2:00PM Water Cooler 1/24/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Trans-Pacific trade deal to go ahead without US” [Financial Times]. “In a sign of how the rest of the world is ready to move on without the US, the 11 remaining countries announced on Tuesday that they would go ahead and sign the agreement in Chile on March 8 after overcoming last-minute objections from Canada…. It will also lay down a marker to China by setting high legal standards for trade while opening up the possibility that other countries such as South Korea — and possibly even the UK — could join the pact, which has been renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP.” So the US gets a counterweight to China without surrenduring it national sovereignty?

“TPP resurrected: Here’s what’s in the latest Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and what it means for you” [ABC Australia]. “The big criticism of the trade deal is that it takes power away from individual governments. The major controversy is about the investor-statement-dispute-settlement mechanism, which is generally known as the ISDS. It means companies could sue the Australian Government to argue they were being denied access to the Australian market… This trade deal still includes that mechanism but it has been watered down.”

“The Canadian government believes there might be a mechanism to satisfy the U.S.’s desire to raise the regional value content from the current 62.5 percent threshold [under NAFTA], Jerry Dias, the president of Canada’s largest labor union, Unifor, told Morning Trade” [Politico]. “He said that includes approaching the rule at a ‘different angle,’ such as by adding research and development costs to the value of a car. Still unclear, he said, is how the Canadian side will deal with the U.S.-content demand. Canadian negotiators ‘really want to have a good discussion on this,’ he said.” Not sure how to translate the Canadian English “good discussion” into American English.

“Whirlpool Corp. shares jumped nearly 4% on Wednesday heading into after-hours fourth-quarter earnings that should outline growing 2018 prospects, with new tariff measures providing an extra boost” [MarketWatch].



“Senator Cory Booker Dabbles in Instagram Poetry” [New York Magazine]. Please kill me now.


“Do Democrats Stand to Gain From Redrawn Pa. Maps?” [RealClearPolitics]. “[I]t appears that the court didn’t order fair districts so much as it ordered compact ones… So for now, at least, a map has to be compact, equi-populous, and most importantly, must not divide political subdivisions except when needed to ensure equality of population. If the court really means what it says with this last requirement, then there are probably only a handful of maps that can actually be drawn. Moreover, the map that comes out of this may end up strengthening the GOP’s position in an environment such as this one…. [T]he Democratic vote in the state is so heavily clustered in Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties (almost half of Hillary Clinton’s votes came from these three, plus Allegheny-Pittsburgh), and since you can’t unpack those counties under the court’s order, there are limits to how much Democrats are likely to benefit from this order.” Interesting. It hadn’t occured to me that two centra liberal Democrat narratives — “Democrats own the blue cities!” and “Gerrymandering is why Republicans win!” might be in contradiction.

Government Shutdown

“To give Trump his wall, as many congressional Democrats were prepared to do this week, is to validate the key tenets of Trumpism: First, that Trump himself is always dominant over politicians and other weaklings, and can (and will) deliver for constituencies other politicians can’t or won’t help. It also says modern American commerce and society are threatened by a freer flow of immigrants — a view that was anathema to Republicans as recently as Ronald Reagan and makes no economic sense now” [MarketWatch].

Realignment and Legitimacy

“There is an intense resistance to the idea that the rise of the right is due to the failures of the left, but it’s time to take some responsibility and come to terms with the fact that a mushy neoliberal recruiting standard, paired with frequently farcical identity politics hasn’t been much of a bulwark against the Republican Party” [Amber A’Lee Frost, The Baffler]. “Focus on what you’re for. Think of the best part of the Bernie movement: a relentlessly positive message about what people deserve, peppered with with a dash of clear and firm disapproval of unacceptable behaviors and policies—from either the right or the Dems. Seek out the people who respond to the positive messages. Don’t spend too much time fighting the wreckers—they’re nasty, and destructive, but they will wash totally out only when they are eclipsed by a promising project—and you need good work to foster a healthy organizational culture. The real problem here is a lack of left institutions to engage and motivate people toward concrete politics.” Some recent dogpiling on the author, but this advice strikes me as sensible.

“Whose Side Are We on? Liberalism and Socialism Are Not the Same” [Wolfgang Streeck]. ” Any attempt to organize the new middle class must accommodate high fluidity of commitments, “nonideological”, fleeting enthusiasm, and a continuous building and rebuilding of individual and collective identities, as in “patchwork families”, in “flexible” labor markets, and in project-group work organization. This very much corresponds to the possibilities offered by the new “social media” for individually-centered social networking, as a substitute for or, depending on one’s perspective, a technological improvement over older, more stable social structures. Political engagement is voluntary in this world, funded by donations rather than dues or subscriptions, often taking the form of mass petitions on the internet in support of specific causes. Basically, such engagement is a charitable activity.” This is the professional, credentialed base of the Democrat Party as described by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!. As Stoller remarks:

And no wonder, given the Democrat base as described above. If political engagement is an act of charity, that precludes governing as a goal. Obama’s destruction of the Democrat Party was not a coincidence or an accident, but an expression of class interest.

“The Problem With Calling Trump a Racist” [Rolling Stone]. ” But these narratives only tell a partial story. In failing to incorporate a class analysis, writers and political analysts risk unwittingly cultivating a harmful mythology: that Trump represents the best interests of white Americans…. Yet Trump is no ideologue. His antipathy for people of color has never indicated an affinity for the needs of white voters in general. While his policy prescriptions benefit wealthy (yes, predominately white) Americans, his efforts to help the white working class are relegated to lip service and unfulfilled promises.”

* * *

Reader recommendations on Reconstruction:

“Eric Foner Teaches Free Online Course on the Reconstruction Era” [Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning]. And WC writes: “The best book I ever read on Reconstruction was WEB Dubois’s Black Reconstruction. It’s a really incredible book. Eric Foner’s Reconstruction is basically the same thing, but this time with citations. Dubois did things old school.

Sports Desk

“The Patriots always win because they make good teams implode” [SB Nation]. “The Patriots just have a way of dispassionately stifling beauty — of reducing creativity and spirit to ordinary, bumbling messes. Brady has now reached a Super Bowl in half of the seasons in which he has been the Patriots’ starter. He’s even blasé after they win.”

“Eagles fan who slammed into subway pole says he’s OK” [USA Today]. “‘I’m not throwing bottles or punching horses,’ [Jigar Desai] said. ‘It was just running into a pole.'”

Stats Watch

Chemical Activity Barometer: “The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB) expanded 0.5 percent in January on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis and 0.7 percent on an unadjusted basis” [Econintersect]. “In January, following some weather-related stagnation, production-related indicators showed solid improvement. Strong trends in construction-related resins, pigments, and performance chemistry all suggested further gains in housing activity. Plastic resins used in packaging and in other consumer and institutional applications also improved, suggesting continued consumer confidence.”

Purchasing Managers Index Composite Flash, January 2018: “Strength in manufacturing leads what is nevertheless a moderate PMI composite” [Econoday]. “Export sales are a highlight of the manufacturing results as is production, employment and overall orders. The report’s sample is trying to build inventories while traction for selling prices is the strongest in more than four years, both tangible signs of strength.”

