of the “hard-working” noble immigrant.
            If you think working for minimum wage is fine for skilled carpenters because some Mexican accepts it (better than he gets in Mexico), than we’ll never see eye to eye. I recommend reading “Grapes of Wrath”…and yes, even us mopes without a college degree can read classics.

            I work 80-90 hours a week in a physically demanding job.
            I am not privileged. And I’m fully aware of how much skill some “unskilled” labor entails…Are you, Ms. Burton? Ever dug a trench? Got a housecleaner? Just asking…

            And I, like so many who didn’t vote for a Clinton, am damn tired of the self-righteous (who are also completely wrong in their perceptions of others) accusing me of the exact ignorant judgment of others that they themselves exhibit.

          2. AnnieB

            So, US citizens would never do those jobs taken by illegal immigrants such as landscaping, painting houses, and working in chicken processing and egg collecting, etc etc to name a few? How come citizens used to do those jobs? Young people of my own age did those jobs and older people as well in the “good old days” (joke).
            And furthermore, it’s not true that people wouldn’t have a clue how to work in the fields. My own daughter and her friend worked in the vineyards in New Zealand, hard manual labor that left them exhausted at the end of the day. While this may sound like an isolated example I assure you that I can give you many other examples that would refute the claim that US citizens would have no clue how to do the very difficult jobs that are now done by illegal immigrants now hired by employers who want to pay less and provide no benefits.

            There is a mythology that illegal immigrants are primarily working back breaking jobs like picking crops. This is not true. Every construction site in Boulder county Colorado is staffed with Spanish speaking immigrants who are by and large illegal and are doing all the semi- and skilled work that in those “good old days” would have been filled by young men apprenticed in the trades who now are now making up a large percentage of the homeless population here.

          3. kareninca

            “The nonsense that if those jobs just paid enough US workers would be thronging to take them is another indicator of someone who has never spent even one day out in the hot sun harvesting whatever.”

            According to Pew, in 2012, only 4 percent of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. worked in farming, forestry and agriculture (http://www.pewhispanic.org/2015/03/26/share-of-unauthorized-immigrant-workers-in-production-construction-jobs-falls-since-2007/).

            That is a tiny percentage.

            By far the highest percentage – 33 percent of undocumented workers – worked in the service industry.

          4. False Solace

            > The phrase “exploitation of immigrants” is a statement of privilege.

            Yeah, no. Plenty of them are indeed exploited and fully aware of it and the conditions are horrific. It seems to me that only a person of privilege would try to deny that many of these jobs are exploitative and not good for anyone, no matter how poor they happen to be.

            This is the same canard that says free trade — which throws peasants off their land and into undocumented slums where if they’re very lucky they can work 11 hours a day in a sweatshop — somehow makes them better off than before.

            I did a cursory search in google news for “exploited agricultural workers”. Thousands of recent links came back recounting every imaginable type of abuse.

            1. JBird

              And most of my extended family did likewise. Of course my Boomer aged relatives ran from those jobs they were doing straight to those free California colleges we used to have for plentiful high paying jobs we also used to have. Of course the minimum wage back in 1968 was about $11 in today’s money and you could afford an apartment on that although I doubt it was great, so the rest of the family wasn’t hurting financially either.

              So I guess today my then family would be screwed.

      2. todde

        “I wonder right now what will result from ICE’s hyperactivity when the next agricultural cycle comes around and there aren’t enough hands to do the work”

        the produce will rot in the fields OR wages will go up.

        1. Elizabeth Burton

          Wages won’t go up. The bosses will make deals with the local for-profit prison corporations and “Christian rehab centers” to get slave labor, just as they’re doing now on a smaller scale. Modern versions of the chain gang and “rent a convict” that have been perpetuating slavery since Reconstruction.

            1. Ned

              Input costs are a tiny percentage of the cost of processed food. Wages for field workers could double with little effect on final food prices.
              4 cents worth of oats in a box of Roundup Ready Cheerios. Probably more in weedkiller costs to desiccate the plants to prep them for harvest.

