2:00PM Water Cooler 10/3/2017

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“South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong had a stark message for lawmakers and other officials he met with last week: Seoul is willing to let President Donald Trump kill the [KORUS trade] pact, rather than bow to unreasonable U.S. demands for concessions to bring bilateral trade more into balance” [Politico]. “‘He’s not going to beg and grovel to stay in this,’ a source familiar with one of Kim’s meetings told Morning Trade.”

“Hollywood has been whining about the DMCA’s safe harbors quite a bit in the past few years (yes, the same safe harbors that are from the DMCA that it forced the US to pass via international trade agreements). So far, however, heavy lobbying by the RIAA and MPAA to do away with the DMCA’s safe harbors has failed to convince Congress (in part because Congress has seen through this game and, in part, because Congress still remembers what happened with its attempt to undermine the internet through copyright law with SOPA)” [TechDirt]. “But, hey, with the reopening of NAFTA, Hollywood saw an opportunity, and has pushed for language that will undermine the DMCA’s safe harbors and fair use — things they can’t get through Congress alone. Unfortunately, the latest reports are that the USTR has agreed to support this move.”



“At Iowa steak fry, Bustos, Moulton and Ryan call on Democrats to refocus on Midwest working class” [Des Moines Register]. “‘We let those people down. We let ’em down,’ Ryan, an eight-term Ohio congressman, told the crowd. ‘We didn’t see them. We didn’t listen to them. We didn’t hear them. If we want to be a national party, not a coastal party, a national political party in the United States, we’ve got to get those workers back from Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky… Those are our people. We gotta go and get them.’… ‘Frankly, my fellow Democrats, they don’t want resistance; they want results,’ Bustos said of Midwest voters, twisting the “Resist” mantra often heard among liberals since Trump became president.” Sounds like centrists trying to steal Bernie’s clothes… Also, “folks.” Ugh.


“Collins agonizes over decision to ditch the Senate” [Politico]. “‘I’m from the northern part of the state, which needs a lot of help … two-thirds of the state is losing population and opportunity,’ [Collins] said. ‘I have some ideas for economic development that only a governor can pursue.'” Challenging.

“Conservatives furious about Gov. Bruce Rauner’s expansion of taxpayer-funded abortion in Illinois are threatening to put up a challenger against the first-term governor in next spring’s Republican primary” [AP].


[The Moore v. Strange] race [in Alabama] was yet another sign of the realignment that is taking place within the Republican Party (there’s one underway among Democrats, too) because of a culture war within the GOP. The battle pitted the populist, antiestablishment Moore, the candidate of downscale whites as well as evangelical and other social and cultural conservatives, against the traditional, upscale, business-oriented Strange, the candidate of the country clubs and Episcopalians and Presbyterians” [Cook Political Report]. “To lose, Moore would likely have to make a gigantic faux pas, something along the lines of then-Rep. Todd Akin’s comment about “legitimate rape,” which handed the 2012 Missouri Senate election to Sen. Claire McCaskill and cost the GOP a precious seat. Moore’s track record of explosive comments has to make Republicans nervous, and at least on paper, Jones, the Democrat, looks pretty good, but Alabama is still Alabama, and he needs a huge break to win.”

Oh dear:

Mothership Strategies were last seen collecting millions of dollars in the Ossoff debacle. Ka-ching.

2016 Post Mortem

The Resistance in Tribeca (hat tip AM):

Nice plates on that Tesla…

Wish I’d thought of this:

New Cold War

Last week, the Russians were responsible for Black Lives Matter. This week, they’re responsible for the NRA:

Damn. What’s that warbling sound?

Health Care

“House candidates back single-payer healthcare plan in Virginia” [Inside NOVA]. “Lee Carter, a Democrat running for a Manassas-area seat in the House of Delegates, is leading a crop of House candidates pledging to push for a state-level, single-payer healthcare system if they reach Richmond. Carter joined 15 other Democratic hopefuls in announcing the new initiative Oct. 2, which is aimed at radically reforming Virginia’s healthcare system to cover all of the state’s 8.4 million residents.” This is great, but the currency issuer really needs to run #MedicareForAll. Do we really want to be cutting health care budgets in recessions? Because that’s what will happen with state-level funding.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Justices Split on Voting Maps Warped by Politics” [New York Times]. “In extended remarks, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. expressed worry that the court’s authority and legitimacy would be harmed were it to start striking down voting districts in favor of one political party or another. ‘That is going to cause very serious harm to the status and integrity of the decisions of this court,’ he said.” After Bush v. Gore — without which, Roberts might not even bee on the Court — the Court has no integrity.

“Focus Group Reveals Democrats ‘Have a Lot of Work to Do’ With Black Millennials” [NBC News]. “[T]hey were divided about whether the Democratic Party was ‘for’ them — or neither for nor against them. ‘I think the Democratic Party took [our] votes for granted,’ said one participant.” That’s true, but the Democrats take everybody’s vote for granted. Except wealthy suburban Republicans, of course.

“Every Member of Congress Who Took Money From the NRA and Tweeted ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ to Las Vegas” [Splinter News]. On prayer, see Matthew 6:5-8.

