2:00PM Water Cooler 1/26/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“With news that the clumsily-named “Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership” (CPTPP) has been ‘concluded’, it now seems that the exclusion of both copyright and pharma patent extensions is confirmed” [Tech Dirt]. “[T]he CPTPP signals a hopeful shift away from the usual intellectual monopoly maximalism. The omission of copyright and patents from the new deal is a significant defeat for the US, which has been the main driving force behind their routine inclusion.”

“[The Administration’s withdrawal from TPP] sets up a perfect natural experiment about American influence in the world. And, at least as far as this one trade deal is concerned, the results are clear: Even in the absence of U.S. leadership, the world’s democracies will continue to trade and make rules for dealing with one another, but without some of the worst excesses of America’s corporate-influenced foreign policy” [The Atlantic]. “A controversial arrangement whereby companies can sue countries over their domestic laws, known as the investor-state dispute settlement system, remains in a reduced fashion. Labor and environmental protections are largely unchanged. The EFF’s Malcolm pointed to e-commerce provisions that provide only weak privacy protections, among other issues, as still being problematic. But overall, the new deal is so similar to the original that Canadian labor unions are furious that their government is still advancing it.”

“The United States Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported this week that United States trade with its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners, Canada and Mexico, was up annually in November, the most recent month for which data is available” [Logistics Management]

“If ending NAFTA hurts farmers in America’s Corn Belt, who voted overwhelmingly for Trump, there goes the Republican’s reelection” [US News]. The entire article ignores the destruction wrought on Mexico’s agricultural sector (especially all the varieties of corn).



“Joe Kennedy to give Democrats’ response to Trump’s State of the Union” [CNN]. “Kennedy, 37, is seen as a rising star in a party that has many in the senior ranks well into their 70s.”

I guess the Oprah thing didn’t work out:

Do read the responses. But not if your diabetes is acting up.

Grifters gotta grift:

Follow the money:

And via Open Secrets:

Bain Capital? Hi, Mitt! Hi, Deval! [waves]

“Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo used the private plane of Barry Rosenstein, the billionaire hedge fund manager, to attend the Sundance Film Festival screening of a documentary by his girlfriend, Sandra Lee, his office said on Thursday” [New York Times]. Classy!


“One month ago Democrats held a whopping 13-point margin over Republicans in the generic ballot. Today, their lead in the RealClearPolitics Average has shrunk by nearly 40 percent, and now stands at 7.9 points. That’s still healthy, of course, and most analysts believe it keeps them within range of taking back the House of Representatives” [RealClearPolitics]. “However, it appears the Republican tax cut passed at the end of last year has blunted talk of a Democratic ‘blue wave’ – at least for the time being. After all, the gap between now and November is practically an eon in political terms.” Yes, ten months is a long time in politics.

“The Numbers to Watch Ahead of November” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “Trump’s job-approval ratings remain the worst of any elected president entering the second year in office, at least in the 70 years of modern polling. It’s the intensity of the disapproval that should be so worrisome to Republicans… The veteran pollsters who conduct the NBC/WSJ survey, Democrat Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff, periodically put in their national poll a question on the role of government… In their latest poll, 58 percent sided with the “government should do more” position, the highest share in the 27 times the question has been asked since 1995, while 38 percent chose “government is doing too many things,” the lowest in the series…. This wide divergence [in generic polls] is important: If the ones at the lower end of this spectrum end up being right, Republicans would likely hold onto their majority by the skin of their teeth, while those on the higher end suggest a slam-dunk win by Democrats. This number is something to watch closely over the next few months for clues of where this election is headed.”

“What to Make of All These New and Often Conflicting Generic Ballot Polls?” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “If you are confused about what to make of the latest slew of polling data about control of Congress in 2018, you are not alone. On the so-called generic ballot question which asks voters if they’d support a Democrat or Republican for Congress in 2018, Democrats have either lost ground or retained their double-digit lead…. Among so-called ‘soft’ Republicans — those Republicans who are not as closely aligned or identified with the party, Republicans made significant gains in both the CNN and Marist polls (7 points in CNN and 6 in the Marist poll); a sign that the GOP base is ‘coming home.’ That is likely due to the passage of the tax bill, a lack of GOP infighting and/or just the fact that Trump himself was pretty quiet over the holidays. The NBC and Marist poll found a drop off in support for the Democratic candidate among ‘soft Democrats’ — a sign, perhaps, that with Trump off the front burner, they are not quite as reflexively anti-GOP as when Trump is front and center. If this pattern feels familiar — Republicans flee when Trump is under fire, but return to the fold when the news is about anything other than Trump – that’s because it is. We saw this pattern play out time and again in 2016.” Yes. See the 2016 polling summarized here.

* * *

Iowa: “Incumbent two-term Republican David Young will run on the Republican ticket. The Democratic field has seven candidates vying for the nomination, including: Pete D’Alessandro (political consultant and former top aide to Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in Iowa), Cindy Axne (former division director with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources), Austin Frerick (former U.S. Treasury Department economist), Theresa Greenfield (president of family-owned real estate business), Paul Knupp, Eddie Mauro, and Heather Ryan” [Inside Sources].

Minnesota: “Letter: Why I’m running for Congress” [Jeff Erdmann, Prior Lake American]. (Readers will recall Erdmann’s run-in with the DNC in this horrific article at the Intercept.) “Healthcare is a human right. I’m the only candidate pushing for a single-payer, Medicare for all system. This is the most cost-effective solution to cover everyone and would give Americans a choice beyond for-profit insurance companies. I’m running for families drowning in medical debt and people who can’t afford prescriptions, not big pharma. I’ll stand with nurses and labor, not finance…. I’m the only Democrat who can make a progressive case against Jason Lewis and political corruption. CD-2 shouldn’t have to choose again between the same two multi-millionaires backed by special interests and the political establishment.”

Minnesota: “Ellison exploring Minnesota AG run” [Politico]. “First elected to Congress in 2006, Ellison has grown listless and bored in the House… Ellison has also told friends about chafing at being the number two at the DNC, occasionally clashing with Tom Perez, who beat him for the top spot before appointing him to his current position. More often he expresses frustration at not being able to set the direction for the official party apparatus, according to several who’ve spoken to him.” Excellent! The Democrat establishment has blocked the political career of a Sanders supporter at the national level!

Obama Legacy

“The Deportation Machine Obama Built for President Trump” [The Nation]. “Before the end of his first term in office, the Obama administration had taken a small program developed in George W. Bush’s last days that aimed to turn local police into “force multipliers” and expanded it by about 3,600 percent. The Secure Communities program that DHS Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson described as causing “hostility to enforcement of immigration laws” existed in only 14 counties under Bush, but by the end of 2009 it spread to 88 counties. By 2013, it was active in all 3,181 US jurisdictions. It was eventually scrapped in 2014 and replaced with a rebranded Priority Enforcement Program. As record numbers of people were being deported, an increasing number were also charged and channeled into federal prison before their expulsion.” To be fair, Obama is very articulate, and has a charming wife and lovely childen.

2016 Post Mortem

“Deep in Clinton country, voters stand by their candidate” [Philip Bump, WaPo]. “The pilings of long-gone piers still jut out of the murky Hudson River in New York County, N.Y., reminders of a shipping industry that’s all-but-vanished from the region. There’s almost no manufacturing left in the towering buildings at the southern end of the county where it once thrived.” Ha! “The pilings of long-gone piers still jut out of the murky Hudson River in New York County, N.Y., reminders of a shipping industry that’s all-but-vanished from the region. There’s almost no manufacturing left in the towering buildings at the southern end of the county where it once thrived.”

Government Shutdown

“Democrats Officially Lost the Shutdown Fight” [New York Magazine]. “The simple truth is that Democrats brought their shutdown to an abrupt end because they realized they couldn’t win it. Ten members of Chuck Schumer’s caucus are running for reelection this November in states Trump won; two others represent Virginia, where the lion’s share of furloughed federal workers live. Unless their shutdown immediately won overwhelming popular support — or Republican contrition — Senate Democrats simply weren’t prepared to stand their ground.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Intersectionality is a Hole. Afro-Pessimism is a Shovel. We Need to Stop Digging” [Black Agenda Report]. Holy moley, Bruce Dixon isn’t messing around! This:

In the worlds of politics and nonprofits intersectionality has become a sneaky substitute for the traditional left notion of solidarity developed in the process of ongoing collective struggle against the class enemy. Intersectionality doesn’t deny the existence of class struggle, it just rhetorically demotes it to something co-equal with the fights against ableism and ageism and speciesism, against white supremacy, against gender oppression, and a long elastic list of others. What’s sneaky about the substitution of intersectionality for solidarity is that intersectionality allows the unexamined smuggling in of multiple notions which directly undermine the development and the operation of solidarity. Intersectionality means everybody is obligated to put their own special interest, their own oppression first – although they don’t always say that because the contradiction would be too obvious. The applicable terms of art are that everybody gets to “center” their own oppression, and cooperate as “allies” if and when their interests “intersect.”

