2:00PM Water Cooler 1/25/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“The timing of the [TPP/CPTPP] deal is significant for Canada, which is trying to diversify its exports” [Asia Times]. “Canada, which wanted protection of its cultural industries, and Vietnam, which has worried about labor-protection rules, will exchange separate side letters with other members on those topics at the time of the signing, [Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi] said.”

“Trans-Pacific Partnership, Canada’s Big New Trade Deal, Could Complicate NAFTA Talks” [HuffPo]. “[O]n autos, the TPP runs in the exact opposite direction of Trump’s goals. He wants taller trade barriers, and fewer Asian parts; but TPP liberalizes auto-parts trade, meaning more pieces imported from Asia, including from countries not in the deal — like China. The current NAFTA allows 37.5 per cent of a car to come from outside the trade zone, before tariffs apply. Trump wants that cranked down to 15 per cent — but the new TPP zone moves dramatically in the other direction, to 55 per cent.”

“U.S. auto industry officials welcomed Canada’s efforts on Wednesday to change the direction of NAFTA negotiations on auto rules of origin, but they confessed to Morning Trade that they are still in the dark about what exactly Ottawa has proposed” [!!] [Politico]. “Still, anything that might steer the United States from its proposal to dramatically tighten the rules and create a new 50 percent U.S. content requirement needs to be encouraged, they said. That’s because what the Trump administration has proposed ‘is not workable from an industry perspective,’ said John Bozzella, president and CEO of Global Automakers, which represents foreign brand automakers that build and sell cars in the United States.”

“Canada is floating the idea of joining forces with Mexico to form a separate investor-state dispute mechanism if the United States is intent on pursuing a proposal that would allow it to opt out of the dispute process” [Politico].

“Negotiations to modernize NAFTA are in their sixth round with few signs of a breakthrough, even as President Donald Trump continually applies pressure by threatening to withdraw if the U.S. can’t get its way” [Bloomberg]. An explainer on cars, ISDS, government procurement, agriculture, and a sunset clause.

“Nearly 100 Organizations Concerned with Health Sign Open Letter to Canadian, Mexican and U.S. Ministers of Health and Trade Urging That the NAFTA Renegotiation Not Undermine Access to Affordable Medicines” (PDF) [Doctors without Borders]. “Any changes to NAFTA should rebalance the agreement’s terms in favor of competition and access to affordable healthcare, for instance by eliminating NAFTA’s intellectual property chapter altogether, meaning the NAFTA countries’ obligations would be those under the WTO TRIPS agreement, and eliminating investor-state dispute settlement from NAFTA. Certainly no new monopoly protections should be added, such as the biologics exclusivity terms that pharmaceutical firms seek or new “transparency” provisions affecting pharmaceutical price controls and reimbursement or formulary powers.”

“To many observers, the North American free-trade agreement is about money, transactions and trade. To others, it means movement, including the movement of people, at least as it relates to cross-border trade” [Globe and Mail]. “Under NAFTA, citizens of the United States, Mexico and Canada may apply to work in any of the three countries, as long as they have a qualifying temporary employment offer. Because of the reciprocity, it is not necessary to prove that the job won’t be taken away from a citizen. Most impressively, NAFTA does away with long waits, since some applications are reviewed right at the border.”

“Why a TPP Without the U.S. Is Still a Big Deal” [Bloomberg]. Another explainer. “If the 16-nation RCEP had come into being in a TPP-free world, China would have enhanced its regional dominance, giving President Xi Jinping a platform to further draw his Asian neighbors into his embrace. Now, China must compete with Japan at the head of a rival trading group.”



“Bernie Sanders summons team to discuss 2020” [Politico]. “The top-line message the Vermont senator received from the operatives gathered during the government shutdown was a more formal version of the one they’ve been giving him regularly for months: You would be one of the front-runners for the Democratic nomination. And if you want to run, it’s time to start seriously planning accordingly. The Democratic socialist’s response to the series of presentations, according to multiple Democrats: I haven’t yet made a decision about 2020, but I still think beating Donald Trump is the most important thing for this country. And I want to be ready if I do decide to run.” A million viewwer for Sanders’ #MedicareForAll town hall the following week — Excitement builds as Canadians detail single payer cost savings! — surely can’t have discouraged any of the attendees.

“Campaign to draft Joe Biden for 2020 says it’s not too early” [Des Moines Register].



“Overall, [the data we have since Trump’s election, which includes 176 regular and special elections] show that Republican candidates have run an average of 2.6 points behind Trump’s share of the two-party vote since the president won office, with a median difference of just 0.8 points. That is, if Trump won 50% of the two-party vote, we might expect the GOP candidate to win 47.4% if they followed the average decline. This is obviously well short of the 5.9-point average drop seen from Obama to Democratic candidates in 2013. That should give pause to those who think a major Democratic wave in November 2018 is a sure thing….” [Larry Sabato]. “While Democrats’ path to a majority in the U.S. House likely runs through the suburbs and winning seats that Clinton won in 2016, they will have to win at least some seats that Trump carried in 2016. While Democrats currently need a net gain of 24 seats to capture the House, Republicans only hold 23 seats that Clinton carried, and Democrats will be defending 12 seats that Trump carried…. This analysis of elections since Trump won the presidency suggests that caution is in order when looking ahead to November. Essentially, there is a data point for everyone. If you want a Democratic wave, you can focus on the special elections and findings such as the Democratic improvement in the Midwest. If you want the GOP to hold its ground as best it can as the presidential party in a midterm, you will focus on the aggregate, where Republicans are not underperforming Trump in the two-party vote to the same degree that Democrats underperformed Obama in 2013.”

“As if the disclosure that GOP Rep. Pat Meehan (PA-07) used taxpayer dollars to settle a harassment claim wasn’t bad enough, Meehan’s actions since might be a lesson in how not to handle a crisis” [Cook Political Report]. “Pennsylvania’s “Bullwinkle”-shaped 7th CD is among the most gerrymandered districts in the country, specifically designed by GOP state legislators in 2011 to protect Meehan. It narrowly voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, 49 percent to 47 percent. Nonetheless, Meehan’s moderate voting record and law-and-order reputation as a former Delaware County prosecutor have made him a tough target for Democrats. In 2016, he took 60 percent of the vote.” And: “Democrats have recruited attorney and CIA officer Shelly Chauncey, who entered the race on Monday. A former undercover operative in Latin America, Chauncey has a potentially appealing profile, but she’s also a first-time candidate getting a very late start.” Please kill me now.

“[Iowa’ Austin Frerick] knows his audience. He’s targeted agriculture consolidation as his main issue, zeroing in on the harms of Bayer AG’s $66 billion takeover of Monsanto Co. that is currently being reviewed by the Justice Department. His campaign recently rolled out a video featuring a local farmer who says he’s concerned about the future of agriculture as farmers are forced to pay more for seeds from big agriculture companies” [Bloomberg]. “Frerick told Bloomberg Law that these concerns about how consolidation impacts voters’ bottom line ‘validates the anger that fueled [President Donald Trump’s] rise. I’m going to shift that conversation. Let’s blame these corporations,’ he said. ‘We’ve really made inroads with the rural community, especially farmers, with this message.'” Sure, but what about the Russians? Still, if Frerick is getting play in Bloomberg so soon, he’s got some wind at his back. Interesting.

“Chelsea Manning’s Anarchist Campaign” [The American Conservative]. “[D]espite the fact that Paul lost miserably in both of his presidential runs, and despite Manning’s almost certain loss in her senatorial race, their campaigns are infinitely more important than those of their opponents. The McCains and Cardins occupy positions of power and go through the motions of the existing political machinery. The Pauls and Mannings, however, can fundamentally transform the political culture over time. That change is more significant, because it is the political culture that defines the limits within which those with power can act in the first place.”

“This is what really happened when Chelsea Manning partied with the far right” [Mic]. “Mic spoke to several right-wing media figureheads who described their experiences at both the gala in New York and Manning’s participation in the escape room game in Washington. Mic also spoke with a representative from Manning’s campaign for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, as well as friends of hers on both on the left and the right. They spoke not of a leftist icon with secret allegiances with far-right fascists, but of a woman led by a friend into a series of bad photo ops, and who was not careful to watch whose elbows she was brushing.” In other words, an amateur. Quelle horreur!

“Nancy Pelosi to join Debbie Wasserman Schultz for FAU town hall” [Florida Politics]. What more is there to say? Other than this–

“Gov. Rick Scott’s office rapped Broward County’s election supervisor for giving an ‘insufficient response’ to an official inquiry concerning her apparently ‘unacceptable’ decision to destroy a congressional race’s paper ballots that were the subject of litigation” [Politico]. “The ballots in question were cast in the 2016 South Florida Democratic primary between Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and challenger Tim Canova, who later asked to inspect the paper trail because he was concerned about election integrity.” From the article, Rick Scott, despite being Rick Scott, is correct.