              Skilled trades are where the undocumented help destroy the middle class, plumbers, electricians, cement masons, laborers, a job that my black neighbor was able to buy a house on in San Francisco.

              1. ambrit

                That’s the story here in the American Deep South as well.
                Those “huddled masses” the statue of liberty asks about were great for fueling the growth of great fortunes during the Robber Baron Age 1.0. Everything old is new again.

        2. Louis

          Businesses, particularly those that have come to expect and depend on low wage labor (e.g. retail,hospitality, agriculture, etc) will only raise wages kicking and screaming. In other words, wages will only up when every other possible option–from other sources of low-wage labor to automation–has been exhausted.

          While I won’t go as far as to completely rule out any wage increases, I’d say it’s unlikely and if it happens at all it will be incremental, not on a large scale.

        3. AnnieB

          Here’s an example to contradict your claim that produce will rot in the fields if we don’t import low paid illegal immigrants. Every year at this time there is a sugar beet harvest in N.Dakota and MN that needs 1300 workers and lasts about a month. Many of the workers are ages 50-55 and are work kampers. They work 12 hour days and get paid $16.50 to 17.88/hr. The harvest is completed every year so I guess they are not short the needed number of workers.

          1. ambrit

            Do your wage figures for the beet harvest workers factor in overtime pay? If we take the middle road and use $17.00 per hour for your 12 hour day, that works out to a base wage of roughly $14.50 per hour. Or, if you will, a wage that reflects what “minimum wage” would have been if the ‘official’ figure had been indexed to a realistic measure of inflation since the 1960s.
            If the wage figured is based on piecework rates, well, I have news for you. Those 12 hour days must be brutal, if my experience with harvesting oranges in Florida back in the early 1980s are any guide.
            “Work kampers.” Another, ‘prettier’ name for migrant labourers. As someone mentioned a day or two ago, we’re reliving the world of “The Grapes of Wrath” in slow motion. Do remember how that ‘fiction’ ended up.
            An essay on the books’ endings: http://numerocinqmagazine.com/2012/08/27/the-senses-of-an-ending-the-grapes-of-wrath-novel-and-film-patrick-j-keane/

      3. Kurt Sperry

        “And those “10’s of millions [of] illegals” are, as keeps being pointed out over and over and over, US workers aren’t interested in pursuing”

        This is the voice of real privilege, the voice of the exploitive overclass speaking. There are no jobs Americans aren’t interested in, only jobs that the employers refuse to provide working conditions or a wage sufficient to attract those workers. The very idea that certain jobs can only be done by precarious, often undocumented, workers because those jobs are somehow too difficult or beneath the dignity of American workers is dangerous (and frequently racist) nonsense. Any business that relies on paying non-living wages and/or inhumane conditions leveraged by the desperation of easily exploited imported labor is not a viable, sustainable business, and employers should either be forced to pay that living wage or to find another business to conduct. Or maybe to get a real job themselves instead of exploiting others for a living.

        I’ve had it with this whole “jobs American workers won’t do” nonsense. it needs to be challenged wherever and whenever it occurs. If paying field or construction or home care workers, or nannying, or restaurant (etc. etc.) workers a fair living wage, benefits, and humane working hours and conditions breaks the employers business model, that’s on the employers and their enablers in the managerial and political classes, not on the American labor force. Paying living wages for all jobs would, as a considerable side benefit, provide an enormous economic stimulus, in addition to conferring dignity and self-respect to those millions who work them.

    2. marym

      US workforce:
      157.8M citizens (2016)
      29M foreign born *
      1.4M workers with temporary visas (2013)
      8M illegal immigrants (not 10’s of millions) (2015)

      * includes legally-admitted immigrants, refugees, temporary residents such as students and temporary workers, and undocumented immigrants.

      It isn’t “spending” that’s politically unattractive. We spend trillions. I’d prefer identifying all the work that’s not getting done in this country, from small local needs to big regional and national ones; and a job program to address that.