I have always seen intersectionality (as opposed to identity politics) as a means of finding common ground (“both/and”); as a communications method. And since the sale of labor power is the most intersectional thing there is, I felt that it could not help but lead to solidarity. But if that’s not how it works out on the ground, forget about it. A must-read from Dixon.

“In December, Keith Ellison, the co-chairman of the Democratic National Committee, introduced new legislation, the 21st Century Competition Commission Act, to address corporate monopoly power and its anti-competitive effects. Several state Democratic congressional candidates (Austin Frerick in Iowa, Lillian Salerno in Texas) are running on anti-Big Tech tickets, as are Republicans such as Josh Hawley, a US Senate candidate who, as Missouri’s attorney-general, launched an antitrust investigation into Google. Politicians such as Democrat Elizabeth Warren are ramping up the rhetoric on this topic, too” [Financial Times]. “No wonder. Last year, when the polling company Gallup asked respondents if they were satisfied with the ‘size and influence of major corporations’, 58 per cent said no.”

“Democrats Paid a Huge Price for Letting Unions Die” [New York Magazine]. “In a new study that will soon be released as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, James Feigenbaum of Boston University, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez of Columbia, and Vanessa Williamson of the Brookings Institution examined the long-term political consequences of anti-union legislation by comparing counties straddling a state line where one state is right-to-work and another is not. Their findings should strike terror into the hearts of Democratic Party strategists: Right-to-work laws decreased Democratic presidential vote share by 3.5 percent.” Assuming that Democratic strategists want to win, of course.

“Stories From Democratic Candidates: How Scott Dworkin’s Bulldog Finance Group Failed Campaigns” [Progressive Army]. A self-proclaimed leader of the resistance turns out to be a small-time grifter and a loser. I’m shocked.

Women’s March numbers (and note column for media sources):


Stats Watch

GDP, Q4 2017: “The 2.6 percent headline rate doesn’t do justice to fourth-quarter GDP where consumer spending rose a very strong 3.8 percent that reflects a 14.2 percent burst in durable spending” [Econoday]. “What pulled down fourth-quarter GDP were net exports, at an annualized deficit of $652.6 billion, and inventories which rose at a slower rate than the third quarter. Looking at final sales to domestic buyers, which excludes inventories and exports, GDP comes in at a robust 4.3 percent…. This is a standout report led by the consumer that shows the economy accelerated into year-end 2017 with strong momentum going into 2018.” And: “While the report dashed expectations for the longest streak of 3%-or-better growth since 2005, a key measure of underlying demand delivered the strongest performance since 2014” [Industry Week]. “For a better sense of underlying domestic demand, economists look at final sales to domestic purchasers, which strip out inventories and trade, the two most volatile components of GDP. Such sales grew 4.3% last quarter, the most since 2014, after a 1.9% increase.” And but: “I am not a fan of quarter-over-quarter exaggerated method of measuring GDP – but my year-over-year preferred method showed moderate acceleration from last quarter” [Econintersect]. And: “Inventories can be a tricky number to interpret. That inventories fell could mean businesses growing more pessimistic about the future and cutting back stockpiles. But current conditions give a more plausible explanation, that they sold goods and services so quickly in the fourth quarter that they didn’t adequately forecast demand ahead of time and had to sell out of their stockpiles” [MarketWatch].

Durable Goods Orders, December 2017: “Aircraft and vehicles fed a very strong 2.9 percent jump in December durable goods orders which is nearly double Econoday’s high estimate for 1.5 percent. But when excluding transportation equipment, durable orders only hit expectations with a 0.6 percent gain” [Econoday]. “And when looking at core capital goods orders (nondefense ex-aircraft) a bit of weakness appears with a 0.3 percent dip…. T]he dip in core capital goods orders does point to a slow start for first-quarter business investment.” And: “Although our analysis is less strong than the headlines, I consider this a strong report as the rolling averages significantly improved. Civilian and defence aircraft were again the main drivers this month” [Econintersect].

International Trade in Goods, December 2017: “Cross-border goods trade is very strong even if the nation’s deficit is increasing” [Econoday]. “The goods deficit for December widened to $71.6 billion though exports, totaling $137.6 billion, jumped sharply for a second month, up 2.7 percent following November’s revised 3.3 percent gain. But the rise in exports was outdone by the larger category of imports which came in at $209.2 billion for a 2.5 percent increase.”

Retail Inventories, December 2017 (Advance): “Retail inventories rose 0.2 percent in December as a 0.4 percent draw in vehicle inventories offset a 0.6 percent build in non-vehicle inventories. The draw in vehicle inventories is the fourth straight which reflects the strength of vehicle sales and is a major positive for first-quarter production and employment in the vehicle sector” [Econoday],

Wholesale Inventories, December 2017 (Advance): “Wholesale inventories rose 0.2 percent in December as a moderate 0.4 percent build for durable goods was offset by a 0.2 percent draw in nondurable goods” [Econoday]. “The limited inventory build, though a negative for GDP, is actually healthy given the strength of demand and the need to rebuild inventories which will be a positive for first-quarter production and employment.”

Banks: “In its latest quarter, Wells Fargo’s $3.3 billion legal charge was offset by a $3.4 billion tax-cut boost” [Quartz]. Handy!

Shipping: “At the height of the 2014 capacity crunch, Internet Truck Stop’s Market Demand Index (MDI) peaked at around 27. (The MDI gauges supply and demand. When it is between 7-10 the market is considered “in balance.” Above 10, the market favors the carriers). For the past four weeks, the MDI has been above 40! Add to that the stunning fact the reality that we are in January—historically one of the weakest freight months of the year!” [Logistics Management].

Shipping: “[Union Pacific] Chief Executive Lance Fritz says the troublesome implementation of braking technology known as positive train control is causing congestion in its networks…, triggering slowdowns and terminal delays at key points in the UP system” [Wall Street Journal]. “The problems at the largest American railroad mark a new concern for U.S. shippers, with freight networks increasingly jammed in a resurgent economy marked by strong shipping demand. Many shippers have turned to rail service with trucking capacity tight and over-the-road rates soaring, and that’s helped boost intermodal railroad traffic at a typically weak seasonal period.”

Shipping: “The Teamsters union wants UPS Inc., its largest employer, to create 10,000 full-time small-package jobs out of 20,000 existing part-time positions as part of a broader commitment to fill at least 20,000 full-time jobs with part-time employees, according to a Teamster proposal that is the first salvo in what will be a months-long battle to reach a new contract to replace the current five-year compact that expires Aug. 31” [DC Velocity]. In what will clearly be an interesting discussion point as talks progress, the Teamsters want to bar UPS from operating drones and autonomous vehicles.” “Interesting.” Very droll.

Supply Chain: “China proposes ‘Polar Silk Road’ across Arctic to streamline trade” [Deutsche Welle]. “The depletion of ice in the Arctic circle, largely believed by scientists to be a consequence of climate change, has prompted a race to develop the region, with members of the Arctic Council staking competing claims for large portions of the area. However, China is a non-arctic circle state. Instead, it enjoys observer status in the Arctic Council, whose core members include Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Russia and the US. According to a report published in the state-run China Daily newspaper, shipping across the Northern Sea Route would save roughly 20 days from Shanghai to Rotterdam compared to the traditional route, which passes through the Suez Canal.”

Infrastructure: “One piece of the White House infrastructure plan coming into clearer focus is that the Trump administration wants projects to move faster. The administration plans to roll back regulations to reduce the period between project approval and construction…, limiting environmental reviews and litigation in favor of getting big things built” [Wall Street Journal]. “That would be welcome news to bridge builders, port planners and others focused on transportation spending. Yet it could make passing an infrastructure package more difficult, with Democrats and environmental groups likely to raise alarms that the fast-permitting plan is focused less on efficiency than on sidestepping basic air and water quality reviews.”

The Bezzle: “GE’s Surprise $15 Billion Shortfall Was 14 Years in the Making” [Industry Week]. “The trouble at General Electric Co. started decades ago when a hole formed inside its sprawling financial unit. The hole grew into a $15 billion shortfall in insurance reserves, disclosed last week. It’s prompted a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, called into question the oversight of GE leadership, pushed down the share price, and shocked investors who were asking Wednesday how this icon of American capitalism could allow the situation to deteriorate to this point. ‘It sure seems that previous management had a rosy view,’ said Scott Davis, an analyst with Melius Research in New York. “There seemed to be no effort on their part to get ahead of the liability. I find it very hard to believe that mysteriously overnight GE found problems they didn’t know existed.'”