2017 Post Mortem

But he’s not even a Democrat!

(Via.) Granted, Jones doesn’t have many votes, even if one of them is the Democrat’s galaxy-brained scheme to give Senile Hitler warrantless surveillance powers. And then a lot of Democrats voted with Jones (and Trump). Which is rather the point, isn’t it? Given the whole #Resistance thing?

2016 Post Mortem

“I first examined the Cooperative Congressional Election Studies 2016 Survey to get a better sense of the people who voted for Obama in 2012 but didn’t vote at all in the last election. I used self-reports, which admittedly are subject to some recall problems because individuals may misreport voting, and because people are also often likely to overstate support for the winning candidate. So my analysis should not be seen as definitive, but rather suggestive. It found that 38 percent of individuals who voted for Obama in 2012 but then didn’t vote in 2016 were black, and 15 percent were black voters under 30. By comparison, 20 percent of Clinton’s voters were black and 3 percent were black and under thirty” [Sean McElwee, The Nation]. Well, heck. Those 38% were racists. Or Bernie Bros. Or Russian dupes. I mean, come on.

New Cold War

“Trump stirs pot with Mueller interview offer” [CNN]. Justified skepticism, worth a read for why.

“Let’s Wait and See about the FBI ‘Conspiracy'” [Jonah Goldberg, National Review]. “From the outset, I’ve mostly taken a wait-and-see approach to the Russia “collusion” allegations and the Mueller probe. I think I’ll take a wait-and-see approach to all of this Strzok-Page-secret-society stuff too. There’s just too much theatrics and chest thumping involved.” Jonah Goldberg, beacon of sanity. What a time to be alive!

“#ReleaseTheMemo and the conservative war on the FBI, explained” [Vox]. “If this memo is so great for Republicans, why are they so terrified to show it (or the documents it’s based on) to anyone?”

“Top Democrats Urge Facebook, Twitter to Investigate Russia’s Embrace of #ReleaseTheMemo” [Mother Jones]. Yes, that’s what the Democrat leadership is directing our attention to: A Twittter hashtag.

Government Shutdown

“In those rare cases where Democrats and Republicans have come together on a big issue in the last fifteen years, it has almost always been in the midst of genuine crisis, or when a major deadline (usually self-inflicted) looms. There is no other kind of deal that even seems possible today—at least one of the consequential variety that unites a large majority of both parties’ officeholders on an issue of national significance” [Susan Glasser, The New Yorker]. “By that standard, the last genuinely weighty bipartisan deals in Washington were arguably the bailout of the economy in the midst of the 2008 economic crisis and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.” Um. So gridlock is our friend?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Is Economic Insecurity Behind the Specter of Populism?” [Pro-Market]. “Rather than looking at medium-/long-run features, in recent work (Algan, Guriev, Papaioannou, and Passari 2017), we examine the role of the 2007–9 global financial crisis and its metastasis in Europe on voting and political beliefs in 220 subnational regions of 26 European countries. We show that crisis-driven economic insecurity is a substantial driver of populism and political distrust. We find a strong causal impact of the rises in unemployment on voting for non-mainstream, especially populist parties. Increases in unemployment go in tandem with a decline in trust in national and European political institutions.”

“How Hedge Funds (Secretly) Get Their Way in Washington” [Bloomberg]. “Over the past two decades, hedge funds have grown explosively, with a collective $3.4 trillion under management. Not content to make bets and watch from the sidelines, the largest funds increasingly are trying to steer government outcomes—such as negotiations over sovereign debt—so that their investments are likelier to pay out. When billions are at stake on a given wager, a lobbying campaign looks cheap. But hedge funds know that they’re politically toxic—portrayed by both parties as overpaid plutocrats—and prefer that much of these offensives be conducted in secret.”

“The Atlas Of Redistricting” [FiveThirtyEight]. “Our atlas includes eight different congressional maps of the entire country. Each of those eight maps is made up of a distinct set of 43 state maps (seven states can’t be redistricted because they have only one congressional district that spans the entire state).” And they drew the maps by hand!

“Within the confines of the American political system, however, replacing party leadership is nearly impossible” [In These Times]. “In lieu of root and branch changes to the structure of American democracy, here’s a modest proposal: Why not make it possible to vote Democratic representatives out of leadership? Formal leadership elections could force the Democratic Party’s top brass to reflect the will of the people who actually vote for them, and help turn the party into a vehicle for bold progressive policies.”

“Squaring the Conservative Circle” [Los Angeles Review of Books]. “Kolozi’s achievement is placing various market-skeptic conservatives alongside one another in a common history to show that there has been in the United States, for nearly two centuries, an “ongoing critique of capitalism from the right.” His book makes abundantly clear that a large segment of the American right throughout its history has understood restraining the market or setting up alternative sources of social power — the family, the church, or the state — as indispensable measures for a conservative politics.” Yes, as The Mind of the Master Class shows, the “positive good” theorists defending slavery has a well-thought-out critique of capitalism.

“America Is Nowhere Near a Constitutional Crisis” [Foreign Policy]. A month old, still germane. “The one undisputed constitutional crisis in American history was the Civil War. When the national government refused to recognize secession by the Southern states, an impasse arose because there was no way that the disagreement could be resolved through constitutional means. Federal property, like Fort Sumter, was claimed by the states and the national government alike. Because the South rejected the national government, no national institution — not the federal courts, not Congress — could resolve the dispute in a constitutional way. War resulted, with more than 600,000 deaths.” (I’m not sure I agree.)

“Resign, replace, and disempower voters. Keep repeating.” [Chicago Tribune]. “Illinois has a tradition of politicians resigning and having their successors chosen by the state parties without the bother of an election. Then the successors have time to fully exploit the advantages of incumbency before they have to face the voters in a real contest.” Nice!

Stats Watch

Leading Indicators, December 2017: “The index of leading economic indicators continues to signal strength ahead” [Econoday]. “But the gain in December is led, to an unusual degree, by the ISM’s new orders index where unusual strength has not at all translated into similar gains for government data, underscored by the factory workweek which is the only component in the negative column during December. But steady contributions continue to come from the stock market, from low interest rates, and also consumer expectations as well as the report’s credit index.”

Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index, January 2018: “like other regional reports, remains steady and strong” [Econoday]. “Price data show increasing pressures for both inputs and, importantly, for selling prices as well. Inventories are also building which points to very healthy conditions for this report’s sample.” And: “So far all of the regional Fed surveys have been solid in January, although only the Kansas City index has been above the December levels (most indexes suggest slower growth in January than in December)” [Calculated Risk].

New Home Sales, December 2017: “The headline 9.3 percent decline in new home sales for December masks what is actually a solid new home sales report” [Econoday]. “[I]mportantly supply moved into the market, up 3.9 percent at 295,000 units…. [T]he bottom line is upward sales momentum, incoming supply and room for prices to move higher. Residential investment has been dragging down GDP in recent quarters but today’s report points to a solid contribution for tomorrow’s fourth-quarter report.” But: “This was well below expectations of 683,000 sales SAAR, and the previous months combined were revised down significantly” [Calculated Risk]. But: “Much lower than expected, and last month’s number, which was touted as the turning point for housing, was revised lower as well. And note from the chart we’re still below the levels of the 1970’s when the population was about 40% lower” [Mosler Economics]. Ouch….

Jobless Claims, week of January 20, 2018: “Initial jobless claims rose in the January 20 week but remain low and favorable” [Econoday].

Commodities: “Why Ford Is Blaming Costlier Metals for a ‘Bad Year’ Ahead” [Bloomberg]. “Although the carmaker has multiple steel-supply contracts that are phased in overtime to help smooth prices, [CFO Bob Shanks] said the market isn’t robust enough to formally hedge against volatile prices. Prices have been surging as President Donald Trump considers imposing tariffs on steel imports.”

Manufacturing: “At Honda and Toyota, humans remain an integral part of the automotive assembly process” [IndustryWeek]. “More than three decades after Honda Motor Co. first built an Accord sedan at its Marysville, Ohio, factory in 1982, humans are still an integral part of the assembly process — and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon…. Honda isn’t alone. Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp. uses just a handful of robots on the Camry final assembly line at its plant in Georgetown, Ky., and has no plans to add more…. Carmakers keeping fully staffed assembly lines offers a distinct contrast to electric-car maker Tesla, where Chief Executive Elon Musk promises a factory within a few years where workers won’t actually build cars, but rather, attend to the robots that do…. Tesla, which has been burning through cash bringing its Model 3 production up to speed, made just 2,425 of those sedans in the fourth quarter, well below the 5,000 a week run rate it said in August it was targeting by the end of 2017. The company announced the acquisition of Perbix, a closely held maker of automated machines used for manufacturing, in November, a week after Musk cited challenges with automating Model 3 production.”