Existing Home Sales, December 2017: “Lack of supply pulled down existing home sales in December and may very well pull down sales in January as well” [Econoday]. “This year-on-year price rate is well above the 1.1 percent gain in overall sales which points perhaps to future price concessions and even less supply. On the year, supply is down a very sizable 10.3 percent… Housing data are usually volatile which should take the surprise out of December’s weakness.” And: “This was the 31st consecutive month with a year-over-year decline in inventory” [Calculated Risk]. “We will probably have to wait until March – at the earliest – to draw any conclusions about the impact of the new tax law on home sales.” And: “The biggest force in the housing market is still lopsided supply and demand. Inventory in December dropped 11.4% for the month, and 10.3% for the year. It marked the 31st month in which supply was lower compared with a year ago. At the current pace of sales, it would take 3.2 months to sell all available inventory, the lowest since NAR began tracking in 1999” [MarketWatch].

FHFA House Price Index, November 2017: “Home prices rose a solid 0.4 percent in November with the year-on-year at 6.5 percent” [Econoday]. “The West North Central posted the strongest monthly gain in November at 0.9 percent followed by the South Atlantic at 0.8 percent. The East South Central at minus 1.1 percent and New England at minus 0.1 percent were the weakest.”

MBA Mortgage Applications, January 19, 2018: “Undeterred by the highest interest rates in ten months, homebuyers led the 4.5 percent increase in mortgage application activity” [Econoday].

Banks: “Aggregate net investment gains by hedge fund managers in the year ended Dec. 31 rose 48.4% to $181.5 billion in comparison to 2016” [Pensions & Investment]. “Net gains of the 10 largest hedge funds rose 140% to $25.7 billion, while net growth for the 20 largest managers was up 48.4% to $38.7 billion over the year, showed data released Sunday by hedge funds-of-funds manager LCH Investments, a subsidiary of Edmond de Rothschild Capital Holdings.”

Banks: “Against Banking Trend, JPMorgan Will Open Hundreds of Branches” [247 Wall Street]. “Among the prevailing trends among large bank companies is the desire to close branches as quickly as is practical. Branches are expensive, both in terms or rent and employees. Online banking and ATMs can cover almost all the needs of consumers and small businesses. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) said it plans to move against the tide and open about 400 new branches… The move by JPMorgan risks that people will move away from recent consumer banking technology and return to branches.” Oh.

Retail: “Amazon’s First Cashierless Store Looks an Awful Lot Like Whole Foods Without Employees” [Grub Street]. “The other big difference from Whole Foods, of course, is the Orwellian number of cameras hanging overhead in the 1,800-square-foot store — “hundreds of them,” by the New York Times’ count…. Times reporter Nick Wingfield says he tried ‘with permission from Amazon’ to shoplift a four-pack of soda, but the bots couldn’t be fooled and charged him for the purchase.” “Shrinkage” really matters in a low-margin sector like groceries…

Retail: “Jeff Bezos Gains $2.8 Billion After Amazon Go’s Debut, Reaches Highest Net Worth Ever” [Forbes].

Retail: “The real winner [in the Amazon HQ search] is Amazon, which has created a feedback loop of positive press and fawning politicians just as the company increasingly needs both” [Axios]. “The Amazon HQ2 process is a Trojan Horse, designed to guzzle goodwill from the entire country, and then carry that sparkle back to Washington, D.C. when needed. Bezos the Brilliant.”

Shipping: “I tend to put heavier weight on the CASS index which showed stronger growth year-over-year. The ATA data showed a decline” [Econintersect]. “It should be pointed out that although the data seems to be improving, it is nothing to write home about when compared to previous years. It is also interesting that the current trucking employment pattern shows a declining rate of growth over the last few years.”

Shipping: “Capacity is already tight due to a shortage of qualified drivers and the transition to electronic logs, which are expected to reduce driver productivity by ending the practice of drivers clocking more miles than allowed by law. In addition, carriers are being forced to pay significantly higher wages to attract and retain drivers, and will seek to recoup those costs by asking for higher freight rates” [DC Velocity]. “The first sign of this will be in the upcoming semi-annual contract bid cycle, which starts in March and runs through May.”

Manufacturing: “Kimberly-Clark is remodeling its supply chain to reflect a world where more adults and fewer babies will need diapers” [Wall Street Journal].

Supply Chain: “The recently passed tax overhaul could accelerate a southern shift in the nation’s manufacturing supply chain. For years, automakers and other manufacturers have located factories in states like South Carolina and Tennessee, where wages and taxes tend to be lower and barriers to labor organizing are higher. The changes to the tax code exacerbate this shift by reducing deductions for state and local taxes, creating fresh incentives for high-earners and some middle-class workers from high-tax Northern states to move to warmer climes” [Wall Street Journal]. Not sure how a supply chain shift is driven by “high earners” and “middle-class workers” who want to relocate.

The Bezzle: “Two-Thirds of Americans Afraid of Self-Driving Cars” [247 Wall Street]. But from the body, via AAA: “American drivers are beginning to embrace self-driving vehicles, according to a new study from AAA. The annual survey reveals that 63 percent of U.S. drivers report feeling afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle, a significant decrease from 78 percent in early 2017.” And the conclusion: “Every major manufacturer in the world, which in the United States includes Ford and GM in particular, and many tech companies, like Alphabet, have poured and continue to pour tremendous sums into autonomous vehicle technology. Some plan to have a larger percentage of their model lines include self-driving vehicle cars within a few years. Those investments are at risk because of current public opinion.” Eddie Bernays, courtesy phone!

The Bezzle: “Uber CEO hopes to have self-driving cars in service in 18 months” [TechCrunch]. “‘True autonomy for every single use case, is some ways away,’ Khosrowshahi began, acknowledging that the problem is a massive one to solve. But, he suggested that the first Uber autonomous vehicles to be deployed commercially would be on streets relatively soon. ‘We will have autonomous cars on the road, I believe within the next 18 months,’ he said. ‘And not as a test case, as a real [use] case out there.'” Uh-huh.

The Bezzle: On one way to control inputs to the robot car’s ago, fixed routes: “Fixed or semi-fixed route shared vehicles (shhh: buses) that work this well might be useful, though I think not nearly as useful as people think. The fantasy is finding ways to bring transit to places where transit is not especially good because, in part, it is just too expensive to provide decent service” [Eschaton]. “The semi-fixed route vision is you run buses on a fixed route, and people can hit the button to divert the bus to make optional stops closer to their house/work/destination. But those diversions take a lot of time and add trip time uncertainty. Too many optional stops and suddenly your 15 minute bus ride is 45 minutes. People don’t like that!”

The Bezzle: “General Electric Co. is under investigation by U.S. regulators after taking a larger-than-expected charge in its finance division, dealing a new black eye to a company once enshrined as an icon of American business” [Bloomberg].

The Bezzle: “Qualcomm has been fined more than $1 billion by the EU after paying Apple to put its chips in the iPhone” [Business Insider]. This is a competition rules case, not a bribery case.

Tech: “On Saturday, January 13, police discovered a man in his Tesla vehicle on the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that ‘the man had apparently passed out in the stopped car while stuck in the flow of busy bridge traffic at 5:30pm, according to the California Highway Patrol'” [Ars Technica]. “When police woke the man up, he assured officers that everything was fine because the car was ‘on autopilot.'”