The Bezzle: “Blockchain’s Broken Promises” [Nouiel Roubini, Project Syndicate]. Note the URL: “why-bitcoin-is-a-bubble….” “[C]ryptocurrencies in general are based on a false premise. According to its promoters, Bitcoin has a steady-state supply of 21 million units, so it cannot be debased like fiat currencies. But that claim is clearly fraudulent, considering that it has already forked off into three branches: Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Gold. Besides, hundreds of other cryptocurrencies are invented every day, alongside scams known as ‘initial coin offerings,’ which are mostly designed to skirt securities laws. So ‘stable’ cryptos are creating money supply and debasing it at a much faster pace than any major central bank ever has.”

The Bezzle: “Coincheck Says It Lost Crypto Coins Valued at About $400 Million” [Bloomberg]. Did they check under the couch?

The Bezzle: “How is it possible that one of the most advanced driving systems on the planet [Tesla’s] doesn’t see a freaking fire truck, dead ahead?” [Wired]. “It sounds like a glaring flaw, the kind of horrible mistake engineers race to eliminate. Nope. These systems are designed to ignore static obstacles because otherwise, they couldn’t work at all… On the highway, slamming the brakes for no reason can be as dangerous as not stopping when you need to.”

The Bezzle: “Self-driving car experts offer online degree in ‘flying cars'” [Reuters (JG)]. Udacity co-founder Sebastian Thrun “says the online school’s self-driving car program has attracted 50,000 applicants since 2016. He expects the new flying car curriculum, which opens in late February and begins taking applications on Tuesday, to draw at least 10,000.”

The Bezzle: “I can’t think of another common situation in life in which we frequently make potentially fatal mistakes and depend on others to notice and compensate for them. This is a profound form of a social contract, and a shift to self-driving vehicles would be a fundamental movement away from this idea, towards one where we expect vehicles to make fewer mistakes. I’m less confident that they’ll be able to fulfill the same role in compensating for the mistakes of others. This social contract of driving is one that overarches questions that might be asked by NHTSA (e.g. “Did this system fail or act as intended?”) or the NTSB (e.g. “Is the system driving this vehicle at fault?”)” [Reuters].

Tech: “Open Letter to the Airbnb Community About Building a 21st Century Company” [Airbnb]. I don’t want to spoil this. You have to read it.

Fodder for the Bulls: “Growing world-wide demand has U.S. industrial manufacturing engines humming. Caterpillar Inc. and 3M Co. are both reporting stronger revenue and profit growth, and … expanding trade in goods from construction equipment to industrial electronics has the companies heading into 2018 with brighter outlooks” [Wall Street Journal]. “Caterpillar’s expansion is especially significant for industrial markets: the 18% revenue growth last year breaks a four-year streak of declining sales, and the 35% surge in fourth-quarter revenue may drive the construction and mining industry bellwether to boost investment after restoring 4,800 jobs in the U.S. last year.”

Five Horsemen: “Amazon warps on into the outer Van Allen belt, as Apple’s return falls below that of the S&P 500 index” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Jan 26 2018

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 78 Extreme Greed (previous close: 77, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 80 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jan 26 at 11:48am.

Neoliberal Epidemics

“From the 1980s onward, neoliberal governance in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom has emphasized competitive individualism and people have seemingly responded, in kind, by agitating to perfect themselves and their lifestyles. In this study, the authors examine whether cultural changes have coincided with an increase in multidimensional perfectionism in college students over the last 27 years” [Curran, T., & Hill, A. P. (2017, December 28). Perfectionism Is Increasing Over Time: A Meta- Analysis of Birth Cohort Differences From 1989 to 2016. Psychological Bulletin (PDF)]. “Cross-temporal meta-analysis revealed that levels of selforiented perfectionism, socially prescribed perfectionism, and other-oriented perfectionism have linearly increased. These trends remained when controlling for gender and between-country differences in perfectionism scores. Overall, in order of magnitude of the observed increase, the findings indicate that recent generations of young people perceive that others are more demanding of them, are more demanding of others, and are more demanding of themselves.” Via Jacobin.

Class Warfare

“The Unreasonable Demands of Antitrust Populism” [Truth on the Market]. “To the extent that the new populist antitrust movement is broadly concerned about effects on labor and wage depression, then, in principle, it should also be friendly to cartels. Although counterintuitive, employees have long supported and benefited from cartels, because cartels generally afford both job security and higher wages than competitive firms. And, of course, labor itself has long sought the protection of cartels – in the form of unions – to secure the same benefits.”

“The Housing Market Crash and Wealth Inequality in the U.S.” [NBER]. “For the period 1983-2016, “the average annual return on gross assets for the top 1 percent was 0.57 percentage points greater than that of the next 19 percent and 1.44 percentage points greater than that of the middle quintiles.” This return differential, which contributes to greater wealth accumulation by those in higher wealth categories, is largely due to greater weight on owner-occupied housing in the asset holdings of the middle class, and a higher weight on corporate stocks — historically a high return asset class — in the portfolios of the wealthiest households. The racial divide in wealth-holding widened with the housing crisis…. The study also notes a significant reduction in the relative wealth of the young versus the old during the Great Recession.”

“What gig workers can learn from romance writers” [BBC]. Shorter: Have an effective guild trade association. Very interesting article.

“Meanwhile, a separate Pew survey of 4,135 US adults last year found that 72% of the respondents were worried about a future where many jobs are automated by technology, and 58% supported government restrictions on the number of jobs businesses can replace with machines. The advent of autonomous vehicles and drones threatens to displace millions of jobs involved in transporting people and goods, including the 3.5 million trucker jobs in the US” [Business Insider]. “While new advancements will solve the many technology barriers to autonomous vehicles and drones over time, public and regulatory concerns over their impact on the workforce will likely only intensify as these technologies come to market. That could lead to massive labor strikes or punitive regulations that could disrupt businesses, making it crucial for companies to work with labor unions and government agencies to mitigate those risks.”

News of the Wired

“Using Self-Organizing Maps to solve the Traveling Salesman Problem” [Diego Codes]. “[T]he nodes in the map are spatially organized to be closer the more similar they are with each other. For that reason, SOM are a great way for pattern visualization and organization of data. To obtain this structure, the map is applied a regression operation to modify the nodes position in order update the nodes, one element from the model (ee) at a time.”

“[S]lightly more than half (51 percent) of parents allow their children between two-four hours of ‘screen time’ [on smartphones] per day, including phones, computers, tablets and television. Twenty-one percent limited screen time to one hour or less, while a stunning 5 percent said they allow their children eight-plus hours of screen time per day” [RealClearPolitics].

“World Reduction in Le Guin” [Fredic Jameson, Verso]. “It becomes difficult to escape the conclusion that this attempt to rethink Western history without capitalism is of a piece, structurally and in its general spirit, with the attempt to imagine human biology without desire which I have described above; for it is essentially the inner dynamic of the market system which introduces into the chronicle-like and seasonal, cyclical, tempo of pre-capitalist societies the fever and ferment of what we used to call progress. The underlying identification between sex as an intolerable, well-nigh gratuitous complication of existence, and capitalism as a disease of change and meaningless evolutionary momentum, is thus powerfully underscored by the very technique — that of world reduction — whose mission is the utopian exclusion of both phenomena.” Hmm.

Ursula LeGuin true fact:

Another Ursula LeGuin story:

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please 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 (Olia Gozha via MR):

I loved my wood stove, and even hauling the wood in from outside, but I sure didn’t love the mess, messy even for me.

* * *

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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. Lee

      What command are you using to achieve strike through? I’ve been using an s between these two guys, , on either side of the text I want lined through. But the line just keeps on going through all subsequent text.

      I don’t have much to say about your link except that it gives new meaning to the term “eye teeth” and that I wish I could unsee it.

          1. Bukko Boomeranger

            Lambert’s great about teaching the basic HTML tricks for commenting. A decade ago, when I used to envy the codey-wit of people in the peanut gallery of a late, lamented faux right-wing website (vale, Jesus’s General) I learned valuable techniques from the Corrente blog which he and others operate. It struck me as odd that they had a section instructing punters on such things, because Corrente was mainly about left-wing opinionating. (Excuse me if you think I’m mischaracterising you, L, but that’s how Corrente came across to me.) Lambert and his counterparts helped me lift my game!

  1. NotTimothyGeithner

    Poor Joe Kennedy. He’s got that Robbie Mook kiss of death.

