2:00PM Water Cooler 2/1/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Politics

2020

“Biden to be keynote speaker at House Democratic retreat” [Politico]. “The former vice president has recently returned to the spotlight as he embarks on a nationwide tour for his new book, which discusses his decision not to run for president in 2016 after the death of his son Beau.” Loveable Joe Biden, still milking his son’s death for political gain.

“Joe Kennedy Talked Tough About the Opioid Crisis, But Gives Pharma Firms a Pass” [The Intercept]. “[Kennedy’s] most consequential action as a federal legislator, meanwhile, was to push a bill that gave the opioid industry a shot at watering down prescription guidelines first implemented by the Obama administration…. As we reported in 2016, Kennedy helped sponsor legislation backed by the drug industry that will provide a second shot at revamping the [the voluntary opioid prescribing guidelines created during the Obama administration through the Centers for Disease Control]. Under the bill, which Kennedy cosponsored with two Republicans, Pete Olson of Texas and Susan Brooks of Indiana, industry representatives will likely have a seat at the table at an inter-agency effort to potentially unravel the guidelines, which discourage opioids for minor and chronic pain issues.” See, it’s bipartisan!

“A ‘Blue’ Florida? There Are No Quick Demographic Fixes for Democrats” [New York Times]. “The electoral effect of [the post-Maria Puerto Rican diaspora, and felons regaining the vote] dwindles after accounting for the relatively low turnout rates among these groups. More generally, even big demographic shifts that seem to favor Democrats could easily be swamped by other demographic shifts that do the opposite.”

2018

“It’s just one poll from one polling outlet (albeit one given an A+ rating for accuracy and sound methodology by FiveThirtyEight). But for Democrats already concerned about the love shown the president in snap polls following last night’s State of the Union address, the first 2018 national survey from Monmouth University lands like a punch in the mouth” [New York Magazine (Re Silc)]. “[Trump’s] December job approval rating, at 32 percent, was his lowest since taking office, according to Monmouth’s temperature readings. Now it has bounced up to 42 percent….Worst of all for Dems, a 15-point advantage in the generic congressional ballot in December (51/36) is now down to two points (47/45). This equals the smallest Democratic advantage in any poll since the beginning of the current election cycle.” Nine months is a long time in politics.

“How unpopular is Donald Trump?” [FiveThirtyEight]. Charts comparing Trump’s popularity ratings with past Presidents.

“Just about everyone who follows politics closely knows that while there may well be a Democratic wave building, the Republican-friendly Senate map is an imposing bulwark that may protect the GOP against all but the biggest of tsunamis” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “This year, there are 10 Democratic Senate seats up in states that President Trump carried—including five that Trump won by at least 19 points—while there is only a single GOP seat, Dean Heller’s, in a state that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. Other than that, Republicans have to worry about their retirement-created open seats in Arizona and Tennessee…. From my vantage point, I see the best single shot for Republicans as being in Florida, with two-term GOP Gov. Rick Scott taking on third-term Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. … The second-most-vulnerable Democratic seat is that of second-term Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri.”

“The Districts That Will Determine the Next House Majority” [Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. ” In sketching out a potential path to a bare Democratic House majority of 218 seats out of 435, we found that in all likelihood the Democrats will need to win similar numbers of Republican-held seats won by Hillary Clinton as well as by Donald Trump in the last presidential election. Clinton-won districts are not enough on their own.

— It is hard to construct a Democratic majority without the party netting several seats from California, and Democrats also likely need to win at least multiple seats apiece in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, where a new district map may be in the offing.

— The growing number of Republican-held open seats may allow the Democrats to net a third or more of the seats they need to win the House from districts that don’t have an incumbent. But as we’ve previously said, the majority of Democratic gains will have to come from beating incumbents, unless considerably more Republican incumbents retire from vulnerable seats.

Here is the same material in the form of a tweetstorm:

“Democrats Gain Momentum in Midterms Fundraising Race” [Bloomberg]. “Democrats raised more money than Republicans in 2017 in some key midterm congressional districts, even as the Republican National Committee leveraged the power of the presidency to collect twice as much as its Democratic counterpart.” Headline a touch misleading, no?

New Cold War

“Vote to unveil FISA memo delivers Congress intelligence oversight win” [Jonathan Turley, The Hill]. “What is interesting is that most people have no idea what is in the [Nunes “memo” document, but everyone is on the edges of their seats with its impending release…. [R]egardless of the content of the memo, the act of defiance [by Nunes] under this rule has [“Rule X”] been too long in coming…. Moreover, the subject is precisely the area where civil libertarians have long asked for action: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Its ‘secret court’ was structured to circumvent the Fourth Amendment’s probable cause standard for searches and seizures (it was replaced by probable cause to believe someone might be a ‘foreign agent,’ which is broadly defined). The ease of getting FISA orders has resulted in a record of tens of thousands of applications with only a couple denials in the history of the act…. Now, some members of Congress believe that the FBI abused FISA to launch a national security investigation with little real evidence. That is exactly what civil libertarians have argued for decades with no response from Congress.”

“The Daily 202: Why Trump is so eager to release the Nunes memo” [WaPo]. “It’s going to be very hard for members of the intelligence community and Democrats to push back on the information in the memo after it comes out because doing so would require the disclosure of even more sensitive information about sources and methods.”

“Sans Collusion, Obstruction Charge Wouldn’t Topple Trump” [RealClearPolitics]. “Unless the special prosecutor can prove Trump and his inner circle conspired with the Russian government to defeat Hillary Clinton, it is highly unlikely Republicans on Capitol Hill will sacrifice their president for trying to quash an investigation of a non-existent crime. The same is also true if Mueller concludes Trump obstructed justice to protect someone else — like former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Republicans won’t remove Donald Trump from office for that offense…. After all, without proof of collusion, the president has a strong argument: How can he obstruct justice by blocking the investigation of a crime that he never committed? This defense might not convince a legal scholar like Jeffrey Toobin, but the argument is strong enough to satisfy most Republicans in Congress because they know their only chance to stay in office and keep their majorities is to stick with Trump. Lucky for the president, for now that’s good enough for him to keep his job.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“What It’s Like to Be Rolodexed: One Candidate’s Journey Into the Reality of Political Fundraising” [Paul Perry, The Intercept]. Former PA-07 candidate on how the DCCC operates: “In two short weeks at the very outset of my campaign, they directed me to raise $200,000. I failed their first Rolodex test, but pressed on into the third quarter nonetheless. As the campaign dragged on and their sense of the weakness of the field and my campaign gathering strength, my finance director started getting more calls from their finance people. They wanted weekly numbers, down to the number of hours I had spent on the phone with donors each week, how much money I had raised on a weekly and daily basis, and even average contribution estimates. I went back and forth with my team about how much to play ball with them considering they weren’t doing much for us.” And they wonder why they lost.

“How Democrats Can Mobilize Millions of Non-Voters” [The Nation]. “A much more worthwhile enterprise [than focusing on Trump voters] would be to examine non-voters—the people who don’t show up to vote, but exist in such large numbers they could upend American politics instantly if they decided to get involved. There are persistent non-voters, who just never participate, and also a fascinating bloc of people who voted for Obama but stayed at home in 2016. These individuals, disproportionately young, low-income people of color, have important implications for the future. So what do they want, and what would it take for them to get involved?” Lol. Who wants to “upend American politics”?

Stats Watch

Purchasing Managers’ Manufacturing Index, January 2018: “near a 3-year high and unchanged from the mid-month flash and up 4 tenths from December” [Econoday]. “New orders rose at their best rate in a year with export orders at a year-and-a-half high. Production is also at a year high and there are signs of capacity pressures including longer lead times, rising backlogs and higher selling prices. Confidence among the sample is described as ‘robust.'”

Institute For Supply Management Manufacturing Index, January 2018: “Overheating has to be the concern of ISM’s manufacturing sample where the January index came in at 59.1, a level held down by a slowing in employment which may signal that the sample can’t find enough people to keep up production” [Econoday]. “New orders just keep pouring in…. Employment is the weak link in the January report, slowing nearly 4 points to what however is still 54.2 to indicate a solid monthly net increase in the sample’s staffing. This report has been sending loud signals of sharp acceleration for the last year, and acceleration is now beginning to take hold in government data, at least in some of the data most notably factory orders and shipments.”