      Given all the work that’s already not being done; the lack of worker empowerment discussed in the link above; and the link that follows it – and other examples we’ve seen – about the use of prisoners as slave labor, it seems unlikely that “kicking people out” will magically cause wages, productivity, or anything else to improve.


    3. ABasLesAristocrates

      Overlooking the nationalism and nativism in your argument, the forcible deportation of over 11 million people would in no sense be “free”. ICE agents have to be paid with money: the satisfaction they get from arresting non-white people in front of their children’s elementary schools is just a side benefit.

    4. Ned

      Follow up to Thomas Williams, 3:18 pm
      And so will rents, in the San Francisco Bay Area there are approximately half a million illegal aliens living in what was once inexpensive and offbeat housing that poor and working class Americans could afford.


      Here’s a hint at some other numbers:
      “California has issued more than 800,000 driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in the two years since the state implemented a law allowing for issuance without proof of legal presence.

      The Mercury News reports that in the two years since AB 60 took effect the California Department of Motor Vehicles issued driver’s licenses to 806,000 undocumented immigrants — 14,000 of which the department issued just last month.” So do these ‘migrants’ possibly lower the supply of housing?


  13. John k

    Fed wants higher inflation…
    But raising rates because of fears the imaginary full employment will boost wage inflation…
    Fed worries about inequality…
    So apparently they want goods prices to increase while wages don’t… thus increasing profits… increasing inequality both because higher costs hurt the middle class more than the rich and because profits go mostly to the rich…

    The fed is run by highly intelligent people, they must see the contradictions… as do the pols… but status quo is what they are well paid to deliver…

    Problem is, neither domestic or foreign policy is sustainable. No doubt the brighter bulbs see this, too…
    Apres nous Le deluge…

    1. Tim

      The fed is there to protect wealth. A little inflation of assets which is above the inflation of wages does that just fine, and is hence the goal. Inequality discussion is lip service about changing things they don’t control, like trickle down mechanisms that don’t work.

    2. Ptolemy Philopater

      “The fed is run by highly intelligent people, they must see the contradictions… as do the pols… but status quo is what they are well paid to deliver…” @John k

      The fed is run by highly intelligent criminals, who counterfeit money and pass it out to the socially privileged who then buy up everything worth buying and charge the socially disadvantaged usurious rates for using them. As we speak American corporations and all the wealth held therein are being privatized. The final chapter of the “Inclosure Acts”. The government has already been privatized.

      The next step is to criminalize poverty, incarcerate the poor and force them to labor for free, the modern version of “free labor,” We are returning to the world of ancient Rome where 75% of the population were enslaved and the remaining 25% were driven mad by power.

      The elites are already being driven mad by their power; Sheldon Adelson advocating pre-emptive nuclear strikes on Iran, Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assaults, Rabbi Dov Zachheim proposing genetically engineered diseases that target individuals or ethnic groups. We are through the looking glass. It is long past the time to think that we are dealing with rational adversaries.

  14. Wukchumni

    “One of Arkansas’ top politicians relies on unpaid workers from a local drug rehabilitation center at his plastics company, which makes dock floats sold at Home Depot and Walmart” [Review News]. “Hendren Plastics, owned by Arkansas State Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren, partners with a rehab program under scrutiny for making participants work grueling jobs for free, under the threat of prison, according to interviews with former workers and a new lawsuit.” That reminds me of something…


      1. Edward E

        I did some free labor for the Contra cocaine money laundromat, it’s okay, it’s one of those old timer Arkansas thangs! Sure beats going swimming in the Arkansas River wearing ‘bubba swimming shoes’

        Hey, it looks like it’s gonna work now Outis!

    1. ambrit

      Reminds me of the scene from “Gone With the Wind” where Scarlett agrees to using ex-confederate soldiers as convict labour to run her sawmill.
      Hillary is saying “Tomorrow, or at least 2020 is another day!”
      Also, how about; “As DNC is my witness! I’ll never be out of power again!”

  15. uncle tungsten

    Solid demand for large stones; they are used at the US embassy in Havana to throw at cicadas. I am told they are delivered daily by B52’s.