    I just love the image of elite Democrats sitting around discussing a random Kennedy.

    “I know what about a Kennedy?!?!”

    “Kennedys are Catholic, so that will play well with Hispanics.”

    “Give us more money!”

    1. JohnnyGL

      Nixon Peabody’s still got 2010 Repub wave rider Scott Brown…..so….bipartisanship. Centrists LOVE that stuff!!!

    2. DJG

      NotTimothyGeithner: You are not thinking of the Kennedy Brand, which is a bigger deal than the Mook Brand.

      And yet. I won’t know till I see a photo of Rep. Joe Kennedy doing plank position without a shirt like that dreamy Prime Minister Justin.


      [I started the Twitter thread and have a feeling that I know where it was heading. Also, Oprah = cool glasses.]

  2. Summer

    “Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership” (CPTPP) has been ‘concluded’, it now seems that the exclusion of both copyright and pharma patent extensions is confirmed” [Tech Dirt]

    “The EFF’s [Jeremy] Malcolm pointed to e-commerce provisions that provide only weak privacy protections, among other issues, as still being problematic.”

    No other industry is going to get the “turn a blind eye and deaf ear” to the extent that the e-commerce & online surveillance-marketing-ad platforms (YOU can call it “social media” if you want to).
    Pharma – life or death situation. Copyright? That’s the coattails the surveillance platforms rode in on. The main beef was not about the lack of high intellectual knowledge that couldn’t be shared, they needed the entertainment for as free as possible to lure in the suckers.

  3. Wukchumni

    “If ending NAFTA hurts farmers in America’s Corn Belt, who voted overwhelmingly for Trump, there goes the Republican’s reelection” [US News]. The entire article ignores the destruction wrought on Mexico’s agricultural sector (especially all the varieties of corn).

    Seeing as the reign of error already shafted his hard right conservative farmer base in the Central Valley by allowing Argentine lemon imports into the country, why would he care if all of the sudden there was no market for GMO corn for his core constituency, allowing Mexico to starve in the process, if push>meets<shove on NAFTA?

    It'd be a horrible tragedy for the Mexicans, as i've seen their work here in the fruited plain, and they have an affinity with the soil as few others possess.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The abolition of NAFTA and the re-protectionism of Mexican agriculture would not be a
      horrible tragedy for the Mexicans. It would be a wonderful liberation. All the corn-land in Mexico which was driven out of production by the flood of petrocorporate-subsidy GMO filth-corn from the Midwest would be returnable back into production, once the Mexican market was given back to the product of the Mexican corn-lands. And all the Mexican corn-growers who were driven out of bussiness and driven off the land under the raging flood of the GMO petrocorporate chemfilth toxicorn from the Midwest would be able to resume their lives and livelihoods again, growing and selling clean, nutritious, non-toxic Mexicorn to a grateful Mexican nation.

      If NAFTA were abolished, those NAFTAstinian exiles who want to return home could do so. Think what the affinity-for-the-soil which the NAFTAstinians display here in America could achieve if exercised upon the soil of Mexico itself . . . the soil from which that very affinity first emerged to begin with.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Perhaps we should start referring to Mexico as “Naftastine”, given what the Lords of NAFTA have done to it. And start referring to Mexicans as ” Naftastinians”, as suggested above.

      2. Wukchumni

        I was thinking more along the lines of something happening rather immediately and the ramifications of cutting off a country from it’s mainstay.

        We better not have too many Mexican orchard workers leave the golden state, as the average age is 45, and it’s hard work and not many younger ones want to do it-or Americans for that matter.

        I rather doubt they’ll be put out to the pasture by robots anytime soon, if ever.

        1. Summer

          There is always some other country that has been bombed to ruin or had the life sucked out of it by global bankstas to create new refugees.

          “not many younger ones want to do it”

          That’s why the establishment feels the more thrown into precarity, the better. I feel like it was decided a long time ago that the system is set up to keep about 20% of the population fairly satiated. Then they provide the barrier to economic reforms.

  4. HideNwatch

    Amazing how the internet has sped things up. It took us a long time (Some people till after his election! Some still stonewall defiantly to this day!) for the shine to wear off Obama’s populist prose and people to get who he really worked for.

    Kennedy hasn’t even announced and you’ve lanced the trial balloon for the next neoliberal (lbiet with a convenient name) in populist’s clothing we’re supposed to hope is legit and waste 4 to 8 years of our lives on.

    Public service you’re doing here. Bernie or Bust 2020

    1. Arizona Slim

      Remember how much Obama hated it when people would play videos of him from the campaign trail and earlier in his political career? Especially when those videos showed current policy in contradiction with what he previously favored?

      1. Jim Haygood

        Ambiguity intolerance: it’s what you’d expect of a highly principled Nobel Peace Prize winner. :-)

        1. Wukchumni

          Perhaps it was actually the award for a Piece of the action.

          I knew somebody that owned a Nobel prize medal, quite weighty.

          It was awarded to Cyril Hinshelwood for Chemistry in 1956.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Its less the internet than the recent nature of Obama. It literally just happened, and with the way every nominally left elite threw their lot in with 44 and Hillary, they have no credibility to build a new hero.


      After all, the internet wasn’t new in 2008 when this was written, and I believe Reed described Obama in the 90’s. A large part of the Obama problem was no one cared. He checked the right boxes and more importantly nominally opposed the Iraq War. The emotion attached to Obama won’t simply be redirected to other candidates. There was a boomlet turning 18 in those years who were too young to have voted for Bill or even Al, and there was the natural crisis of the appointed Shrub actually winning reelection amid the Iraq War and the general economic malaise. Obama offered nice rhetoric that offered easy answers. “We aren’t red states or blue states, but the United States.” A sharp contrast to the “Two Americas” of the then VP nominee Edwards. Easy answers versus warning about wealth inequality.

      Hillary tried to run an easy answers campaign which was trust her “experience” with absolutely no discussion of her experience. She would know because she was already “wise.” It didn’t fly with younger people and less decisively partisan Democratic type voters because easy answers were just tried with Obama. They didn’t work. Instead a challenger with no money or national profile ran a significant campaign against the ENTIRE Democratic Party which had a built up lead from Super Delegates and states with little to any organizational capacity outside of churches. She once offered her husband as an answer to the question of the economy. People want answers, and Hillary said she would have Bill “straighten out this mess.” In the end, she under performed Kerry in nominal numbers in numerous states that have been competitive or near competitive in recent years. Hillary 2016 had 400,000 less votes than John Kerry 2004. In the end, who was Hillary’s base? The wealthier professional class.

      Blackwaterdog over at DKOS always had her photo diaries of America’s imaginary family, the Obamas front paged, but no one cares about other people’s kids when they are trying to figure out if signing up for Uber is worth it so there is no break in their resume. The country is less healthy than it was in 2004 believe it or not. There is no appetite for a personality candidate. The doofuses among the elite who believe things are great such as Joe Biden don’t care and won’t have soured on Obama because they aren’t looking for answers. They want the equivalent of pink houses to avoid looking at the blight. Blaming the Republicans can work for a long time, but Democrats have done that for years now.

      1. Spring Texan

        Um, I’m no expert, but Wikipedia says Kerry 2004 is 59,028,444; and Clinton 2016 is 65.844,954?

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I should have added in Ohio. A major state in seemingly every election. The moral bankruptcy of the electoral college is not in doubt.

          Losing 400,000 votes in a 12 year period is fairly significant.

      2. JohnnyGL

        I think you’re partially right about Americans being completely fed up.

        But it’s important to think about how the narrative was constructed around Obama from 2004 when he made his Convention speech and 2008 during his run to the nomination that caught fire.

        Obama got 4 years of no scrutiny. That’s impossible today with social media. That semi-grassroots check on media consensus-building didn’t exist, then.

        Meanwhile, Kamala Harris already has the Steve Mnuchin stain on her reputation and rightly so. That fundraiser in the Hamptons was supposed to be her launch party. Then Dave Dayen pretty much buried her with that one, absolutely brilliant, piece in the Intercept.

        Could you have swapped Harris and Obama and pulled off the same trick? The intercept didn’t exist in the 2004-2008 period. And social media didn’t exist to spread that article around.

      3. marku52

        No Dem can use the words “Hope” or “Change” anymore either.

        That dog won’t hunt, as they say.

        I would also venture that the Obama disappointment was also crucial to HRC’s failure. All the usual tropes had been deployed and reduced to laughingstocks.

  5. Lee



    “Joe Kennedy to give Democrats’ response to Trump’s State of the Union” [CNN]. “Kennedy, 37, is seen as a rising star in a party that has many in the senior ranks well into their 70s.”

