2:00PM Water Cooler 2/21/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I am mortified to be behind the eight ball again. I’m going to update the post in two tranches, the first being a pantry clearout of political news, of which there is a lot. Then, I’ll look at the business stories, and throw in a few more orts and scraps. So, in the meantime talk amongst yourselves and please check back. –lambert UPDATE 3:18PM First tranche. 3:52PM Second tranche. All done!



I get fund-raising mail:

Yes, they know I’m so “big-hearted” they know I’ll have no problem having the processing fee chiselled out of me…

Arizona: “Dems’ opening salvos on McSally’s Senate bid explain a lot … about Democrats” [Tucscon Sentinel (DonCoyote)]. “The Democrats’ opening attack on U.S. Rep. Martha McSally’s Senate campaign has arrived in media inboxes, courtesy of the Arizona Democratic Party. It is just inept, in so many ways. I’m going to just walk you through it because political messaging used to be my job… They’re asking the media to run with the story that U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s endorsement of former state Rep. Kelli Ward proves McSally is the ‘establishment candidate.; That’s fine. This is true. She is the establishment pick. I mean, when Arizona’s five Republican congressfolk sit down in a D.C. back room and decide she should be the one to make the move, she’s pretty establishment. On the other hand, if the Dems are trying to make the campaign a referendum on who’s less ‘establishment,’ the party should remember it’s running U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. Sinema couldn’t be more D.C. ‘establishment’ if she were made of marble. Sinema’s eyeglasses come in just three styles: Ionic, Doric and Corinthian.” This is fun stuff!

Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania Special Election Loses Its Punch as New Districts Loom” [Wall Street Journal]. “Whoever wins Pennsylvania’s congressional special election next month will likely find himself drawn out of the district by November. The Pennsylvania congressional district maps imposed Monday by the state Supreme Court placed the homes of both Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb outside the new district’s boundary, putting a shorter political shelf life on both men campaigning in the March 13 contest.”

Kentucky: “Linda Belcher defeats Rebecca Johnson to reclaim District 49 seat” [Courier-Journal]. “[Democrat] Linda Belcher won the special election in Bullitt County on Tuesday night to replace Rep. Dan Johnson, who died by suicide amid sexual abuse allegations. Belcher secured 68.45 percent of the vote, according to the Bullitt County Clerk’s office. [Republican] Rebecca Johnson, Dan Johnson’s widow, secured 31.55 percent. There were 4,947 votes cast.” And in the district “President Donald Trump won by a 72 percent to 23 percent majority…. Belcher’s Tuesday victory marks the 37th state legislative seat that Democrats have picked up since Trump was elected.”

California: “Ex-Clinton aide makes mystery bid for California governor” [Politico]. “Amanda Renteria, a former top Hillary Clinton campaign aide who baffled Democrats recently when she filed paperwork to run for California governor, still isn’t talking. In the days since filing, Renteria made no campaign announcement, and she is not returning reporters’ calls. She’s raised no money and has no apparent political apparatus — a bizarre campaign opening more characteristic of a fringe candidate than a political professional.”

New Cold War

“The Fundamental Uncertainty of Mueller’s Russia Indictments” [Masha Gessen, The New Yorker]. Well worth a read. The lead:

On Friday, the special counsel Robert Mueller filed an indictment of thirteen Russians, for meddling with the 2016 election. Over the long weekend, four ways of interpreting the document solidified. The White House focussed on a statement by the deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who said the indictment contains no allegation that any American knowingly colluded with the Russian effort. President Trump tweeted, “They are laughing their asses off in Moscow.” Rob Goldman, Facebook’s vice-president for ads, took to Twitter to assert that the primary purpose of Russian meddling was to “divide America,” not to influence the election. Meanwhile, most of the legacy media interpreted the indictment as a major blow to Trump, who, they write, can no longer dismiss the allegations of Russian meddling as a hoax. Here is the bad news: all of this is true at the same time.

“Did Russia’s Social Media Campaign To Discourage Black Voters Cost Clinton The Election?” [Buzzfeed]. From firewall against evil Communist Bernie Sanders to pitiful dupes of Satan incarnate Vladimir Putin…. My head is spinning! (To be fair, and as we would expect from Betteridge’s Law, the article quotes experts who are quite skeptical. But that won’t be the talking point!)

On to Moscow!

“America’s outrage over Russian election meddling is a blatant double standard” [Damon Linker, The Week]. “But if Putin’s mischief-making constituted an act of war against the United States, then the U.S. has committed acts of war against an astonishingly long list of countries since the end of World War II. One study estimates that we interfered with no fewer than 81 elections in 45 nations from 1946 to 2000. Such efforts have been so brazen and uncontroversial that former CIA Director James Woolsey recently felt comfortable laughing about them with Laura Ingraham on Fox News.

This doesn’t mean that we should respond to Putin’s program of manipulation with indifference. Far from it. But it does mean that a response of self-righteous indignation is risible. To treat such meddling as an act of war on the part of Russia is either to invoke a blatant double standard that permits the U.S. to do things we stridently denounce in others — or it’s to admit that our own actions have been far more pernicious than we like to think.”

Health Care

I am not happy with this at all:

I don’t like the tone (“Gosh”); any politician these days who thinks they deserve an automatic assumption that they’re acting in good faith — e.g., Jon Favreau, newly minted single payer advocate — either has a tin ear or a screw loose. (Readers will recall that what I liked about Buttigieg was tactical; I think it’s a very good idea to talk to voters and ask them what they want, which Buttigieg did with his coffee klatches). And you can see, right in that tweet, the damage that creatures like Andy Slavitt are doing by equating universal health care (“any measure that would help get all Americans… “) with Medicare for All. Single payer advocates were told in 2009 that ObamaCare was universal, and its advocates repeated that it was, long after it was evident it was not. Note also that Buttigieg confuses health care with health insurance (“… covered”). Coverage never cured anybody (except to the extent that coverage reduces stress and anxiety). Only care does that. All in all, an unedifying series of unforced rookie errors by Rhodes Scholar Buttigieg. How can you run for DNC chair if you don’t understand the basics of policy?


If only Oprah had given a $500K to Occupy or #BlackLivesMatter*:

“Inspiring young people….” True, but we’ll see how this goes… NOTE * Horizontal politics (“punching sideways”) are always good. Vertical politics (“punching up”) are always bad.