Retail: “The ordering ease and convenience spawned by online and mobile commerce has created an American ‘entitlement culture’ that thinks nothing of returning stuff that is in otherwise perfect condition just because they simply didn’t want it, according to Tony Sciarrotta, executive director of the Reverse Logistics Association (RLA). In 2017, e-commerce created 400 million package returns that would not have otherwise occurred. Of those, 80 to 90 percent were shown to have “no fault found,” said Sciarrotta, using reverse logistics lingo to describe a non-defective product” [DC Velocity].

Shipping: “When does a Bill of Lading become a Contract of Carriage..??” [Shipping & Freight Resource]. Fascinating for shipping nerds and paperwork fans. And more fun for any software engineers trying to represent shipping transactions programmatically…

Shipping: “Shippers say they are increasingly forced to choose between postponing shipments and paying sky-high rates for big rigs amid one of the worst trucking shortages in years” [Wall Street Journal]. “Just one truck is available for every 10 loads, with a booming economy, electronic-logging device regulations and bad weather combining to throw the market out of whack. Fleets are adding trucks as fast as they can, but difficulty attracting drivers may hamper their ability to add capacity.”

Shipping: “Shippers, parcel, and less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers, and trade groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have for years supported a 10-foot extension in the length of twin trailers. They argue the longer trailers would increase a vehicle’s productivity by up to 18 percent by enabling more efficient cubing of trailer space, and would not add miles traveled or increase a truck’s weight beyond the legal limit. Backers of the proposal contend that the growth of digital commerce over the next 10 years will result in a 40-percent increase in LTL shipments that will move in 28-foot twin trailers. About 1.2 million more trucks will be needed to meet that demand, they argue” [DC Velocity]. “Blair Anderson, director, transportation public policy, for Seattle-based e-tailer Amazon.com Inc., which supports the measure, would not comment on the prospects of the language making it through the legislative process. However, Amazon, which is a member of “Americans for Modern Transportation,” an advocacy group, is vigorously lobbying lawmakers to change the law, according to a Washington source.”

Tax Reform: “Another major U.S. employer has announced a one-time employee bonus payment related to the new tax law. Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) announced Thursday morning that the company will pay a one-time bonus of up to $1,000 to its U.S. workers. The payment comes in addition to the company’s Success Sharing bonus plan for hourly workers” [247 Wall Street]. I’m sure the companies doing this unheard of thing only have the workers’ best interests at heart…. (And “more money in your pocket” is always a useful political appeal, thinking of 2018.)

Tech: “There’s another theory floating around as to why Facebook cares so much about the way it’s impacting the world, and it’s one that I happen to agree with. When Zuckerberg looks into his big-data crystal ball, he can see a troublesome trend occurring. A few years ago, for example, there wasn’t a single person I knew who didn’t have Facebook on their smartphone. These days, it’s the opposite. This is largely anecdotal, but almost everyone I know has deleted at least one social app from their devices. And Facebook is almost always the first to go. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other sneaky privacy-piercing applications are being removed by people who simply feel icky about what these platforms are doing to them, and to society” [Vanity Fair]. Yep. I use Facebook for exactly one thing: Messaging. With exactly one person. And this: “As a society, we feel like we’re at war with a computer algorithm, and the only winning move is not to play.” Rather like 2016’s volatility voters, eh?

Tech: “‘Never get high on your own supply’ – why social media bosses don’t use social media” [Guardian]. “For all the industry’s focus on “eating your own dog food”, the most diehard users of social media are rarely those sitting in a position of power… If you can’t bring yourself to cut back on social media, you could try following Zuckerberg’s example and hire a team of 12 to do it for you. It might not be as cheap and easy as deleting Facebook, but it is probably easier to stick to.”

Honey for the Bears: “Short Sellers Up the Ante on Major Banks” [247 Wall Street]. “Generally speaking, the major financial institutions in the United States are a good barometer of the current state of U.S. markets. So when short sellers make a play against these major banks, they are effectively betting for a downturn. Conversely, when they back off they might be expecting a surge. Granted, some plays are directly against individual companies, like we saw with Wells Fargo early in 2017… The January 12 short interest data have been compared with the previous figures, and short interest in most of these selected bank stocks increased.”

Five Horsemen: “Amazon surpasses a 50% gain (in nine months) as Apple wallows in its dingy doghouse” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Jan 25 2018

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 78 Extreme Greed (previous close: 78, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 72 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jan 25 at 11:38am. We don’t seem to be able to break through to the 80s.

The 420

“NBC/WSJ poll: 60 percent of Americans now support marijuana legalization” [NBC]. “A broad majority of Democrats — 73 percent — supported legalization, as well as 64 percent of independents. By contrast, only 43 percent of Republican respondents said they supported legalization. Among voters who supported President Donald Trump in 2016, the number was even lower, at 37 percent… Seventy-three percent of respondents aged 18-34 supported legalization, compared to 67 percent of those aged 35-49, and 54 percent aged 50-64. But among those 65 or older, only a minority supported legalization, at 38 percent.”

Our Famously Free Press

“An Inside Look At The Accounts Twitter Has Censored In Countries Around The World” [Buzzfeed]. “BuzzFeed News’ data and analysis offer an unprecedented glimpse into Twitter’s collaboration with national groups and governments — democratic and authoritarian alike — and provide a stark reminder of Twitter’s ability to shape political conversations, and of governments’ attempts to influence that process. It also illustrates that the Twitter experience for users is not the same from one country to the next, and that a range of accounts ranging from malicious to harmless be blocked, especially when it comes to reading opposition voices in Turkey or viewing Nazi and white supremacist content in France and Germany.”


“Gut microbiota dysbiosis contributes to the development of hypertension” [Microbiome]. “Compared to the healthy controls, we found dramatically decreased microbial richness and diversity, Prevotella-dominated gut enterotype, distinct metagenomic composition with reduced bacteria associated with healthy status and overgrowth of bacteria such as Prevotella and Klebsiella, and disease-linked microbial function in both pre-hypertensive and hypertensive populations.” I’m intrigued by gut bacteria as one of many embodiment feedback loops. So I wonder what readers think of this study.

Class Warfare

“The U.S. Can No Longer Hide From Its Deep Poverty Problem” [Angus Deaton, New York Times]. “According to the World Bank, 769 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2013; they are the world’s very poorest. Of these, 3.2 million live in the United States… The Oxford economist Robert Allen recently estimated needs-based absolute poverty lines for rich countries that are designed to match more accurately the $1.90 line for poor countries, and $4 a day is around the middle of his estimates. When we compare absolute poverty in the United States with absolute poverty in India, or other poor countries, we should be using $4 in the United States and $1.90 in India. Once we do this, there are 5.3 million Americans who are absolutely poor by global standards. This is a small number compared with the one for India, for example, but it is more than in Sierra Leone… There are millions of Americans whose suffering, through material poverty and poor health, is as bad or worse than that of the people in Africa or in Asia.”

“The Teamsters have a message for United Parcel Service Inc. as the labor union kicks off contract talks: keep robots off delivery trucks. Union demands include a ban on drones, driverless vehicles and other new technology to transport packages without human intervention” [Wall Street Journal]. “Delivery trucks are seen as a prime market for driverless technology, and UPS has been testing drone deliveries, including models that launch from vehicles’ roofs. The stakes are high: some 260,000 UPS employees are covered by the Teamsters contract, which expires in July. Automation is also a contentious point in negotiations between East Coast ports and dockworkers, with union negotiators prematurely ending contract talks last month over the issue.”

News of the Wired

“The Observatory of Economic Complexity” [Macro Connections]. I’m always leery of fancy-pants visualizations like this, partly because it’s not easy to quote them. Here is “Complexity and Income Inequaltiy in China” (which does draw, if you wait).

* * *

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 (marku52):

marku52 writes: “Fungi grew in about 10 days along my dog walk in Medford, OR.”

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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. Jim Haygood

    Judge Nap probes the sleazy back story behind the forthcoming FISA intelligence abuses memo:

    House Intelligence Committee leadership sat on knowledge of NSA and FBI surveillance abuses that some committee members have characterized as “career-ending,” “jaw-dropping” and “KGB-like,” while both houses of Congress — ignorant of what their 22 House Intelligence Committee colleagues knew — voted to expand NSA and FBI surveillance authorities.