    He was interviewed on the topic of universal healthcare recently. To my mind, he comes off as a weaselly, mealy mouthed centrist. And, he’s a ginger!

    The gist: of course he, like like all Dems in their hearts, is for universal healthcare. But how do we get there? It’s complicated, it’s difficult. How oh how do we get there from here? The full article below if you can curb your gag reflex.

            1. WobblyTelomeres

              A trip I’ve been planning for a long time.

              City of New Orleans (@Memphis) -> California Zephyr -> Coast Starlight -> Empire Builder -> City of New Orleans.

          1. Lee

            Bruce Peninsula did the soundtrack for movie Small Town Murder Songs. An interesting little film with a powerful and haunting soundtrack.

            From Wikipedia

            Bruce Peninsula is a Canadian indie rock band, whose style has been described as “a near indescribable and rousing potpourri of prog, gospel, folk, rock, pop and country.”[1] The band consists of core members Matt Cully on vocals and guitar, Misha Bower on vocals,[2] Neil Haverty on vocals, guitar and metallophone, Andrew Barker on bass guitar and lap steel and Steve McKay on drums. Bruce Peninsula also regularly features a large choir section, currently[when?] made up of Tamara Lindeman (The Weather Station), Ivy Mairi, Daniella Gesundheit (Snowblink) and Kari Peddle. The choir has previously included Katie Stelmanis (Austra), Casey Mecija (Ohbijou), Isla Craig, Amy Learmonth (the Youngest), Taylor Kirk (Timber Timbre) and Christienne Chesney.

  6. Wukchumni

    The donkey show squats to piss.

    “Democrats Officially Lost the Shutdown Fight” [New York Magazine]. “The simple truth is that Democrats brought their shutdown to an abrupt end because they realized they couldn’t win it. Ten members of Chuck Schumer’s caucus are running for reelection this November in states Trump won; two others represent Virginia, where the lion’s share of furloughed federal workers live. Unless their shutdown immediately won overwhelming popular support — or Republican contrition — Senate Democrats simply weren’t prepared to stand their ground.”

    1. Jen

      And with all of the consultants at their disposal the Dems walked into a shutdown not knowing this????

      Never mind. I answered my own question. Team blue listens only to consultants.

  7. drumlin woodchuckles

    I am glad to see the word and concept “instersectionality” being ditched and abandoned. To me it was always an academic intellectual affectation . . . . a way to pull rank on others by showing oneself to be smart enough to fling around a big word like “intersectionality”.

    So let us welcome a long-delayed and richly deserved death to “intersectionality”. Burn it with Fire!

    1. Arizona Slim

      Way too many syllables in that word. Replace it with something simpler and more widely recognized. Like solidarity.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        How does one use it as a verb?

        “I will intersectionalize you.” Not sure what it means.

      2. Henry Moon Pie

        Yep, “Intersectionality Forever!” just doesn’t stir the heart the way the original does.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      Agreed. I’d had trouble trying to determine exactly what it was supposed to mean but it always had an elitist ring to it. Thank you Mr. Dixon!

      If the intersectionality and id-pol proponents get their wish, we’ll be living in a country where people of every color, sexual orientation, gender, ethnic group and religion are free….to be peasants.

      1. integer

        Thank you Mr. Dixon!

        Seconded. I don’t vist BAR as often as I should, but am always pleasantly surprised when I do. I very much enjoyed reading both this article and the one from today’s links.

    3. Summer

      Because for all the talk of intersection, there was always the divergence within the identities: class.

    4. curlydan

      I heard Jane Fonda say the “I” word on Democracy Now this morning, so it’s still alive and kicking.

  8. Summer

    “If ending NAFTA hurts farmers in America’s Corn Belt, who voted overwhelmingly for Trump, there goes the Republican’s reelection” [US News]. The entire article ignores the destruction wrought on Mexico’s agricultural sector (especially all the varieties of corn).

    Of course it ignores the harmful effects of US Foreign Policy and Trade. It calls attention to the Foreign Policy & Trade issues which the US has branded as an “immigration issue.”
    Most people want to live their lives in their homeland.

  9. Antoine LeBear

    Re : Airbnb.
    Wow, world-class delusion of grandeur.
    Practical steps taken to become an infinite company infinitely taking care of the world: add an annual report (“stakeholder report”). How are they gonna decide how the rest of the world feels about Airbnb? Random sidewalk interviews?
    Second step: Annoucement to come February 22nd (so, an annoucement of an announcement).
    Third step: new board member, the CEO of AmEx, that Great Thinker and Philantropist.


    1. lyman alpha blob

      This –

      People said our idea would never work – “Strangers will never trust one another!” A decade later, people have checked into an Airbnb nearly 300 million times.

      – is absolutely hilarious. Because increasingly people who rent through Airbnb don’t ever have to see strangers, as they are renting out entire houses not occupied by the owner. In our town some people have bought up multiple houses all on the same street and are renting them out as basically one large disconnected hotel. Airbnb has become a giant self licking ice cream cone around here and it’s pricing the locals who are trying to live and work in the area right out. Because people can make more income buying a house and renting it out illegally (because as current zoning doesn’t allow for rentals of under 30 days in residential areas) on a short term basis, housing prices have gone up. Now to afford a house in the area, you either have to be rich or willing to rent out part of your house as an Airbnb to live here.

      But according to Airbnb, we’re all stakeholders in the company !

      This means that we must have the best interest of three stakeholders in mind: Airbnb the company (employees and shareholders), Airbnb the community (guests and hosts) and the world outside of Airbnb.

      Hilarious again. Our town is currently in the middle of shutting down these illegal operations because the non-Airbnb-owning stakeholders are extremely pissed off that their residential neighborhoods have been turned into party zones and their actual neighbors are disappearing. The town is planning to allow people to rent in owner-occupied residences only, and they’re being extememly strict about what constitutes ‘owner-occupied’.

      Despite complaints from those who have been operating illegally and are about to be put out of business, I believe limiting this practice will end up saving people from themselves. One person who bought a whole house to operate as an illegal hotel is complaining that he won’t be able to afford his mortgage if he can’t get the income from daily rentals as opposed to a long term lease. But if these illegal rentals are allowed to continue, more and more people owning them will cause the price they can get for a rental to drop, and a bunch of people who bought in at the high end will end up taking a bath regardless. Airbnb doesn’t give a family blog how many people buy up houses at inflated prices – they get their cut whether people wind up underwater on their mortgage or not. They are a hotel chain who is passing all the traditional responsibilities of a hotel company like maintaining expensive property onto the suckers who think they’re part of a ‘sharing economy’. And guess who is going to be standing by waiting to scoop up these houses at bargain prices when things go pear shaped? I really don’t think the Hyatts and Hiltons of the world are going to stand by and watch their traditional hotel properties become obsolete without a fight – if Airbnb properties are allowed to continue unregulated, these hotel companies will start buying up residential homes to operate as hotels. We already have reports of Southebys renting out large properties and offering private chef services, etc – basically running a hotel – but using Airbnb and lax enforcement to skate around existing regulations.

      If Airbnb is left unchecked, I believe they will eventually become the booking agent for large hotel chains. All these people who think they are going to get rich by running a hotel from their 2nd home clearly haven’t thought things through – there’s a reason we classify this under ‘the bezzle’ here.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > [AirBnB] are a hotel chain who is passing all the traditional responsibilities of a hotel company like maintaining expensive property onto the suckers who think they’re part of a ‘sharing economy’.

        So Silicon Valley glibertarians create yet another hellscape

    2. Summer

      “If people are good and mostly the same, then we should be able to offer more than people sleeping in one another’s homes. We imagine a world where every one of us can belong anywhere. A world where you can go to any community and someone says, “Welcome home.”

      That’s from Facebook’s pitch from earlier this century.
      “People are good…”

      And this all depends on who he means by “we” and “us”:
      “We imagine a world where every one of us can belong anywhere.”

    3. integer

      I happen to be staying in an AirBnB apartment rental at this very moment. I had a one week gap between my lease expiring and heading up into remote Northern Australia. Well, I could have gone earlier but I have a very important birthday party to attend. Anyway, I’m not a fan of the “sharing economy” at all, but it has worked out pretty well for me in this case. Much better than a couch or a hotel, and it turns out I am staying next-door to some old friends who will also be attending the aforementioned party. I did manage to lock myself out of the apartment complex late at night though, which was interesting, especially as I don’t carry a phone with me.

      1. JTMcPhee

        “worked out pretty well FOR ME…” In a nutshell, why the old planet is dying.

        Lots of things are working well for other MEs, like the Kochs and Bezos and Blankfein and IBamas and so on down the short list of “who’s in the Big Club.” And including the corporate slow-AI MEs, of course.