I hate that “thoughts and prayers” trope:

First, “faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). So pass some damn legislation! Second, “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6). Listening to politicians yammer about thoughts and prayers on the Twitter makes my back teeth itch, much like being forced to listen to cable in an airport or doctor’s waiting room. Please be silent!

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Who Counts?” [Eric Holder, The New Republic]. “An inaccurate census would have devastating consequences on the right to vote and to participate meaningfully in democracy. The apportionment of representatives to Congress depends on census data. States and municipalities rely on the census count not only to draw their congressional and state legislative districts but even to demarcate school districts. An inaccurate census affects which district you belong to, who represents you, and whether your vote will count.”

“Could one Philly man’s exoneration prompt Krasner to examine other decades-old murders?” [Philadelphia Inquirer]. “This month [new District Attorney Larry Krasner] named Patricia Cummings, a lawyer from Texas, to lead a unit dedicated to reviewing problematic old cases. And he has pledged to give the unit — which was criticized for a perceived lack of production under former District Attorney Seth Williams — more staff members and seek additional funding from City Council.” Good news for Philly, I think.

* * *

I’ve been accumulated a bunch of DSA material. As you will see, they’re doing a lot of interesting things, tactically and strategically.

“Our Electoral Strategy” [DSA National Electoral Committee]. This:

Discussion of independence from the Democrats tends to revolve around the question of the ballot line, but it shouldn’t: most party power rests not in ballot access as such but in the network of consultants, politicos, lawyers, and party functionaries who control the means of electioneering in each state. Like most in DSA, we see the ballot line question as a tactical one to be addressed by local chapters in accordance with local circumstances—but we consider it essential that DSA escape the welter of Democratic patronage networks that have controlled and limited politics in the US for too long. To operate independently of this network we need to build our own electoral capacity, democratically controlled by DSA. Ultimately, it is not the name of the party under which a candidate runs that governs their decisions while in office, but the material conditions that inform the composition and capacity of the groups that form their coalition.


In contrast to these local efforts, many national left of center political organizations have had only limited success in putting together a true nationwide grassroots movement. Democracy for America, Progressive Democrats of America, Move On, and Organizing for America, for instance, all started with much fanfare about their national organizing strategies to keep voters engaged as activists, but have ultimately become vehicles for raising and distributing money and collecting email lists: astroturf rather than grassroots. It is likely too soon to see whether Our Revolution will break free of this pattern, but if it does it will be because it continues to value and respect the local networks that sprang up around the Sanders campaign.

Concrete material benefits:

Clever organizing:

It’s interesting to compare tactics like this to, on the one hand, the Democrat and Republican parties, and on the other, to Occupy and #BlackLivesMatter. Does anybody remember whether childcare was available at Zuccotti Park? If not, and just like the General Assembly process (as opposed to Roberts Rules) that discouraged working class attendance. For somebody like me, following this story is like tracking the formation of a new galaxy….

* * *

Michigan: “Under Trump, a growing number of metro Detroit millennials are turning to socialism” [Metro Times]. Despite the “age of Trump” frame in the headline, the article is interesting: “On the first Saturday of the year, more than 50 people were packed into a fluorescent-lit room at the Royal Oak Senior Center with the ultimate goal of overhauling the country’s economic order. The crowd was mixed in age — about a third of its members looked to be senior citizens and a third appeared to be in their 20s. Across the spectrum, quite a few people wore flannel.” So, right out of the box, we see that the editor-written headline (“millennials”) contradicts the reporter’s story (“mixed in age”). And what’s wrong with flannel?

Stats Watch

Purchasing Managers’ Index Composite Flash, February 2018: “A surge in services and continued strength in manufacturing pushed the PMI composite to a 27-month high” [Econoday]. ” Services rebounded from recent softness where the index rose 2.6 points to 55.9, beating expectations of 53.5 and posting a 6-month high. Manufacturing, considered a leading indicator for the economy in general, rose 0.4 points to 55.9, a 40-month high. New work received by service providers boosted service sector activity, registering the largest rise since March 2015. Business confidence in the outlook for the next 12 months picked up to the strongest level since May 2015, and anecdotal evidence suggested that sales volumes were driven by high confidence among both consumers and businesses.” We’ll see if this survey shows up in the data….

Existing Home Sales, January 2018: “An uptick in supply and lower prices failed to boost existing home sales in January” [Econoday]. “While existing home sales tend to be volatile, the softness in today’s report may cast some doubt on housing strength indicated by last week’s report of a surge in permits to the best level of the expansion.” And: “The rolling averages have been slowing in 2017, and they marginally decelerated this month. The rolling averages are now marginally in contraction. Housing inventory is now at historical lows for Januarys – and if you do not have enough houses for sale – then that means home sales cannot improve” [Econintersect].

MBA Mortgage Applications, February 2, 2016: “As interest rates continued to rise, purchase applications for home mortgages fell 6.0 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis” [Econoday]. And: “Deteriorating rapidly now?” (with charts on deteriorating loans for commercial real estate) [Mosler Economics].

Energy: “Frac Sand Shortage Threatens Shale Boom” [Oilprice.com]. “Frac sand is integral to growing shale production, increasingly so these days with more and more sand pumped down into a well. Shale drillers have credited the heavy doses of sand with squeezing out more oil and gas from the average well. Demand for frac sand surged from 34 million tons in 2012 to 61.5 million tons in 2014. Consumption fell in the ensuing years as drilling dried up when oil prices collapsed, but frac sand consumption surpassed previous highs in 2017 as drilling resoundingly came back.” Hmm. Reminds me of the Saudis pumping water into their giant Ghawar field, in Twilight in the Desert.

Energy: “U.S. Crude Exports Hit A Major Milestone” [OilPrice.com]. “U.S. crude oil production continues to grow and exports in January also increased significantly compared to January 2017. According to EIA data, U.S. crude oil exports averaged almost 1.4 million bpd for the four weeks ending January 26, compared to around 700,000 bpd on average in January last year. U.S. crude oil production is currently expected to average 10.6 million bpd this year to an all-time high, and to further grow to average 11.2 million bpd next year.”