Productivity and Costs, Q4 2017 (Preliminary): “Fourth-quarter output did rise at a 3.2 percent annualized rate compared to the prior quarter, but it took 3.3 percent more hours to accomplish the increase” [Econoday]. “For productivity this is no improvement at all, falling 0.1 percent and near the bottom end of Econoday’s forecast range. Compensation rose 1.8 percent which, relative to productivity, makes for a 2.0 percent rise in unit labor costs which is the high end of expectations…. Costs may be up but worker compensation, when adusted for inflation, actually fell at a 1.8 percent rate compared to the prior quarter. This is the latest bad news on wages and helps explain Monday’s decline in the savings rate and may well explain what could be another jump in credit-card use in next week’s consumer credit report.” But: “A simple summary of the headlines for this release is that productivity contracted while the labor costs grew. However, year-over-year analysis show equal growth” [Econintersect], “The problem really is that economists only understand money flows – and how they got into measuring productivity is beyond my comprehension. This is an extremely nuanced calculation which is never totally accurate as you are shifting technology or methods. … Now the spoiler today is likely logistics – as robotics mean that one can produce a product literally anywhere in the world (so labor cost is no longer the prime factor – although pollution is and many processes are inherently dirty). Logistics becomes the primary element which means manufacturing is coming back to the USA.” And: “At the end of the day, it is important to keep in mind that productivity gains actually compete with rising wages and labor costs. If total output from companies rises more than wages, then productivity is counted as being higher. If wages and labor costs increase more than total output, then productivity drifts lower. Now we just have to see what the impact will be from all the wage hikes and bonuses announced after corporate tax reform. This could create a more volatile theme around productivity and unit labor costs for much or all of 2018 and even into 2019” [247 Wall Street].

Jobless Claims, week of January 27, 2018: “After a period of volatility, jobless claims may be settling down” [Econoday]. “Today’s results help confirm the health of the labor market, specifically the low level of layoffs, going into tomorrow’s employment report for January.”

Construction Spending, December 2017: “Construction ended a modest year on a strong note” [Econoday]. “The housing side of this report is positive but needs to accelerate even further to feed supply to what has been a housing sector starved of new homes and condos.”

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, January 28, 2018: “continues to press to new highs” [Econoday].

Capital Spending: “Research by Industrial Reports, Inc. shows combined U.S. and Canadian planned capital spending fell 25 percent in January compared to December. January spending for the two nations totaled $39.76 billion compared to December’s $53.58 billion. The research organization reported 263 planned U.S. and Canadian projects in January” [Industrial Reports]. “Planned U.S. project spending was off by 12 percent in January with $31.29 billion in planned investment compared to the December total of $35.66 billion.”

Shipping: “The U.S. trucking market may be even tighter than some market-wide measures suggest. New results from several truckload businesses show strong gains in operating profits and revenues that were boosted by double-digit surges in freight rates” [Wall Street Journal]. “Demand, which is measured in “freight ton-kilometers,” or one ton of freight flown one kilometer, had been strong for most of the year. Unlike 2010, when the gains that came amid the recovery from the financial crisis and recession quickly dissipated, the increases in 2017 should extend through 2018, the global airline trade group predicted—though the gains will not be nearly as strong as last year’s…. The air freight sector boomed in 2017 as a synchronized global recovery triggered demand for manufactured exports to help companies quickly restock their inventories. The mode also benefitted from the beginnings of an expected multi-year expansion in cross-border e-commerce deliveries.”

Shipping: “The ship tech bubble debate” [Splash 247]. “I think we are seeing a healthy increase in the development of tech in shipping, driven by the availability of data, but a bubble? No. In shipping we’ve been used to a few companies driving design and operational innovation. Compared to other sectors supplier choice has been limited, mainly due to the high capital costs of the type of innovation we have looked for – new vessel designs, propulsion systems, or operational tools (such as digital navigation) to name a few. The fact we are seeing new entrants who are more data focused is a good thing. Arguing that these companies ‘don’t know shipping’ and are ‘creating a bubble’, overlooks the fact that shipping needs this expertise, and we’re unlikely to supply it from within our own ranks.”

Shipping: “Global air growth climbed 9 percent in 2017; best year since 2010, IATA says” [DC Velocity].

Infrastructure: “$1.5 trillion infrastructure plan touted by Trump with no clear way to pay for it” [Logistics Management]. “In a major change, ATA is publicly backing a nickel a gallon increase per year over four years to help pay for the Build America Fund. The fee would be indexed to both inflation and improvements in fuel efficiency, with a 5 percent annual cap. ATA estimates the Build America Fund would generate $340 billion in new revenue over the first 10 years.” The Chamber of Commerce also backs a 5-cent per year increase in the federal gasoline tax. Awesome! A regressive tax on working people!

Infrastructure: “The freight and logistics world is giving a chilly reception so far to the outlines of President Donald Trump’s infrastructure investment program. Groups including truckers, port operators and highway planners say they’re happy with the president’s goal of spending $1.5 trillion on roads, bridges and other transportation projects, but…. the lack of funding details in Mr. Trump’s State of the Union speech leaves many wary that longstanding divisions will get in the way of the plan” [Wall Street Journal]. “Administration officials have said they plan to contribute $200 billion in federal money to lure more private and state investment.” That’s not very much!

Infrastructure: “Lots to keep track in the pending U.S. infrastructure debate, says former DOT head Burnley” [Logistics Management]. “‘The way in which we are going about that is contentious,’ [James Burnley, a partner at Washington, D.C.-based law firm Venable LLP and former Secretary of Transportation under the late President Ronald Reagan] explained. ‘I hope we don’t end up with a sharp partisan divide and that Congress can come to a consensus, but we may be able to get an infrastructure bill that broadly meets the president’s goals, even if the democrats refuse to work on bipartisan legislation. I say that because of how things went with tax reform, but I think it is at least likely that some democrats will support ultimately what Congress decides to do…and much more likely that they will cooperate in the process.'”

The Bezzle: “Tensions over price-fixing allegations are boiling over in U.S. poultry supply chains. Sysco Corp. and US Foods Holding Corp. , two of the country’s largest food distributors are suing big suppliers including Tyson Foods Inc. and Sanderson Farms Inc.,…., charging they conspired to manipulate wholesale prices” [Wall Street Journal]. “The complaints are the latest in a string of lawsuits and probes involving the companies that control the U.S. chicken industry, which produces about 41 billion pounds of meat annually for grocery stores, restaurants, and overseas buyers. The suits come as more companies across a range of industries use of data services to get a better grip on the direction of markets. In this case, the food distributors say wholesalers have been using information services to help them manipulate supplies and prices. Those prices have been rising even as demand for poultry grows.”

The Bezzle: “Worries Grow That the Price of Bitcoin Is Being Propped Up” [New York Times]. “[Bitfinex’s] Tether currency has been valuable to traders because it allows them to hold a stable token, tied to the value of the dollar, and move it quickly between virtual currency exchanges. But there is a downside. Because the identity of Tether holders is not always clear, the movement of the virtual token between exchanges — and across national borders — has raised concerns among lawyers about money laundering…. Tether has never produced a real audit, leading to suspicions that Bitfinex may be printing virtual money backed by nothing.”

The Bezzle: “Now, the part that really irks crypto enthusiasts. Any time you divest your digital asset, it’s a taxable event, even if you’re buying something with it. For example, say you bought $50 worth of bitcoin and then, when it doubled, used it to buy something worth $100. You’re on the hook for a $50 gain” [MarketWatch].

Tech: “The Latest Data Privacy Debacle” [New York Times]. “Since November, Strava has featured a global “heat map” showing where its users jogged or walked or otherwise traveled while the app was on. The map includes some three trillion GPS data points, covering more than 5 percent of the earth. Over the weekend, a number of security analysts showed that because many American military service members are Strava users, the map inadvertently reveals the locations of military bases and the movements of their personnel. Perhaps more alarming for the military, similar patterns of movement appear to possibly identify stations or airstrips in locations where the United States is not known to have such operations, as well as their supply and logistics routes.” Here’s an example:

And here’s the Strava map, if you want to play with it (though I imagine it’s been “fixed” by now?

Mr. Market: “Alan Greenspan says there are two bubbles, in stocks and bonds” [MarketWatch]. “‘We are dealing with a fiscally unstable long-term outlook in which inflation will take hold,’ he said. ‘In fact I was very much surprised that in the State of the Union message yesterday all those new initiatives were not funded and I think we’re getting to the point now where the breakout is going to be on the inflation upside. The only question is when.'” Help me.