        “My little contributions to and little lootings from the Great Looting are so very smalll…”

        IBG-YBG, so who the eff cares?

        1. integer

          Yep. I don’t live in a vacuum. No need for you to worry though, because overall I’m pretty sure I make a net contribution in favor of the attainment of the kind of world I believe both you and I would like to see.

          In any case, you are still one of my favorite commenters on NC, and I truly admire your unrivalled cynicism

        2. integer

          Also, I’ve always liked this quote:

          “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

          – Ralph Waldo Emerson

      2. Liberal Mole

        Likewise, I’m in an AirBnB right now. We’re trying to figure out where we should move to, since the weather and pollens of our present home is making my partner sick. For us that means staying somewhere for a month or more, and has a real kitchen. I would say that this is the owner’s own tiny one bedroom cottage, judging by the lovely decor and well stocked kitchen. I think she used our rental to go take a vacation elsewhere while we lived in her home. Another time we found a beach bungalow rental that was an actual motel — being a 6 room motel it paid to advertise thru AirBnB. Secondly, other sites are offering the public what AirBnB started, so it will be up to municipalities to make rules regarding the renting out of homes — the practice is unlikely to disappear even if AirBnB fails. I still prefer to use hotels and motels for short stays.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > it will be up to municipalities to make rules regarding the renting out of homes — the practice is unlikely to disappear even if AirBnB fails

          Descale AirBnB, and sanity returns?

          1. JTMcPhee

            It’s just another disruptive platform, after all… And if ABnB somehow goes bye-bye, there are hundreds of humans with coding skills and greed and marketing chops to gin up a dozen apps (some have already done so, of course, kind of like “blockchain,” eh?), ready to “innovate” and “disrupt” and hence facilitate the more complete rentierization of what used to be called “neighborhoods.” And to cater to those who prefer and can afford (for some definition of “afford,” excluding externalities of course) and exercise their privilege and preference to plant their flags and fannies in such digs, wherever the winds of change, pleasure and opportunity (or dislocation from their home turf?) take them.

            “Anomie: The New Sanity” — https://techcrunch.com/2011/07/31/another-airbnb-victim-tells-his-story-there-were-meth-pipes-everywhere/

  10. drumlin woodchuckles

    China’s proposal for a “Polar Silk Road” shipping route goes to show that China approves of global warming, supports global warming, and wants more global warming. If China gets its Ice-Free Arctic shipping route, China will do whatever it has to in order to make sure that the Arctic stays Ice-Free, in order to protect its expected profits from its proposed “Polar Silk Road”.

    If China succeeds in preventing the global “de-warming” which China would have to prevent in order to preserve its coming profits from its coming “Polar Silk Road”, then pray that China looses more from ecosystem death all over China than anything China could ever gain from its pro-meltdown “Polar Silk Road”.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      For what shall it profit a man to gain the Polar Silk Road and forfeit his World (to Global Warming)?

      1. JTMcPhee

        The people making the “policies” like Polar Silk Road today have not yet figured out how to duck the bullet called “death.” And though interplanetary travel and the “terraforming” and looting of other worlds (ours is being “terra-DEformed”) is a work in progress, there’s not much of a “German High Command escape” available.

        And since the current trends include power and wealth in the extreme for them, it’s just “Apres nous le deluge.” As far as anyone really knows, the dead don’t suffer for their earthly bad behaviors (for some definition of bad)…

      1. JBird

        If I were China, I would put all efforts in solutions dealing with climate change for everyone rather than any illusory planning for future trading. It would be both profitable to sell what they develop and helpful dealing with all those refugees from their coastal cities. Their industries and coal fired electric plants are part of why they might to survive climate change.

      2. Yves Smith

        Ahem, please tell me how shipping goods all over the world does not contribute to global warming.

        Extended supply lines will become very vulnerable as global warming intensifies. Our DoD has been predicting mass migration and greater geopolitical instability. The pro survival option is to become as much an autarky as possible. But China has a wee problem there in the food and energy categories.

  11. Synoia

    In new news the “Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership” was renamed Comprehensive, Regional, Agreement for a Progressive Trade Integrated Network.

    Preside Thump tweets: This Wonderful Agreement Now is Known to fulfill his promise to the working people of America who will receive the benefit from the agreement.

  12. Katy

    Socially-prescribed perfectionism:

    “It describes the feeling of paranoia and anxiety engendered by the persistent — and not entirely unfounded — sensation that everyone is waiting for you to make a mistake so they can write you off forever. This hyper-perception of others’ impossible expectations causes social alienation, neurotic self-examination, feelings of shame and unworthiness, and “a sense of self overwhelmed by pathological worry and a fear of negative social evaluation, characterized by a focus on deficiencies, and sensitive to criticism and failure.”

    Oh god, I identify with this so much. In neoliberal society, we are always being judged.

    The most absurd thing I learned this week is that U.S. News & World Report has started ranking diets, in addition to colleges and grad schools. There is apparently no limit for quantifying the meritocracy anymore.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      From Gohitus Shodo Studio:

      Zen Master Rinzai Gigen, is quoted with saying: “there is one true person of no rank, always coming out and going in through the gates of your face.”

      What is the one true person of no rank?

      The true person of no rank is your true self. The person who you really are when your are not trying to project a version of yourself to the world.

      There is no such a thing as ‘The prettiest girl’ in the world.

      Way back when we were cave dwellers, the prettiest was the one in the valley, and the only one you were likely to met in your entire life.

      That is the original source of ‘It’s not up to one person, but all of us.’

      Each of us is equally creative, smart, capable, compassionate, progressive, messianic, divine, etc.

      In this room full of people, some self-thoughts:

      “I’m the prettiest.”

      “I’m the most progressive.”

      “I’m the most athletic.”

      “I’m the most musical.”

      “I’m the smartest.”

      1. lee

        Everyone is a bastard, everyone is a whore

        Everyone is a saint, everyone is redeemed

        Everyone is at the mercy of another one’s dream

        Sam Baker

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.


          (I think he was talking to a bunch of virtue signalers).

    2. integer

      There is power in not giving a f[amily blog] about what others think, and being true to one’s self. Of course, one has to reconcile this with providing for one’s self, but most of those who judge have no ability to affect this aspect of one’s life.

    3. ewmayer

      “The most absurd thing I learned this week is that U.S. News & World Report has started ranking diets”

      How does MortZuck’s US news & World Distort feel about the Diet of Worms?

      1. ambrit

        I suspect that Zuck and company would say; “Indulge us.”
        The new editor isn’t named Tetzel, is he/she? An early form of Pay to Play: ‘Pay to Pray.’

  13. a different chris

    So Tesla’s solution to the problem that it can’t figure out a freaking firetruck: More Tech!

    >The long term solution is to combine a several sensors, with different abilities, with more computing power.

    Human beings seem to have almost no computing power at all as defined by our bright boys, yet we can freaking avoid a firetruck. What a mystery. Must be just luck.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Money can be better spent training dolphins to drive a car.

      They are already very smart, and should be able to avoid a firetruck.

      1. JacobiteInTraining

        I’m already against self-driving cars with every fiber of my being…now you force me to have yet one more fear….the need to keep a bucket of stinky sardines and/or herring in the passenger seat next to the self-driving dolphin.

        Oh well, I imagine we will be able to translate dolphin into English or other languages via smartphone app soon so I guess theres that. Better drivetime conversations?

    2. The Rev Kev

      If Tesla’s car is not yet ready for the real world, then it shouldn’t be out there on the roads in the real world. Companies like Microsoft use to release their software and there were so many bugs in it that it was like it was a beta version. After all the customer reports about crashes and problems, they would go to fix them with patches which would end up with one major service pack. Thus their customers were free testers for the company.
      Maybe the same is going on here with the release of the first generation of self-driving cars. These early adopters are not only free testers for the companies but actually paid top dollar for the privileged. Free crash test dummies if you will. Trouble is, I never got killed trying to use an early release of Microsoft 1.0 anything – though I felt like killing something after using it. These new generation self-driving cars? Not this little black duck!

      1. Roady

        What’s the independent operational test & certification agency for drone cars? Of course those self-driving cars will be safe. /s

        Warren Buffet (GEICO) and Allstate’s CEO Tom Wilson claim that self-driving cars will cause lower insurance costs:

        Self-driving cars, already underway to revolutionizing the auto industry, could be on the road as soon as 2020, leaving experts to wonder how the inevitable overhaul could affect the insurance business.

        Warren Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Geico’s parent company Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A), has already warned that the surge of autonomous vehicles will likely decimate the insurance business.