Retail: “Amazon credit card adds Whole Foods to 5 percent cash back offer” [Reuters]. It’s easy when you don’t have to show a profit…

Retail: “Amazon employees just accidentally dropped a big clue about where the new headquarters could be” [Business Insider]. “A local news site called ARLnow.com says it recently saw an unusual spike in traffic to an article from December titled “County Wins Top Environmental Award from US Green Building Council” explaining how Arlington County was the first in the US to be selected for an environmental award. The site says the story recently saw a spike of about 6,000 pageviews mostly referred from what it identifies as an internal Amazon.com page.” Clever! Unless it’s a spoof, of course.

Retail: “Walmart Inc. is rethinking its online strategy after seeing the tough logistics behind e-commerce weigh on sales and profits. The world’s biggest retailer says holiday goods crowded out space for everyday items at its warehouses and stores, leading to stock-outs and slower online sales growth in the key fourth quarter. The results, including a 28% slide in operating profit, mark a disappointment for a business that has spent billions building up online capabilities” [Wall Street Journal]. “[O]verall profit margins were hurt by growth in less-profitable online sales—a key economic quandary that continues to trouble retailers. Walmart now will stress its main web presence for customers over the Jet.com operation it acquired, and will go back to trying get the right goods in the right place at the right time.”

Shipping: “New shipper survey reveals that small businesses face ‘import overhead'” [Logistics Management]. “While importing continues to grow across both small and enterprise companies, almost 50% of the 300,000-plus American businesses who import still use spreadsheets to manage their international supply chain…. 42.4% of business owners spend more than 2 hours on managing each individual shipment.

Over 60% of midsize importers (10-50 annual imports) spend 2+ hours managing each shipment, wasting anywhere from 20 hours to 500 hours a year managing shipments. Among companies that import over 100 times a year, 37% spend more than two hours managing each individual shipment; 12% spend over ten hours.”

Shipping: “Ultra-tight dray capacity forcing users to pay just to hold trucks” [DC Velocity]. “The availability of drayage capacity in the U.S. has recently become so tight that, in some markets, shippers and intermediaries are voluntarily paying a flat fee on top of the prevailing dray rate just to reserve a truck, according to an industry source. According to the source, shippers are ponying up the fee, which is often in the $200 to $300 range, without any prompting or mandate from the carriers. The practice appears to be most commonplace in Chicago, but it is not the only market where it is happening. In Chicago, the overall tightness of truck supply of any form is compounded by inclement winter weather across the Midwest, which has made it more difficult to find available dray. The source said the practice is occurring at ports, where dray trucks move containers from vessels to nearby locations such as a warehouse or rail head, and in domestic truck-rail service, where drivers deliver and pick up freight to and from rail ramps situated in high-density traffic corridors.” A “flat fee”… This reminds me of what I believe is the line to use when stopped by the police in Malaysia: “Is there any way we can settle the matter?”

Big Ag: “Deere Raises Forecast Amid Signals of Farm Recovery” [Farm Journal]. “Deere said Friday in a statement that equipment sales are projected to increase by about 29 percent in the financial year that lasts through October, and by as much as 40 percent in its fiscal second quarter.”

Supply Chain: “Soon after [DHL took over] the [KFC’s UK] deliveries along with logistics partner QSL, media around the world are reporting on a “KFC crisis” after the unit of Yum! Brands Inc. closed more than half its U.K. stores because they’d run out of chicken. One local police office even pleaded with residents to not call the station ‘if your favourite eatery is not serving the menu you desire'” [Wall Street Journal]. “It’s a nightmare for the logistics operators, and a sign of the difficulty in pulling off big changes in a supply chain operation in a single swoop—particularly in a far-flung network with some 900 sites facing consumers. DHL is apologizing as the company and QSL scramble to get the chicken shops open. ”

Supply Chain: “The robots are coming for the world’s low-cost knitters. Garment factories across Bangladesh have been bringing in automated cutting, stitching and knitting machines in a bid to hold onto their place in global supply chains, a trend that’s rolling across the apparel business as retailers push to keep consumer costs down and suppliers respond by cutting costs that already seem impossibly low” [Wall Street Journal]. That’s gonna ripple back horribly to the villages….

Tech: “The 4 Dimensions of Digital Trust, Charted Across 42 Countries” [Harvard Business Review]. “In framing a definition of digital trust, we considered the factors that determine the quality of interactions between two parties using a digital medium: users, who are on the “giving” side of trust, and the companies that build the platforms. We refer to these parties, respectively, as givers (e.g. those who call up a car on a ride-sharing app, check news on social media or pay for an online transaction) and guarantors (e.g. the ride-sharing company, the social media platform, and the digital payments technology) of trust. In addition, on the side of the guarantors are those providing broad trust-building measures (like cybersecurity companies), laws and regulations (like the forthcoming GDPR), or the technology companies (like Akamai) that make the online experience seamless and convenient. Trust reduces several types of friction in a transaction between givers and guarantors. This friction has many causes — some are infrastructural or because of poor design and functionality; some are systemic, such as regulatory or legal requirements or identification and data security measures; and some are because of uncertainty between parties to the transaction. This translates into different ways to measure trust.” Hmm.

The Bezzle: “Standardized Ethereum Recovery Proposals (ERPs) #867” [Github]. The summary: “Provide a standardized format for Ethereum Recovery Proposals (ERPs), which relate to recovery of certain classes of lost funds.” “Lost” as in misplaced, stolen, defrauded… If I understand this correctly, an Ethereum developer has discovered that software contracts do not, in fact, map cleanly to real world contracts, where — to strike a blow at random — law enforcement and jail time put “skin in the game.”

Infrastructure: “On American railroads, switch mistakes and speed cause an accident every other day” [Post and Courier]. “Every three days, somewhere in America, someone makes a mistake with the switches that control where trains go. And those mistakes cause accidents — usually because a locomotive is put on the wrong tracks. Every seven days, a train jumps the rails or collides into another because it’s going too fast. Taken together, these errors occur every other day — a lapse in judgment or a simple oversight with consequences that are costly at best and fatal at worst.”

The Fed: “FOMC Minutes: ‘Labor market continued to strengthen and that economic activity expanded at a solid rate'” [Calculated Risk]. “Still on pace for 3 or 4 rate hikes in 2018, although few signs of ‘broad-based pickup in wage growth.'”