Stats Watch

Gallup US Economic Confidence Index, September 2017: “Confidence in the economy declined slightly to plus 4 in September, down from August’s plus 6. While the ECI climbed past the plus 10 mark in January, September’s score of plus 4 represents a continuation of economic attitudes that have held since May, apart from a brief increase in early August after the Dow hit 22,000” [Econoday]. “Even if overall confidence in the economy has stagnated recently, confidence remains notably higher compared with any month between 2008 and November 2016.”

Coincident Indicators: “Philly Fed: State Coincident Indexes increased in 27 states in August” [Econintersect]. “The reason for the recent sharp decrease in the number of states with increasing activity is unclear – and might be revised away.” And but: “More data that shows we may already be in recession, and in line with the deceleration in bank lending” [Warren Mosler].

Employment Situation: “The jobs report provides an important high-frequency feel for the state of the U.S. labor market, the consequences for consumption (the biggest component of gross domestic product, with domestic and international effects), and the implications for policies (both what is likely to occur and what should happen)” [Mohamed A. El-Erian, Bloomberg]. “More recently, however, there has been a breakdown in these relationships. Neither the rate of growth in wages nor the labor participation rate has responded well to the historic run of high job creation and to the decline in the unemployment rate to historically low levels. In addition, wages, in particular, have evolved into an indicator of a broader economic phenomenon that speaks directly to the notable level of social discontent and feeds into political polarization and the erosion of trust in institutions and expert opinion.” Read to the end, and you’ll see that El-Erian is notably light on solutions.

Commodities: “Why lithium, why now?” [Mining.com]. “Bloomberg reports that global battery-making capacity is set to more than double by 2021, topping 278 gigawatt-hours a year compared to 103 gigawatt-hours at present…. There’s a looming problem[:] There isn’t enough lithium currently being mined to supply all those gigafactorys.” A round-up, well worth a read.

Shipping: “Worldwide air freight maintained its strong growth momentum throughout the summer, with a further double-digit year-on-year volume increase in August” [Lloyd’s Loading List].

Retail: “More than half of Americans don’t think stores should be open for business on Thanksgiving Day. More than another quarter don’t care whether stores are open, and just 16% think stores should be open on the holiday” [247 Wall Street]. “As of Monday morning, 56 retailers, including some of the country’s largest and best-known companies, have confirmed that stores will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.” Sensible. The less hysteria over shopping the better. Maybe the online sites can shut down too….

Retail: “[Under Amazon, Whole Foods] price cuts were by as much as 43%” [MarketWatch]. “What’s important here is that after the Whole Foods acquisition — and the price cuts — foot traffic jumped by roughly 33% in the first week, according to the research firm Thasos Group. The firm also noted that Walmart regulars accounted for the largest percentage of first-time customers. During this week, 24% of new Whole Foods customers were previously loyal Walmart customers…. [T]he firm said that Trader Joe’s saw about 10% of its regular customers go to Whole Foods, and Sprouts saw roughly 8%.”

The Bezzle: “Amazon will be slapped with tax fine by the EU on Wednesday, report says” [CNBC]. “The European Union is contending that Amazon used Luxembourg as a tax haven and that it had established unfair partnerships with the country in an effort to skirt European taxes on 3 billion euros ($3.5 billion) in royalties. Such moves were seen as unfair by rivals, the FT said. The level of the fine was not reported.”

The Bezzle: “Exclusive: U.S. mulls further Wells Fargo sanction over sales abuses – source” [Reuters]. Wake me when an executive is criminally charged.

The Bezzle: “[Tesla,] the Silicon Valley electric-car maker built just 260 of its new automobile in the third quarter… with “production bottlenecks” undercutting Tesla’s plans to move 1,500 Model 3s to the market” [Wall Street Journal]. Looks like Musk’s “production hell” isn’t working out so well for him. 260. That’s not a lot.

The Bezzle: “‘The most shocking thing about this report isn’t even the low Model 3 production number,’ said Mark Spiegel of Stanphyl Capital. ‘It’s that Model S and X sales were only up 4.5% year-over-year despite massive discounting and before all the luxury EV competition arrives next year from Jaguar and Audi and in 2019 from Mercedes and Porsche. This is supposed to be a hypergrowth company'” [Los Angeles Times]. “Although sales are tiny compared with the major auto companies and Tesla has spent billions in cash without profit, its stock price has exceeded that of Ford and General Motors.”

The Bezzle: “Anthony Levandowski and Travis Kalanick first meet at a TED Talk” [Recode]. I believe it.

The Bezzle: “[T]esting of trains and driverless trucks has been plagued by problems such as software glitches. Rio Tinto’s success this week highlights the near-term potential of autonomous transportation technology in ‘closed-loop’ systems where vehicles won’t have to move in bigger and more unpredictable transport networks” [Wall Street Journal]. And when the developers can’t get to Level 5 Autonomous Vehicles in open systems, which they won’t, you can bet they’ll try to turn open systems into closed loops, because that’s how programmers think, and that’s how Silicon Valley thinks. So, billions of dollars to make our roads safe for robot cars. Why not build trains?

The Bezzle: “Goldman Sachs Might Be Desperate Enough To Start Trading Bitcoin” [DealBreaker]. “Bitcoin may be a bubble. It sure looks like one to Ray Dalio. Even its most ardent admirers think so. But as the dot-come bubble and subprime mortgage bubble and, well, every other bubble in history teaches, there is money to be made on bubbles. And Goldman Sachs? Yea, it needs to make some more money. So where Jamie Dimon sees a stupid fad and firing offense, Lloyd Blankfein sees an opportunity.”