    Stated differently, the 22 members of the committee knowingly kept from their 500 or so congressional colleagues incendiary information that, had it been revealed in a timely manner, would certainly have affected the outcome of the vote — particularly in the Senate, where a switch of just one vote would have prevented passage of this expansion of bulk surveillance authorization.


    Us long-time cynical observers infer that the R party isn’t really that exercised over the Lynch-Comey gang’s hijacking of FISA and the FBI for electoral purposes — after all, everything turned out okay.

    Rather, the R party — deeply impressed by the sheer brass of the late Obama regime — just wants to get its own people slotted in to run the secret police operation.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I’d like to see evidence. Not just the memo, but the evidence behind it. There has been a notable paucity of that, from all players on all sides of this long drawn-out and sordid affair. And I think the Vox question is a fair one: If whatever all this is is genuinely exculpatory, why not just declassify and release it, which the President has the power to do? What could be holding Trump back? Delicacy of feeling?

      You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas….

      1. Jim Haygood

        Until the memo comes out, here are some tasty bonbons for our delectation:

        In a letter sent to congressional committees, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said his office “succeeded in using forensic tools to recover text messages from FBI devices, including text messages between Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page that were sent or received between December 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017.”

        The inspector general recovered the texts by taking possession of “at least four” phones belonging to Strzok and Page.


        Doh … it didn’t occur to the FBI to collect the phones before publicly embarrassing itself with the stunningly maladroit admission that texts from several thousand agents are not archived?

        Or perhaps the FBI just didn’t want to confront valued employees by confiscating their employer-issued devices. Mind boggling.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            The problem at the sorry root of this whole story, since whenever the [family blog] it broke.

            Surely there’s a prima facie case that (a) Clinton’s “Russian puppet” remark implies that evidence was looked for, but (b) the fact that Trump is still alive means no evidence was found.* He hasn’t had a plane accident, a mysterious food-borne illness, or a heart attack.

            * This implies that the provenance of any forthcoming evidence needs to be, well, unimpeachable.

        1. fresno dan

          “Let’s Wait and See about the FBI ‘Conspiracy’” [Jonah Goldberg, National Review]. “From the outset, I’ve mostly taken a wait-and-see approach to the Russia “collusion” allegations and the Mueller probe. I think I’ll take a wait-and-see approach to all of this Strzok-Page-secret-society stuff too. There’s just too much theatrics and chest thumping involved.” Jonah Goldberg, beacon of sanity. What a time to be alive!

          Jim Haygood
          January 25, 2018 at 2:31 pm

          from the article:
          Meanwhile, this #ReleaseTheMemo campaign is obviously a PR stunt. But that in itself is not damning. PR stunts are sometimes valid efforts to get a real story out. I’m actually impressed that congressional Republicans were effective at messaging for once. I wouldn’t have predicted that it would work this well. After all, Republicans insinuating that a memo written by a Republican committee chairman in a Republican-controlled Congress during a Republican presidency is being hidden from the public by some force or entity other than the Republicans strikes me as kind of hilarious. As is the idea that all of these Republicans saw it, but no one leaked it because leaking is just wrong. (It is wrong, but come on.) That said . . . hey, it was just crazy enough to work.

          A plan to thwart the repubs – this bold, this daring, this nefarious, this byzantine? Only one entity is an EVIL enough GENIUS to so stymie American’s repub best, the present cadre the bravest, truest, most altruistic men seen in America EVAH!
          I hesitate to even speak the name….no, not Cthulhu….much, much worse…….

          1. Thermos H. Christ

            Trump’s ace-in-the-hole: the FISA unmasking might be illegal because…Trump himself is/was an FBI confidential source, has been for awhile, at least since his Atlantic City days, for OC, CD, AML, labor, all of it? The mistake would be reported to Congress in the “Semi-Annual Assessment of Compliance with the Procedures and Guidelines Issued Pursuant to Section 702 […]”, the memo in crayon. Look for the good job stickers.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            The fact that it allegedly goes all way to the top of the last administration, and that the two sides are both insiders at DC, the too-big-to-fault way to go, and powers away from DC (say, in Manhattan) know this too well, is ask, why can’t we just get along?

            That will likely take a few days to negotiate though.

          3. Ed Miller

            The current state of affairs in US politics has been grinding away in the back of my mind for quite some time. After reading Dark Money and Democracy in Crisis and many links here (and other stuff I can’t list off the top of my head) I am suspecting that both sides of our establishment R-D party don’t want real facts released.

            Here’s the deal. The Democrats, as in DNC and DCCC and all other segments of the neocon Dparty want to run things on the basis of campaigning through media ads requiring big money to feel the consultant class. There seems to be little effort any more to do grassroots campaigning to get to know people’s real needs. That makes sense if you want a country run by overlords who tell people what they are allowed to be/have/think/etc. In other words, a country run by an aristocracy. What better scam to run than to require people to donate to the aristocracy-serving consultants in order to run for office. As others have noted, these Dparty types are really Rparty types in fact. They just pretend to be interested in the public. The goal is to get a R-D party in synch such that there is no option on policy but only on personalities, and that has basically been achieved. To be sure, the Republicans are worse, but they are obvious.

            If releasing everything results in exposing Hillary (Uranium One and other stuff) and/or others, and people actually figure out how corrupt the D-party insiders have become, then the D-party blows up and the aristocrats have lost their perfectly set up R-D game to control the masses. Nobody inside the Beltway really wants this to come out.

            I could be totally full of it, and that’s OK. I am sure there are a lot of dots missing here but I hope readers here can make the connections in a sparse matrix. Just watching from the sidelines, but I’ve been getting very concerned about where this leads for a long time.

            1. Procopius

              I think the Uranium One thing is totally baseless, as is the idea of approving arms sales to countries that donated to the Clinton foundation (approving arms sales is what the State Department is there for). However there’s so much other, less flashy, corruption in the DNC/DCCC/DSCC that it doesn’t matter. I’ve always thought it was hilarious that there are actually people who are so divorced from reality they thought it possible that the State Department would not approve any sale of arms to Saudi Arabia if they failed to donate.

      2. cocomaan

        I think they’re hyping it before release. The problem with hype is that if the end product is disappointing, the hype makes the whole thing absurd.

        And there’s the old aphorism, Don’t Believe the Hype.

        They might also be waiting for something else to happen before releasing it. Either way, I’m underwhelmed until they actually do what’s right for everyone, assuming it’s actually anything groundbreaking.

      3. Stormcrow

        “I’d like to see evidence.”

        Here’s the evidence behind the memo, or at least it purports to be the evidence. William Binney released it, though his action has been almost totally ignored.

        I’d like to see it interpreted.


        Many of portions of the 99 pages are still blacked out.

          1. Stromcrow

            Unfortunately, yes. I’m told he thinks that no one else will take his material. His integrity is not exceeded by his wisdom. But the released document stands on its own. And despite the execrable Alex Jones, Binney’s interview is astute and incisive.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              I have no problem with Binney; I believe Washington’s Blog posts him. I just don’t want any Alex Jones URLs polluting the NC comments section, thank you very much.

          2. Stromcrow

            Paul Craig Roberts may be wrong about this one. He can often be over the top. But he makes serious allegations that are not wrong beyond a reasonable doubt. He interprets the the 99-page FISA court document that Biney released but that the media ignore. He thinks it indicates that “that Russiagate was a conspiracy organized for the purpose of bringing down the elected president of the United States.”


            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              I think I know the appropriate discount for Roberts. I don’t for InfoWars (I very rarely quote from Brietbart or the Center for American Progress for that reason).

  2. Anon

    Re: emptywheel

    Her argument seems to stem that they’re old, not due to race, from reading the replies. I was actually warm to the idea of Warren running, but then the pro-war talons came out in 2016 and I just don’t know anymore.

    1. Kurt Sperry

      Warren is, as far as I can tell, a polite, centrist suburban Republican who often happens to be quite good on financial regulation and consumer rights.

    2. Lee

      Her argument seems to stem that they’re old, not due to race

      That’s a relief, now I can feel dissed on just one count instead of two.

    3. giantsquid

      While I assume no one wants Martin O’Malley to run again, he’s only 55, younger than Warren for instance. So it’s not just age.

    4. Darius

      She doesn’t give any reasons. Her respondents say Bernie is old. Shrug. So are Biden and Kerry. Bernie’s got more energy than any of the other prospects. I’d love to see more actual leftists come forward, but so far, I’m not seeing anyone.

      1. Oregoncharles

        There aren’t any left in the Democrat Party. I’m not sure where they ARE, though. Hiding, probably.