Honey for the Bears: “The Disappointing Recovery in U.S. Output after 2009” [Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco]. “U.S. output has expanded only slowly since the recession trough in 2009, counter to normal expectations of a rapid cyclical recovery. Removing cyclical effects reveals that the deep recession was superimposed on a sharply slowing trend in underlying growth. The slowing trend reflects two factors: slow growth of innovation and declining labor force participation. Both of these powerful adverse forces were in place before the recession and, thus, were not the result of the financial crisis or policy changes since 2009.”

Five Horsemen: “Amazon threatens to blow the top off the chart again as it shakes off gravity’s feeble tether” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Feb 21 2018

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 17 Extreme Fear (previous close: 18, Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 13 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Feb 19 at 7:00pm. Now only lagged by two days. Not helping with the fear, dudes!

Net Neutrality

“FCC Chairman Pai under investigation for possible collusion with Sinclair” [Communications Workers of America]. “the FCC’s inspector general is investigating possible collusion between Chairman Ajit Pai and Sinclair Broadcasting. In particular, the investigation will focus on whether the Chairman or his aides pushed or timed agency rule changes to benefit Sinclair’s $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media. The Sinclair-Tribune merger would result in a massive broadcasting conglomerate that would reduce localism and viewpoint diversity, kill jobs, and harm consumers. The Sinclair-Tribune merger would allow Sinclair to reach 72 percent of all US television households, exceeding the national audience cap of 39 percent. But Chairman Pai reinstated the UHF discount, an outdated method of calculating audience reach which allows Sinclair to significantly undercount its reach to avoid the cap.” Opening up a new front…

Class Warfare

“ACLU Finds Courts Nationwide Ordering Consumers to Be Arrested and Jailed at the Bidding of Private Debt Collection Companies | American Civil Liberties Union” [ACLU]. “In the first-ever report on the extent and impact of cooperation between courts and the private debt collection industry nationwide, the American Civil Liberties Union found courts in 26 states and Puerto Rico in which judges issued arrest warrants for alleged debtors at the request of private debt collectors. This practice violates the many state and federal laws as well as international human rights standards that prohibit the jailing of debtors. It worsens their financial struggles by subjecting them to court appearances, arrest warrants that appear on background checks, and jail time that interfere with their wages, their jobs, their ability to find housing, and more.” Here is the full report.

News of the Wired

“No-sweat exercise may prolong life for elderly men: study” [Japan Times]. “A few hours a week of light exercise — walking the dog, puttering about in the garden — lower the risk of death in older men, even if workouts are brief, researchers said Tuesday. Their findings, reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, challenge two long-held assumptions about the benefits of physical activity for the elderly. To improve health and prolong life, according to many national health authorities, workouts must be strenuous and long-lasting…. The study, which tracked 1,200 men without heart disease in their early 70s and late 80s, says such guidelines should be revised. ‘The results suggest that all activities — no matter how modest — are beneficial,’ [lead author Barbara Jefferis, an epidemiologist at University College London] said.” n = 1200. Yay!

“Here’s looking at you, gran: the rise of elder tech” [Financial Times]. “For Rita, who turned 101 this year, retaining her independence is crucial. And thanks to innovations in technology she is still able to remain in her own home…. The scale of the innovations available is growing rapidly. Accenture, the professional services company, has just finished a pilot programme of an artificial intelligence-powered platform that allows relatives and care workers to monitor the daily activity of older relatives or friends.” Sounds good, but “AI” + “Accenture” is an enormous red flag. IIRC, an AI has the intelligence of a moth. Why not just fund town nurses?

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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 (pq):

pq writes: “Hard-working trees: Following last month’s prolonged sub-zero spell, the river through town was frozen solid enough to support a snowmobile. Then came the January thaw, which was so extreme that the ice melted into big chunks in just a few days and flooded the riverfront park. The picnic table in the 1/30 Plantidote was nearly submerged. The temperature plummeted again — 48 degrees in less than 24 hours! — and all that water froze. Can you imagine what it would look like if these sugar maples weren’t standing between the flood and the river?

As always, thanks to the hard-working NC team for holding together a bank of sanity between the river of idiotic and the flood of stupid.” You’re welcome!

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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. Jean

    Re that opt in fee….

    Sign all petitions that you are asked to and make sure and put down “your” email and “your” phone number on them. Ever hear of a circular firing squad? Look up your local democratic party info.

    Really creative? Call them and ask for a mailing address to which you can mail a donation check since you don’t have a computer. Got subscriptions?

  2. Amfortas the Hippie

    on the frac sand shortage.
    I’m sending this article to my local anti sand mine peeps.
    I warned them a few years ago that the big sand mining company didn’t go away for good, nor did they go away because we got up on our hind legs and moaned.
    They left, temporarily, because Mr Market said so.
    One of the reasons my mom picked this place was because there was no rail, no timber, no oil or gas, and no big city close enough to threaten engulfment any time soon.
    there were a couple of granite quarries…on and off affairs.
    Little did we know that our place sits on an ancient beach made of special sand. The local joke was that we’re exporting sand to Saudi Arabia.
    There are existing sand plants…16 miles NE, and 20 miles SW….that we discovered upon driving around after we moved.
    in the summer, not a bird or an insect can be seen or heard within a half mile or more of those places.
    a fine coating of red-orange powder covers everything.
    and the amount of water they use is staggering…pump it, add chemicals(proprietary), wash sand, and pump it back into the aquifer.
    we fought the installation of a new mine just a mile and a half NE of where I sit. Took years, and much effort…thankfully, we count retired, rather liberal, lawyers among our number.
    Had a big party when the miners appeared to pull out.
    If Mr Market is saying what I think he is, the Mine Corp will soon be back…likely much quieter this time.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Its not often spoken about, but its a major limiting factor on the capacity of the fracking industry to expand. Frac sand is quartz sand, usually only found where there are glacial deposits originating from granite exposures. Essentially, you only find it where glaciers have run over granite mountains and then post glacial floodwaters have deposited it in neat piles. Prior to fracking, the biggest market was for that nice sparkly sand at the bottom of aquariums in Chinese restaurants and some limited military use (for ultra hard concrete). The US has vast deposits in Wisconsin, but its expensive to transport and its not all that common in big deposits elsewhere.