The Bezzle: “Equifax auditors are on the hook for data security risk controls” [Francine McKenna, MarketWatch]. “A company’s external auditor is supposed to be an objective independent watchdog, the first line of defense for shareholders and the public when company executives and the board fail to protect them…. [B]efore [Equifax’s auditor Ernst & Young (EY)] even thinks about reviewing and testing the numbers, it must make sure that company executives set the right “tone at the top” about controls, including of its IT systems, to ensure Equifax is protecting its biggest asset—the consumer information it sells to banks and other organizations that generates most of its revenues.”

Private Equity: “The COO at BlackRock explains why the $5.7 trillion investment giant is a ‘growth technology company'” [Business Insider].

Five Horsemen: “Facebook sails serenely on, as Amazon writhes with Whole Foods heartburn” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Oct 3

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 88 Extreme Greed (previous close: 89, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 67 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 3 at 11:35am.

Our Famously Free Press

“After Las Vegas shooting, Facebook and Google get the news wrong again” [Engadget]. Looks like Google needs to tweak that algo…


“Can ice structures solve a Himalayan water crisis?” [BBC]. “‘We are freezing water that goes unused in winter and, because of the geometric shape it doesn’t melt till late spring,’ says [engineer Sonam Wangchuk]. In late spring the artificial glacier starts to melt and water can be used for drip-irrigation of crops.”

Guillotine Watch

“Former congressman Anthony Weiner cried when a judge sentenced him to 21 months in prison last week for sexting with a 15-year-old girl. Prison is tough and most felons have no idea what to expect. For a few thousand dollars, however, high-profile felons like Weiner can hire a ‘prison consultant’ to help smooth the transition to life behind bars” [MarketWatch]. Idea: … Oh, forget it.

Class Warfare

“Argument analysis: An epic day for employers in arbitration case?” [SCOTUSBlog]. “In the first oral argument of the new term, a divided Supreme Court seemed likely to uphold employment agreements that require an an employee to resolve a dispute with an employer through individual arbitration, waiving the possibility of proceeding collectively.” More:

The conflict among the justices could be captured by two exchanges this morning. The first came when Chief Justice John Roberts, in a back-and-forth with University of Virginia law professor Daniel Ortiz, who represented one of the employees in the case, observed that a decision in favor of Ortiz’s client would invalidate employment agreements covering 25 million people – a step that several of the justices would be reluctant to take, particularly given the court’s strong support of arbitration in recent years. Justice Stephen Breyer, on the other hand, had a very different concern: He told Paul Clement, who represented the employers in the case, that he had not seen a path for Clement’s clients to win without “undermining and changing radically” the labor laws that are the “entire heart of the New Deal.”

That’s not a bug. It’s a feature.

“Is the Rise of Contract Workers Killing Upward Mobility?” [Knowledge@Wharton]. “‘[A]ll of the net employment growth in the U.S. economy from 2005 to 2015 appears to have occurred in alternative work arrangements,’ write Katz and Krueger in ‘The Rise and Nature of Alternative Work Arrangements in the United States, 1995-2015.’… Using data from the Current Population Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation, [Wharton management professor Adam Cobb and University of Texas at Austin sociology assistant professor Ken-Hou Lin] find that in 1989, although all private-sector workers benefited from a firm-size wage premium, the premium was significantly higher for individuals at the lower end and middle of the wage distribution compared to those at the higher end. But between 1989 and 2014, the average firm-size wage premium declined markedly. Significantly, the decline was exclusive to those at the lower end and middle of the wage distribution — while there was no change for those at the higher end. They conclude that the uneven declines in the premium across the wage spectrum could account for about 20% of rising wage inequality during this period.”

“The Rise and Nature of Alternative Work Arrangements in the United States, 1995-2015” [Lawrence F. Katz and Alan B. Krueger, NBER]. Amazingly, I linked to this exactly one year ago, so here it is again.

News of the Wired

A blivet:

Not so slim after all, eh?

“Facebook Lies” [Iain R. Learmonth]. Apparently, you can’t actually “delete” your Facebook account.

“Nobel Prize goes to researchers who figured out how our cells tell time” [Ars Technica]. “Microbes, plants, and animals all run on a 24-hour cycle, one that’s flexible enough to gradually reset itself, although it can take a few days after transcontinental travel. The biological systems responsible for maintaining this circadian clock require a lot of proteins that undergo complex interactions, and the new laureates are being honored for their use of genetics to start unraveling this complexity.”

“Technology is destroying the most important asset in your life” [Quartz]. “The most important asset in your life isn’t time, but attention. The quality of the experiences in your life doesn’t depend on how many hours there are in the day, but in how the hours you have are used.” But it’s not your asset any more, is it?

* * *

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 (AE-L):

AE-L writes: “A beautiful but poisonous mushroom photographed in a forest near Oslo, capital city of Norway.”

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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. Vatch

    Sounds like centrists trying to steal Bernie’s clothes… Also, “folks.” Ugh.

    I couldn’t find the word “folks” in the Des Moines Register article. The word “people” was used several times. Did I miss something?

    Perhaps some centrists are pretending to be like Bernie. But maybe they have realized that they need to actually become more like him. I guess we’ll find out over the next year or so.