    1. Huey Long

      Although I have no idea where Yves resides, I’m fairly confident she wasn’t jogging or riding a bike on the path that got hit. The attack was on the bike path I use for my daily commute that runs along the Hudson River.

      Some yahoo drove a truck roughly a mile down the path between Houston and Chambers streets mowing down everybody on it. Apparently the guy was armed too, and after he smashed his truck up at the end of his run (a mere 2 blocks before the part of the path that runs in front of Goldman Sachs HQ) the cops shot him, and he is in custody.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        That sounds horrible…really tragic.

        I don’t know if I want to know more. At some point, memory repression might kick in.

        Last night, I came across a piece of information…an actor from a 60s WWII TV series and his decapitation in 1987 or about. I said to myself, I think I remember reading about it all these years ago, or maybe I didn’t.

        I suspect memory repression.

    2. Oregoncharles

      ““The Unseen Threat of Capital Mobility” [The Boston Review].”

      Herman Daly spotlighted this years ago, as a key dishonesty in the promotion of “Free Trade.” It’s actually in Ricardo’s original theory, which ASSUMES that capital does not move freely between countries – which was true in his day. Daly’s paper on the subject:


      1. Oregoncharles

        I have no idea why that appeared as a reply to F.H.

        I, too, hope everybody from here is OK; from the hints she’s dropped, I don’t think that’s Yves’ neighborhood – but she can answer for herself.

    3. Laruse

      I came straight here as soon as I caught the news. Hope Yves and ALL of our Commentariat are okay.

  16. Wat

    Re: Autopsy, as I more or less said to Yves the other day, when do we hit the “feature not a bug button” on Dems in “Disarray”?

    They should be called Post-Democrats because most of them are Repugs and what’s happening is all according to plan. Do I have a planning document? No, but geezum, as we say here in New England. I’ve been slapped in the face so much my good cheek and my bad cheek both hurt!


    1. Wisdom Seeker

      I like “Post-Democrats”, but don’t call the RINOs they hobnob with Republicans. From what I’m reading, most real Republican voters are increasingly angry at the swamp creature inside their party too.

      There is only one party, the property party, and it controls both the Repubs and the Dems right now, despite the fact that in the past both Rs and Ds had populist eras.

      The people need to reclaim control of their parties.

  17. Wukchumni

    “Inside the Mind of Thru-Hiking’s Most Devious Con Man” [Outside].

    Crime is largely non-existent in the Sierra Nevada backcountry-once you leave the trailhead, and conversations with complete strangers are commonplace, as you have an obvious shared interest, and all the time to talk in a slowed down pace that is out of range of connectivity.

    Thru-hiking is a different experience along the same lines but obviously much longer distances and chances to get to know others.

    I walked a 60 mile stretch of the PCT in the spring with a friend, and ran into ‘trail angels’ in the guise of coolers full of bottles of water & snacks in the middle of a stretch where water sources weren’t around, or people hanging out in a shady stretch to hand out the same. You never see that happening here. We were doing miles 280 to 340 and my friend had started @ Campo @ mile 1, so there was a trail camaraderie of those that had been walking for so long already, with thousands of miles to go.

    I could see how a con man could easily have his way with people that had walked the PCT, CDT or AT, as that world is one of trust and money doesn’t really play much of a part whilst on the trail.

    1. AnnieB

      The primary person written about in the article was Melissa Trent, a young mother who met the conman on a online dating site, Plenty of Fish. After knowing him a couple of days she made him dinner in her home with her two young daughters! Then when he stole her car, she was distraught that he might go to jail! The guy was not just conning hikers. He was using anyone he happened to encounter who was naive or vulnerable or stupid enough to believe him.

    2. Jim Haygood

      I walked a 60 mile stretch of the PCT in the spring with a friend, and ran into ‘trail angels’

      Last year in the late afternoon we picked up a thru-hiker huffing up the long vertical rise from the Verde Valley on the Arizona Trail. He was just looking for a campsite. But we fed him, gave him a bed, and let him do his laundry.