      There is really no alternative to it. Anything but quartz is too soft to survive at such depths (it works like mini-pit props in the cracks formed by hydraulic fracking). They’ve experimented with alternatives such as ceramic balls, but they are far more expensive. And it seems that in less geologically good fracking rock, you need every larger amounts of the sand to maintain oil and gas flows.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Yeah, not all sands are the same. During the Iraq occupation the US military found itself importing sand from Saudi Arabia. No, I am not making this up. It seems that Iraqi sand was not good enough for making all those concrete barriers with and so had to import sand that was of the right grade. And now the world is running out of sand-


        I sometimes think that I should just get a job with the Onion.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          The big problem with sand in desert areas is that its often full of evaporates (i.e. salt). The first wave of oil investors in Saudi Arabia found this out the hard way when they found all their expensive new installations suffering concrete rot within a few years of construction.

      2. Amfortas the Hippie

        ours is what they refer to in the article as “brown sand”, although it looks blindingly white in July.
        It was formed,iirc, by wave action on the granite when Central Texas was an inland sea.
        you can tell when the frac drilling is going strong by the number of sand trucks careening around my neck of the woods.
        when the temporary bust happened, a year or two ago, suddenly there were hundreds of idle trucks parked on every available stretch of asphalt or concrete, until they figured out that they weren’t needed and disappeared for a time.
        They’re back, now(i asked a friend in Brady this afternoon)
        Since this whole operation is essentially scraping the bottom of the barrel(now it’s the Permian Basin as the “new saudi arabia”,lol. Peaked in 1972), I reckon we would be better served as a civilisation of we just left the dregs in place and focused on waves or wind or solar.

        1. blennylips

          We might not have a choice.

          Suitable sand is running out and our industrial civ uses an astonishing amount of it.

          Yesterday: “Frac Sand Shortage Threatens Shale Boom”

          One of the biggest crime organizations in India?: “Sand Mafia”.

          Look into the world of Florida beach replenishment. It’s a hot commodity!

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Human ingenuity means we will find an affordable way to import from Mars and the Moon.

            How else are would-be geniuses going to prove themselves?

  3. Pat

    Nice of Holder to notice that the census was in trouble. It has been almost since Trump was sworn in. And yet in that year what has been the main focus of so-called Democratic representatives in Congress and their mouthpieces in the media – Russia! Russia! Russia!

    One sign of hope for me at least, was an audience for a talk between Van Jones, Valerie Jarrett and Anna Devere Smith audibly groaned when Jarrett used the phrase “stronger together”. And not in the ‘what a bad pun manner”, but in a way that had her trying to talk back its use. Unfortunately that was the exception and not so hopeful was how much of the hokum regarding the wonder of Obama was accepted matter of factly and the sometimes naive sometimes willful ignorance of that administration’s real record regarding things like education, sexual trafficking, etc. I’m sure they would never see anything self-serving in Mr. Holder’s sudden realization that the Census matters and is in danger.

    1. EGrise

      No kidding; if only Holder had held an office that would have allowed him to have some impact on how the census (and other things) is conducted. If only, if only…

    1. PKMKII

      The criticism with Swaney is justified, though. She’s essential a rich attention troll who got in with a minimum of effort by throwing money at the process, and highlights the problem of people shopping around countries for Olympics slots (note she first tried this stunt with skeleton, but her money wasn’t good enough there). Nigerian bobsleigh team, she is not.

    2. Altandmain

      Apparently they only want corporate stooges to compete and win gold for their brand.

      Yet another reason to be skeptical of the Olympics and to resist the bid for the games if your nation ever wins (or should I say has the misfortune of being chosen by the IOC) to host them.

    3. The Rev Kev

      Well the Olympics is supposed to be an amateur competition after all. Maybe they would be more happy if instead of athletes representing counties, you could have athletes representing corporations. You know, as in: “And now we have the skaters lining up in their resplendent colours – there is the ones from Microsoft, BP, General Electric, Deautsche Bank, Apple and of course JP Morgan”.
      The trouble with the Olympics is that it is a human endeavour and so of course is subject to the fickled finger of fate. Just last week there was “Ester Ledecka, a Czech snowboarder competing on borrowed skis, who snatched gold in the women’s Super-G with a dramatic flourish so unexpected that US broadcasters NBC had packed up and gone home for the day”. And nobody here is Australia has forgotten Steven Bradbury’s dramatic win (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAADWfJO2qM) a coupla years ago.
      The tone of that article reminded me of what happened a coupla years ago. So our swimmers were getting ready to go to the Olympics when a top male and female swimmer appeared on TV and said that more money should be spent on the star swimmers – like themselves – and not the upcoming wannabees. They then had the swimming trials and both failed to qualify for the Olympics. They had to make two places especially available so that these two stars could go but everybody had a laugh at their expense.

  4. Jim Haygood

    David Stockman posts a massive takedown of Mueller’s cut-and-paste “comic book”:

    Mueller’s 37-page comic book indictment actually unmasks — inadvertently to be sure — the distinctly un-terrifying essence of the whole Russian meddling narrative. In fact, the crude social media emissions of the so-called troll farm were generally lame, often laughable and sometimes downright ludicrous.

    Here is what a real troll farm looks like [photo of NSA headquarters]. Yet this vast suite of offices in Fort Meade, Maryland, where 20,000 SIGINT spies and technicians work for the NSA, is only the tip of the iceberg.

    The US actually spends $75 billion per year — more than Russia’s entire $69 billion defense budget –spying on and meddling in the politics of virtually every nation on earth. An outfit within NSA called Tailored Access Operations (TAO) has a multi-billion annual budget, does nothing but troll the global internet, and does so with highly educated, highly paid professionals, not $4 per hour keyboard jockeys.

    Indeed, the cafeterias in the NSA buildings pictured below cost far more per year to operate than did Prigozhin’s troll farm during its entire short lived existence.


    Tick tock, Robbie …

    1. anonymous

      WSWS has a good article on the Mueller indictments:

      “What is fueling this campaign?

      First, there is the effort to condition the population for war with Russia.

      The Times and the Democratic Party are acting as the media and political spokesmen for a section of the US military-intelligence apparatus that objects to any turning away from the ferociously anti-Russian axis of US foreign policy established during the second term of the Obama administration…..

      Second, there is the effort to present all social opposition within the United States as the product of Russian operations. The ruling class is terrified of the mounting social tensions within the United States. It is this fear that is motivating the extremely rapid moves to censor the Internet and suppress free speech….”