    1. a different chris

      Couldn’t find “folks” either… in any case, we will never rid ourselves of politicians, but politicians are defined by their ability to find a parade and get out in front of it. So I don’t really care about what they have done, it’s what we can make them do.

    2. DJG

      Bustos is an odd case: I’m not sure if she is a centrist or a showoff. She represents Illinois 17, which is the long Mississippi River district that is reliably Democratic–quite liberal, in fact, having been represented for years by the formidable Lane Evans. So much for the mirage of hide-bound flyover country. But some of the anecdotes about her in the article come off mostly as the Palin effect: She’s trying to be the grizzly mama of Illinois. Well, we don’t have grizzlies here, but we did have Mother Jones and Jane Addams (who was born and is buried in that district). Bustos should know better, but she’s entranced by messaging. Too much exposure to Hillary Clinton?

      1. grayslady

        I agree. Bustos likes to pretend she’s a populist, but of the five Illinois congresspeople who have co-sponsored HR 676, you won’t find her name. She is also part of the corporatist Third Way Dems–a dead give away that she’s not supportive of the Left.

  2. flora

    Couple of things:
    DesMoines Register story, “those people” and “them”. So… working class people are outside what the Dem estab thinks of as part of its base. us and “them”.

    Tesla with Resistr plate. Shouldn’t that read “Register” (as in voters) ?

    1. Max

      I suspect the license plate is a reference to electrical component and not the faux opposition movement. Here in the lovely Bay Area, I have noticed that it is pretty much mandatory for new Tesla owners to get a technology themed vanity license plate to go along with their vanity cars. Lots of references to watts, volts, amps, current, along with a myriad of other computer/software references.

      1. mcdee

        Some years ago in Riverside CA where I lived there was a man who drove and old VW truck. He had converted it to an electric vehicle. The truck bed was full of batteries and he had altered the brand name on the tailgate to read “VOLTSWAGEN”

    2. Vatch

      Maybe that’s why politicians sometimes say “folks”. They are trying to avoid the connotations associated with the phrase “those people”. Then they are criticized for saying “folks”, so they return to saying “those people”. Lather, rinse, repeat. :-)

      1. Quentin

        Barack Obama’s world is populated with folks here, folks there, folks everywhere. So coyly fake populist of him. I always wondered who he was talking doubt when he started all his folks business. Not his family, I suppose.

  3. Jim Haygood

    Global Purchasing Managers Index shows every major economy — developed and emerging — above the 50 level that indicates groaf. Even sick man Brazil seems to be mending from its horrorshow recession. Chart:


    Comment from The Long View blog (@HayekAndKeynes on the Twitter, where the chart was posted):

    Where we are:

    Commodity/EM [Emerging Markets] recovery
    Late stage QE
    Solid year/year data comparisons

    This is the sweet spot

    From here, acceleration slows

    1. Tim

      Acceleration up slows or the growth slows, which would be deceleration beginning? If it’s a bubble those two wouldn’t be too far apart, but in a more traditional top those could be quite a ways apart.

  4. Enquiring Mind

    Lithium has uses beyond batteries. Bi-polar patients may be prescribed some form of lithium for treatment, for example. Perhaps the battery lobbyists will convince the healthcare insurance lobbyists to combine forces to delist or defund medical uses of lithium as a money-saving measure. Of course, the pharma lobbyists would mount a spirited defense of their revenue stream integrity. That has an almost Reaganesque feel, what with supply side machinations.

    1. polecat

      Maybe some enterprising soul could strat a LCPO ( LithCoin Public Offering) , thereby creating oodles of virtual lithium out of the ether, to keep those patients right, and those batteries brimming with current !

  5. David J.

    What was the slogan for that old-time butter commercial? “You don’t fool with Mother Nature.”

    The Cheese Pizza Mushroom will Kill You.

  6. lyman alpha blob

    RE: [Collins] said. ‘I have some ideas for economic development that only a governor can pursue

    Can we file this under ‘kill me now’? I’d say 8 years of one moronic Republican governor trying to ‘improve the economy’ is plenty and like most sequels, Collins’ proposed run is completely unnecessary. I mean how many high end buildings that will be unoccupied once the Fed-manufactured boom ends, non-working wind farms, boondoggle highways, etc does one state really need?

  7. Lee

    Thank you. I was not familiar with the term “blivet”. It is a maximally useful term for disutility.

  8. flora

    re: New Cold War
    Some variant of “the Russians ate my homework” is becoming an all-purpose excuse.

    “The Equifax Hack Has the Hallmarks of State-Sponsored Pros”
    Any evidence along these lines is sketchy and inconclusive, at best. I’d call this irresponsible ‘reporting.’ But it’s a great bit of PR accountability-dodging right before Equifax CEO appears before Congressional committee.

    1. Barmitt O'Bamney

      That’s hardly surprising. The Russians have been poisoning our drinking water with fluoridation for decades now. Also, I think, saltpetre. (Why I drink only rainwater, distilled water or pure grain alcohol.) Compared with carrying off that decades old conspiracy, rigging a little independence plebiscite here or there is nothing for them. I’d ask when our Congress is finally going to get serious about Russia, but it’s obvious the crystallized fluoride and nitre have long since sludged up their brains.

          1. makedoanmend

            Now that you mention it.

            I now know where all my missing biros (pens) have gone.