      Anybody can be a trail angel. Even if you don’t live near no trail.

  18. nippersmom

    From “The Democratic Party in Crisis”
    The goal is clarity for the challenges ahead to end Republican rule and gain lasting momentum for progressive change.

    That is the authors’ goal; the reason the Party refuses to engage in the type of introspective analysis contained in this report is this is not at all the Party’s goal. The Party has no interest in “gain(ing) lasting momentum for progressive change” and very little in ending Republican rule.

  19. Indrid Cold

    It seems to me from the politicking that the DNC crew thinks everybody’s just going to settle down and it’s going to be another decade of smooth neoliberal sailing if they get rid of Trump somehow. It’s too late. People are being ripped off left and right and they’re not going to just passively consume electronic trinkets and preprocessed electronic disco anymore. When Dollar Bill Clinton was around, we at least had fake bubble prosperity. Obama didn’t even offer us that. Now instead of actual policy, we have this tribal politics.

  20. Jim Haygood

    Years of phony pension accounting are taking their toll … when they haven’t even fixed it yet:

    The Sacramento region’s largest local governments will see pension costs go up by an estimated 14 percent next fiscal year.

    The increases come after CalPERS in December reduced the expected rate of return from investments. CalPERS agreed to spread higher costs over eight years. That means cities will see rate hikes each year that are similar to this year’s, assuming that the fund’s investments make 7 percent annually under the new expected rate of return.

    Leyne Milstein, the city of Sacramento’s finance director, said the city’s pension costs will double in seven years. “It’s not sustainable,” Milstein said. “These costs are going to make things incredibly challenging.”

    “We don’t know how we’re going to operate,” said Oroville’s finance director, Ruth Wright, who suggested that a doubling of pension costs in five years could force the city into the nuclear option. “We’ve been saying the bankruptcy word.


    They’re gonna be saying some much uglier B-words before this clusterfork is over.

    Earth to Calpers: you ARE NOT going to make a 7 percent return over the next ten years. In fact, you’ll be lucky to make three.

    That is, the contribution increases that are crushing local govs in Cali and other states are but a down payment. The full horror gets revealed in the next recession & bear market, when their 70 percent equity and alternative weightings get smashed in half.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Today, the Milliman 2017 study of the 100 largest public pension plans was released.

      Unlike ERISA-regulated plans which are required to base their expected returns on corporate bond yields (currently 3.18% on BofA Merrill Lynch’s C0A0 index), public plan sponsors get to JUST MAKE UP their “expected return.” As in “I, too, expect to Think and Grow Rich!

      Stunningly, NOT ONE of these top 100 plans expects to earn less than a 6.5% annual compounded return. Most of them cluster around 7.5%, a figure that a consensus of cornered rats seems to find comfortable and plausible. Chart:


      With the 10-year Treasury note currently yielding 2.38% and Shiller’s CAPE [Cyclically Adjusted Price Earnings] at an eye-watering 31.76, the probability of any of these plans earning even half of their expected return is vanishingly small.

      Absurd, self-serving “expected returns” are Big Lies from the Lying Liars of state governments. Their deception-based Ponzi scheme is blowing up in their fool faces as we speak.

      How do you spell relief? D-E-F-A-U-L-T on unpayable pension promises to government workers.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Might I ask, Jim, how do you feel about maybe default by all those millions of mope credentialed former students on their unpayable undischargeable debt? Or default by the evil Central Government of Puerto Rico on all that unpayable, undischargeable debt? It’s pretty clear what your views are on Social Security, as supposedly pre-bankrupt and best served by handing the whole thing over to the Wall Streeters.

        I’m also curious about the wellsprings of your apparent antipathy toward “government workers,” and seemingly toward the tens of millions of oldsters who are largely living on the promise that Social Security is to them, and of course tens of millions more who are in the chute…

        “Useless eaters,” not blessed with financial and investment acumen like you apparently have? Losers in the marketplace?