        And this:

        And, good news for consumers: Wilson predicted that insurance will be cheaper since companies will know more about how the car drives, and fewer accidents and fewer deaths means there’s less to fix.

        So good news all around, eh? Except that Allstate anticipates a need to expand coverage to things like cyber attacks! Nothing to be alarmed about of course…And they have two full years (half an olympics?) to identify and fully resolve any (highly complex and infinitely variable) problems by 2020. Place yer bets!

    3. integer

      We are living in an inelegant age of brute-force technological solutions, and they want us to believe that this is what progress looks like. Silicon Valley has no idea, and no ideas. Losers!

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        There is a phrase in there somewhere.

        Brute digital force versus stylish analog grace. Or something like that.

  14. hemeantwell

    Re the Dixon article on intersectionality, it is great, and the end of that paragraph Lambert quoted should be here:

    What this yields is silliness like honchos who run the pink pussy hat marches telling Cindy Sheehan earlier this month that their womens’ movement can’t be bothered to oppose war and imperialism “…until all women are free,” and the advocates of this or that cause demanding constant, elaborate performative rituals of those who would qualify for “allyship.”

    1. allan

      can’t be bothered to oppose war and imperialism “…until all women are free,”

      How’s that working out in Libya?

    2. Jeff W

      As Adolph Reed, Jr. says

      As as [sic] my friend Walter Michaels has put it, by that standard [the standard of racial disparity], then you can have a society where 1% of the population controls 90% of the stuff, but as long as 12% of that 1% is Black, then we’ve got no room to complain.

      It’s still neoliberalism, albeit of the left-wing variety, no matter what you call it.

    3. Elizabeth Burton

      The so-called “feminist” movement has been a joke since about five minutes after it was jumpstarted in the ’70s. The spark that ignited it was a manifesto by a suburban housewife bored with being a suburban housewife, and any connection to the majority of working women of any color was purely coincidental.

      I’m now aware this is intentional, just like the way any discussion of sexual assault and rape is almost instantly converted into talking about sex. Instead of working toward the equality that is its ostensible raison d’etre, “feminism” focuses on a few carefully selected issues (equal pay! reproductive rights!) and makes them representative of the whole. This, in turn ensures the entire movement will be sufficiently diluted nothing ever gets done.

      1. JBird

        Feminism originally was tied to the Social Rights Movement and anti poverty campaigns, but like with the creation Black Misleadership Class after the assassinations, or imprisonment of much of the original leadership, the original women’s rights movement leadership was co-opted by FBI, or more usually I believe the CIA, supporting the more acceptable, less dangerous to the authorities, leadership. This was done by paying writers,’editors, and socially influential people to slant things. Sometimes they just paid people to become active. If Betty Housewife or Jane Doe had to scrounge for money while others just had wads of cash handed to them,who would be more time to be influential?

        The current neuterings of BLM, Democratic reformers, and previously the Tea Party are good examples.

          1. JBird

            While popularly pilloried because of her paymaster, Steinem defended the CIA relationship, saying: “In my experience The Agency was completely different from its image; it was liberal, nonviolent and honorable.”

            Quoted from that article.

            Shows how one can be both a reformer and a tool at the same time.

  15. Trout Master

    From David Rosenberg, former Chief Economist at Merrill Lynch

    David Rosenberg’s Twitter account:

    Some haunting math from the GDP number. The savings rate fell from 3.3% to 2.6%. If it had stayed the same, real PCE would have been 0.8% (annualized) instead of 3.8% and GDP would have been 0.6% instead of 2.6%.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      These days, doesn’t “savings rate” include paying down debt?

      So, what are the implications of less debt being retired?

      1. John k

        Probably a sudden fall in the rate means holiday spending to keep up appearances, rather than a sudden desire to pay down debt.
        If the former, the spending is not sustainable. Might see a slowdown in q1, which often happens, more sig if it continues in q2.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The savings rate fell from 3.3% to 2.6%. If it had stayed the same, real PCE would have been 0.8% (annualized) instead of 3.8% and GDP would have been 0.6% instead of 2.6%.

      Mosler is watching that too. Good catch.

  16. Brandon

    RE: Government Shutdown

    If the Dems had better crafted their messaging they could have explained to the American people that the only reason any Dem votes were even required for the budget to pass in a Repub controlled Senate and House was because Repubs already used both of Obama’s Reconciliation bills of 2016 and 2017, which only require 51 votes, to pass their Tax bill and attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare). Had they not used the Obama’s Reconciliation bills on one of those the budget could have passed without the Dems and their demands. So truly the shutdown was on the shoulders of the Republican party, but since the Dems couldn’t clearly articulate how the Repubs screwed themselves into requiring 60 votes for the budget to pass, and therefore requiring Dem votes, they quickly lost any ground they had to stand on and were forced to cave.




    1. voteforno6

      That’s still too much explaining – the simple rebuttal to that is, why couldn’t the Democrats agree to end their filibuster? There is still only a simple majority required to pass a bill in the Senate. The 60 vote threshold is for ending debate. It still came back to the Democrats publicly proclaiming that they wanted action on DACA, which was kind of a dumb position to take. The Democrats “won” previous shutdowns by making the case that they were preventing the Republicans from taking something away; that wasn’t the case this time around. In fact, had the shutdown dragged on, it would’ve been very easy for Republicans to make the case that Democrats were taking away something from citizens, in order to get something for people who aren’t technically citizens. If they’re going to risk a shutdown, they had better do it for something that will benefit a lot more people than DACA.

    2. kiwi

      My eyes glazed over after the 3rd sentence.

      You just keep on convincing yourself that the dem party matters and that its main problem is messaging.

      The dem party is so stupid that it voted down a 6 year extension of chip because, to the dems, the illegals matter so much more than our own children.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Good food for thought, though he’s probably being a little exceptionalist, I feel like this behavior is pretty common in the meritwaseois of the Western Consensus. Maybe more concentrated here.

      I’ve been chewing over the fact that there is just no higher value on the world stage today than market value. How can we discuss a crime against humanity if the only criterion is whether it turned a profit?

      Perhaps we could actually start coining and trading a Social Value currency?

      1. Wukchumni

        “Perhaps we could actually start coining and trading a Social Value currency?”

        Virtual is it’s own reward…

  17. allan

    ICE is about to start tracking license plates across the US [The Verge]

    The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has officially gained agency-wide access to a nationwide license plate recognition database, according to a contract finalized earlier this month. The system gives the agency access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking, raising significant concerns from civil libertarians.

    The source of the data is not named in the contract, but an ICE representative said the data came from Vigilant Solutions, the leading network for license plate recognition data. “Like most other law enforcement agencies, ICE uses information obtained from license plate readers as one tool in support of its investigations,” spokesperson Dani Bennett said in a statement. “ICE is not seeking to build a license plate reader database, and will not collect nor contribute any data to a national public or private database through this contract.” …

    And I’m not offering to sell you a bridge to Brooklyn.

    The good news is that ICE’s writ only extends to within 100 miles of an international border
    or an international point of entry … oh, wait …

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Mission Accomplished. Any jimcrackery to ignore the efficiency of an underpaid, a-retentive regulator checking the books of any companies that are big enough to create an attractive nuisance.

    2. bob

      They’re not selling anything, they’re buying it-

      “The source of the data is not named in the contract, but an ICE representative said the data came from Vigilant Solutions, the leading network for license plate recognition data.”

      There is no law that keeps Vigilant solutions to within 100 miles of the border. There are still quite a few limits to what ICE can do, and where they can do it. No such limitation for Vigilant.

      Better title-

      ICE pays private sector to do what it isn’t allowed to legally do.

      Which also means that THE DATA IS ALREADY BEING COLLECTED. The built in premise is that this is “just starting”. It’s been going on for at least a decade. ICE is finally being allowed to look at it, for a price.

      1. JBird

        Which also means that THE DATA IS ALREADY BEING COLLECTED. The built in premise is that this is “just starting”. It’s been going on for at least a decade. ICE is finally being allowed to look at it, for a price.

        This makes it better how? This is like parallel construction. The spirit of the law is still being broken by ICE and Vigilant should not be able to do what it is doing.

        1. bob

          Where did I say any of this is better?

          “The spirit of the law is still being broken by ICE and Vigilant should not be able to do what it is doing.”

          What is being done to limit either of those? Nothing, for over a decade now.

  18. Ed

    It is unclear to me upon whom the Open Secrets data splash reflects.

    In other news:

    Kissinger warns senators of ‘systemic failure of world order’ – News – Stripes: Three former high-ranking State Department officials warned a Senate panel on Thursday that the United States is facing potential, catastrophic confrontations as global order erodes.