Tech: “Facebook buys Boston software company that authenticates IDs” [Reuters]. “Facebook Inc (FB.O) is buying a software firm that specializes in authenticating government-issued identification cards, the two companies said on Tuesday, a step that may help the social media company learn more about the people who buy ads on its network.” That wasn’t the first scenario that occurred to me…

Honey for the Bears: “What Jet Fuel Tells You About How To Invest In Now” [Econintersect]. “But I look at the data from the US Energy Information Administration on Gasoline Demand and Jet Fuel Demand for another near real time indicator of how the US economy is faring right now… The EIA reports gasoline demand weekly with a lag of less than a week. This is another source of near real-time data that the media ignores. But it is useful to us as an indicator of how the economy is doing right now. December consumption rebounded but the 3 month moving average of the annual growth rate remains below 2%, hardly a sign of broad based economic growth…. The aviation fuel tax (table above) rose 4.5% year over year in December. That was after an 8% gain in November. Air travelers tend to be a more affluent group than drivers on average. And more affluent consumers tend to fly more often. This is another sign of a bifurcated US economy, where those at the upper end of the income spectrum are doing well and spending enough to keep the top line growth numbers perking along while the rest of the country treads water….” Of course, there is the little matter of timing…

Five Horsemen: “Amazon busts the top off our chart for the second day running, as punters beg Apple to stop breaking down” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Jan 24 2018

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 79 Extreme Greed (previous close: 78, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 75 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jan 24 at 12:19pm. We don’t seem to be able to break through to the 80s.

Net Neutrality

“AT&T wants Congress to draft a net neutrality law. Here’s why that’s a big deal” [WaPo]. “In a series of full-page ads Wednesday in major newspapers such as The Washington Post and the New York Times, AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson proposed an “Internet Bill of Rights” that could help guarantee an open Internet, one in which online content is not blocked or slowed down by telecom or cable companies, nor by Internet companies such as Google or Facebook. AT&T’s legislative campaign aims to head off what many analysts say could be another swing of the regulatory pendulum against broadband providers.”

Our Famously Free Press

“Facebook should pay ‘trusted’ news publishers carriage fee: Murdoch” [Reuters].


“Panic and blame as Cape Town braces for water shut-off, or ‘Day Zero,’ due to drought” [Japan Times], “On “Day Zero,” as it is called, the ordinary water supply will be shut down and taps will run dry. Residents of the city of 4 million will then be forced to collect a daily water ration of just 25 liters (6.6 gallons) from 200 water collection points — not even enough for a two-minute shower in normal times.”


“Wildlife cooperatives boost conservation and habitat” [Capital News Service]. Wildlife as a common pool resource?

“A coalition of community and environmental groups has filed a legal challenge to Virginia regulators’ decision to grant a conditional water quality permit for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline” [The State].

Class Warfare

“Did Import Competition Boost Household Debt Demand?” [Liberty Street]. “In the years preceding the Great Recession, the United States experienced a dramatic rise in household debt and an unprecedented increase in import competition. In a recent staff report, we outline a link between these two seemingly unrelated phenomena. We argue that the displacement of workers exposed to import competition fueled their demand for mortgage credit, which left many households more vulnerable to the eventual downturn in the housing market.”

“We used to think of “capital” as physical goods or infrastructure—something we could wrap our minds around. But as all the main features of this system for extracting surplus value from workers and rentier fees from service networks have become duly digitized, capital itself has become a form of AI. We do not have any control over this system and it is impossible to conceive of unplugging ourselves from it. Isn’t that the trope we most fear about AI from science fiction—that it will reach a point where we cannot imagine life independent of it” [The Baffler]. It seems that Stross’s “Slow AI” trope is making its way into the zeitgeist.

“My ‘sugar daddy’ pays me $12,000 a month, and marriage is on the table” [Business Insider]. Just lucky, I guess…

“Worked to Death” [Jacobin]. “Most think that retirement plans have recovered. But they really haven’t. The asset recovery doesn’t really tell the whole story. While 401(k)s have regained some of the losses, they’re about five years behind where they should be in actuarial terms. In other words, on average these savings plans lost about five years of growth. All things being equal, workers are now going to have to work five years longer to make up for that, which will likely mean people further delaying retirement in the future.”

Re Amazon’s cashierless stores:

News of the Wired

“This USB Drive Will Self-Destruct After Ruining Your Computer” [Hackaday]. Not really!


“In the latest indication of Apple’s growing ambitions in the digital health market, the tech giant on Wednesday morning unveiled a new feature that would allow users to automatically download and see parts of their medical records on their iPhones” [New York Times]. “The feature is to become part of Apple’s popular Health app. It will enable users to transfer clinical data — like cholesterol levels and lists of medications prescribed by their doctors — directly from their medical providers to their iPhones, potentially streamlining how Americans gain access to some health information. A dozen medical institutions across the United States — including Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore and Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles — have agreed to participate in the beta version of the new feature.” I wish I could be enthusiastic about this.


“Re: [RFC 09/10] x86/enter: Create macros to restrict/unrestrict Indirect Branch Speculation” [LKML.org]. “If we can be done with the shouty part, I’d actually quite like to have a sensible discussion…” This is a response to Linus Torvald’s post in Links this morning. You’ll like this, if this is the sort of thing you like.

“The Neuroscience of Changing Your Mind” [Scientific American]. “[A] team from Johns Hopkins University has now concluded that last-minute decision-making is a lot more complicated than previously known, involving complex neural coordination among multiple brain areas. The revelations may help scientists unravel certain aspects of addictive behaviors and understand why accidents like falls grow increasingly common as we age, according to the Johns Hopkins team.” Sadly, this about short-term decision-making, not politics or culture.

“David Mitchell on Earthsea – a rival to Tolkien and George RR Martin” [Guardian]. “[E]ven the characters that appear most fleetingly seem to be endowed by Le Guin with a fully thought-out inner life, so that when they speak, act and respond, they do so as human beings who have lived lives as full, broken, light, dark, messy and real as Ged’s and ours. Here a fisherman named Pechvarry, whose dying son Ged tried but failed to save, meets the young wizard on his victorious return from Pendor: “‘‘I did not know you were so mighty, my lord.’ There was fear in that because he had dared make Ged his friend, but there was reproach in it also. Ged had not saved a little child, though he had slain dragons.” How human this brief passage makes Pechvarry, how conflicted, and how visible it makes his scars. Le Guin’s thumbnail sketches contain the psychological depth of oil paintings.” (Review of LeGuin’s story “Solitude” at NC here.)

* * *

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 place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (KH):

KH: “So my winter garden is a bloom. Tea hibiscus leads the parade, pepper tree behind.”

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. Wukchumni

      Submitted for your approval:

      You unlock this door with the stroke of a key on: Post Comment. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas; you’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone

    2. Jim Haygood

      ‘We control the horizontal. We control the vertical.’

      What have you done to the dollar? What have you done to our fair sister?

      Letting the dollar index (DXY) slide through 90 produced a monstrous pop in commodities today. Chart of one ETN [exchange traded note] which tracks the Bloomberg commodity index:


      Crude oil rose 2.37% today to another three-year high of $66 a barrel. Keep turning the knobs to dial the dollar down, and pretty soon the pips are gonna squeak. This is not the shopper-friendly Great Moderation paradigm that we all agreed upon. :-(

      1. Annotherone

        It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good (so they say). The dollar’s weakness must account for the sudden improvement in the currency exchange British pound/US dollar . My pensions might start looking more healthy now – if the rate stays steady. I’ve just calculated my 2017 income figures for tax purposes, and flippin’ Brexit has cost me $1,000 already.