      2. Darthbobber

        Similar to why an old leftie like Corbyn was left as one of the last lefties in the commons at the point where he launched his initially quixotic seeming leadership bid. The Blair regime in london and the dlc/clintonite one in dc allowed no oxygen to those to there left from the time of their respective takeovers, so the only ones who were known at all were those who were already established before the early 90s. Who are by now of course hardly young

    5. Darthbobber

      She really makes no argument at all, but in a comment downthread she further opines that a race between Gilibrand, Harris, Booker and Warren would be awesome, possibly with Sherrod Brown tossed in as the “token white male”.

      Whatever. Basically just trolling and affecting a. certain “cleverness” for that subset of the population who find that sort of thing to be so.

      If she wants to bother with a longish post on emptywheel actually describing what she’s for these days and her take on the virtues and faults of various candidates in terms of moving in the direction she prefers, I’ll be happy to read it. But I suspect that won’t be happening.

      BTW, it seems to me that the mental ROI from reading emptywheel has dropped pretty significantly since it boarded the Moscow train. Or is this my imagination?

      1. pretzelattack

        well how do you board the moscow train without turning off your critical faculties to some extent. and by “moscow train” i mean the accusations that moscow somehow effect trump’s election, or hacked clinton’s computers.

        1. Darthbobber

          Its led to an amazingly murky and opaque writing style this past year or so. From being good at bringing clarity to murk she’s now just stirring the ink. And inferring vests from buttonholes.

          Any further deterioration and Josh Marshall will be pulling even with her in terms of rigor. Sad.

          1. BadBisco


            Deep analysis of evidence has been swapped for relentless accusations against Trump that always rely on the unwavering starting assumption that Trump “colluded”. Try to highlight this problem in comments and Bmaz will make ad hominem attacks and accuse you of being Russian.

            Also agree the clarity of her writing has declined precipitously.

    6. Brandon

      BS, if it had nothing to do with race she would have not specifically said “white men”. So I’m supposed to believe she meant age when she said it but didn’t mean race when she said it?

    7. giantsquid

      Personally, I’d like to see Tulsi Gabbard run. I know she’s relatively young, and depending on who else runs, I’m not sure I’d vote for her, but I’d like for her to have a more prominent platform from which to speak her mind on foreign policy issues.

    8. HideNwatch

      Imagine a tweet titled “List of non-whites and non-men I don’t want to see run in 2020”

      That would be pretty offensive now wouldn’t it…

      1. JohnnyGL

        New, more specific litmus test for my support in 2020….

        Imagine it’s May of 2021.

        Medicare for All is heavily discussed in the halls of Congress and in the media as it was a big campaign promise for the new Dem prez. The whip count is getting close to passing, Repubs are forcing a 60 vote filibuster and Dems don’t quite have the votes. There are a couple of important hold outs, including Susan Collins of ME and Doug Jones of AL.

        Which possible Dem Prez flies out to Portland and Birmingham in front of a crowd of 10K+ and says, “call your senator and tell them to vote yes on Medicare for All, because everyone deserves good health care and they need it right now!!!”

        I honestly can’t envision ANY other candidate doing this besides Bernie Sanders, even Elizabeth Warren. I just don’t trust her to do the political arm-twisting and public shaming needed to get good legislation through.

        I’d love Warren as Treasury Sec. though. :) that’d be fun. :)

  3. Philip Ebersole

    Under 2016 Post Mortem, the quote from the Nation should be:

    “By comparison, 20 percent of Clinton’s voters were black and 3 percent were black and under 30.

  4. Ed

    The idea of standing behind national security to prevent or delay release is preposterous in a case that smells like a very gross abuse of governmental powers of surveillance against the internal electoral processes and participants. Politicians from both sides should step back and ensure that this entire thing is aired properly so that the chips, fallout and consequences fall where they should. Otherwise, they should be held accountable. But wait for the next diversion. Forces are pushing us into confrontation. conflict, costly wars, corruption and the slow degradation of the republic we were once given.


  5. allan

    Trucking: “difficulty attracting drivers may hamper their ability to add capacity”

    Offer. Higher. Wages.

    It’s (almost) funny when the WSJ chooses to invoke the law of supply and demand and when it doesn’t.

  6. Wukchumni

    “The U.S. Can No Longer Hide From Its Deep Poverty Problem” [Angus Deaton, New York Times]. “According to the World Bank, 769 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2013; they are the world’s very poorest. Of these, 3.2 million live in the United States…

    A good amount of the homeless I see tend to be making that $1.90 a day collecting recyclables, but now China doesn’t want them anymore.

  7. Bruce F

    On the connection of bacteria and gut/human health: I found this video, by Dr. Zach Bush, interesting. For those of us who are trying to make connections between seemingly disparate things, his story about soil, bacteria, human health, food (and RoundUp) was, despite a whiff of snake oil (possibly because the science is beyond me?) fascinating.


    A balance between repair and damage. Chronic inflammation is caused, in part, by a deficient gut biome. To put it another way, alienation at the cellular level.

    1. johnMinMN

      I’m 1/4 of the way through The Plant Paradox by Steven Gundry. Trained as a cardiothoracic surgeon, he has spent the last 10 years treating patients with diabetes, autoimmune and other diseases using only changes in diet (and eliminating their use of NSAIDS and other harmful drugs).

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I’m wary of individual stories. OTOH, I remember the story of the doctor (in Australia?) who drank a cocktail of Helicobacter pylori to prove, in his own body, that ulcers were caused by that organism (and not by whatever the conventional wisdom of the day was (which no doubt Big Pharma was profiting from)).

        Now, the book seems to be monocausal (targeting lectins), so that triggers my Spidey sense. OTOH, the book targets grains, which as we know from Against the Grain were instrumental in the creation of the first states, and we know that (grain) agriculture did, in fact, cause a multitude of ills…

        So that sounds like an interesting book. (Of course, we don’t always know what we’re getting with plants either, because we don’t know what they were sprayed with, or in what soil they were grown. )

        NOTE No Mercola or Natural News links, please.

    2. Croatoan

      Of course. The gut is a battle ground for balance. Too much of any single microbe and the immune system takes off trying to fight it back. Immune activation = inflammation = calcium transport into the cell = hypertension. That is why calcium channel blockers help lower high blood pressure.

      But it is not the only source of inflammation. Seeing the microbiome as the holy grail of all illness in simple minded.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Seeing the microbiome as the holy grail of all illness in simple minded.

        No, I’d like to take a systemic view. One that necessarily includes the microbiome.

    3. JohnnyGL

      kind of interesting…not so sure about the ‘supplement’ he’s pushing. But his story might be at least partially correct.

    4. Darius

      This NYT story from January 1, says eating fiber feeds good bacteria, helping prevent colon cancer. I’m already a rabbit but it was good to see my prejudices supported. Can’t copy url from NYT app. Here’s the headline.
      Fiber Is Good for You. Now Scientists May Know Why.

    5. PlutoniumKun

      I find Ronda Patrick very interesting, she has lots on youtube and her own website. Although like most of these people she has an ‘angle’, everything she says seems to be based on pretty sound science. She emphasises micronutrients, saunas, time restricted eating and exercise.

      1. a different chris

        >emphasises micronutrients, saunas, time restricted eating and exercise.

        Not arguing with her approach, just pointing out that these are all rich people pursuits.

    6. Barbara Kurth

      Does amyone find any major flaws in the design of the study? Isn’t that how to determine null hupotheses rather than anectdotal and author driven self promotion?

  8. Kurtismayfield

    Trump backpedaling on his opposition to TPP

    The zombie trade bill never dies, it will always return. Only took Trump a year to change his mind.

    President Donald Trump said Thursday he would reconsider U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership if the agreement was much better. “If we did a substantially better deal, I would be open to TPP,” Trump told CNBC in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

    1. Darthbobber

      They just cant resist taking such Trump statements seriously. He does this on a host of issues, with the bottom line always turning out to mean that if hes given everything he wants assuming that he knows what that is he’ll be open to some undefined thing. Well yes. And so would most anybody. Its basically saying that if things were different they wouldn’t be the same. Well of course not

  9. JohnnySacks

    Well, I for one am not interested in waiting to see Doug Jones’ future voting record. He was a nothing candidate to begin with and his vote in support of McConnell’s continuation of FISA sans amendments says all there ever needs to be seen or said about him. A check box in a hip hip hooray victory column, regardless of how pathetically useless in the context of any functionality that will be.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      Granted he was the kind of Democrat who had the best chances of winning, he nevertheless was a clear Clintonite Democrat to anyone paying attention. Even the African American voters who fought to help him win did so, it would seem, mostly to keep Moore out. One was even quoted in an article I read saying it remained to be seen if Jones would do anything to compensate them for their efforts. I doubt many of them are holding their breath.

      I expect him to vote the usual GOP Lite way when his vote counts and maybe toss in a few progressive votes when it won’t matter.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        If you are a party that wanted to make sure that Medicare for All would “never, ever come to pass,” then Doug Jones is exactly the sort of candidate you would run.