  21. lyman alpha blob

    Fun new game created by Ezra Klein –

    Two things are true about the indictments unsealed by special counsel Bob Mueller Monday:

    -They don’t provide a “smoking gun” proving collusion between Donald Trump’s operation and Russia.
    -They make it almost impossible to believe that there wasn’t collusion between Trump’s operation and Russia.

    The trick is you can replace the first bullet point with anything and it still works if you’re a DemocRAT.

    Let’s try –

    They don’t provide a smoking gun proving that aliens built the pyramids out of gorgonzola cheese, but they make it almost impossible to believe there wasn’t collusion between Trump’s operation and Russia.

    Fun for the whole family! And way to go Ezra Klein – it’s like a new 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon.

    1. voteforno6

      I’ve been wondering – what do they think that they can actually prove in court? What crime(s) do they believe Trump committed? At the very least, it seems that they would have to prove that Russia committed some sort of crime, and Trump was somehow complicit in that. Based on what has been publicly revealed, I have doubts that they would be prove anything related to what has been alleged. The more likely outcome, if they’re going to get Trump, is that some other unrelated crimes surface during the course of the investigation. Given the scope of his business enterprises, that wouldn’t be all that surprising.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        If it wasn’t the KGB who cost Hillary the election? It was the legion of Democratic elites who swore Hillary was an unsinkable ship and should be called the Titanic without a hint of irony. Heads should be rolling at every Democratic organization.

        What went wrong? The answer is the Democrats nominated a candidate who primarily ran on a career built on being the wife of a President who won the White House with a smaller percentage of the popular vote than Michael Dukakis. Hillary has described herself as “not a natural politician” and chose to run on her foreign policy experience which largely was about being wrong all the time. These aren’t secrets. They aren’t to hard to find. In fact, they happened during the adult years of millions of voters.

        Then of course, where were all the Hillary canvassers? The margins weren’t that big. Watching Maddow didn’t help a single person get to the polls, make sure people were registered, or remind people to vote and have the proper ID. Trump became President because the people who voted for Hillary in the primaries weren’t willing to do the work necessary to win an election and simply wanted celebrity and nostalgia to give them a victory. They simply don’t want to deal with it. They blamed Nader in 2000, the Republicans having too much money in 2004 (an election Kerry lost by 10,000 votes in Ohio; Obama picked up 25,000 more in Cincinnati alone) tough environments, and now Putin.

        1. flora

          I agree with almost all of this. One quibble:
          “…the people who voted for Hillary in the primaries weren’t willing to do the work necessary to win an election ….”

          I don’t think Hillary’s Dem primary voters or local staff and canvassers were the problem.

          “In Michigan alone, a senior battleground state operative told HuffPost that the state party and local officials were running at roughly one-tenth the paid canvasser capacity that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) had when he ran for president in 2004. Desperate for more human capital, the state party and local officials ended up raising $300,000 themselves to pay 500 people to help canvass in the election’s closing weeks. By that point, however, they were operating in the dark. One organizer said that in a precinct in Flint, they were sent to a burned down trailer park. No one had taken it off the list of places to visit because no one had been there until the final weekend. Clinton lost the state by 12,000 votes.”


          Looks likethe Clinton campaign itself cheaped-out in must-win states. With all that campaign money at their disposal why cheap-out on the upper midwest states needed to win? It defies common sense. imo.

          1. Pat

            Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your point of view what Clinton and her campaign lacked in common sense and competence, they more than made up for in arrogance and delusion and greed. They didn’t need to canvass, campaign, register etc in those states because everyone who voted for Kerry and Obama was going to vote for her. And no woman or person of color was going to vote for Trump.

            There were so many bad assumptions based on ether and insularity throughout the entire Clinton campaign it became like watching a slow motion train wreck. The facts that came out after have only made that clearer.