Five Horsemen: “Facebook and Microsoft break out to new highs” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Feb 1 2018

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 61 Extreme Greed (previous close: 62, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 78 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jan 31 at 4:20pm.

Gaia

“The messy biological basis of culture” [Nature]. “In his bold and important book The Strange Order of Things, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio… suggests that our hard-wired drives, urges, compulsions, impulses and automatic responses, such as hunger, desire and pain, originate from “subjective experiences of the momentary state of homeostasis” — that is, the body’s routine, humdrum regulation of its visceral function. He argues that there is an organic dialogue between this biological process and the feelings that arise from our continuous scrutiny of it. That diverse penumbra of feelings and impulses, in turn, continuously infuses conscious thought and, ultimately, drives human behaviour. Human nature is thus distilled from a delicate and protracted negotiation between the beating drums of instinct, shaped by core biological functions, and the attempts of conscious minds to negotiate culturally appropriate outcomes of its mandates.”

Health

“Here’s what we actually know about the Amazon, Berkshire and J.P. Morgan health initiative (hint: very little)” [MarketWatch]. “The U.S. health care system pits private sector companies in price negotiations with various health care providers, resulting in higher prices than are paid by federal programs like Medicaid and Medicare.” Wait, what?

“A Better Way to Disrupt Health Care” [The Editors, Bloomberg]. Swell. Disruption.

Neoliberal Epidemics

“The Psychology of Inequality” [The New Yorker]. “Feeling poor, meanwhile, has consequences that go well beyond feeling. People who see themselves as poor make different decisions, and, generally, worse ones. Consider gambling. Spending two bucks on a Powerball ticket, which has roughly a one-in-three-hundred-million chance of paying out, is never a good bet. It’s especially ill-advised for those struggling to make ends meet. Yet low-income Americans buy a disproportionate share of lottery tickets, so much so that the whole enterprise is sometimes referred to as a ‘tax on the poor.'”

Guillotine Watch

I wonder if this food actually tastes good:s

Class Warfare

“Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults, by Household Income and Education — United States, 2011–2014” [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. “During 2011–2014, the age-adjusted prevalence of obesity among adults was lower in the highest income group (31.2%) than the other groups (40.8% [>130% to ≤350%] and 39.0% [≤130%]). The age-adjusted prevalence of obesity among college graduates was lower (27.8%) than among those with some college (40.6%) and those who were high school graduates or less (40.0%). The patterns were not consistent across all sex and racial/Hispanic origin subgroups.”

“Smaller farms that struggle the most to make ends meet are also the ones that are least likely to receive government support from the farm bill, a new report shows. But even farmers on the lower end of the economic scale are doing better than rural Americans overall, the report says” [Daily Yonder].”One half to three-quarters of smaller family farmers are currently experiencing serious financial risks, according to the report from USDA’s Economic Research Service Only about a third of middle-sized farms are in financial trouble (defined as having an operating margin of less than 10%). For large farms, 42% were at financial risk. Overall, net farm income is at a five-year low. Projected net income for 2017 is only 49% of the peak earnings year from 2013, when income came to $123.8 billion.”

News of the Wired

“Sleep and Mortality: A Population-Based 22-Year Follow-Up Study” [Fermat’s Library]. N = 21,268 twins. “Conclusions: Our results show complicated associations between sleep and mortality, with increased risk in short and long sleep.

Indeed:

“Exclusive: Mattis seeking to ban cell phones from Pentagon” [CNN]. Sure, but why stop there?

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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 (Yousef Espanioly):

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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.

114 comments

    1. Paul Cardan

      Interesting comments, one rightly pointing out that the German left deserves a share of the blame, what with the KPD seeking the destruction of social democracy and the SPD having first invoked Article 48, the emergency powers clause that would be used so much more effectively by their successors. Of course, German conservatives, in an unintentionally suicidal bid to stave off the left, actually decided to hand the chancellorship to the Nazis. So this was a bipartisan effort.

      Reply
        1. Dr. Roberts

          It’s really best if you just read this wiki page There was a deep rift between the Socialists who supported the WWI and those who steadfastly oppossed it. When the former had a revolution led by the later put down with force by right-wing militias it deepened the divide.

          Reply
  1. George Phillies

    “The Districts That Will Determine the Next House Majority” – read shows that the author is assuming the Democrats pick up a fair number of Republican House seats where Clinton carried the district, and the Republicans do not return the favor, even in districts that Trump carried heavily.

    Well, ti oculd happen, but the tone of the article smells a bit too much of cheerleading for the Democrats.

    Reply
    1. dcblogger

      If anything the article is too conservative. Between record numbers of Republican retirements and record fundraising for Democratic challengers, I would say the Democratic tsunami is on its way.
      Democratic registration is soaring and Republican registration is stagnant. The DNC can’t raise any $, but local Democratic committees are filling up and raising record amount of $.
      Most of all, Democrats have candidates, lots and lots of candidates, not just at the Congressional level, every level. It will be bigger than 2006. Did you see what happened in Virginia? That is going to happen all over the US.

      Reply
  2. dcblogger

    I can’t understand why it is more profitable for banks to hold on to empty houses than sell them. I expect that Yves has explained this before, but my search skills are not so good.

    Reply
    1. diptherio

      Just a guess from the peanut gallery here, but I’d reckon it might have something to do with not having to book a loss until the property sells, i.e. they can maintain the accounting fiction that the houses on their books are worth more than they would actually fetch at market. I think the term is “mark to make-believe”.

      Reply
      1. Lemmy Caution

        There has been an empty bank-owned house down the road from me since 2010. It was a nice house, only a few years old when it was repossessed, and it stands at the corner of a relatively new neigborhood, with houses in the $200,000 – $400,000 range. As it has sat there, however, the yard has been cut once every two or three years, the trees and bushes have gone rank, and at one point early on a burst pipe on the second floor had flooded down the exterior for days or weeks until someone finally came out and shut the water off. All this time the windows and doors have been shut tight, and I doubt the AC or heat has been on for years. I would assume that there are massive growths of mold inside, along with a whole ecosystem of insects, rodents and other various critters. I would guess that all that’s left to do is bulldoze the whole mess and cram the wreckage into dumpsters destined for the nearest landfill. Quite a system we have here!

        Reply
      2. Lee

        Also, they probably get something of a tax break on depreciation equal to 1/27.5 of the value of the property as determined by assessment or what was paid for it.

        Reply
        1. Stephen V.

          I’ve wondered about this myself here in new AR wmt wonderland. Up until a few years ago, realest hate agents I knew wouldn’t touch bank-owned houses.
          As to depreciation. …one is SUPPOSED to act like one is in the rental biz…which is not what I see. Maybe their *audits* don’t reach this deep?

          Reply
          1. todde

            Banks don’t depreciate houses.

            It sits in an account called other real estate.

            They don’t have to book the loss.

            Reply
    2. WheresOurTeddy

      2 empty rental houses for every 1 homeless person in America.

      If you ever needed confirmation that profits matter more than people, and that your society is morally indefensible, there you go.

      Reply
    3. jgordon

      The answer to this is very straight forward. Thanks to some creative regulatory antics unleashed in the darkest days of the 2007/2008 near-collapse banks are no longer required to mark their “assets” to market. Instead, they’re allowed to magically price at whatever they imagine they can theoretically get, and this is the number they’re allowed to go with when regulators determine whether or not they’re solvent. Selling would immediately reveal the con.

      Incidentally allowing this to happen leads to the interesting unintended incentive to keep properties that have been long empty and uncared for off the market; the bigger the difference between the actual value and the bank’s magical unicorn value the less the bank wants to sell–since properties that go unoccupied tend to quickly decay and lose value.

      This is all of course completely corrupt and could only happen in a society skirting the edges of collapse. Make sure you’re rural retreat is well stocked with ammo and rations because things could go at anytime. If you don’t have a rural retreat these sorts of properties are often confiscated by local governments for code violations and/or failure to pay taxes, and this is often a great way to get a secluded, rural property at a low price–which is how I picked one up.

      Reply
    1. grayslady

      What a great catch, dip. Thanks! I had no idea that the Lucy Parsons Lab even existed. Every major city should have an organization like this. Their purpose is the protection of civil liberties through research and publication of data. Although LPL focuses primarily on Chicago and Cook County, their information on surveillance, civil asset forfeiture and other invasions of privacy necessarily cover the rest of Illinois, as well.