  10. Hana M

    Slammed by the Revolving Door!

    Jeffrey Wertkin had a plot to bring in business and impress his new partners after joining one of Washington’s most influential law firms.

    As a former high-stakes corporate-fraud prosecutor with the Department of Justice, he had secretly stockpiled sealed lawsuits brought by whistleblowers. Now, he would sell copies of the suits to the very targets of the pending government investigations — and his services to defend them.

    Wertkin carried out his plan for months, right up until the day an FBI agent arrested him in a California hotel lobby.

    I so rarely even look at the Washington Post these days that I almost missed this. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/ex-justice-dept-lawyer-peddled-secret-us-whistleblower-suits-to-try-to-impress-his-bosses-with-new-clients/2018/01/24/49b7d934-e414-11e7-a65d-1ac0fd7f097e_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_no-name%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.d2a2300cefb2

    1. audrey jr

      Thank you, Hana M. Most interesting story. What a crying shame that this may deter any future whistleblowers from coming forward with tales of corporate/company graft.

    2. Rhondda

      Wow! That’s a helluva story. Loved the detail of the wig and moustache. And he planned it for— 6 years? I am sure no one at his prospective employer knew a thing about it! /s

      I googled Akin Gump. Yikes! Another bigtime Democrat law firm found holding flaming sh•t in a bag.

      Spotted this amongst a host of “we’re all about the ethics” BS when I searched.

      Akin Gump lawyers thrive on making a genuine difference for their clients. We’ve built a reputation for leading-edge counsel in industries and practices across the global marketplace, bringing a singular blend of legal, business and political acumen to each and every matter. Not only that, our lawyers are truly good people …

      Oh, oh, my sides!

      Like you, I never burn my eyes with WAPO so thanks for posting it.

      1. Hana M

        I cracked up over the wig and mustache, as well. You really have to wonder about this guy’s sanity. All these revolving door dudes make out like bandits without technically being bandits, so why would he risk such capers? The thrill of it all?

  11. Wukchumni

    In a huge misunderstanding, a big American city offered $5 Billion to lure Amazon, and instead ended up attracting a tribe from the river region, lured by all that money to give up their native lifestyle and forswear using bow & arrows to hunt game.

    Undaunted, tribal members discussed among themselves the prospect of potentially being employed as box fillers, instead.

    1. fresno dan

      January 25, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      I would not be so sanguine – they may get out the blow guns and wreck cannibal vengeance.
      I’d link to Cannibal Holocaust but family blog, etcetera….

  12. Ed

    There are videos out there that discuss this same point (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwofXDhGloQ ) but an important point to understand is that the DOJ and the FBI were employing people who, the day after the inauguration, were talking about impeaching Trump.


    “I have not seen the memo,” Warner said, according to CNN. “But I think it is sloppy, careless, and again, I think has no grounding in fact.”


    Keep in mind that a great deal of _______ [incompetence? purposeful corruption?] is involved.

    “… This week, Republicans were newly infuriated by the revelation that the FBI “failed to preserve” texts between Strzok and Page that were sent between December Dec. 14, 2016, to May 17, 2017 — the day Mueller was tapped to lead the special counsel investigation into Russia’s election meddling.

    The FBI insists that there was nothing nefarious about the lost messages — that the data was not retained because of “misconfiguration issues” related to software upgrades on the bureau’s phone devices. Reports emerged Wednesday that a large number of FBI employees lost messages around the same time due to a glitch…..”


    When Rosemary Woods mis-configured things at the White House


    And don’t forget the Awan brother’s saga.

  13. dcblogger

    Foreign Policy magazine seems to be channeling its inner Francois Guizot “fine, everything is fine.” the fact that they even publish an article maintaining that we are not headed into a crisis shows how serious it is. As someone old enough to remember 1968, this times feels different, much more serious.

    1. Oregoncharles

      I remember it, too, and in terms of the politics, I think it’s nothing like. By chance, just last night I attended a forum on 1968 and its current manifestations, at the university.

      One of the students, having checked out footage of the era, asked where all that passion came from? He sure doesn’t see it around him – leading to lengthy speculation on the reasons. In 1968, people were fighting the police and bombs were going off. Two differences stand out: students now are deep in debt and very worried about their futures, hence controllable. And then there was the Vietnam War and the draft, which propelled most of the resistance in ’68. We’re in plenty of wars, but very few bodies coming back and no draft to make the population feel it.

      However, there was a near-consensus that we’re sliding into a collapse. 1968 was the end of the golden age, destroyed in large part by the Vietnam War. Now the real crisis is environmental; not just climate change, essentially everything is running out very quickly. Just as ” Limits to Growth” predicted, within their time frame.

      Since real revolutions mostly happen when “the scepter is rolling in the gutter” – that is, when the old regime disintegrates – it’s a more realistic prospect now than then, even though there’s so far little real culture of resistance.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > where all that passion came from

        Probably the draft.

        Today, people are conscripted by creditors, as opposed to (if that’s the phrase I want) the military.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      As a response to the events of that time, the elites could come up with the Powell Memo and buy into neoliberalism. I don’t know if our elites have the capability to take decisions like that these days.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      One good source for info on progressive candidates is the Down With Tyranny blog. Howie Klein, one of the contributors, has swallowed the Russiagate narrative without reservation, but their Blue America fundraising group vets alleged progressive candidates to determine whether to offer support. I was a bit irked when they refused to do so with Paula Swearingen, the woman running against Manchin in WVa, and so their ongoing refusal to pay her any attention.

      But I digress. Klein also despises Pelosi so it’s likely he’ll be writing about Jaffe if Jaffe passes the progressive smell test.

  14. dk

    “Let’s Wait and See about the FBI ‘Conspiracy’” [Jonah Goldberg, National Review].

    An interesting twitter thread review of the Strzok – Page messages by Matt Tait, from earlier this year:

    Finally bothered to actually go through the Strzok – Page text messages (to cross-reference with dates). But an observation: they are … not remotely as sold by the media.


  15. Lee

    “Gut microbiota dysbiosis contributes to the development of hypertension” [Microbiome]….
    I’m intrigued by gut bacteria as one of many embodiment feedback loops. So I wonder what readers think of this study.

    Another chink in the notional wall of the unitary self. I think time is long past for the winners of grand awards to add their gut biome to the list of those to whom they owe thanks for their success.

  16. Tom

    @plant water cooler. My god. It looks like an oyster mushroom. The best of the best of the best. My mouth waters just to look at it. But please be careful. I said looks like it. Maybe I am wrong and maybe it is poisonous. Hard to say from just one side. And also I only know European mushrooms. Still if I wish I was walking my dog in Oregon. If I am right it would be the most delicious dinner

      1. Yves Smith

        Don’t be so sure. We had a lot of trees taken down in a storm in a nearby sort of park (I say “sort of” since it was owned by a hospital that had moved and was neglecting it, they finally gave away the property)

        The ONLY time I regretted not having a smartphone to take pix was when a fallen down tree in a remarkably short period of time (less than a week) had ENORMOUS mushrooms growing on it that were fluorescent green and intense purple. I have never seen those colors in the wild, ever. No way could eating those mushrooms have been a good idea.

    1. marku52

      Thanks, i had no idea what it was but, boy, it grew up out of nowhere fast, if that helps the typing.

        1. Rhondda

          Edible, but not very tasty, imo. But I wonder if they taste differently depending on what kind of wood they’re growing on…ours were growing on maple.

  17. Paul Cardan

    Three thoughts on “Is Economic Insecurity Behind the Specter of Populism?”

    (1) Who says ‘populism’? According to the authors, fascism and socialism represent two versions of the same thing: so-called populism. From whose perspective are fascism and socialism the same?

    (2) The authors claim to have identified causes of intentional actions of voting, and, in view of their purported evidence, they clearly mean by ’cause’ an event of some one kind such that events of this kind are usually followed in time by events of some other kind. This is a category mistake. Intentional actions, like voting, have reasons (e.g., beliefs, desires, hopes, dreams, wishes, regrets, wants, needs, expectations), not causes. Here, for example, is a formally correct explanation for why someone voted Green: “Because I expected to be unable to live with myself had I voted for the Democrat, and I’m just not the kind of person who even considers voting Republican.” The fact that increased economic insecurity correlates with changes in voting patterns is, at best, a clue to a good answer to the question of why those individuals decided to vote as they did, and any good answer will tell us something about what those people were thinking about their circumstances. So, maybe the researchers should just ask them, the voters, what they were thinking.