        2. Allegorio

          The DNC has become a money laundering operation for political consultants. Out of the 1 billion spent by Clinton, 20% were taken in by the consultants. That’s $200 million. There is no longer any money for the local Democrat parties, which neatly explains why 1000 state legislative seats have been lost during Obummers two terms. The DNC has a black budget, wonder why? The Clintons looted local state Democratic coffers, illegally as it turns out. The only thing that these people care about is preventing a progressive from running on the Democrat ticket and MO MONEY, MO MONEY, MO MONEY. They are perfectly content with Republican policies, which they also advocate. In an interview Barach Obama said that he never called himself a liberal. He characterized himself as a moderate Republican.

    2. ChrisPacific

      Didn’t we just recently have an article that proved definitively that the Clinton campaign colluded with a foreign government (the UK) to produce dirt on Trump? Are the Democrats fine with foreign government interference as long as it’s not Russia? Or is it just an old fashioned double standard? Do they think voters are idiots? (On second thoughts, scratch that last one – we know the answer).

  22. Wisdom Seeker

    Regarding Amazon’s underpricing the competition: “On average, Amazon’s prices are 11% lower than the online prices offered by such competitors as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., Walmart’s Jet.com subsidiary and other specialty retailers”

    That’s because Amazon’s online-retail business is operating at a 10-15% loss according to their SEC filings. They’re making up the difference on Amazon Web Services and high-margin digital content (video etc.) sales. You can really undercut your competition if you don’t actually need to make a profit on your sales…

    It used to be there were laws against that sort of anti-competitive practice … using profits from one business to operate another at a loss and deliberately eliminate competition… but I guess Amazon is above the law? Probably doesn’t hurt that Bezos owns the WaPo and can dish dirt on any politician who opposes him, eh?

  23. Self Affine

    RE: Stats Watch (above)

    Consumer Confidence, October 2017: “strong throughout” [Econoday]. “The assessment of October’s jobs market is unusually favorable with only 17.5 percent of the sample saying jobs are hard to get ,..

    Then we have

    Personal Income (Monday): “Personal income growth continues to be depressed, which tends to keep spending down as well over time, though this month it had a nice one time increase due to the hurricanes, and the drop in the personal savings rate tells me it’s entirely unsustainable …

    Seems kind of contradictory to me. Maybe someone could explain it.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The reach of pollsters. The people without jobs or marginal are less likely to want to respond. Given the prolonged depression, who is interested in responding? Young people have moved to text messaging.

      Part of the polling story in 2016 was the pollsters were using 2008 results as a baseline which largely ignored the massive GOTV effort put on in 2008 that produced those results. The LATimes poll (whatever it was called in 2012) predicted an outcome similar to the final results back in the Summer of 2016, partially because they were using a focus group based on census numbers.

      Republicans will also back the official line when a Republican is in the White House. They will make anything up. This was true during the Shrub years. Its still true.

  24. allan

    During questioning of the jury pool at the trial in Las Vegas for Cliven Bundy and his two sons concerning the keep your gov’mt hands off of my unpaid Bureau of Land Management allotment armed standoff in 2014,

    juror questioned after he wrote that he believed the OR refuge takeover & Bunkerville confrontation ‘started b/c of Uranium One.’ ( Maxine Bernstein@maxoregonian)

    Well, shouldn’t the Bundys be judged by a jury of their peers?

  25. chuck roast

    Thanks for the Antoine cut.
    The world is indeed a poorer place without him and his bad-buttock brand of boogy-woogy.

  26. barrisj

    Sweet jaysus, man…I did the Fats Domino thingy days ago, complete with YouToob links to his greatest hits…sheesh!

  27. Procopius

    … With the unemployment rate at 4.2 percent, there’s not much slack, if any at all, left in the labor market which points to a possible flashpoint for wage inflation.”

    Sounds like the cry of alarm of your normal plutocratic FOMC member, demanding a rise in interest rates to increase unemployment to prevent inflation. Gotta keep that “reserve army of unemployed, on the verge of starvation” always available. We have pretty good evidence now that NAIRU, if it exists, is not the 6% that the Chicago School and the Fed maintained for so long. What if it’s really only 2.5%? Oh, and that term, “wage inflation,” is a tell of what that analyst’s underlying assumptions are.

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