  1. Wukchumni

    “Doughnut-eating contest winner arrested again after doughnut shop robbery” [Pilot Online]. “The Patriots just have a way of dispassionately stifling beauty — of reducing creativity and spirit to ordinary, bumbling messes. Brady has now reached a Super Bowl in half of the seasons in which he has been the Patriots’ starter. He’s even blasé after they win.”

    Having been in the same division where the Brady hand gun was the law of the land for 16 stanzas, this Bills fan tips his hat to the best QB to have ever put on the uniform, with one last win left in his tank, if i’m not mistaken.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      Playing in the worst division in the AFC didn’t hurt.. that almost guaranteed home field advantage every playoffs has been huge.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      My guess is that that particular self-driving car is also self-philosophizing.

      And at the time of the incident, it was pondering if reality was solipsistic.

      “Nah, it is not real.”

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Update on my last comment.

      Apparently, monkeys have just been successfully cloned, by the Chinese.

      So, now, we have two options, when we’re too lazy to drive:

      1. Let your welded-to-the-car robot drive it
      2. Let your clone drive it.

      To me, the second option is more flexible (advantage: the Chinese), because the clone can also cook and clean house when not driving.

        1. knowbuddhau

          Ok, so now it’s clones all the way down. Sooner or later, we’re bound to get it right.

          I’m sure we’ve all been on boards where it’s clowns all the way down. But that’s different.

          Sure, let’s invent more creatures of a lesser creation to interact with the messy, smelly, physical world. (Creatures, not being born of the proper lineage, have no soul, you know. That’s why it’s a-ok to enslave them). Everybody knows us civilized, cerebral types are too good for menial work.

          Still, slaves are so last century. Robots and clones and voice-controlled assistants, that’s the ticket. This time will be different because tech.

          Meanwhile, an officially unmentionable yet somehow global symptom of Homo industrialus’s already failed relationship with the one environment all life on earth perforce shares, takes ever more terrible shape every day.

    3. Lost in OR

      Artificial intelligence self-identifying as roadkill, the innocent victims of reality. The insensitivity of the temporal to the needs of this virtual minority justifies an artificial moral outrage that can only lead to artificial road rage.

      Self driving cars? Oh, I’m sorry, I thought we were discussing the democrats. Never mind.

  2. Summer

    “Facebook buys Boston software company that authenticates IDs” [Reuters]. “Facebook Inc (FB.O) is buying a software firm that specializes in authenticating government-issued identification cards, the two companies said on Tuesday, a step that may help the social media company learn more about the people who buy ads on its network.” That wasn’t the first scenario that occurred to me…

    Me either…
    Snap out of it, folks!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      My first reaction is that it is discriminatory…against people who like to mask themselves, due to their religious beliefs

  3. Darius

    Woke liberals piling on Amber A’lee Frost in the Twitter-sphere should be seen as a sign she’s on the right track. She recently was on Dead Pundits Society with Angela Nagle. Check it out.

    Matt Stoller is right. Democrats don’t do politics. They do personal branding and virtue signaling.

  4. John

    There are Democratic Party dues payers. They live on Wall Street. The suburban professional class enablers are just in it for the occasional hookup, one night stand until their fantasy unicorns shit enough cupcakes for them to cash out and move to Wall Street.
    I will be a unicorn gazillionaire one day so I better protect those interests.

      1. Synoia

        Yes, there’s no maneuvering room between the votes the democrats want and the money the democrats want.

  5. Kevin

    Stoller: “Democratic politicians reflect their voters.”

    absolutely ridiculous – I’m not a sociapathic millionaire…they reflect their donors. get it right.

    1. RUKidding

      I agree.

      And although many of the D voters I know are pretty clueless, they’re not quite as depicted. The D party basically represents the donors. The peon voters are mostly misguided.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Trying to list the moving parts here. Roughly heirarchical:

        1) Donor Class (e.g, Steyer, Cloobeck)

        * 2) “The electeds” (Schumer, Cuomo; state level officials)

        3) Consultants (Axelrod)

        * 4) Apparatchiks (Brazile, Perez)

        5) Lobbyists and fixers (Tony Podesta)

        6) Think tanks (Tanden)

        7) Activists (Sarsour, McKibben)


        8) In media (Joan Walsh, David Ignatius)

        9) In the intelligence community (Clapper)

        10) Voters

        1-10 can all be Flexians, but Flexians are mostly 3-7 (“cadres”), i.e. if you reach the top of the greasy pole at 1-2, you tend to stay there, and if you have a real job (8-9) you tend to stay there. The key gatekeepers — who mediate between the other players and voters — are activists at #7; activists are organized and funded by donors around vertical “causes,”** including identity, and not around horizontal, solidarity-building universal concrete material benefits. NNU, for example, campaigns for #MedicareForAll outside the party structure, as does Sanders. Activists have the key role as the gatekeepers or the API between voters and the rest of the players, since they are the ones who contact voters, in person.

        I don’t believe that voters are “misguided,” in the sense that they are “sheeple.” I do believe they are actively misdirected, especially at the activist level. One thing I came away with from reading voter interviews is that a lot of voters treat their vote seriously and do a lot of thinking about it. We may disagree with their thinking, but that doesn’t make their thinking not thought.

        * If you define the party as “that which controls the electoral machinery,” the party is a combination of “the electeds” and “apparatchiks.” That’s obviously an insufficient definition, since it takes no account of policy or lack thereof.

        ** There’s probably some sort of Conway’s Law going on here, where the message delivered by the party mirrors the institutional structure of the party. If the party thinks of itself as a bundle of verticals (hmm…) than that is the messaging the party will deliver.

    2. Rosario

      I think Stoller put it poorly. Our culture and politics demand that we engage in an aesthetic politics at “donor” level to maintain economic hierarchy and “voter” level for the same reasons. Hillary and Trump are both proof of this. There are just competing elite opinions on what that aesthetic should be. He may have been alluding to the fact that the base “wants” (I would have preferred “is forced to accept”) dumpy candidates because the zeitgeist demands it.

      This is kinda the problem now. How do the Bernies, et. al. break the meme machine that is our culture? How do we get past skin deep in a culture that demands skin deep engagement in order for any of us to utilize all this technology and information while remaining sane? If we (the left) can figure that out we’ll be pigs in s***.

      1. redleg

        Present an option that demonstrates, tangibly if possible, what they stand for. That’s what Sanders did, that’s what Corbyn is doing, and people support that with enthusiasm.
        Do that and they win for a generation.

      2. Left in Wisconsin

        I think Stoller is just commenting on Dem Obama worship.

        If political engagement is an act of charity, that precludes governing as a goal.

        To me, best example is support for raising minimum wage/UBI (for other, lesser people) – state charity – rather than empowering working class collective action through unions.

    3. sleepy

      Many lifelong democratic voters in the upper Midwest realized the opposite of what Stoller argues–in other words, they realized full well that the dems were absolutely spineless and offered no alternative to our low wage economy and, instead, voted for Trump. That cost Hillary the election.

    4. Darius

      States restricting primary voting to registered Democrats went strongly for Hillary over Bernie. Bernie won independents, but lost Democrats. How many times did I hear my Democrat friends saying, “only Hillary can beat Trump,” when polls showed only Bernie beating Trump? I lost count.

      Further down the thread, Stoller said Democrats won’t recover until they admit Obama was a bad president with bad policies. He wasn’t held back by the evil Republicans. Don’t hold your breath. Democrats pretty universally worship Obama.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I seem to remember that during one of the debates between him and Hillary, early on in fact, Sanders called Obama a great president.