            Douglas Adams, I think, posited that all missing biros were sucked into a cosmic black hole somewhere in the further reaches of our universe. I always thought this was a bit far fetched and a much more concrete, plausible reason had to exist.

            It’s gotta be the Russians.

      1. DJG

        Saltpetre! How dastardly can you get! It explains all of those declining sperm-count stories among the Delicate Flowers of U.S. Manliness.

      2. jake

        It’s not the Russians poisoning the public with fluoride — btw, Europe largely bans its use, as does most of Canada — it’s the American nuclear weapons industry, of which fluoride slurry waste is a by-product.

        If this neuro-toxin couldn’t be disposed of in American water systems, it would be subject to expensive toxic waste regulation.

    2. JohnnyGL

      How do these writers type these words, put them on the screen and still respect themselves in the morning? They can’t possibly believe this stuff. WaPo has become some kind of cartoon version of itself.

      1. Homina

        On the plus side, at least English Fiction majors now might have more lucrative career prospects.

        Soon question for prospective journalists: “How many Fiction short-stories and novels have you written?” Answer of 1 or more might mean a hire.

        “How many non-fiction stories have you written?” Answer of 1 or more a black flag. No hire. Go bleat in the non-US MSM pastures like Seymour Hersh, Scott Ritter, Moon of Alabama, etc.

        Final interview or application question: “How competent do you view Judith Miller as a reporter, on a scale of zero (no value) to ten (the ultimate value)”.

        No matter the rest of the answers, if a reply here of “zero”, no hire.

  9. jake

    That would appear to be Amanita muscaria (“fly agaric”, for reputed but folkloric fly-killing properties). Toxicity is much lower than usually assumed.

    It’s best known for its hallucinogenic properties, at the proper dose.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      From the usual suspect (Wikipedia) on fly agaric:

      In eastern Siberia, the shaman would take the mushrooms, and others would drink his urine. … The Koryak of eastern Siberia have a story about the fly agaric (wapaq) which enabled Big Raven to carry a whale to its home.

      Second hand drink is the proper dose, with the shaman taking one for the team?

      1. jake

        If you’re serious, there’s a better choice: mushrooms with the active ingredient psilocybin (“shrooms” or “magic mushrooms”). They’ll likely bring up your lunch, but are generally deemed non-toxic. And are also used in shamanic rituals.

        If you’re in NYC, there’s a privately printed volume in the rare book room of the 42nd Street Library by R. Gordon Wasson, which goes into great detail.

    2. DJG

      jake: Aside from contemplating the idea that Amanita muscaria is the “model” for Santa Claus, that right jolly high-flying old elf who gives gifts and pilots eight reindeer (also known to enjoy A. muscaria) in a red outfit with white trim, I, too, have read a couple of recipes for taming A. muscaria. Seems like a lot of work: Boil, re-boil, et cetera.

      And is the character Amanita in Sense8 named after this fungus or another? Mysteries of our times.

      1. polecat

        But is there anything in the historical records regarding amanitas giving one a case of the Krampus ??

    3. John A

      I think it got its name because the mushroom was used as an insecticide. It is also the mushroom the hookah smoking caterpillar sits on in the original Alice in Wonderland book illustrations.

  10. nyc transplant to sc

    When I was a kid growing up on the lower east side of NYC, a “blivet” was 10lbs of horse-s..t in a 5lb bag.

  11. Damon A Harris

    Re: At Iowa Steak Fry Bustos, Mouton, and Ryan call on Democrats to refocus on Midwest Working Class.

    Leaving aside from the dog-whistled invocation of white working class, it is unclear to me why should anyone, of any race or generational cohort, trust the Democrats. Representative Ryan, in particular, has a very thin body accomplishments advancing the well-being of the “Midwest Working Class” over his 14+ years as a congressional critter. He has been far more effective renaming post offices than anything else.

    Democrats have been talking about clean energy, infrastructure, and jobs since the Clinton Administration…what I vaguely remember being called “the Environmental Industry.” And while the administration did advance clean energy and improved fuel economy…it, and attendant Democratic politicians helped enact many of the same economic, tax, and fiscal policies that hollowed the Midwest, including the urban Midwest…Saint Louis City is a salient example of corporate consolidation and job loss. And while the farmers fight Monsanto (also in St. Louis), the urbanites scramble for the few remaining jobs and suppressed wages. We can blame the Republicans but if they are the root of the problem certainly Democrats are the stem of the leaf.

    Almost nine months into the Trump Administration and the Democrats have yet to engage in serious policy discussion on how to best address the internal economic and opportunity imbalances. This is literally the lowest of the low hanging fruits.

  12. Anon

    Related to the NLRA class action waiver issue, it saddens me that the term of Richard Griffin, the NLRB’s general counsel, will be expiring in a few weeks. Obama can be criticized for many things, but his NLRB nominations were great for workers.

    As I’ve related to a few people, the NLRB was there at SCOTUS representing the American people, while the Trump Solicitor General was there representing large corporations.

  13. Livius Drusus

    Re: Why not build trains? I agree. I don’t understand the push for autonomous vehicles when we could just spend the time and money on proven technology and upgrading our woeful public transportation system.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      A state transportation cabinet secretary told me its a two fold reason at least for highways versus trains.