    Posted by Michele Kearney at 2:47 PM

    “… Kissinger, 94, who testified alongside former Secretary of State George Shultz, 97, and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, 72, all warned the United States is already behind in developing future weapons, such as artificial intelligence, among other concerns….”

    The sad truth of the FBI scandal: Both political parties are to blame | TheHill: Real authority now rests with the leaders of a largely unaccountable national security bureaucracy.

    Posted by Michele Kearney at 2:49 PM

    “… The nation’s political class has allowed James Madison’s institutions to wither, and real authority now rests with the leaders of a largely unaccountable national security bureaucracy….”

    1. Summer

      “United States is facing potential, catastrophic confrontations as global order erodes…”

      Or rather, the chickens are coming home to roost…

    2. Summer

      “Kissinger, 94, who testified alongside former Secretary of State George Shultz, 97, and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, 72, all warned the United States is already behind in developing future weapons, such as artificial intelligence, among other concerns.”

      Not that the war culture isn’t still strong, but hopefully less than a decade away from a growing number of people willing to do what’s necessary to step back.
      Alot of the head of the snake is still hanging on.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Geez what do we need, a wooden stake through the heart or something? Ages 94 and ninety-friggin-seven ‘fer chrissakes

  19. Craig H.

    Online sports book bovada Amazon HQ2 betting line:

    Nashville, Tennessee +800
    Washington, D.C. +1000
    Atlanta, Georgia +1200
    Austin, Texas +1400
    Dallas, Texas +1400
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania +1400
    Indianapolis, Indiana +1500
    Los Angeles, California +1500
    Montgomery County, Maryland +1500
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania +1500
    Chicago, Illinois +1600
    Denver, Colorado +1600
    Newark, New Jersey +1800
    New York City, New York +1800
    Northern Virginia, Virginia +1800
    Raleigh, North Carolina +1800
    Toronto, Ontario +1800
    Boston, Massachusetts +2000
    Columbus, Ohio +2000
    Miami, Florida +2000

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Will local citizens challenge their governments in court, in order to halt the insanity?

      “Let voters decide.”

  20. Jim Haygood

    Three big things happened today. Stocks ripped higher, setting new records in the Dow Industrials, S&P 500, Nasdaq Composite and Nasdaq 100, which surpassed 7,000 for the first time. Likewise for crude oil, which set a fresh three-year high of $66.14 a barrel and gained 4.5% on the week. Finally, on a related note, the US dollar carried on falling.

    The curmudgeonly James Howard Kunstler envisions the inevitable aftermath:

    It would be rich if a flash crash ripped the Dow, S & P, and Nasdaq to shreds twenty minutes after the Golden Golem of Greatness finished schooling the weenies of Davos on the bigly wonderfulness of his year in office.

    In fact, it would be a crowning comic moment in human history.

    I can imagine Trump surrounded by the fawning Beta Boys of Banking as the news comes in. Poof!

    Suddenly, he is alone in the antechamber backstage, nothing left of his admirers but the lingering scent of aftershave. The world has changed. The dream is over. In the mirror he sees something that looks dimly like Herbert Hoover in a polka-dot clown suit, with funny orange wig….


    Some day soon, James. But for now, the baying hounds are in full cry, jet-propelled by kited-check keystroke currency as the baroque sunset splendour of Bubble III hurtles on toward the distant inscrutable stars of the dark purple firmament.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think ‘Apathetic Air of Aftershave’ will go nicely with Golden Golem of Greatness and Beta Boys of Banking.

  21. Darthbobber

    Ups negotiations. There’s a reason why ups workers were a key component of the near-unseating of Jimmy Junior last year, and it lies in the consistent squandering of leverage and selling of crap as the greatest thing since sliced bread. I suspect that ups will be happy to forego drones and self driving vehicles for the duration of THIS contract, since it would be expiring before anybody except the hyping pufferfish would expect those to be commercially viable at scale. Great for Jimmy. He can offer concessions elsewhere in return for some contractual boilerplate on that issue, and I can read all about the great victory in Teamster magazine. Rather like having Schumer, Pelosi, et all leading your political struggle.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The one person Schumer seems to be able to strong-arm is Bernie Sanders.

      “You made a promise to me before running as a Democrat. Keep it.”

  22. brook trout

    Wood stoves—messy indeed, but good for keeping one’s nose to the quotidian grindstone—clean the area every day as you bring in another day’s wood. But unless my eyes fail me, the wood in this afternoon’s image appears to be birch (might be poplar, or popple as Yves’s Upper Peninsula connections would call it). Either way, neither should see the inside of a respectable wood stove (well, I have used popple as kindling) unless the user wishes to train for the Olympic 10000 meters. There’s a reason this is called “go-fer wood”—put it in and go for more.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Lighting a fire with birch bark is far preferable to using paper. Hotter, more effective, seems cleaner.

      It’s nice to throw an occasional birch log into the mix, too, just to get things going.

  23. Summer

    “Overall, in order of magnitude of the observed increase, the findings indicate that recent generations of young people perceive that others are more demanding of them, are more demanding of others, and are more demanding of themselves.” Via Jacobin.

    A lot of demanding to create a few trillionaires. Training young people to reproduce that hamspter wheel generation after generation.

  24. audrey jr

    “Udacity.”Good one. Just add a capital “A,” for audacity, and you’re off to the races!

  25. paulmeli

    “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” – Philip K. Dick

    Love that quote.

    Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams is a currently running TV series (Sony Pictures Television)

  26. Class unites all identites

    The intersectionality is intended to divide, not to unite.
    The identities have been constructed on categories that are so wide that the difference is bigger within the category than between the categories.
    A white, gay, black, left handed middle-class have more problems in common than the rich white gay left-handed have with their poor counter-part: interest rates loans, ability to pay/necessity for student loans, work safety etcetc
    Also, any identitarian faced with limited resources need to ultimately answer the question: who should get the money?
    The man?
    The woman?
    The white?
    The black?
    The gay?
    The straight?
    The gay woman?
    The white or black gay woman?

    What is the hierarchy among the identities?

  27. Summer

    Excerpt from: The Global Risks Report 2018:

    Inequality Ingested
    Bioengineering and cognition-enhancing drugs
    widen the gulf between haves and have-nots
    Drugs for human enhancement are in their early stages,
    but scientific advances may well be exponential…
    Early and appropriate regulation of enhancement
    technologies may be more successful than an outright
    ban. For example, new workplace equality legislation might
    require employers to confirm that all staff are compliant
    with enhancement rules. If these technologies were
    ever proven to be an unalloyed good—analogous to
    vaccinations—then the regulatory objective might shift
    to ensuring universal access…”

    If you have to be compliant with authoritarian enhancement rules from some dystopian sci-fi flick, it wouldn’t be a sign of enhanced intelligence if this is thought to be a good idea. More like enhanced conformity.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      I can’t help but think that the fact that Mother Nature selects for 100 IQ should caution us against thinking that any outlier condition our culture happens to regard as important is really that useful in the ways that things play out in a complex system.

      tldr: I’d put money on Mentads bringing a system down faster.

  28. Tomonthebeach

    Curran & Hill nicely complement the Streeck essay from yesterday that asserted that liberalism can only thrive if we embrace a community-centered viewpoint. Sadly, Curran & Hill’s research suggests that such a social transformation is unlikely given that neoliberalism has driven us all into individualists and perfectionists – irrationally perceiving ourselves as pawns in a cut-through marketplace.

    The article also explains the psychodynamics of a Trump, and Case & Deaton’s opioid deaths of despair.

  29. Lunker Walleye

    Prop or Not

    I wanted to post a link to Zero Hedge about Prop or Not but when I click link, the dreaded “spinning beachball of death” pops up and refuses to go away. Any ideas on how to get rid of that nuisance?

    1. Yves Smith

      We don’t do Zero Hedge here. Even though it has some great market gossip and does interesting analysis using Bloomberg data, it is also flagrantly wrong ~40% of the time, and worse, it is clear that the people who run ZH don’t care about accuracy. I don’t want readers to regard it as a reliable source.

      The article in question didn’t originate at ZH and we passed on cross posting it. The image of the supposed information about the site admin is too small to read and so can’t be seen as substantiating the claims; there’s an error in that the article confused Irena Chalupa with Andrea Chalup, and there is a lot of conjecture on top of that.

  30. Richard

    I will miss Ursula LeGuin. Lately, I’ve been reading some of her Catwings books to my second grade class. We are delighted with them. Too bad I can’t read them The Dispossessed :)

  31. affinis

    Dixon is precisely correct on how “intersectionality” works in practice. It’s a creature of academia – unfortunately, in practice, it’s a deeply neoliberal concept, undermining the possibility of solidarity; the antithesis of traditional left notions.

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