    1. Kokuanani

      Is this jumbled:

      The study, which tracked 1,200 men without heart disease in their early 70s and late 80s, says such guidelines should be revised.

      Should it be “late 70s and early 80s”? That would make a continuum of age, rather than two ends of a range.

      1. HotFlash

        “No-sweat exercise may prolong life for elderly men: study” [Japan Times]. “A few hours a week of light exercise — walking the dog, puttering about in the garden — lower the risk of death in older men, even if workouts are brief, researchers said Tuesday.

        Do consider that it might not be the exercise, but rather the dog or the garden that keeps one wanting to live.

  5. Jim Haygood

    Treasury yields are busting out in a rate-hike horror show, as markets go haywire in the wake of Fed meeting minutes release. Three rate hikes or four? No one can parse the gibberish, as bots throw up their virtual hands in frustration. When in doubt, sell like there’s no tomorrow.

    At a four-year high yield of 2.94%, the ten-year T-note is closing in on the three-percent-even Blue Screen of Death. Chart:


    How’s that crackpot fiscal stim workin’ out for home buyers, auto buyers, and the R party’s Main Street base? Kindly don’t ask — unexpected consequences, etc. :-(

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I’d probably have lost money (but not if held to maturity) already had I bought those 2.25% 2 year T-notes yesterday.

  6. Doncoyote

    Thanks as always for expanding my vocabulary with “ort”. I guess I don’t play enough Scrabble, or something.

    And more from the ADI story (on why Democrats suck at messaging) :

    “I have a grand theory about this, which is that the Left sells empathy and the Right sells leadership. They are often at cross purposes. Empathy requires communicating knowledge. Leadership requires common-sense resolve. Empathy feels your pain. Leadership “tells it like it is.”

    Compare and contrast with Matt Taibbi in the second “clown car” analysis:

    “2008 Obama sold tolerance and genial intellectualism, perfect for roping in armchair liberals. Rubio sells a kind of strident, bright-eyed -ishness that in any other year would seem tailor-made for roping in conservatives.”

    So the first is obviously written after Trump won, while the second was written while he was winning the primary, but I see a fair bit of congruence. I don’t know if it’s too much a simplification to say that Democrats focus on problems while Republicans focus on solutions (even bad solutions, i.e. “bomb ISIS back to the Stone Age”). I don’t know if leadership (“telling it like it is”) is the same as focusing on solutions. But hey, dual-category systems are usually enjoyable thought experiments, for a little while at least.

  7. Mark Gisleson

    So glad I joined the DSA. I am sick to death of seeing groups I would normally support rush into states to endorse candidates without any regard for whether anyone else is running. That’s exactly how Minnesota got Al Franken: he was endorsed by lefty groups over a full year before the 2008 MN primary. How is that democracy?

    I could never once find any Minnesotan who claimed to have been consulted by whichever BlueUSA group endorsed first. Likewise, I’ve been tracking WI 1 CD closely and the inside word among Bernie folks is that Bryce was the third choice of a shadowy group committed to giving one candidate a big boost in challenging Ryan.

    It never occurs to them to let local voters decide. They could instead ‘educate’ the district or state, but they’d rather stovepipe.

    What kind of people wake up in the morning and spend their day thinking about who to support in states they’ve never visited or previously even cared about?

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      I’ve wondered where they went,lol
      I know about five of them….rich(for around here) retired people, bigwigs in the local wine sipp…umm…democratic party.
      they brag(back when I was still invited to their “meetings”) about jetting off to other places to “get democrats elected”.
      Of course, there’s a whole bunch of apathetic poor and brown folks right here…and a somewhat smaller, but still considerable, portion of our population who only votes R because daddy did, or abortion, or whatever…but I guess it’s more fun in Michigan or Colorado(where uncle tommy bill is unlikely to learn of their pinko leanings).
      after I was removed from the phone tree, for suggesting we get down off the hill and into the Barrio..I even attempted to shame them into action: letter to the editor announcing that I would be at the sheriff’s office for the little class to become a deputy voter registrar, and calling on other democrats to join me. One non-dem showed up(mainly to support my efforts,lol), and me.
      Strangely, several local tea people congratulated me for my courage(quietly…at the gas pump or in the bread aisle).

    2. Swamp Yankee

      Mark Giselson,

      Re: “what kind of people wake up in the morning and spend their day thinking about who to support in states they’ve never visited or previously cared about?”

      I was asked by a friend, right after Trump’s election, to join a group called “Code Blue” on Zuckerberg’s Panopticon, i.e., Facebook. I agreed; I didn’t think much about them, went on a long period off Facebook, and then stepped back in for a little bit sometime in mid-2017. Well, this Code Blue Facebook group was filled with exactly the type of people who wake up and dream of instructing the plebes about whomever is the Choice of All Right-thinking People du jour. In my brief experience of them, they tended to be of affluent, upper middle class background; in wealthy suburbs or gentrified major city centers; and clustered on the West Coast, to a lesser extent the East Coast, and then a sprinkling here and there in places like Denver and Chicago and so on. They seem secretly and subconsciously guilty — I don’t think they were aware of it, self awareness wasn’t their strong suit — bored, and without much struggle in their lives.

      When I suggested, contrary to their widely expressed view, that “we” (who is We?) ought to engage everyone, including Trump voters, with a program of concrete material benefits a la the New Deal or Great Society; well, it was as though I’d come out for John Calvin in the presence of some Counter-Reformation Pope. Or maybe more accurately, reasoning with the sheep in Animal Farm. “Blue team good, Red team bad!” was about as far as many of them got.

      Meanwhile, the one person I saw who criticized the Democratic leadership — I believe it was Pelosi or Schumer — was kicked out of the conversation by moderators on the grounds that he was a troll [sic], when in fact he was simply an incisive and passionate critic.

      So, in short, these are precisely the type of self-regarding and solipsistic neo-Victorian bourgeoisie who think all day about how better to instruct the proles about whom they should be casting their votes for. They not only still have no idea why they lost, for the most part they can never learn this fact, for in so doing, they will cease to be themselves, so deep does their identification with a certain kind of corporate-friendly Dem Establishment liberalism go. It’s almost an issue of metaphysics and ontology for these types, more than politics and ethics.

      Fortunately, I believe they can be, and are being, bypassed by left groups like the DSA Lambert points to above. One thinks of the way MacArthur bypassed the Japanese bastion at Rabaul in the South Pacific, and let it starve to death, rather than confronting it directly — that may sound wild, but I think, and hope, it’s actually quite applicable to our situation.