      As to LPL’s lawsuit, Mayor Emmanuel, as usual, doesn’t want transparency. LPL issued a FOIA request to see what Chicago was willing to ante up for the abysmal Amazon HQ2. The bidding was concluded back in 2017, and several other major cities have published their proposals to Amazon, since there is no longer any competitive disadvantage to doing so. But Chicago? The mayor is fighting tooth and nail to keep the details confidential. As LPL pointed out in its lawsuit, the parking meter deal turned out to be such a fiasco for the city that residents have a right to know what they might be stuck with in future.

      Reply
      1. DJG

        diptherio and grayslady: Thanks, diptherio, for looking out for us. Lucy Parsons was the widow of one of Albert Parsons, who was executed for participation in the so-called Haymarket Riot here in Chicago. She is one of the patron saints of the city, along with Jane Addams and Abraham Lincoln.

        I note that Loevy & Loevy filed the suit on behalf of Lucy Parsons Lab. I will place the info at a couple of places on my FB page: Loevy & Loevy has done a lot of pro bono suing these past few years.

        I enjoyed the part about the mayor’s office having to pay monetary damages to LBL. Cheeky. Let’s hope that it comes to pass.

        Reply
  3. Arizona Slim

    Read the article about Paul Perry and the fundraisers.

    Paul, if you’re reading this, please get in touch with the people are fighting that big, frackin’ gas pipeline, the Mariner 2. Runs right through the area that includes PA District 7. Here’s a link:

    http://marinereast2.com/index.html

    I am involved because my 92-year-old mother lives within the Evacuation Zone. People in that zone are supposed to self-evacuate, and there’s no way that my mother could do so.

    Reply
  4. diptherio

    “Smaller farms that struggle the most to make ends meet are also the ones that are least likely to receive government support from the farm bill,

    Anecdote from a friend who’s been doing small-scale sustainable farming here in NW Montana: the only way for his family to make it work is to process their produce themselves and sell it at retail directly (out of a food-truck). Trying to produce for wholesale just doesn’t provide enough margin for them to keep their heads above water.

    Reply
    1. Procopius

      This is not a new development. I remember reading an account at least five years ago about small farmers having to take jobs in the nearest town to survive. No way they could make a living from farming full time. I wonder what sizes the classifications are. My grandfather farmed half a section, 1/2 square mile or 320 acres. I don’t know how he managed that with horses, but I know that was one reason my father decided he didn’t want to be a farmer. He made a comfortable living from the end of WWII thru the ’60s. The “Evernormal Granary” did it.

      Reply
  5. JacobiteInTraining

    FWIW, this guy has been railing against Bitfinex/Tether for a loooong time. Lots of interesting stuff if you scroll on back through the tweets for the last few months:

    https://twitter.com/Bitfinexed

    Disclosure: I do not now…nor have I ever…had any positions in any cryptocurrency.

    Reply
  6. fresno dan

    “What It’s Like to Be Rolodexed: One Candidate’s Journey Into the Reality of Political Fundraising” [Paul Perry, The Intercept].

    ==========================
    When I was working for the FDA we actually had a union get elected (certified) – it was the Treasury employees union (treasury union tried to get a union certified for FDA and managed to do it – it never amounted to much). I was a union steward for a brief period of time, and my one insight into politics was when I got roped into trying to get congressional representatives to speak to a gathering of union/FDA employees.
    Representatives WOULD NOT come unless a rather substantial amount of money, i.e., a political contribution to the representative was made. Making the argument that interested voters receptive to the representative might be beneficial to the representative had ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY no sway – indeed, I think they viewed it as a negative.
    And when you think about it from their perspective, why would a candidate want to talk to a bunch of informed, motivated voters who are knowledgeable about policies? Its as likely that the representative would repel as many potential supporters as attract, as well as giving more detailed positions that he/she may feel it is more advantageous not to disseminate too widely….

    How much did Trump’s larger gatherings contribute to his victory? I haven’t read anything on the subject of whether other candidates didn’t get large crowds because as a tactic they don’t think speaking to the unwashed is of much value, and indeed, may be detrimental. OR they are just so busy on the phone asking for money that they had no time to be on the “stump.”

    Reply
  7. Lee

    “The messy biological basis of culture” [Nature]. “In his bold and important book The Strange Order of Things, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio… suggests that our hard-wired drives, urges, compulsions, impulses and automatic responses, such as hunger, desire and pain, originate from “subjective experiences of the momentary state of homeostasis”

    Having a brain 6 times larger than the average for all mammals ain’t all a bed of roses. Dolphin are similarly burdened, or advantaged as the case may be, and they seem pretty well pleased with themselves and their circumstances. Perhaps, instead of trying to teach whales to speak English, we should learn to speak dolphin and seek their advice.

    Reply
    1. giantsquid

      Personally, I think most human beings are about as well adapted to their current cultural circumstances as orcas are to life at SeaWorld or MarineLand.

      Reply
  8. Hana M

    The Strava map is fun. North Korea, not surprisingly, is almost completely dark except for a bright spot in Pyongyang.

    Reply
    1. allan

      “almost completely dark”

      So are poor neighborhoods in the U.S.
      Check out the South Side of Chicago, except for Hyde Park and the University of Chicago.

      Fitbit mania doesn’t exactly fit into the lives of many Americans:
      too little money, too little free time, too few safe places to walk or run.

      Reply
  9. ambrit

    The article about the psychology of ‘poverty’ is spot on. I’ve had to argue many times against the “absolute poverty” believers.
    One reason that ‘poor’ people buy so many lottery tickets, or gamble more in general is that often that is the only legal way they know to potentially escape the trap of poverty. Working hard and playing ‘by the rules’ is now obviously exposed as a fairy tale with which society tricks its’ members into betraying their own best interests. The poor already realize that the deck is stacked against them as far as wealth accumulation is concerned. Gambling beguiles as a non illegal way of striving. One alternative is despair and self sedation. Hence, a plague of opioid overdoses.
    In his book of aphorisms, “The Aristos,” the novelist John Fowles mentions the belief that people give more credence to luck than hard work in human affairs. Gambling would fit that theory well.
    ‘The Aristos’ wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Aristos

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Those Roman soldiers were tempting their fates, risking further spiritual poverty, playing dice at Golgotha.

      On the other hand, Pascal with his Pascal’s Wager thought to escape spiritual poverty, and more, by acting like a gambler.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        Spiritual dice. That makes me remember Fritz Leibers’ wonderful story “Gonna Roll The Bones.” A classic modern folk tale where a man gambles with Death.
        See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonna_Roll_the_Bones
        Pascal, on the other hand, tried to confine spirituality within the dictates of Logic. A mugs’ game, that.
        The older I get, the more I understand that “The House Always Wins.”

        Reply
    2. laughingsong

      Plus, looking at that $1-$2 bucks, realizing it can’t buy much else . . . it certainly isn’t gonna be the difference between making rent and not. . ..

      Reply
    3. John Wright

      Yes, for a government and society that sells “anyone can get rich” buying a lottery ticket has a non-zero probability of making this so.

      Imagine a case where someone needs a $1million medical procedure and has no way of paying for it, buying a lottery ticket, with a very small probability, may provide the funds, while without the medical procedure one might die with a small sum of money in the bank.

      I suspect the consumers buying lottery tickets do not view themselves as foolish and will not be convinced by any statistical negative expected value argument.

      Lotteries sell “hope” somewhat like two successful Democratic presidential candidates, Bill Clinton and Obama did.

      The success of lotteries might be an indication of economic distress in the USA, not of consumers making bad choices.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        Hmmm, a one-in-three-hundred-million chance of paying out by buying a powerball ticket or no chance of ever advancing by your own means due to a rigged system. That’s quite a choice that.
        If researchers find that much of the damage done by being poor comes from feeling poor, does that mean that the poor should learn to smile more and to have a can-do, positive attitude?
        Maybe it would be better for the researchers to learn the effects on people growing up in a rigged system while a portion of their fellows always seem to get a free ticket. I think that a study like that would be much more instructive.
        Better yet, how about a study on the effects on a people that have had nearly two centuries of living longer and being more affluent than the preceding generation suddenly find that not only will they live less than their parents and have less wealth, but that the same will be true for their children. Now how will that play out in a people?