    (3) The authors recommend counter-cyclical state spending as a means of reducing unemployment for the following reason:

    Our results give a rationale for countercyclical macroeconomic policies, preventing rising unemployment and attenuating its impact. Even a temporary increase in unemployment may result in political fallout, which in turn would give rise to anti-market policies undermining long-term growth.

    Rising unemployment is a bad thing, because it impedes growth.

    1. hemeantwell

      Intentional actions, like voting, have reasons (e.g., beliefs, desires, hopes, dreams, wishes, regrets, wants, needs, expectations), not causes.

      This is true by definition, but where the difficulty starts is that the reasons people give for their behavior may not account for contextual factors that can be identified objectively.

      E.g. the capitalist ideological project is all about declaring the various downsides of its functioning to be unrelated to capitalism, and it’s still pretty successful. This sets the stage for what might otherwise be reasons to instead transpire as causes.

  18. Wyoming

    “Chelsea Manning’s Anarchist Campaign”

    I had to go read the link and then I made the mistake of reading the comments.

    A good 50% of the comments were totally wrapped up in the fact that the article referred to Manning as a ‘she’. Rivets were blowing out of the superstructure all over the place. LOL

    I could not help myself and must admit I spilled some gasoline before I left.

  19. fresno dan

    So today was my monthly medicare training – today a Webinar by CMS (Centers for medicare & medicaid services – I guess they can only afford one “M”)

    So it was about Medicare enrollment periods – most of much I kinda know but I don’t keep all the specific dates and specific time frames in my head – IEP (initial enrollment period) OEP (yearly open enrollment period) GEP (medicare general enrollment period) and of course the SEP (special enrollment period). And of course, it would just be silly to go on about distinguishing between the disability enrollment periods of ESRD (end stage renal disease) versus ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

    But one thing I did learn that was new to me is kinda interesting and useful – a “get out of jail free card” for people who did not sign up in the IEP or let their medicare lapse and be able to reinstate it without regard to enrollment time frames. The Special Enrollment Period has a clause that to switching to a 5 star Medicare Advantage plan can be done, for example, any time from December 8 until November 30 of the next year (i.e., 12/8/2017 till 11/30/2018 – and now the current period for 5 star switching would be from Dec 8 2017 to Nov 30 2018).

    Now you may say, “But Fresno, I don’t want to be stuck in one of those network Medicare Advantage (HMO) type of plans!” And you don’t have to be for too long – you can switch back to “original” medicare (Part A and B) if you want during the yearly or general enrollment periods. Or another Medicare advantage plan, but I have to look that up if it is just the general enrollment period….remember, its useful if health insurance is lost due to payment lapses or failure to enroll within time limits.
    Here in Fresno we only have one 5 star plan – Kaiser. But where there are more than one 5 star plans, you can switch from one to another, thereby making your ability to re institute or change coverage defacto year round.

    Next week: special medicare enrollments due to hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (or have moved from that area or have people who depend upon them in other others) and fires in California and some other extenuating circumstances.

    1. grayslady

      Don’t forget that people who receive Special Help for Medicare Part D can switch Part D plans anytime they want.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Sigh. So I can spend a ton of money for something civilized nations don’t bill me for, personally, NHS being free at the point of care.

      But thanks for doing this, and for reporting it. I’m sure you’ve made some personal situations better.

    3. Chris

      Signup for Australia’s Medicare system is much less fun.

      Citizens pay a percentage of income alongside their PAYG (pay as you go) income tax, and are enrolled by default.

      Public hospitals (run by state governments) don’t charge citizens for the care they provide (although most foreigners get billed).

      Kind of like single payer, but without the overhead of enriching the executives and shareholders of insurance firms…

  20. Elizabeth

    I live in SF, and found out about his running for Pelosi’s seat through a link on NC. At least to me, he’s received no publicity. I don’t know if he’s had any campaign events – if so, they’ve gotten very little attention. Pelosi is queen here and sucks all the oxygen out of everything. I did sign onto his website, but haven’t had any communications from him. He needs to rev up his campaign so he can become more visible here. Of course, the PTB here probably won’t allow that.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      You’ll find that’s the case for all the progressives running for office. Clearly, the media believe their Bernie Sanders programming model is highly effective and are applying it with great effect. Most of the time, the only way you learn one is running is by accident.

      Keep in mind, though, that all of the real ones are running without big money, and most if not all have also rejected the DNC/DCCC/DSCC extortion that demands they fork over a big chunk of their funds to pay for consultants designated by same. So, they rely on grassroots efforts and the occasional email for communication.

      That includes social media, which is of course roundly rejected by many here. Nevertheless, that’s where I get much of my information about what they’re up to, especially Facebook.

  21. Wukchumni

    When 247 million cubic feet of snow and ice collapsed off a glacier in the dry, mountainous region of western Tibet in 2016, the roiling mass took with it nine human lives and hundreds of animals, spreading more than five miles in three minutes at speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour. The event surprised scientists, who had seen a collapse that big and that fast only once before.

    And then it happened again, three months later, on a neighboring glacier, though without fatalities. Glaciologists hadn’t quite believed that glaciers could behave this way, and suddenly they had witnessed two similar collapses in a year.

    An analysis of the events, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, found that climate change was the culprit in both collapses. The study suggests that in addition to the known risks posed by a warming climate, such as sea level rise, we may also be in line for some cataclysmic surprises.


  22. the abjectionist

    this article ‘The U.S. Can No Longer Hide From Its Deep Poverty Problem’ is no doubt important but it elides ‘the merely poor’…the 50% who make 30k or less in the US. it’s a shame it didnt discuss their plight as well…

  23. Wukchumni

    “[I]mportantly supply moved into the market, up 3.9 percent at 295,000 units…. [T]he bottom line is upward sales momentum, incoming supply and room for prices to move higher. Residential investment has been dragging down GDP in recent quarters but today’s report points to a solid contribution for tomorrow’s fourth-quarter report.” But: “This was well below expectations of 683,000 sales SAAR, and the previous months combined were revised down significantly” [Calculated Risk].

    2, 4, 6, 8
    Housing bubble #2 cheerleader
    Always finds something to celebrate!

    Go team

  24. Ed

    “… If Clinton had been charged, Obama’s culpable involvement would have been patent. In any prosecution of Clinton, the Clinton–Obama emails would have been in the spotlight. For the prosecution, they would be more proof of willful (or, if you prefer, grossly negligent) mishandling of intelligence. More significantly, for Clinton’s defense, they would show that Obama was complicit in Clinton’s conduct yet faced no criminal charges. That is why such an indictment of Hillary Clinton was never going to happen. The latest jaw-dropping disclosures of text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and his paramour, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, illustrate this point.

    … All cleaned up: no indictment, meaning no prosecution, meaning no disclosure of Clinton–Obama emails. It all worked like a charm . . . except the part where Mrs. Clinton wins the presidency and the problem is never spoken of again.”


    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I assumed it to be ‘If Clinton had been charged by the Obama Justice Dept.’ and not ‘if Clinton had been charged by the Trump Justice Dept.’

      In that case, it is still likely that the Trump Justice Dept will do nothing.

      More likely, the insiders work things out, if there indeed are things to be worked out.

      Perhaps the most we get is another Warren Commission and a magic explanation.

  25. The Rev Kev

    “Fleets are adding trucks as fast as they can, but difficulty attracting drivers may hamper their ability to add capacity.”

    Now I don’t have a degree in commercial logistics here but do you think that any young guy thinking of taking up truck driving for a living might have been given pause for thought by the declared intent of Silicon Valley to wipe out all truck drivers and replace them with self-driving trucks? From what I have read from commentators who are in the know here, it is a pretty thankless job at the best of times but it did guarantee a job and pay down the track. Now? What sort of future can it promise the next generation of truck drivers? Obsolescence and poverty?

    1. HideNwatch

      Which “career” for a young man in 2018 without a six-figure sheepskin does not lead to obsolescence and poverty?

      Asking for a few million friends.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Maybe security guards for the rich and wealthy? I don’t think that the rich would consider skimping on their salaries would be a good idea. Wealthy people would only make that mistake once. :0

  26. ewmayer

    o Re. Susan Glasser’s New Yorker piece, note the clever bit of misdirection: “By that standard, the last genuinely weighty bipartisan deals in Washington were arguably the bailout of the economy in the midst of the 2008 economic crisis and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.” ISTR the bailout was not of “the economy” but rather of the crooked bank cartels whose fraud and greed precipitated the crisis. Unsurprised to see an NYC elitist journo-hack conflating the two, though.

    o “America Is Nowhere Near a Constitutional Crisis” [Foreign Policy] — Well, duh, that would require having a Constitution which is something other than a dead letter. Similar with “crisis of democracy” — to the DC bipartisan establishment what that phrase really means is a crisis in form of the threat of something actually resembling a functioning democracy erupting – the very reason Bernie Sanders had to be kneecapped in the 2016 primaries.