      -politicians are morons. They want to be able to say they acquired so much money for roads and then spent it efficiently. The sticker price of highways doesn’t frighten them the way the sticker price for a train that might be in the next district might cost. The switching station he was trying to build (the secretary had targeted me when I was a legislative assistant because he wanted to put the station in my home town; two Democrats were fighting over the station which had two practical sights) had a huge price tag of upfront money. Explaining the differences of the tonnage trains move versus cars goes over their heads.

      -the people who are in line to build the trains versus the roads. The politicians don’t worry about the seemingly smaller price tag for the highway and they don’t pay too much attention to what is really being charged. With the trains, there is less room for profit.

      I feel the appeal of Uber and self driving cars is similar. $10,000 increase per car for example sounds (if you don’t think) like a smaller number than $45 million for a switching station and track improvements. It FEELS cheaper. There was a price tag on one of the Washington DC stations which prevented the trains from being double decked. It was crazy. Because its in DC, they can’t move the rail way anymore.

      1. Darius

        The entire legal, regulatory and financial structure is set up to facilitate the continual expansion of big box stores and cul de sac suburbs on new exurban arterial roads. Federal and state transportation funds, zoning codes, bank lending standards, all are geared towards this model of development. Public transit and traditional town planning have to swim upstream in this environment.

        1. Huey Long


          Darius, you get it!

          I often have conversations with NY Post readers regarding how the “continual expansion of big box stores and cul de sac suburbs on new exurban arterial roads ” is driven by government policy.

          Their heads always explode once I bring up the facts you mentioned and the conversations usually end with shouts of “FREE MARKET” from the NY Post crowd.

      2. Summer

        I can think of a 3rd reason for their promoting cars over trains:

        No one has to take out a loan to ride the train.

  14. shinola

    “And when the developers can’t get to Level 5 Autonomous Vehicles in open systems, which they won’t, you can bet they’ll try to turn open systems into closed loops, because that’s how programmers think, and that’s how Silicon Valley thinks. So, billions of dollars to make our roads safe for robot cars.”

    Yes, this; and where will those billion$ come from? From federal & state gov’ts.
    Make the taxpayers foot the infrastructure bills necessary to make this boondoggle work. Billionaires have gotten pretty good at this game.

  15. Basil Pesto

    God, I live for Dealbreaker’s snark

    also: the USSC is truly risible. It would have to be the most compromised, unconvincing court of last resort in the anglophone world.

  16. Jim Haygood

    Another day, another trio of records for the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq. The Russell 2000 small-cap index set a marginal new record high as well.

    Here’s a piquant postcard from Bubble III:

    The new Forbes cover story on WeWork contains this gem from CEO Adam Neumann, concerning SoftBank’s $4.4 billion investment in his company:

    No one is investing in a co-working company worth $20 billion. That doesn’t exist.

    “Our valuation and size today are much more based on our energy and spirituality than it is on a multiple of revenue.

    AH HA HA HA … into the mystic. Dear readers, I fell to the floor shrieking with laughter.

      1. Synoia

        Much. Is not the CoE largest landowner in the UK?

        I believe at one time it owned much of the Red Light district in London.

        I believe the modern term for such behavior is “diversification” or “spreading the risk”.

      2. Jim Haygood

        The C of E lost £40 million taking a leveraged punt on Stuyvesant Town in NYC. As the NY Times reported in 2010:

        The rental income did not cover the monthly debt service. But the partners were betting that they could turn a healthy profit over time as they replaced rent-regulated residents with tenants willing to pay higher market-rate rents. But their plan fell apart when they could not convert enough apartments to the higher rents as quickly as they had planned.

        Rental income didn’t cover the debt service. But as Adam Neumann would have counseled, “The project’s value is based on our energy and spirituality, not on a multiple of rental income.”

        Reckon I could buy a bishopric?

        1. JTMcPhee

          Re Church Corruption: Of course you know all church offices were for sale or grift during the medieval period, http://www.shadowedrealm.com/medieval-glossary/term/Simony, and in different more obscure forms, right up to the present… Free Market Forever!

          And as a formerly religious person exposed to the risks of many different denominations over several generations now, might I offer a bit from a current Christian source on the continuation of the practice?

          “In a lesser way, simony is still a problem in the church. All too often those who are elected elders, deacons, or vestrymen in the church are voted in almost entirely because they are successful at business or have important connections. Think seriously about this matter the next time you vote for your church officers.” http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/the-origin-of-simony/

          “How much is an ambassadorship?”

          Anyone care to bet on whether the behavior is ever likely to improve in the direction of comity and decency?

    1. Arizona Slim

      I spend most of my working hours in a coworking space. And I recently outed myself as someone who is skeptical of WeWork’s current valuation.

      I mean, come on. The business model isn’t rocket science. It’s the subleasing of commercial office space.

      Oh, and did I also tell you what happened to Uber? They had an office near where I sit. It was seldom used, which I found strange. I pay good money for my coworking desk and you better believe that I use it. Well, over the summer, Uber just up and vanished.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      This is throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Hillary Clinton at 68 after having already lost was a sign of a decrepit party. The political elite on both sides of the aisle are bloated corpses waiting to collapse. Imagine a Jeb v Hillary contest. Ugh. Having to hear about Barbara Bush, Mother of President would be…ugh…

      “Plus, no one criticizes Michelle, so if she runs, she wouldn’t be criticized.” -How Democratic Strategists seem to think

      1. nippersdad

        Call me a cynic, but I think the typical Democratic strategist is gleefully thinking that anyone who dares to criticize Michelle Obama, for anything, is setting themselves up for instant targeting with the sexist/misogynist/racist/pro-Russian-Bernie-Broski meme. I can hear it now: “All she wants for the “f****n retards” American people is for them to “eat their peas” (ACA) and “learn to get along with the police” (BLM). What did she ever do to deserve this?”