        Truth and reconciliation will have to start from that wing of the Party…or maybe not starting, but concluding, with an exclamation mark.

        1. Darius

          Bernie certainly wasn’t the perfect candidate. He clearly thought the situation required sucking up to Obama, since Democrats adored him in an unquestioning way. It was an unfortunate response. Of course, Hillary said Bernie criticizing Wall Street was being disloyal to Obama. Unintentional candor on her part.

          1. redleg

            It also shows that she (and by extension the Dem establishment) was intolerant to criticism at any scale.
            The Clinton Dems say they want “unity”, but that’s newspeak for fealty.

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            > Bernie certainly wasn’t the perfect candidate

            No politician is. But you want a politician running for public office. You also want politicians governing.

            1. Isotope_C14

              I’m not sure I agree with you here Lambert,

              I’m 100% ready for a Dore/Camp ticket.

              Admittedly they’d have to be moved around in bullet-proof bubbles, with their bodies covered in Calcium Glconate gel, to prevent the “Shee-I-Ayy (with Connery’s Accent from Red October)” from causing a “heart attack” with HF, also 25 other safeguards to prevent the many ways they have at making death look like an accident.

              Instead we will be forced to get Biden/Harris 2020 or some other vomit-worthy Pairing.

  6. human

    Amazon’s First Cashierless Store Looks an Awful Lot Like Whole Foods Without Employees” [Grub Street]. “The other big difference from Whole Foods, of course, is the Orwellian number of cameras hanging overhead in the 1,800-square-foot store — “hundreds of them,”

    About 40′ x 40′, roughly the area of a 2 section food buffet in one of their stores. Not very impressive … other than the number of cameras. How does this scale up to a 50,000 sqft store?

    1. cnchal

      I wonder how one would return a sandwich with a bloody finger in it due to Amazons famed abusive warehouse worker metrics applied to the Amazon Go kitchen labor? Throw it at the cameras, and automatically the 10 bucks reappears on your credit card statement?

    2. Timmy

      So two folks each open the app and enter the Amazon cashier-less store. They stay together in the store, holding a basket between them, placing items in the basket. Then they exit the store together holding their goods between them. Who pays? I say both, for everything, because Amazon considered this and planned for it. Or maybe some guy will run after them.

    3. Octopii

      Went to Whole Foods the other day, first time in many many months. The produce section is now a shrunken shadow of its former beautiful self. Many items were out of stock and the shelves looked sparse. The staff, what staff there were, did not have their former glow. The hot food bar, which had become increasingly crapified over the past five years is now on par with a city Korean deli – actually I’d rather go to a Korean deli.

      Jeffy Boy is killing his golden goose.

  7. Arizona Slim

    The wall that bisects Nogales, AZ, and Nogales, Sonora looks like it belongs at the Korean DMZ.

    1. makedoanmend

      The thing about walls is that over time walls that were originally built to keep others out might be re-purposed to lock one in. But the rich love walls. Eminent Domain. Dominate.

  8. WobblyTelomeres

    Re: AT&T net neutrality

    I would argue that AT&T cannot compete in a world with prioritized network traffic, at least in residential service. They are limited in most of the country to ADSL speeds to the residence as they are largely stuck with copper wire pairs. That is, they physically cannot transmit the bits over the last mile (DSLAM to the home) any faster than a couple Mbps. As it stands, they can barely handle 720p under perfect conditions (and with a lot of compression).

    Compare this with their cable and fiber-based competition which have no technological restriction, and it appears that AT&T is making a net-neutrality play to weaken their competition.

    1. Summer

      If they invested in developing faster speeds, that would cut into those bonuses for execs (short-term) or they’d increase the prices to pay those bonuses and lose customers to competition.

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        They can’t really do that with twisted wire pair –



        The cable companies had several decades head start laying coax cable to the home. Copper wire doesn’t cut it. AT&T could buy themselves some time by moving the DSLAMs closer to the home (i.e. moving from ADSL to VDSL), but that means a LOT of money for just a short window of somewhat higher bandwidth.

        I guess AT&T wants to push all their customers (and potential customers) to high-speed cellular data. Especially as it lets them bill by the packet, a world view they grew accustomed to 70 years ago with long distance calling (billed by the minute). And with cellular data, they really don’t give a rip about how much data you use as long as you sail into the golden land of overage surcharges.

        Please note that I am not defending AT&T here, just trying to understand what they are doing and why.

        1. Left in Wisconsin

          I don’t know if this changes anything but where I live ATT is not sending signals through copper wire. Uverse is fiber to a box in your neighborhood (sometimes the same box that used to have the local switching equipment) and then wireless from there to your house. I’m not even sure you can still get telephone from them using your copper wire connection.

    1. Bugs Bunny

      Thanks, I think there might be more Fall fans among community here. Mr. Mark E. Smith was a convinced lefty with a strong dose of Northern cynicism and political irony with and that black Mancunian humor. Music formed a lot of my political consciousness through connections in clubs, record stores, clothes shops and the like. The Fall were an essential group.

      RIP Mark E. Smith.

    2. neo-realist

      R.I.P. Mark. Saw the Fall live circa 2002,2003 and it was a terrific stripped down 2 hour rock and roll show of blissful snarl, piss, and vinegar.

      The first song of the set: The Joke

      Go back go back
      To your diseased-[WHUP!]-control room
      Don’t be don’t be
      Nice about it
      Just spit it back
      Why don’t, ward off
      Why don’t you be mature about it
      In your grey raincoat
      Off ward, ward off
      The Joke
      Violent food
      Descends over you
      Off ward, ward off
      The Joke
      The Joke
      Five years in a PC camp
      Multicoloured sweets
      In bottom of white sweet pack
      The realization burns into my back
      The Joke…

      The bastard son poet of William Blake

      At least he has a legacy of a record catalogue the size of the library of congress.

  9. Lee


    “Trans-Pacific trade deal to go ahead without US” [Financial Times]

    Perhaps I’m being a simple minded curmudgeon here but I gotta ask. Is there anything besides cheap labor that we get from Asia that we couldn’t live without?

    A recent NOVA show on the Forbidden City was truly amazing. The scale, the craftsmanship, the complexity of the buildings and the massive infrastructural projects required to build it in in just 4 years, 500 years ago is mind boggling. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with millions of conscript laborers. And all we got was the White House.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Is there anything besides cheap labor that we get from Asia that we couldn’t live without?

      One example – the chips that run our computers, including those of the Pentagon and satellite systems.

    2. Pat

      If you use any form of recycled paper from copy paper to toilet paper, it is likely to have come from China. There are exceptions, but…

      My guess is that a huge amount of everyday products most people use might fall into this category.

      We would need to do a large ramp up of multiple manufacturing sectors AND deal with fall out like increased cost (with the labor still being paid peanuts) and environmental issues as companies do it on the cheap just to name two problems.

      Don’t get me wrong, it is past time we brought a lot of production home, just don’t trust those that would be doing it or the regulators who would let it happen.

      1. Lee

        Don’t get me wrong, it is past time we brought a lot of production home, just don’t trust those that would be doing it or the regulators who would let it happen.

        I don’t trust them either.