  27. Ed Miller

    The Atlantic: The American Health-Care System Increases Income Inequality


    Not that anyone here is surprised. A quote from the middle of the article:

    “A new study in the forthcoming March issue of the American Journal of Public Health sheds light on just how all that “skin in the game” affects the material conditions of patients. The research—by Andrea Christopher at the Boise Veterans Affairs Medical Center, David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler at the City University of New York at Hunter College, and Danny McCormick at Harvard Medical School—indicates that household spending on health care is a significant contributor to income inequality in the United States. It also indicates that medical expenses push millions of Americans below the federal poverty line, including 7 million people who make more than 150 percent of the poverty level. Four million of those Americans are pushed into the ranks of extreme poverty.”

  28. curlydan

    If Facebook didn’t own Instagram, they’d likely be [bleep]-ing a brick right now. The kids don’t do FB. FB’s user growth will stall, and there only choice will be to (further) monetize the enterprise and annoy the hell out of anyone who uses it.

    Or they need to do a FB offshoot that doesn’t keep every stinking thing in perpetuity.

    Either way, FB is getting old.

    1. ArcadiaMommy

      The kids have “finstagram” pages (or whatever the hell they are called), which are fake Instagram profiles to fool their parents. That tells me that Instagram is on the way out too.

  29. Darthbobber

    Totally unrelated. Are there any readers hereabouts of the writings of Wallerstein or Arrighi? Anybody up to discussing Arrighi’s the Long 20th century in particular?

    1. Wukchumni

      “Anybody up to discussing Arrighi’s the Long 20th century in particular?”

      It’s sitting in a bookcase up @ our cabin, and I haven’t read it yet, sadly.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I have read Arrighi’s The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times; it’s very good. I’ve read Wallerstein on world systems… But I’m not sure why they are especially relevant? IIRC, the “center of gravity” of capital went from Italy to Holland to the UK to the US, but seems to have stalled on its way East? And stalled at the point of M-C’?

      1. Darthbobber

        I’m struck presently by the fairly prolonged periods of financialization that seem to have characterized the transitions. Also by what seems presently a big divergence between the state-making and expansion generating tracks.

        And by a fairly long discussion somehow missed at first reading which attributes part of the Impetus to financialization as being recognition on the part of the “productive” capitalists that they can maintain adequate (to them) profitability in their existing lines to only on the condition that further profits NOT be plowed back into the business.

        How long those transitions to actually are can be missed. The British position was deteriorating for probably three quarters of a century before the rather extreme reset of world war part 2 finished what turned out to be the transition to the largely American rather short era.

        Oddly, due to Xmas gifts, what I was reading just before Arrighi was Hobsbawm’s Age of Extremes, a frequently brilliant work with a few weaknesses covering the “short” 1914-1991 20th century.

        1. JTFaraday

          Well, think about it. Their product lines eventually meet diminishing returns so they seek investment income as if they were in (semi)retirement. This strategy might okay if they could overcome the quick fix and only use it as a temporary crutch. Right now we see this not happening as everyone seeks to make money off money as if this were the whole purpose of being in business, leading to an osteoporotic real economy.

          Similarly, it was clear to me by 2000 that the US wasn’t going to be a young, fast growing economy any more and that Americans had to accept that the best outcome would be to become more like a true European welfare state, trading in some haphazard cheesy growth for more security. But the plantation overseer mentality runs wide and deep, so.

  30. Rhondda

    People I don’t listen to anymore:

    State Department
    Marcy Wheeler

    Anyone I’m missing?

  31. Wukchumni

    It’s interesting with the dollar down so much, normally that would be a catalyst for foreigners to vacation in the USA, but something has chased them away.

    1. marku52

      The fact that we are overrun with crazy people with guns, If you get sick our health care sucks, and that our customs people are aching to send you to Guantanamo, well, *I* wouldn’t come here.

      I remember probably 10 years ago, the pregnant wife of an Italian Amerca’s Cup Sailor based here was terrified that she would give birth here.

      Seems “rational”.

      1. Chris

        …we are overrun with crazy people with guns…

        …many of them not employed in a law enforcement capacity.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I’m curious.

      Of undocumented foreigners here, it is said, most are overstaying their visas.

      What kind? Which visa is responsible for most of that?

      Those here on tourist visa?

  32. Wukchumni

    We shall go on to the end, we shall loan in Finance, we shall loan on the seized assets, we shall loan with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island of fiscal insanity, whatever the cost may be, we shall loan on beach homes, we shall loan on the shakiest grounds, we shall loan in all fields of Wall Street, we shall loan in the trillions; we shall never surrender our consumerism.

  33. RMO

    “Under NAFTA, citizens of the United States, Mexico and Canada may apply to work in any of the three countries”

    Is the significant part of that the “may apply”? I ask because I have two friends who have moved to the U.S. from Canada when they married and neither of them have been granted permission to work despite finding (mediocre, low paying) jobs.

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      Was very interested in that assertion as well. Any reader with experience in this regard? US to Canada?

    1. ebbflows

      There is a history that has to be reconciled WRT CC, making loose affiliations due to monetary preferences established on deductive ruminations is not a rigorous methodology.

      Old Frontline has the information to reconcile actual histrionics in this field, avail yourself.

  34. George Phillies

    For some reason I cannot see the source for the paragraph opening

    “Overall, [the data we have since Trump’s election, which includes 176 regular and special elections] show that Republican candidates have run an average of 2.6 points behind Trump’s share of the two-party vote since the president won office, with a median difference of just 0.8 points.”

    Would someone please repeat it here?

  35. bob


    Some great lines in there-

    “He has also taught American government for 27 years, but all of that had not prepared him for the conversation he was about to have with Molly Ritner, the midwest political director for the DCCC, at a hotel bar in Minneapolis called Jacques.”

    First as farce, then as tragedy

    “Ritner had been Midwest fundraising director at the DCCC in 2013 and 2014, before taking a break to run the campaign of the Democrat who lost the Vermont governor’s race to a Republican in 2016.”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      This is a gem:

      Jeff Erdmann thinks he knows why Craig lost. He was a volunteer for her in 2016, phone banking and going door to door… Later, he said, he was phone banking and asked a supervisor what message he should tailor to the rural part of the district, since the script seemed aimed at city dwellers. “Just tell them the trailer-court story, they’re not big thinkers out there,” he said he was told, referring to Craig’s childhood in a trailer home.

      And we wonder why liberal Democrats don’t do well in rural areas. And the conclusion of Erdman’s meeting with Rittner:

      Erdmann estimated the meeting lasted eight minutes. “She ordered a pop, got it, drank it, threw the number out that we had to hit, and left,” he said. On her way out, Ritner put $2 on the table. The check came to $2.26, before the tip. “I looked at Mike and said, ‘That is why the Democrats lose,’” concluded Erdmann.

      What a cheapjack chiseller.

      I reiterate the dream I had too late, that Sanders supporters should have occupied the DNC offices after Perez purged them from the Rules and Bylaws Committee. Gawd knows what they would have found in the desk drawers.

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        Gawd knows what they would have found in the desk drawers.

        Prolly one of Gwyneth’s Goop Cleanse kits.

  36. Darthbobber

    Bloomberg on tpp. I think they overstate the counterweight to china angle. China is, for example, already Japan’s largest trading partner, accounting for over a fifth of imports and just under a fifth of exports. This is even more true of many of the other 10 tpp partners. Their total volume of chinese trade may well exceed total intra-tpp trade. And the tpp members involved in rcep negotiations seem inclined to continue that pursuit. The biggest rcep stumbling block seems to be India at the moment.

    The size of the chinese market and the historically low actual trade barriers already existing under asean+ 6 and bilateral arrangements minimize the purely economic impact of both tpp11 and the potential rcep.

  37. XXYY

    “Gut microbiota dysbiosis contributes to the development of hypertension”

    I am not an expert in this, but have done a fair amount of reading. It seems rather clear that the population of microorganisms in the gut has a profound effect on the overall health of the (human or other) organism. Dysfunctions here can show up in surprising and unpredictable ways, as here. Antibiotics, in particular, tend to devastate this population, which can be slow to recover.

    It’s a challenging thesis for both western medicine and western thinking; we find it uncomfortable to think of our bodies as being massively colonized by other organisms, perhaps with their own agenda, yet whom we depend on for our own existence. We prefer to think we are “in control” or in some sense “own” the stuff inside our skins. I suppose elites have the same uneasy relationship with the rest of the population of “their” countries. Best not to think about it!

    The good news is that it’s rather easy to restore and maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, once we are convinced of the need.

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