        It’s a trap! But, even if it is, how many times can they go back to that well? It isn’t like it even worked the last time.

        1. JBird4049

          The Democratic Party could actually be the Party of the poor, working, and even the middle class Americans again, actually try and perhaps succeed in healthcare for everyone, and do real work on corruption, and climate. That would work too. Right?

          Frak it. They’ll probably try to get a Black Latvian lesbian veteran, but who is a neoliberal to run.

          Neoliberalism. It cannot fall. It only be failed.

          I must sound like a broken record around here, but watching the “meritocracy” run my country off the cliff into the flaming lava pit with their eyes wide shut is disconcerting.

          1. JTMcPhee

            “Run” implies that the m’cracy is along for the ride. I might buy “send” or “direct” or “manage” the running of “the country” off that cliff, and some mope m’crats are stupid and venal enough to ride along, but the ones that “set policy” and move the wealth are comfortably ensconced elsewhere…

      2. nippersmom

        They aren’t even bothering to buy her a Senate seat to create the illusion of qualifications this time.

        I wonder if they’re going to sell her campaign as a “two for one” deal. What identitarian voter could resist a bargain like that?

        1. JBird4049

          Re-reading this put an image of those clearance sales at my old department store. Specials on everything with all those signs and banners everywhere. Rather like some well funded political campaign’s ads.

          (Warning. Ranting starts here. Although a real point is being made.)

          We, and I mean the entire staff, kept saying more and better merchandise, more and better trained staff (with maybe a small raise?) and we could sell, sell, and sell. We had very loyal customer base with multiple generations of entire families that wanted to buy. But oh no we couldn’t do that. Because reasons. Cut, cut, cut, and cut everything and be shocked, just shocked that everything fell apart especially after corporate stopped any loyalty and started backstabbing the employees and lower management.

          Does this sound familiar?

    2. Summer

      “She used her platform at the White House to address issues like access to better schools for children, access to healthier food for children, and access to better job training for all Americans.”

      “Access” means there will be a middle man charging a fee.

      1. JohnnyGL

        “access” also means better for SOME, not ALL. She didn’t want to box anyone in, politically, with a ‘right’ or a ‘guarantee’. Because then her husband would have had to deliver something to people who didn’t have it.

          1. nippersdad

            They need a new ACA to support the subsidies from the old ACA. Ugh! No one ever said that they lacked gall.

    3. JohnnyGL

      Some writer was pushing Oprah the other day. I won’t dignify with a link. The Dem Party desperation just oozes off the screen these days.

      There are no ideas on policy and none of the party elite is trying to come up with any. All they are looking to do is figure out the right marketing strategy. More diversity and id-pol talk (the Joy Ann Reid camp?) vs. Tim Ryan and Mark Penn’s conservative white working class talk.

  17. Phacops

    Actually, the mushroom, Aminita muscaria, has been used for its psychoactive properties by some cultures, especially those of Siberia. It interferes with GABA (Gamma aminobutyric acid), a nervous system inhibitor. I wouldn’t encourage its use.

    1. Synoia

      Thank you. I didn’t believe it Fly Agaric, because what I remember of Fly Agaric was it was more domed than the picture, and the white spots are not raised.

      I did pick one for Biology class in about 1963, and have not seen, or looked for one, since.

    2. Bugs Bunny

      You could spend an hour reading “trip reports” on Erowid if you are really curious. Every time I look at those I shudder to think that people actually voluntarily ingest such things. Edifying.

  18. D

    Re: Why lithium, why now

    It’s unfortunate that the piece neglected to mention likely sordid events going on behind closed doors in Afghanistan since a 2010 Petraeus proclamation (for one, see 03/20/14 The future of Silicon Valley may lie in the mountains of Afghanistan). Nor did it include the use of Lithium in exponentially increasing Drones and Robots. Delivery Robots being just one example:

    05/16/17 A robot-delivery startup helped write state laws that are locking out competition – New robot laws are popping up across the country.

    I can’t imagine the sort of person –outside of Bezos, et al – who wants sidewalks and pathways utterly littered with drones and robots – which in many instances are a felony to thwart – despite the trauma which will result to all living beings and the further disemboweling of the planet earth.

    [1] London Headquartered , don’t let the country Estonia fool you (some bold facing mine) :

    Starship Technologies


    We believe our robots will revolutionise [sic – D] local delivery. We see a world where you can send and receive anything you want, anytime and anywhere. Our engineering expertise, combined with our experience of co-founding Skype, is enabling us to turn this into reality.

    Starship Technologies was launched in 2014 by Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis. Our business headquarters are in London and our engineering in Estonia.

  19. D

    Sorry, got my links mixed up above (I saved so many of them while reading in horror) the above linked piece was actually titled San Francisco is considering legislation that would ban sidewalk delivery robots – Meanwhile, other states are passing laws broadly permitting the robots statewide., worth reading also.