  8. Carolinian

    An excellent article

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, the chief US representative at the London Conference that drew up the Nuremberg Principles in 1945, stated as the official U.S. position, “If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

    That was the U.S. government of 1945 explicitly agreeing to the prosecution of Americans who commit aggression, which Jackson and the judges at Nuremberg defined as “the supreme international crime.” That would now include the last six U.S. presidents: Reagan (Grenada and Nicaragua), Bush I (Panama), Clinton (Yugoslavia), Bush II (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia), Obama (Pakistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen) and Trump (Syria and Yemen).



    1. Jim Haygood

      From the article:

      The dominant position of the U.S. and the dollar in the international financial system have given the U.S. a unique ability to finance its imperial wars and global military expansion without bankrupting itself in the process. As Mann described in Incoherent Empire,

      “In principle, the world is free to withdraw its subsidies to the U.S., but unless the U.S. really alienates the world and over-stretches its economy, this is unlikely. For the moment, the U.S. can finance substantial imperial activity.”

      Mann concluded, “An administration which is trying to cut taxes while waging war will not be able to hand out much cash around the world. This back-seat driver will not pay for the gas. It is difficult to build an Empire without spending money.”

      Thus the nativist, know-nothing R party (with its claque of Democratic fellow travelers) slits its own throat. China finances infrastructure in Asia, Africa and LatAm; the US finances insular, oppressive military bases.

      Which model will succeed? You don’t need no PhD Econ …

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Our MMT money is not subsidized by the rest of the world.

        Nor do we tax the entire planet’s population.

        There is no ‘the world withdrawing subsidies to the US.”

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Can the world really say to us, ‘Don’t create that much money, or else?’

          That’d be interference, meddling.

    2. audrey jr

      Thanks for that, Carolinian.
      Justice Jackson’s dissenting opinion in Korematsu v. U.S. is a beautiful piece of legal writing and a wonderful discourse on discrimination in general.
      One of only a handful of SCOTUS jurists that gave a f(family blog) about the injustice(s) perpetrated by his own nation.

    3. The Rev Kev

      Oh you would love the American Service members Protection Act of 2002 then. What that act means is that in case any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country was being held at the International Criminal Court at the Hague in the Netherlands for war crimes, then the US military would be authorized to attack the Hague and free those prisoners accused of war crimes. In fact, it was nicknamed the ‘Hague Invasion Act’.
      It’s not like US troops have not been put in this position before. There was the time that there was almost a shoot-out (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achille_Lauro_hijacking#Armed_standoff) between Italian and American forces in Sicily once. Years later the American commander – a famed macho man – of that op found himself landed in Italy and had to be talked out of his airplane because he was afraid of being arrested. The Italians had to give him all sorts of assurances and that there were no hard feelings before he would come out.

  9. DJG

    Don’t quote the Epistle of Saint James: You’ll ruin the business of Christianity and put in doubt the absurd idea that there is “salvation” by “faith” alone.

    And the full version of the verses in the lively King James translation make it even clearer. There is a certain exasperation with the idea that faith is anything more than static:

    “”14 What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

    “”18 But some one will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. 20 Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, 23 and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.

    –James would have agreed with Epicurus, if he knew his works. Likewise, the Buddha. So it may help our American culture to get out of the deep rut of thinking that the U S of A is the flower of Reformation thought.

      1. DJG

        LS: It seems to me that we should be able to make it through a dozen verses in the KJV. If anything, it is the verse numbers that intrude here. And James spoke such good English!

        But that exasperation with the idea that faith matters in itself is there, especially as he lists historic figures. What is clearer than “and not by faith alone”? And it is in there in Confucius, too, the skepticism of religious ideas detached from obligation to do better:

        Ji Lu asked about serving the spirits of the dead. The Master said, “While you are not able to serve men, how can you serve their spirits?”

        1. Synoia

          I’m reasonably positive the King James did little of the heavy lifting of translating the King James bible. By authorizing it he did stand up to take the blame if something went wrong.

          Which in itself at the time was an act of courage.

          Uneasy lies the head which wears the crown.

          1. Plenue

            I think it’s debatable whether the KJV was really ‘translated’. It’s largely a revision of the Geneva Bible.

    1. Darthbobber

      Luther was certainly aware of this. Had it not been far too late, he would gladly have excluded James from the proddy Canon for contradicting the preferred interpretation of the Pauline Epistles.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        According to Luther: James was “a straw epistle.”

        Remember the context: Luther was engaged, to the point of risking his life, in a struggle against legalism in the Church. He read the Greek bible as teaching that the Gospel changed human beings. Psychologically, it worked by presenting a God so loving that the sinner was overwhelmed by love for God and performed acts of love naturally out of that love. Theologically, the means of grace imparted the Holy Spirit who essentially created a new person alongside the old (simul iustus et peccator) who was truly capable of loving God and neighbor.

        For Luther, doing good out of fear of God’s punishment did nothing to reconcile sinners to God. It left them servile, hypocritical, fear-ridden and with a deep-seated hatred for God. This he derived primarily from self-examination. Only love, i.e. God’s love as expressed in Jesus, aka the Gospel, could create love, and without love, there were no good works.

        Against this preaching, the Pope countered with James. Luther’s rant against James’s epistle was in this context. It was also in this context that Luther made the move that would have the most harmful consequences for Christianity, consequences that still impact all of us today. That was sola scriptura, which led to claims of inerrancy and infallibility along with Fundamentalism.

        1. Darthbobber

          And it’s perfectly possible for paul and James to both be right, if you assume that a person with certain beliefs will behave as if those are their beliefs. In which case the lack of works would imply that the faith also wasn’t really there.

          1. Henry Moon Pie

            Exactly. Luther railed at that dearth of love and good works among
            Christians, comparing them unfavorably to “the Turks.” It’s really a matter of emphasis which was probably determined by the author’s perception of where his audience was. At the same time, it’s pretty clear that the author of James was trying to provide a corrective to what he perceived to be Paul’s antinomianism.

  10. Jason Boxman

    My experience as a contractor on an Accenture project was overwhelmingly negative, so I certainly agree.