        Reply
  10. Summer

    “Tether has never produced a real audit, leading to suspicions that Bitfinex may be printing virtual money backed by nothing.”

    It’s called not being able to think yourself out of a box or feedback loop.

    Reply
    1. JCC

      “…suspicions that Bitfinex may be printing virtual money backed by nothing.”

      Suspicion? What makes this totally different than any other crypto-currency presently on the market?

      Reply
        1. Wisdom Seeker

          Or your average S&P500 corporation? (Recall the recent thread about the Big 4 auditing-consulting-BookMassaging firms and the associated cesspool of corruption.)

          Reply
          1. Procopius

            Back in the ’60s I worked for one of the Big Eight (as they were then). The so-called Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) had already been replaced by creative writing, although is did go further downhill. Glad they’re being exposed.

            Reply
  11. fresno dan

    “Here’s what we actually know about the Amazon, Berkshire and J.P. Morgan health initiative (hint: very little)” [MarketWatch]. “The U.S. health care system pits private sector companies in price negotiations with various health care providers, resulting in higher prices than are paid by federal programs like Medicaid and Medicare.” Wait, what?
    ========================================
    https://www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/part-a-costs/assignment/costs-and-assignment.html

    that is, even though it seems it is that of which we do not speak, Medicare is a defacto price controlled system. 55 years of evidence that if you REALLY want to control health care costs, the “free” market is your greatest enemy…..

    Reply
      1. Wisdom Seeker

        From what I’ve heard locally, Kaiser Permanente is actually fairly efficient for standard medical care, particularly pediatrics and basic adult medicine. I can’t speak to how well it works for chronic illnesses or hospitalizations, where it sounds like one might have to fight a bit for full treatment, but then again one doesn’t need to separately wrestle with an opaque and fraud-ridden hospital/insurance billing system.

        And their electronic medical records system doesn’t seem to be a total waste of time either.

        Reply
        1. Lee

          My parents got with the Kaiser health plan in the 1950s and kept it for the rest of their lives. It worked well for them. I was for a time a union rep for Kaiser hospital workers. It seemed to be a decent employer and I was told that the company actually wanted their workers to unionize. More recently, I was talking to a young woman in nurse’s training and she told me her goal was to work for Kaiser as it was the best outfit to work for. And we have a lot of options here in the sf bay area.

          Reply
        2. John k

          I’ve been happy for third of century. Wife had it, lived three times longer with aggressive colon cancer as first expected… had already metastastasized.
          No bills or coverage fights is great.
          Second wife tried it, she’s happy, too.

          Reply
  12. Synoia

    Now it has bounced up to 42 percent….Worst of all for Dems, a 15-point advantage in the generic congressional ballot in December (51/36) is now down to two points (47/45).

    perhaps the Dems would do better if they were for (Medicare for All, etc) and not just (resisting) opposed to tRump.

    The might also reflect that being to party of the donkey, the metaphor of the donkey and carrot is NOT a winning strategy. Eventually the donkey understands the fraud.

    Reply
    1. John k

      Winning neither everything or the only thing. That spot is pleasing donors. All of them. All the time.
      Poor dems are loaded with constraints, gotta be rep and pretend to be something else.

      Reply
  13. Ted

    “A much more worthwhile enterprise [than focusing on Trump voters] would be to examine non-voters—the people who don’t show up to vote, but exist in such large numbers they could upend American politics instantly if they decided to get involved. There are persistent non-voters, who just never participate, and also a fascinating bloc of people who voted for Obama but stayed at home in 2016. These individuals, disproportionately young, low-income people of color, have important implications for the future. So what do they want, and what would it take for them to get involved?”

    Oh good lord … The Nation Looks out the window from just above their computer monitors from a building in Midtown Manhattan to wonder about disaffected or disinterested citizens who don’t vote (sorry non-citizen residents, guess you don’t except as a prop for Team Blue). Well, of course not just any of the disaffected/disinterested but “young, low-income people of color”. Since college students are almost all “low-income”, well we know just who Katrina and crew likely have in mind (so much easier to get those folks to go Team Blue).

    Notice the studious refusal to use “working class” instead of “low income” (and by implication class solidarity that cross cuts “people of color” distinctions) … well now to do that one might have to really think about what *those* disaffected/disinterested citizens want … and the low likelihood that Katrina and crew’s duopoloy will be running for office on those issues any time soon. E.g., decent working conditions, a living wage, universal child care, paid parental & elder care leave, universal health care, affordable & safe housing in walkable urban communities, affordable & efficient public transportation, a return to urban design that favors human needs over FIRE needs, healthcare that focuses on well-being & dignity, and not polluting bodies and the earth with pharma, reigning in the merchants of debt, free college tuition at all public institutions, and end to the neoliberal surveillance and control regimes in schools, hospitals, and increasingly everywhere in daily life, marketing free spaces (particularly in the home) …

    You know … stuff like that … hmm … it seems we know what those folks want already … what everybody wants if they are a poor mope working for The Man. Let’s have some party that stands for that. Let’s call them The Poor Mope Party. or just The People’s Party. Wonder if The Nation is going to get behind that …

    Reply
    1. foghorn longhorn

      The super majority, 60%, don’t vote.
      When given a choice between clinton and trump or obama and mittens, who can family bloggin blame them.
      Not sure what the answer is, but it is NOT more of the same.

      Reply
    2. perpetualWAR

      The Democrats could get me to vote again if they:
      1) Admitted they allowed the banks to steal our homes; and
      2) Gave my home back.

      Otherwise, I will sit home and do nothing on election day.

      Reply
  14. Darius

    An increase in the gas tax would be great if combined with doubling or tripling the personal and dependent exemptions, instead of eliminating them, as the Republicans just did.

    Reply
  15. PKMKII

    On Kennedy and the pharma legislation: Note that his district includes part of the Boston metro area, one of the premier pharma hubs in America. Susan Brooks’ district has the tonier sections of Indianapolis, home to pharma giant Eli Lilly. Olson’s is part of the Houston metro area, which has some pharmaceuticals but not as prominent as the other two.

    Reply
    1. JohnnySacks

      I wouldn’t expect a single eastern MA politician to ever put the brakes on the Raytheon military welfare queen either. You’d think some of the ‘flyover’ states would unite and do what needs to be done, it’d be the type of serious vengeful retribution they love, delivered ice cold on a platter, but they’re too busy worrying about immigrants and reproductive services.

      Reply
      1. James T. Cricket

        Hi. For the ‘flyover’ states, would it not be the case that the elites in those states, those at the top, are doing fine, even when there is no employment, housing, or services for the rest of the population? Therefore, they are not encouraged to do anything, and they do not suffer anything.

        Thinking out loud there.

        It would be just like the colonial model, in which elites in those states prosper and control their own populations. Just that the colonised are poor people in poorer states of the United States.

        You then use laws and policing to turn people into subjects, rather than citizens. This is more likely than a state-elite led revolt against centralised governments, from where they get their own power.

        Reply
      2. Edward E

        Looking at Joe Kennedy’s fec.gov data receipts for this election cycle 1-1-2017 to 1-30-2018 his biggest doners are Raytheon, Cardinal Health, Goldman Sachs and General Dynamics. Donations from several other pharmaceuticals such as Eli Lilly, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Biogen, Sanofi, McKesson, Vertex, etc.

        Reply
      3. Oregoncharles

        Aren’t a couple of major war profiteers based in the Great Midwest? I believe Boeing recently moved its headquarters there, after a merger; otherwise, names aren’t coming to me.

        Reply
  16. bstamerjon

    the high capital costs of the type of innovation we have looked for – new vessel designs, propulsion systems, or operational tools (such as digital navigation) to name a few.

    Wha?
    A better pointy ended shoebox?
    Fractional increases in propulsion efficiency?
    A 2-20k nav computer?

    So much goobletygook.

    Reply
  17. Jason Boxman

    The Democrat party in Florida is an epic disaster. Even with a huge registration advantage in Central Florida, the Republicans solidly control local offices. The only good thing to come out of the area was Alan Grayson.

    Reply
    1. integer

      I saw an interview with DWS yesterday (which took place on 22/01/18) in which she claimed the the govt. shutdown was successful for the D party because they had gained “the potential for momentum” out of it. Even the CNN anchor couldn’t take this seriously.