    Corrected (the piece I had intended to link to): A robot-delivery startup helped write state laws that are locking out competition – New robot laws are popping up across the country.

  20. Tim

    “Apparently, you can’t actually “delete” your Facebook account.”

    Of course not. Facebook isn’t just going to give back all that analytical data they have on you. It’s theirs darn it!

  21. polecat

    You know, now that I think of it, all that spinning category disc up top in the cold-war subheading needs is one more putin/russian band, to make a russian red cross ..

    I always wondered if Monty Hall had certain rooskie leanings … and that that whole canadian shtick of his was just a cover ! … ‘;]

  22. The Rev Kev

    Re: Apple now sells an iPhone dongle with a headphone jack and charging port.
    Isn’t this a case of what economists call externalizing the costs? This stuff use to be built in but now you have to pay for it and deal with dongles and cords which I believe Apple use to boast you never had to deal with in their products.
    I have so many cords and the like from each digital device I have acquired that I ended up having to label each cord to know what it was from. When I finished, I found cords for stuff that I did not even have anymore. There must be landfills full of broken and unused cords and dongles by now.

    1. Huey Long

      There must be landfills full of broken and unused cords and dongles by now.

      I wonder what archaeologists 10,000 years from now are going to think of our civilization once they start digging up our landfills, especially once they find all of electronic junk we’ve been dumping in there over the past 50-odd years or so.

      They’ll be deciphering the latin alphabet and the english language based on all the junk mail and newspapers we throw out, similarly to how the Mayan script was deciphered after nearly all of their codices were burnt by the Conquistadors.


  23. dcblogger

    “House candidates back single-payer healthcare plan in Virginia” [Inside NOVA]. “Lee Carter, a Democrat running for a Manassas-area seat in the House of Delegates, is leading a crop of House candidates pledging to push for a state-level, single-payer healthcare system if they reach Richmond. Carter joined 15 other Democratic hopefuls in announcing the new initiative Oct. 2, which is aimed at radically reforming Virginia’s healthcare system to cover all of the state’s 8.4 million residents.” This is great, but the currency issuer really needs to run #MedicareForAll. Do we really want to be cutting health care budgets in recessions? Because that’s what will happen with state-level funding.

    With all the $ Virginia spends on health insurance for state employees, state payments to Medicaid management companies, and other state health expenditures, single payer is probably cheaper. In any case, if these candidates win their elections it will light a fire under Virginia’s senators and congressional representatives.

  24. allan

    Jared and Ivanka’s secret email addresses are hosted by the Trump Org [Medium]

    … This means that Jared and Ivanka’s private email addresses, set up during the
    Transition and used in the White House, were hosted by the Trump Organization.

    Obviously this raises a lot more questions about who actually made the domain name and who added the email accounts to the Trump Org’s private mailserver. It raises questions of security and privacy, because Trump Org IT staff would potentially have access to the email accounts. …

    UPDATES: …

    USA Today reports that the email accounts were only moved on to the Trump Organization server recently, and were originally hosted at Microsoft’s Outlook.com

    Who among us has not negotiated world Middle East peace on a Trump Organization or Outlook account?
    At least they weren’t using Yahoo, amirite?

  25. allan

    Scandal-plagued Equifax wins $7.25 million contract from IRS [AP]

    … The Internal Revenue Service signed a $7.25 million contract with Equifax last month. The no-bid contract, first reported by Politico, is for Equifax to provide the IRS with taxpayer and personal identity verification services. The contract stated that Equifax was the only company capable of providing these services to the IRS, and it was deemed a “critical” service that couldn’t lapse. …

    There’s no success like failure, and failure is no success at all. – 2016 Nobel Laureate in Literature

    1. polecat

      The IRS ….
      Fools .. If they has just been patient, they probably could’ve had the ‘blackhat’ data for half the price !

  26. Indrid Cold

    That’s not a poisonous mushroom in the antidote- amanita muscaria, properly prepared, can take you on a trip without ever having to leave the farm. Ancient Finno Ugric secret.

  27. Oregoncharles

    Has anyone else mentioned that Amanita muscaria is God? There’s a very serious theory that the mushroom experience (no, I haven’t tried it, and I knew someone who took the wrong Amanita and nearly died. If it’s beige or brown, don’t even think about.) is the foundation of religion, at least in the west.

    It’s also proposed as the basis of the Berserker stories from Viking times.

    There’s a reason fairies are always hanging around mushrooms like that.

    1. tony

      It is also sometimes considered the tastiest mushroom. The toxin and psychedelic substances are water soluble, and can be booked away. Also the toxin turns into a psychedelic if you dry them.

  28. Socrates Pythagoras

    re: Tesla’s production numbers

    Those low numbers have convinced me once and for all that Elon Musk is not in the auto manufacturing business. He is in business to manufacture batteries (or better yet, just license the tech), but even this is a secondary pursuit.

    His primary business is harvesting gov’t subsidies.

  29. Ned

    “Technology is destroying the most important asset in your life” [Quartz]. “The most important asset in your life isn’t time, but attention…”

    I finally found a way to break my friends of that disgusting habit of looking at and manipulating their phones during a meal or while we are talking….As soon as they look at their phone I whip out a small paperback and hold it in front of my face while we are talking or eating, pretending to read it.

  30. Anonymized

    “Is the Rise of Contract Workers Killing Upward Mobility?”

    Violation of Betteridge’s Law.

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