        1. RMO

          Perhaps I’m being a simple minded curmudgeon here myself but isn’t it possible to trade with other countries even if you don’t have complex agreements (which appear to be mostly about restricting what each nation’s own laws can be regarding environmental standards, public health and safety etc. and providing a multi-national corporation friendly extra-national court to make those restrictions stick) with them? Was there no trade at all between, for example, my country – Canada – and the U.S. prior to the FTA? I was only a teenager when that went through but I could have sworn we did a lot of business with each other even before that…

          OK, sarcasm off but for god’s sake even Paul Krugmann has long been saying that there’s very little in the way of duties, excise taxes etc. anymore.

          1. Left in Wisconsin

            The FTA simplified the movement of cars and car parts across the border by each of the Big Three. But the plants themselves preceded the FTA by 20 years IIRC.

    1. Lee

      I have inferred from inadequate bits and bobs on the web (google is getting ever suckier), that they are in immediate need of about 4 inches of rain. Since the normal rainy season is about 6 months away, they might literally be in deep sh*t soon. And if the current drought continues through the next rainy season…Yikes!

    2. Octopii

      The coming event in Cape Town reminds me Paolo Bacigupi’s book ‘The Water Knife’ about water wars out in the American West. It’s going to get ugly fast when the taps dry up.

  10. Summer

    “We used to think of “capital” as physical goods or infrastructure—something we could wrap our minds around. But as all the main features of this system for extracting surplus value from workers and rentier fees from service networks have become duly digitized, capital itself has become a form of AI. We do not have any control over this system and it is impossible to conceive of unplugging ourselves from it. Isn’t that the trope we most fear about AI from science fiction—that it will reach a point where we cannot imagine life independent of it” [The Baffler].

    It’s a system that is designed to unplug you once all that can be extracted from you has been extracted.
    Then new, fresh meat is imported. That’s “who we are.”

  11. PKMKII

    Current Affairs had an interesting take on the border wall, counter to the typical liberal and left thinking on it, which is that the Dems should take it over Trump’s other immigration policies. “Compromise” on encumbering for the wall in exchange for Dreamers and TPS refugees not being touched. Make a lot of noise about how reluctant they are, but do it anyway. The wall may be symbolic, but as a practical matter it will do nothing. Even as a finished product as imagined, it would do nothing to stop border crossing. In reality, the thing would run over budget, miss schedule milestones, be plagued with construction problems and graft, patchy and inconsistent. Which is to say, a boondoggle, but no better or worse than a typical Washington boondoggle. But it will be a boondoggle that Trump would own.

      1. Tim

        Question of the day:
        How many heartless comments like this across the internet does it take to move the goalpost where you are a moderate conservative if you don’t actually want to shoot Hispanics crossing the border illegally?

        I don’t know but we have to be getting close. What kind of moral gymnastics does it take to make such a lack of empathy moral?

        1. Lee

          I was being ironic. I assume you are not familiar with my comment history and the content of same, and I forgot to include a snark tag. My bad. Cheers

          1. witters

            I see irony-blindness to be itself a serious moral problem – and one bound up with lack of intelligent empathy.

            1. RMO

              Let’s face it, it has become really hard to be ironic, satiric or sarcastic by pretending to adopt an insanely extreme idea nowadays. You could probably dress up “A Modest Proposal” and adapt it to 2018 America and at the very least ride that tiger to a radio or televison show of your own if not State or national office:-)

              Lee – I realized you were being ironic but it did occur to me that the machine guns idea would probably attract venture capital if you included smart, deep learning, AI, disruption, algorithms and connectivity buzzwords in the proposal…

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      Wouldn’t Keynes suggest (a) building the wall (b) tearing it down (c) re-building the wall? Personally, I’d be happy if we closed all our overseas military bases and had our young men and women tromp back and forth along the border, spending their money at home instead of Whereveristan, buying water and burritos from duly licensed vendor trucks and carts.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      If you look at pictures of the Chinese Great Wall that was last rebuilt in the Ming dynasty, you will notice that it is also the world’s longest road.

      You can ride a horse all the way from Gansu to Shanhaiguan.

      So, it presents one possibility: Wall-cum-bullet-trains-from-California-to-Texas.

      Then, it can be funded as infrastructure spending.

      1. Lemmy Caution

        Include parapets along the top and you’ve got a road that even robot cars can’t veer off of.

        1. RMO

          Didn’t you keep that Galaxie spaceship? You shouldn’t need a bullet train or a robot car! Actually, I suppose that whole Alphaville experience would have soured you a bit on A.I.’s…

  12. ewmayer

    The Private Equity Firms at the Core of Brick & Mortar Retail Bankruptcies | Wolf Street

    The LBO – it would be astonishing that such a manifestly toxic practice was not banned long ago, except in the context that we live in a kleptocapitalist ‘free market’ paradigm. From my neck of the woods (though it had expanded well beyond CA in its final 2 decades), popular thrift retailer Mervyn’s was done in by precisely such a PE loot-n-scoot operation. From Wikipedia (en dot wikipedia dot org slash wiki slash Mervyns) – note (my bolds) the interesting aspect of pre-looting owner Target actually acting in a shockingly well-intentioned fashion with respect to the employees, although the Target folks alas seem to have fallen for the usual pack of lies spun by the PE firms they ended up selling to:

    In March 2004, Target Corporation announced that they planned to put the Mervyn’s and Marshall Field’s divisions up for sale to focus on Target stores. Target Corporation was approached by many buyers for both stores but many of the potential buyers saw value only in the real estate. Target refused to sell to the groups which wanted to buy the property only, and said they would only look at deals that would not close the company and put the then 30,000 employees out of work. In July 2004, Target Corporation announced that Mervyn’s had been sold to a group of investors that included private investment firm and turnaround specialist Sun Capital Partners, Cerberus Capital Management, and real estate investment company Lubert-Adler Management Inc.

    Signs of financial distress and possible bankruptcy surfaced on July 21, 2008, when the Associated Press reported that Mervyn’s had stopped updating its financial status[13] and that the department store’s vendors ceased shipping some products, hurting the store’s back-to-school season sales efforts. In addition, financing requests were denied by lenders … on July 29, 2008, Mervyn’s announced that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California.[15][16] Soon, the chapter 11 case was converted to chapter 7 liquidation on October 17, 2008. At the time of this announcement 3 stores had just held grand openings only a few months prior to being told they would soon close.

    In September 2008, Mervyn’s sued the private equity firms involved in the leveraged buyout of the chain, alleging that the deal had stripped the retailer of its real estate assets, forcing it into bankruptcy. Mervyn’s said in the suit that Cerberus Capital Management and its partners had used the increased rent to finance the buyout.

    A reorg was attempted, but given that this was occurring at the height of another leverage-caused bust in form of the GFC, the effort was doomed.

  13. uxxx

    Re: PA redistricting , Dem votes concentrated in a few counties/districts etc

    The proper way to do it is called Proportional Representation. As usual, a feature of the better put together euro democracies but not US. With single-seat / winner-take-all districts, P.R. *requires* gerrymandering. Without some “benvolent” gerrymandering, you could easily have 100% of districts all won by the same party with 51% of the vote in each district. And in fact, the possibility of such an outcome drives the positions the parties must take to compete.

    I wish more people understood the significance of this. PR (and its cousin, RCV) are cornerstones of a healthy electoral system. Not that it will solve everything, but the lack of these well known features makes politics that much more dysfunctional.

  14. Jim Haygood

    I see dead people:

    Each day brings credible reports suggesting there is a massive scandal involving the top ranks of America’s premier law enforcement agency.