      Here it is. I like this comment which was left below the video by someone with the handle BOBBI3:

      Pure comedy gold! Congresswoman who probably should be in jail gives an incompetent interview.

      And this one from R Kemper:

      OMG, the worst thing you can do is put Wasserman-Shultz out there to represent the Dems at a time like this. A shutdown over illegals, and now this? During a congressional midterm year? What a losing combination!

      Reply
      1. integer

        For anyone who watches this video, or even the first minute or so, note how the anchor occassionally looks down at her desk like she is reading notes. I am almost certain that when she does this, she is actually reading messages from people that CNN has working behind the scenes in order to make sure that the anchors are constantly steering the interviews towards CNN’s favored narratives. This interview is not a particularly good example, but all CNN anchors do this throughout interviews, some more obviously than others (I’m looking at you, Chris Cuomo), and it is especially frequent during interviews in which the interviewee is succeeding in challenging CNN’s favored narratives. Anyway, just something to watch out for.

        Reply
  18. Mike Mc

    Good old Uncle Joe Biden.

    He has mastered the fine art of seeming like a regular guy while offering up Joe and Jane Sixpack’s kids on the altar of the banksters.

    If donor one falls for his baloney, it’s money not spent to help elect Sanders, warren, Gillibrand (watch this one), Gabbard et al. His Senate and VP pensions alone means he doesn’t need another nickel from us suckers.

    Reply
    1. Darthbobber

      This undoubtedly dates me, but “Uncle Joe” will always put me in mind of the none too rigorous with the truth co-proprietor of the Shady Rest hotel in Petticoat Junction.

      Reply
  19. Darthbobber

    The Hill Nunes memo article. How anyone can see these antics as some meaningful win for anything even resembling congressional intelligence oversight really evades me. Oversight that is purely dependent on whose ox is being gored is no oversight at all. And a memo that simply offers a characterization of still unrevealed documents is a near opposite of actual information.

    If there is common ground between Nunes and Schiff it is their mutual lack of interest in congressional intelligence oversight as such.

    Reply
    1. Big River Bandido

      I agree with you that the impetus of Nunes’ attempt to release the memo is partisan. But sometimes when there’s a place politicians don’t dare go…once one goes there, everyone else’s inhibitions drop. Take the filibuster, for instance… . Regardless of the outcome of this current tempest, if 11(g) is invoked now, it should be easier to invoke it again…and again.

      On the “whose ox is getting gored” part: regardless of the immediate (partisan) motives for releasing the memo, if its release does leave the appearance of the FBI and DNC caught in flagrante delicto, that would do real damage to the corrupt Democrat establishment.

      Reply
      1. Darthbobber

        But none of that, even if agreed to for the sake of argument, adds up to oversight. It just further degrades the signal-to-noise ratio on everything coming out of the capitol.

        Reply
        1. integer

          Looking at it from a slightly different perspective, if one considers the signal as being the election result, as determined by the voters, and the noise to be the interference being run by the powerful elements of the CIA, FBI, and corporate media who were firmly in the Clinton camp and have steadfastly refused to accept the result of the 2016 election, then I would say the Nunes memo has the potential to dramatically increase the signal-to-noise ratio.

          Reply
        2. Big River Bandido

          I concede the point that oversight is all about how you use it and that in this case, it’s all just noise because the underlying “issue” is so phony. But up to this point, even though there’s been a statutory “lever” in Rule X, it’s not been available because of a taboo against actually using it.
          Once that taboo is breached, regardless of how trivial the issue that leads to the breach, a precedent will be set to allow use of that lever in the course of actual oversight on authentic issues.

          Reply
          1. Oregoncharles

            The underlying issue may not be phony. Spying on an opposing political campaign is the surveillance bete noire. Watergate, remember? Only this time, it would be the Democrats. Turn about, and all that.

            Reply
          2. Darthbobber

            But it isn’t even a precedent for allowing the release of the other tendentious spin memo “based on” the same underlying documents. Or of the documents themselves, which would provide the only possible basis for judging a memo from anybody.

            I get where you’re coming from, but I think you overrate the extent to which precedent or internal consistency really drive any of this anymore.

            Reply
  20. allan

    Whole Paycheck becomes Whole Panopticon:

    ‘Seeing someone cry at work is becoming normal’: Employees say Whole Foods is using ‘scorecards’ to punish them [Business Insider]

    Whole Foods has a new inventory-management system aimed at making stores more efficient and cutting down on food waste. And employees say the retailer’s method of ensuring compliance is crushing morale. …

    Some employees, who walk through stores with managers to ensure compliance, describe the system as onerous and stress-inducing. Conversations with 27 current and recently departed Whole Foods workers, including cashiers and corporate employees – some of whom have been with the company for nearly two decades – say the system is seen by many as punitive. …

    On the bright side, their kale is organic.

    Reply
    1. Harold

      I went to Brooklyn one for first time yesterday since bought out by Amazon. They had well-stocked shelves — neatly stacked with a lot of the same things. Overheard two employees grousing: “This place is run like a plantation.” Agribusiness takes over the grocery store.

      Reply
      1. Annieb

        I have been a customer at a Whole Foods store in Boulder County, CO for five years, until recently when I purchased two organic avocados from Mexico. They were past their sell by date but of course I had no way of knowing. Had to throw them out. Bad avocados are what I expect from Safeway. Now apparently Whole Foods is also crapifying their once excellent produce. No point in shopping there any longer when I can buy good if not great organics from King Soopers.

        Reply
        1. Kurt Sperry

          Two bad avocados could happen in any store. I usually pick out some and make sure they are good before i put them in my basket.

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith

            I buy avocados a lot and I disagree. Even buying them green and letting them ripen, which should be foolproof, there are some stores where I get consistently good ones and others where it is hit or miss (I hadn’t waited ‘t wait until they might have been overripe, yet inside they have lots of small air pocket rather than solid flesh and have gone bad around the air spaces). I have great results always at Publix.

            Reply
          2. Annieb

            I grew up in CA in the old days and know how to pick an avocado. If I sound a bit fanatic about it that’s because I am!

            Reply
            1. polecat

              Ya ! Cal-ifon-ia in the olden 80’s … when trying to cop an avocado meant looking both ways before reaching over a barbed-wire fence, hoping the orchardist didn’t catch you in the act … and prosecute your a$$ !

              Mexico’s not worth the bother …

              Reply
  21. nowhere

    Apple crushed expectations again… it’s almost as if there is negative talk before earnings calls to drive the price down.

    It will be interesting to monitor the Horsemen for the next week.

    Reply
    1. Jim Haygood

      In aftermarket trading, Apple and Amazon are up while Google is down, all on earnings reports.

      These overnight moves can be exaggerated in thin markets. Nevertheless the initial direction is often sustained in the days that follow.

      Nearly every day now the vertical scale on the Five Horsemen chart has to be extended as Amazon blows the top off it.

      Reply
      1. John k

        P/e 354. Think dot com…
        Imagine p/e of 16, price would drop 95%.
        Then imagine they didn’t have the cia cloud income, no earnings at all.
        They’ll survive a crash if and when one arrives, but price might decline.

        Reply
  22. GF

    Infrastructure: “$1.5 trillion infrastructure plan touted by Trump with no clear way to pay for it”

    Sounds like the gas tax payment method, if approved, would add another incentive for purchasing an electric vehicle.

    Reply
  23. Bitecoin

    I try to hit the Water Cooler often, but I must say – Lambert’s seething and subjective hatred of Democrats is so regularly over the top that I often click away.

    I get it; they are and have been disappointing to say the least.

    Lambert violates NC’s own comment policy on a daily basis with his unsourced personal attacks such as the comment about Joe Biden at the top of this post. Is it possible the guy is just simply still feeling his loss?

    Hey, D’s lost, and the guy they lost to is wrecking the place.

    One would think that would be the bigger news.

    Reply
    1. Tim

      I’d say Lamber has presented plenty of source for attacks on Joe. He is responsible from his congress year for plenty of american’s pain.

      The in-congruence of his record and his noble presentation makes Lambert and most of us skeptical of his every twitch.

      Reply
    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Do you know Joe Biden was a Senator for thirty years where his famed accomplishments include the Bankruptcy Act of 2005 and he was the chairman of the Judiciary during the Clarence Thomas hearings? Holy Joe is responsible for so many of our current problems. In a country of 300 million people, we can do better just by randomly selecting a person off the street.

      One would think Biden’s horrid record would be bigger news, but it is so boring. Who wants to talk about Joe’s efforts on behalf of the credit card industry when there is that funny photo shop of him fixing a trans am? He’s holding a beer in it.

      The country is burning because collectively we have such tolerance for vile clowns like Joe Biden. Trump is a symptom of tolerating Joe and his ilk.

      Reply
    3. Yves Smith

      Oh help me. If you can’t see that Biden has been milking his son’s death, you are seriously wanting in powers of perception. And yes, I get to be rude because you asked for it. Your comment is in bad faith and violates site policies in other ways that I am not going to waste my time itemizing. You are not in charge of those determinations. I am and you are way out of line.

      Moreover, if you don’t understand that a considerable portion of what Trump has been engaged in is a continuation of Obama policies without the pretty packaging, you have not been paying attention. As we chronicled early in Trump’s term, a great deal of the “OMG look at the terrible things Trump is doing” was about actions that Obama had also taken at the start of his term in office.

      Obama got rid of habeas corpus, a far bigger infringement on individual rights than anything Trump has yet done. Obama actually prosecuted a journalist, James Risen, something Trump has yet to do. Obama greatly expanded the surveillance state. Obama presided over 9 million foreclosures. One of the many reasons those were made worse than they would otherwise have been was the 2005 bankruptcy “reforms,” on of Joe Biden’s major “accomplishments” which also brought us the non-dischargeability of student debt. Obama also created the deportation apparatus…and despite Trump’s hostility to immigrants, Obama deported them at a greater rate than Trump has:

      Yet figures released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on December 5th show that the total number of deportations has declined over the past fiscal year—from October 1st 2016 to September 30th 2017—to the lowest level seen since 2006.

      https://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21732561-deportation-has-also-become-considerably-more-random-donald-trump-deporting-fewer-people

      Shorter: Daily Kos is over there.

      Reply
      1. Procopius

        This was an excellent list, but one criticism of Trump I’ve been seeing a lot of lately is that he is “expanding our nuclear arsenal.” I know for sure Obama started that program at a projected cost of (clutch pearls) $1 TRILLION!!! at least in 2014 and I think earlier. There was a certain amount of outcry over this deviation from his promise to try to reduce the risk of nuclear war, yet avid Democrats are pushing the current false narrative with great enthusiasm. Even Pierce. ETA: Well, maybe not Pierce, I don’t remember one of his columns decrying it, but he has become somewhat less careful of facts in his joy of combat against Trump.

        Reply
    4. Paul Cardan

      Here’s how I see things. We’re dealing with several different, but related crises. There’s the financial crisis and its ongoing aftermath, there’s the ever worsening ecological crisis, and there’s a multi-dimensional social crisis, having to do with the destruction of communities in many parts of this country, various forms of attendant individual dis-ease (e.g., addiction, obesity, suicide), and de-legitimation of the political system. These crises are predictable results of the neoliberal agenda. The crises provoke various reactions aimed at self-preservation, some from the left, others from the right. Reactions from the right tend to be nationalist, and thus racist and patriarchal; twentieth century fascism is an example. Reactions from the left, the reactions I consider worthwhile at any rate, involve attempts to democratize the economy, and range from redistributive social welfare programs such as Medicare to job guarantees to worker self-management schemes. So, you can take your pick: left or right. The center will not hold.

      The Democratic Party is not the left and does not represent the left. They represent the progressive wing of neoliberalism. They actively impede left responses to the crises listed above. And that makes Trump possible. It might well give rise to something worse, such as a powerful, power-taking, genuine fascist movement. Another example of something worse is that monstrosity of the interregnum for which some Democrats seem to pine: a police state, perpetually at war, armed to the teeth, in which a relative handful of technocrats protect the assets of rentiers from those who have to work to live. Do I exaggerate? Look at their policies. Consider their views on the 4th Amendment, the proper role of the intelligence services in the electoral process, and the FISA court system. Consider the wars, who voted for them, and who votes to keep paying for them. Consider non-dischargeable student loan debt. And then there’s the ongoing fever dream called Russia-gate. I’m sure regular readers could add many, many more supporting examples.

      The Democrats have to be called out for who they are. It’s a public service.

      Reply
      1. Big River Bandido

        We can add the Democrats’ hard work (in Congress) to thwart any kind of single-payer health care system, card check, climate change or immigration reform legislation. We could add the Democrats’ opposition (in, say, the Cleveland City Council) to the living wage.

        Your critique of predatory capitalism and the Democrats is the most succinct, cogent, and potent indictment I’ve read in a long time. I think I’m going to bookmark that and memorize it for use in elevators.

        Reply
    5. Darthbobber

      1. The Biden statement you mention is clearly an opinion about facts, not a statement OF fact. Why Lambert’s personal opinion would require sourcing evades me.

      2. This comment follows a sporadic pattern on nc of rarely heard from people surfacing briefly to make the same point (and often in the same words) about anti-democratic bias, but without real examples. And no, it is hardly the big news or news at all that the democrats lost a year and a half ago or that a lot of wrecking is taking place.

      The source of a whole lot of seething anger stems from the apparent commitment of the party’s nomenklatura to Doubling down on already failed strategies and the continued pursuit of a morally and intellectually bankrupt economic doctrine and foreign policy.

      Reply
  24. Summer

    RE: Stock Market

    “What can’t continue won’t…”

    If people hadn’t been so upset about the last crash and bailout, and if it hadn’t been still in our memories (unlike so much other news) the dump would have already happened.

    Just waiting for folks to forget…

    And privatizing SS would be an even harder sell if the market crashes just after the last one that left so many so angry.

    Reply
    1. Jim Haygood

      Privatizing SS would be an even harder sell if the market crashes just after the last one that left so many so angry.

      Quite right, although a depressed market would be the best time to start investing SS in equities.

      Until CRSP [Center for Research in Security Prices] collected the data in the early 1960s, it had not been proven (empirically, at least) that stocks outperform bonds. One can’t blame the founders of SS for not knowing this in 1935, although it’s universally accepted today by pension funds.

      Tragically, had SS been invested 50/50 in stocks and bonds starting in 1935, benefits probably would be twice as high now as they actually are.

      It’s hard to make this argument any more, because with Social Security only 20% funded, its dwindling assets could earn 20% per year but still never catch up to its liabilities. In other words, SS has gone into a terminal tailspin. All that’s left to do is cast lots on when “zero day” (forecasted in 2035 by the trustees, on the 100th anniversary of its founding) will occur. SAD!

      Reply
      1. Harold

        All that’s left to do is cast lots on when “zero day” (forecasted in 2035 by the trustees, on the 100th anniversary of its founding) will occur. SAD!

        What?

        Reply
      2. djrichard

        Zero day is when SS’s money heap runs down to zero.

        Remind me again, what’s zero day for DoD’s money heap? They must have a money heap like SS, right, because otherwise how is DoD spending sustainable? Don’t tell me DoD is in a terminal tail-spin too! /sarc

        Reply
      3. Procopius

        Errr,,, Very subtle. I suspect you know Zero Day is not actually Zero. The fund will continue to pay out benefits at roughly the same rates as today. They won’t be able to pay out the rates that are vaguely projected to be in effect in 2035 because they will no longer have the income from the Trust Fund treasury bonds, which will have been sold off to provide the funds to keep paying out benefits in excess of current tax revenue. That’s what the bonds are there for. And the bonds are there for security, not for income. They are not “worthless IOUs,” they are U.S. Treasury Bonds, the safest investment on the planet. SAD!

        Reply
  25. VietnamVet

    The interplay of instincts, emotions and consciousness is never more in play than with Democratic partisans. Democrats are simply incapable of going after non-Voters. First, Deplorables deserve their low-lives. Second, the party would have to promise misogynistic supremacists a living wage, free education and healthcare. Simply impossible! Besides, this would halt the transfer of middle class wealth to their upper class donors.

    Thus, their belief that Vladimir Putin is why Democrats are a bi-coastal minority party.

    Reply
    1. Procopius

      I don’t want to get into how much Putin had to do with 2016 (my opinion is he had less to do with it that Rudy Giuliani did), but you are persisting in propagating the pernicious myth that Trump voters are The Deplorables. The median income of Trump voters was $70,000. That’s well above the median family income for 2016. And that means half of them made more than that. As long as the Democrat Party ignores that reality they are just spinning their wheels in order to continue paying the same bunch of neoliberal consultants.