    The reports, which feature talk among agents of a “secret society” and suddenly missing text messages, point to the existence both of a cabal dedicated to defeating Donald Trump in 2016 and of a plan to let Hillary Clinton skate free in the classified email probe.

    If either one is true — and I believe both probably are — it would mean FBI leaders betrayed the nation by abusing their powers in a bid to pick the president.

    There is growing reason to believe someone in President Barack Obama’s administration turned over classified information about Trump to the Clinton campaign. As one former federal prosecutor put it, “It doesn’t get worse than that.


    In a few days a classified memo detailing FBI abuses of surveillance laws will be released, and all hell is gonna break loose.

    Meanwhile the FBI’s “cat ate my homework” excuse for losing five months of Peter Strzok-Lisa Page texts is laughably amateurish — a textbook case of obstruction of justice.

    1. integer

      Yep. It was already obvious that something big was going on during the election, and since then the picture has only grown more sordid with each passing day. The US dodged a hollow point bullet when Trump beat Hillary.

      1. Jim Haygood

        But wait … there’s more:

        Thousands of FBI cellphones were affected by the technical glitch that the DOJ says prevented five months’ worth of text messages between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page from being stored or uploaded into the bureau’s archive system, federal law enforcement officials tell Fox News.

        Fox News is told that the glitch affected the phones of “nearly” 10 percent of the FBI’s 35,000 employees. Senior Department of Justice officials told Fox News they are “taking steps” to possibly recover the texts from the appropriate cellphone carriers.


        Missing texts; broken phones; dancing bears — oh my!

        Got popcorn?

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          The missing phone data stinks.

          That said, the same people who made such a hash of Benghazi are involved in this go-round too, are they not? That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, from me at least.

    2. Summer

      “More support for this view involves the FBI’s use of the Russian dossier on Trump that was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. It is almost certain that the FBI used the dossier to get FISA court warrants to spy on Trump associates, meaning it used the opposition research of the party in power to convince a court to let it spy on the candidate of the other party — likely without telling the court of the dossier’s political link.”

      These are the same FISA powers that the #Resistance Democrats couldn’t wait to expand for Trump.

      It’s like a clusterf- – – of corruption, fear, and greed.

      1. Jim Haygood

        My instinct says that the Comey-McCabe-Ohr-Strzok “secret society” — dedicated (unsuccessfully) to rigging and overturning a presidential election from within — is going to be the most sensational political scandal of our lifetimes.

        “New FBI documents show the FBI was more concerned about a whistleblower who told the truth about the infamous Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting on June 27, 2016 than the scandalous meeting itself.”


        Get back, Loretta
        Yo mama’s waitin’ for you
        Wearin’ her high-heeled shoes
        And her low-neck sweater

        — The Beatles

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      “Each day brings credible reports suggesting there is a massive scandal involving the top ranks of America’s premier law enforcement agency”

      Come on, this could be from any year.

  15. Ed

    The Patriots are perennial winners because they work harder and longer than the competition, are committed to excellence, are committed to team, and are expected to perform. The NFL produced a two-part documentary on them called “Do Your Job”. Find it on YouTube and watch it. Bill Belichick works a longer week and is better at analysis and game-planning than anyone else in the game. He and his coaching system are the best at making adjustments.

    When I go to my supermarket, I make it a point of telling the cashier and the bag boy that they work for the #2 supermarket in the nation (as rated by Consumer Reports). They work for a company that insists on hiring human beings, paying them well, treating them well, hiring from diversity, promoting from within, and creating a pension fund that is better than most.

    Excellence occurs more often in Massachusetts than in other places; check out Charlie Baker’s State of the Commonwealth speech last night (video and transcript at The Boston Globe).

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Works a longer week?

      That’s not scalable. The way forward is for a shorter work week, in a supermarket or any other work place.

      One’s family is important, more than fame or career success (for some or many).

    2. edmondo

      He and his coaching system are the best at making adjustments.

      And they aren’t afraid to deflate the balls if it gives them an advantage either.

      1. ewmayer

        “And they aren’t afraid to deflate the balls if it gives them an advantage either.”

        As borne out by comparing their success pre-deflategate and since, with the officials now having custody of all game balls, right? /sarc

        A comparison of Brady’s salary vs that of other elite QBs is also interesting.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Can you blame the other QBs? Mrs. Bunchden isn’t the bread winner in that household. Giselle pays for all that Avocado.

          1. sinbad66

            Umm, Gisele is estimated to be worth between $300 – 400 million. Perhaps that why Brady also doesn’t have the need to take/demand a market level contract. Besides, Robert Kraft ( the owner of the Patriots) loves Brady like a son. I’m sure once Brady is finished playing, he will be taken care of on the backside.

            And about those footballs? People seem to forget that, in the AFC championship when this happened, Brady threw 3 TDs in the 2nd half with regulation footballs.

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      Brian Billick explained why the Pats were the best once. I’m paraphrasing. It was two reasons:

      -one Bill is very aware of the high school game and how it affects the large scale number of players. Everyone finds “Diamonds in the Rough.” Bill looks for players who will throw the NFL for a loop, right down to left handed punters.

      -the other is Bill tries to build teams to win games. Billick claimed most of the rest of the League worries about the moves of their divisional rivals and tries to acquire players to match the other moves. You’ll notice the Pats usually just escape their AFC East rivals no matter how clownish those teams seem to be. Billick said the long run is teams that are built to attack the Steelers or the Bungles but not teams built with the parts to win a minimum of 10 games or withstand injuries to key players. What are the Steelers without Antonio Brown? The last time Brady didn’t start, the Pats went 3 and 1. When he was out for a season, they still won 10 games.

      A third point not offered by Billick is that Belichick has been around for so long he can’t see anything or even anyone new. There is answer for everything.

      I believe you are missing the point of “Do your job.” Its a trust building exercise. The idea is the coaches are trying to put players in positions to succeed. They know a player like JJ Watt will make Nate Solder and Cannon, the Pats tackles, look silly. Those same coaches aren’t stupid and don’t want players mid-play making decisions to react to Watt’s seeming success. Players work hard on other teams (maybe not the Colts), but they too often don’t trust the other players and coaches and make mistakes, sliding over messing up running and passing lanes, they leave their coverage. I hate to say “Do your job” is almost “work smarter, not harder.” The Pats organization does work hard, but the difference between the Browns and the Pats goes to a lack of organizing around the players one has and then trusting players and coaches who made it to the NFL to do their job.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        One little-noticed play in a game shortly after Jamie Collins was shipped off to Cleveland for a bag of dirty socks kind of epitomized what the Patriots are about. Collins had been making big plays for a few seasons, including vaulting the opposing offensive line to block a field goal which is a very rare play, and was really making a name for himself around NE. When he was traded, fans were a little worried about losing such a talented player. Belichick had acquired Shea McLellin that same season, a relatively unknown and undersized LB. Right after Collins left, McLellin lined up in Collins’ spot and blocked a field goal with the same technique. My guess is that play was run to make a point to the doubters and the haters that the system works if everyone buys in.

        In Bill we trust!

  16. Oregoncharles

    ” Wildlife as a common pool resource?”
    That’s how hunter-gatherers, the primal human societies, treat them. Pretty intensive management, I’d guess.

    1. Jim Haygood

      “Donald Trump said that he was concerned about the escalation of violence in Afrin and called on his Turkish colleague to limit the actions of the armed forces in this region.”