      Reply
    1. Yves Smith

      Incorrect. Social Security does not need to be “saved” since the US is a sovereign currency issuer. In addition the Treasury instruments that the SSA buys are non-marketable instruments, and so the Fed can’t buy them. The issues with SS are purely political but the people who want to “save” it by weakening won’t admit to that. See Dean Baker and others for details (and Baker isn’t even acknowledging the MMT issue, that the constraint on Federal spending is real resources, and the weakness of the labor market, as measured by wage growth and the level of discouraged workers, says we have plenty of slack).

      Reply
  26. ewmayer

    Re. a possible Obstruction Charge resulting from Mueller’s unsupervised and open-ended fishing expedition: “After all, without proof of collusion, the president has a strong argument: How can he obstruct justice by blocking the investigation of a crime that he never committed? This defense might not convince a legal scholar like Jeffrey Toobin…” — So I had a gander at Wikipedia to get more background on the aforementioned Jeffrey Toobin to find that, first off, referring to Mr. Toobin as a “legal scholar” – and thus implying some presumed level of academic dispassionateness – is rather a stretch, as he is in point of a fact a longtime “celebrity TV legal analyst”, Greta-van-Susteren-style:

    After three years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Toobin “resigned from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn (where he had gone to work after Walsh) and abandoned the practice of law.”[9] He started working in 1993 at The New Yorker and became a television legal analyst for ABC in 1996.

    As far as any possibility of political dispassion on Mr. Toobin’s part, this next part pretty much tells the story:

    In March 2009, Politico revealed that Toobin was a member of the private discussion group JournoList, where “several hundred left-leaning bloggers, political reporters, magazine writers, policy wonks and academics…talked stories and compared notes.”

    Lambert will – justifiably – object to the “left-leaning” bit as he would to its incorrect usage to describe the likes of Obama and Hillary Clinton, but in essence JournoList appears to be a prototypical Dem-establishment MSM talking-points-coordination cabal – again, Wikipedia:

    JournoList (sometimes referred to as the J-List)[1] was a private Google Groups forum for discussing politics and the news media with 400 “left-leaning”[2] journalists, academics and others. Ezra Klein created the online forum in February 2007 while blogging at The American Prospect and shut it down on June 25, 2010 amid wider public exposure. Journalists later pointed out various off-color statements made by members of the list denigrating conservatives, as well as a seeming conspiracy to prop up then Presidential candidate Barack Obama.

    Ezra Klein controlled the forum’s membership and limited it to “several hundred left-leaning bloggers, political reporters, magazine writers, policy wonks and academics.”[2] Klein justified excluding conservatives from participation as “not about fostering ideology but preventing a collapse into flame war. The emphasis is on empiricism, not ideology.”

    (LOL at thet laughable last-sentence claim about “empiricism.”) I’m sure had JournoList still been operating in 2016 its members would have been denigrating both conseravtives and actual leftists who supported the likes of Sanders and Jill Stein. As far as my above “cabal” descriptor, well, let’s have a look at what JournoList’s replacement group decided to call itself, as well as the kinds of logical pretzels they appear to regularly tie themselves into in order to stay On Narrative:

    After Klein shut down JournoList, a new group, calling itself “Cabalist” was started by Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic, Michelle Goldberg and Steven Teles, a professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. The group, which had 173 members by late July, was made up mostly of former JournoList members. Its existence managed to stay secret for several weeks, until The Atlantic magazine correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg revealed its existence in a blog post on July 21. Goldberg reported that one recent discussion concerned whether or not members should ignore the articles on The Daily Caller website. “In other words, members of Journolist 2.0 were debating whether to collectively respond to a Daily Caller story alleging—inaccurately, in their minds—that members of Journolist 1.0 (the same people, of course) made collective decisions about what to write.”

    Reply
    1. Left in Wisconsin

      “Professionals” on “both” sides coordinate messaging. It is maybe the key function of the modern policy wonk. I don’t know who was part of Journalist but I believe Doug Henwood said he was a member and he and Ezra Klein are pretty far apart on politics. So my guess is that Jlist was less about coordinated messaging than the many, many other lists that are much more explicitly about coordinated messaging. In my limited experience, Dems have to do this via email lists while Repubs/rightwingers have an entire organizational infrastructure that is coordinated.

      Reply
  27. integer

    2018

    Nancy Pelosi is a big part of GOP plans to win the midterms Washington Examiner

    House Republicans will lean heavily on Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her comment that the GOP tax cut amounts to just “crumbs” for people in their quest to retain the majority this year…

    Most recently, [Pelosi] called the Republican tax reform plan “Armageddon,” and said the $1,000 bonuses some companies awarded as a result of corporate tax cuts are “crumbs.”

    Pelosi is sticking by the “crumbs” comment. She repeated it Thursday at an event in Massachusetts, according to the Daily Caller.

    “There is a tax advantage in the beginning for workers, and that’s their enticement,” Pelosi said at a tax reform event in Cambridge. “While they give banquets to … the high end, to corporate America, and I say ‘crumbs,’ they mock me in ads for saying that, compared to what they get at the high end.”

    Sounds like a reasonable enough argument I suppose, but then there’s this:

    Pelosi slams company bonuses as ‘crumbs’ despite once praising $40 tax cut Fox

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday slammed President Trump’s tax reform that led to companies giving as large as $2,000 bonuses as “crumbs,” despite praising Obama-era $40 tax cut to workers as a “victory for America” in 2011.

    Hypocrisy, thy name is D party.

    Reply
  28. a different chris

    WTF?

    >Those prices have been rising even as demand for poultry grows.

    Sigh. And I actually believe Tyson, etc are scum of the earth but that’s not, um convincing.

    Reply
  29. knowbuddhau

    That Nature article bugs me. Not the concept. That’s an improvement over the so-called mind-brain problem, itself an absurd case of the more general spirit-matter problem that plagues Western thought.

    When we say, “It is raining,” where is this “it” apart from the rain? In the sentence, “I have a body,” where is this “I” without the body? Both are ghosts born of semantics. Just so, the ol’ “ghost in the machine” needn’t be exorcised. It wasn’t there to begin with. See?

    I was saying to a friend just the other day, bladders and a-holes rule. Especially in the morning hours.

    So that’s just fine. It’s the ultimate sentence in the quote.

    Human nature is thus distilled from a delicate and protracted negotiation between the beating drums of instinct, shaped by core biological functions, and the attempts of conscious minds to negotiate culturally appropriate outcomes of its mandates.”

    So bougie: Human nature as cocktail. And “beating drums of instinct,” really? Was “jungle drums” too direct?

    Today instinct and drive theories are known as “early” theories. Not, as better fits, discredited. They’re as inchoate as today’s “deep state.” So, only a few decades out of date.

    And it ends on a perfectly malappropriate word, “mandates.”

    What are mandates? Merriam-Webster sez:

    1 : an authoritative command; especially : a formal order from a superior court or official to an inferior one
    2 : an authorization to act given to a representative

    accepted the mandate of the people

    3 a : an order or commission granted by the League of Nations to a member nation for the establishment of a responsible government over a former German colony or other conquered territory
    b : a mandated territory

    Some words can be so revealing. It’s the ol’ cosmic watchmaker, ordering about his creation. Does anyone here feel that way? Or do we arise from this dance spontaneously?

    There’s no “beating drums” issuing primitive “mandates,” no superego in disguise riding herd over a savage id (btw, psychoanalysis, as real psychology vs. pop, is thoroughly discredited, too).

    I’ll have a go at it:

    “Human natures, so indelibly inflected locally as to make sweeping generalizations suspect, are arising from a never-ending dance in which body and awareness get it on. Further research is indicated to reveal the true nature of this it that we are getting on. But getting it on we are.”

    #FIFY

    Reply
  30. Procopius

    “What It’s Like to Be Rolodexed: One Candidate’s Journey Into the Reality of Political Fundraising”

    It would be interesting to read some stories about how the Republicans operate. Do they treat their candidates the same lousy way? I imagine they find fundraising more congenial than progressives do, but I’ve gotten the impression from many stories like this one that there are employees of the DCCC and DSCC who spend their time just calling up local candidates, berating them for not doing enough fundraising, and then going out to a three-martini lunch with some lobbyists.

    Reply

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