      Our NATO “ally” took out two US occupiers soldiers?

      With frenemies like this, who needs colleagues? The sheer ludicrosity [sic] is so over-the-top as to require new neologisms.

      And it’s one, two, three, what are “we” fightin’ for?

  17. Pat

    File under guillotine watch, apparently the mediocre to bad reviews of her conference in LA weren’t enough to stop her from fleecing well off NYers as well. Gwyneth Paltrow is hosting one in NYC this weekend. Sure it is cheaper than meeting Hillary when you buy her book, but what do you want to get many of the attendees dropped ten grand on that as well. I hope the acupuncturists at least get some regular clients.


  18. The Rev Kev

    Re General Electric
    There is a good article at https://www.marketsandmoney.com.au/general-electric-full-retreat/2018/01/24/ which talks about how they got into the situation that they are in. When ‘Neutron Jack’ Welch retired after turning General Electric into the company that they are today, he was given a severance payment of $417 million. I believe that he is no longer considered the ‘Manager of the Century’ now. Even the CIA mocked his management style (https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol48no3/article04.html)?

  19. Summer


    Some excerpts:
    “On Jan. 1, China made good on its promise to close its borders to several types of imported waste. By the next day, panic had already taken hold in countries across Europe and North America as trash began piling up by the ton, with no one having a clue where to now dispose of it all.

    For more than 20 years, China has been the world’s recycling bin, accepting an enormous quantity of recyclable waste from nations worldwide. In 2016, China processed at least half of the world’s exports of waste plastic, paper and metals — some 7.3 million tons of trash in all. The U.S. exported 16 million tons of waste to China that year, worth about $5.2 billion. Britain sent China enough garbage to fill up 10,000 Olympic-size swimming pools…”
    “The ramifications of China’s recent ban has been described with language suggestive of a natural disaster. It has sent “shockwaves” worldwide, said Greenpeace East Asia plastics campaigner Liu Hua. Arnaud Brunet, head of the Bureau of International Recycling, compared the ban to an “earthquake.”

    Mere weeks after the ban took effect, waste management facilities in several countries, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Germany, are groaning under the weight of trash that no one seems to know what to do with. There’s “a mad scramble for alternative destinations or solutions” for all the waste that’s piling up, said Von Hernandez, global coordinator for the nonprofit Break Free From Plastic, speaking to HuffPost from the Philippines on Wednesday….”
    “Yifei Li, an assistant professor of environmental studies at NYU Shanghai, said a rise in nationalist sentiment also played a role in spurring Green Fence and other related initiatives.
    “Nationalism is growing like crazy here,” he told HuffPost from his office in Shanghai in September. “People are asking why we’re processing American waste in the first place. They’re saying: ‘Why are we doing this for the American imperialists?’ or whatever they call them. ‘Why don’t we first deal with what’s in our own backyard instead of taking care of other people’s problems?’”

    7.6 billion and counting….

    1. ewmayer

      The stupid, it burns: “waste management facilities in several countries, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Germany, are groaning under the weight of trash that no one seems to know what to do with.” — Um, maybe invest in reprocessing facilities to take over doing what the Chinese had been doing for you? Maybe the savings in costs previously associated with shipping the stuff halfway aroud the world could help in that regard? In other words, clean up your own damn mess! Obviously there will be a period of adjustment shock – but waste-reprocessing, though surely benefiting from modern automation tech, ain’t exactly rocket science.

      1. knowbuddhau

        What’s the footprint of those facilities in China? Where you going to put them stateside? What’s the lead time for a complete EIS for each one? How fast you going to do it relative to the rate it piles up?

        The grand illusion of modern life is that there’s a magical place, called Away, where all our waste goes. What happens when Away goes away?

        Sure, waste management ain’t rocket science. So what? What’s complexity got to do with it? It is one thing rocket science ain’t: vital to human life on a fundamental level.

        We’re talking about how we go to ground. How we complete the cycle, from what is about to be us, through us, to what used to be us, and back again. Our whole problem is a failed relationship with nature. Waste management, as the denatured term has it, embodies our relationship in undeniable ways.

        Having no where to make our shite go away could be a best/worst situation.

        Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine piling up all the waste produced from your property during the time it would take to break ground on just the first of the hundreds of such facilities needed to replace China’s capacity. Including septic and gray water, just to gauge your full waste output.

        How much total shite does the average household produce in, oh, a decade? Where would we put it if we couldn’t pay someone to make it go away? What does that say about a modern human’s relationship with the concrete, material world?

  20. audrey jr

    I still believe, political “gut” talking here, that the Awan brothers scandal is the one that all eyes should be on. IT shenanigans at the highest levels in CONgress with a dash of espionage and blackmail for all.
    But I surely would like a look at that FISA memo.

  21. Jim Haygood

    In this 12-month chart of Craazymon Fund components, you can see what the dollar’s plunge has done to emerging market stocks (up 41%) and gold (up 12%):


    On the other hand, rising interest rates have crimped the return on investment grade bonds (Agg in chart) to only 2.43%.

  22. Tertium Squid

    Those investments are at risk because of current public opinion.” Eddie Bernays, courtesy phone!

    Oh my gosh you’re brilliant – the tell for self-driving cars actually being close to reality will be a massive marketing effort and narrative push to get people to believe that this is the way the world should be.

  23. Plenue

    >“My ‘sugar daddy’ pays me $12,000 a month, and marriage is on the table” [Business Insider].

    “I don’t consider it sex work. These people aren’t prostitutes.”

    Yeah, right, and geisha aren’t high-class hookers, sure.

  24. Daryl

    > “AT&T wants Congress to draft a net neutrality law. Here’s why that’s a big deal”

    This makes me seriously nervous. We’ve seen this tactic with tobacco companies, creators of GMOs, etc: endorsing “pre-emptive regulation” that kills off public interest in the issue while not actually strongly dealing with the problems at hand.

  25. Darthbobber

    Pennsy redistricting. To answer the headlines rhetorical question: Yes the dems stand to gain. Bear in mind that our supreme court is elected in partisan elections and this straight party line decision results from a sweep by team donkey a couple years back.

    The author can play with maps but the ruling gives the legislature only through feb 9th to play and pass something, and only until the 15th to secure the govs signature or override his veto. Which they cant do. Failing that the court will redraw the map itself.

    Compact districts wont literally equalize things because the compactness of the philly and pittsburgh strongholds does indeed have an effect. But the post 2010 map compacted those strongholds even further in order to pack even more democrats in.

    If the 7th loses its little corridor piping more republicans into meehan’s district the demographics go back to near what they were when Sestak held that seat.

    All other things being equal id expect compact districts to move the gop margin from13-5 to 11-7 or possibly 10-8. Doing better than that would require the party to actually recruit people other than sacrificial lambs in several places where they presently cant be bothered.

    I think the author is going a bit overboard on his counterintuitive analysis. All the in state players of both parties see this as a clear democratic gain. And i dont think they are unanimously and systematically misunderstanding their own interests or miscalculating the most probable results

  26. Procopius

    Obama’s destruction of the Democrat Party was not a coincidence or an accident, but an expression of class interest.

    The continuation of the efforts of the Democratic Leadership Council/Third Way/New Democrats/Blue Dogs, who began gathering during Carter’s administration and formally organized in 1983. They’re still in control of the party. I urge everyone to read Al From’s book, The NEW Democrats and the Return to Power.

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