  11. Synoia

    FCC Chairman Pai under investigation for possible collusion with Sinclair. “the FCC’s inspector general is investigating possible collusion between Chairman Ajit Pai and Sinclair Broadcasting…. Sinclair’s $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media.”

    Nothing to see here. It’s just another PaiPal transaction.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Speaking of media and broadcasting, if all the major MSM organizations consistently communicate the same propaganda, would that be collusion or conspiracy?

  12. EGrise

    “And what’s wrong with flannel?”

    I assume that’s a dog-whistle meaning “working class”? Or “poor people”?

    i.e. “Isn’t it cute that they think they can do politics?”

    1. Jim Haygood

      Obviously Canadian infiltrators who sneaked across the poorly-guarded border.

      Mueller’s got their number.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Or Oregonians. I wear it all the time. It’s cold out, but not cold enough for wool or puffy jackets.

        I think it’s actually just rural.

  13. JohnnyGL


    This is really breathtaking….does CNN think this constitutes real reporting?

    They literally go to this woman’s house and condescend to her and treat her like a ‘deplorable’ Trump supporter.

    Here’s the message: “You are a piece of garbage who can’t think for yourself. You only think that way because the Russians told you to think that way.”

    I can’t think of a better way to 1) enhance the hatred of CNN and corporate owned media and 2) get Trump re-elected and 3) prove Russia had no influence on anyone, the troll farms just parroted what was already out there and parroted how people already felt.

    It’s really one of the more pathetic moments I’ve seen from our media in awhile, and that’s saying something.

  14. Daryl

    > Sounds good, but “AI” + “Accenture” is an enormous red flag.

    If only they could’ve worked in cryptocurrency or blockchain somewhere, then I’d be sold.

  15. Synoia

    Renteria made no campaign announcement, and she is not returning reporters’ calls. She’s raised no money and has no apparent political apparatus — a bizarre campaign opening more characteristic of a fringe candidate than a political professional.

    She’s waiting for the magic Russian Wall St money to drop in.

    1. sleepy

      GM Financial is a big player in China and has an equity interest in GM’s joint venture there.

      The old joke was that financing car sales under GMAC was the real money-maker under the GM umbrella as opposed to actually making cars.

  16. Eustache De Saint Pierre

    The second rule of Neoliberalism appears to have received a large boost in Ireland, through the Irish version of the empty suit brigade.

    I have not long finished a phone conversation with a friend who suffers from chronic pain due to a car accident about 20 years ago. The painkiller that she has relied being Versatis patches are no longer available, as it has been withdrawn – justified by Varadkar because of concerns over addiction. From what I can discern from a web search his statement is a blatant lie, but it means that for many the very addictive alternative will be Oxycontin.

    Not much in the media which is no surprise, but a radio phone in called ” Liveline ” has been facing an increasing torrent of calls – Versatis is fairly expensive so the first rule also comes into play. My friend & her husband are fairly well off as retired teachers & both have good pensions & a healthcare plan, but unless they can find a less expensive alternative source, they are likely screwed.

    1. savedbyrirony

      I recall reading recently that Ireland was legalizing cannabis for certain medical conditions. i know a few friends with chronic pain issues (most due to neurological pain) who have found relief with little to no side effects from medical marijuana. Could/have they looked into this?

      1. Eustache De Saint Pierre

        I passed on an Irish Examiner article on the subject last night, although as she has the means it appears that her consultant after experimentation & much in the way of tuning, very likely resulting in a very painful transition, can hopefully avoid oxycontin.

        Not something that is likely to be available for the majority of the estimated 20% in Ireland who suffer from chronic pain, who it appears from what I can tell, to be largely unaware of the risks – although they might become so if the facts come out on that very popular radio show I mentioned.

        Doctors being fully cognisant of the risks have been prescribing Versatis as an alternative. Ironic isn’t it that marajuana treatments are still relatively in the wilderness, whereas an opioid is given out like sweeties.

        Thank you for the thought.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I’m not an expert in the topic, but I think the situation with Versatis is quite complicated and not quite an example of neoliberalism. The guidance for doctors on the use of Versatis in Ireland is here – see Table 4 in particular. It seems there is little evidence that Versatis is as good as much cheaper medicines such as Capsaicin, which is the recommended alternative.

          There certainly though is an issue with pain medication in Ireland and opiates. I’ve a relative who is a specialist in this topic (he is currently in the US, doing comparative research) and he says that the major pharm companies are doing their best to grease the pathways for acute pain medications (i.e. opiates) to replace the drugs commonly used for chronic pain.

          However, I’m not so sure that the situation with Versatis is the same. I think this is quite a legitimate case of the health authorities trying to get people off a very expensive drug of questionable utility, and getting them to use cheaper and probably equally effective alternatives.

  17. audrey jr

    Good for you, Johnny GL.
    I’m still not so sure that Trump isn’t the guy that all of the wealthy wanted in that office.
    Trump seems to be giving the wealthy all that their little hearts – pun intended – desire; huge tax cuts, etc.
    And he isn’t likely to rein in the criminal federal LEO’s and “intelligence” agencies through prosecutions, which he would undertake, were he serious ’bout swamp-drainin.’
    I may have to double down on the Giant Meteor candidate again this election year.

    1. JohnnyGL

      “I’m still not so sure that Trump isn’t the guy that all of the wealthy wanted in that office.”

      You’re right that they’re happy enough with him, but they’d prefer someone a little more predictable and polished. But, if he gets them where they want to go, they’ll deal with the bumpier ride to get there.

      1. Kokuanani

        they’d prefer someone a little more predictable and polished.

        Like Pence.

        All those “liberals” rooting for impeachment should watch out.

  18. allan

    GDP 36,000,000,000,000!!!

    Trump’s top economic advisor sees 3 percent GDP growth
    [CNBC, autolaunch video]

    A top economic advisor to the White House says the economy has returned to a 3 percent growth rate thanks to President Donald Trump’s new policies.

    Kevin Hassett, the chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, joined fellow economic advisors in publishing the Economic Report of the President on Wednesday, which detailed the executive branch’s economic outlook for the next several years. …

    “We get to the 3 percent in a way that’s transparent, well-documented and heavily leans on peer-reviewed research. We’ve got about a 2.2 percent baseline and then about 0.8 per year because of the president’s policies.” …

    Hassett’s predictions have a good track record. With notably rare exceptions.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Are they being modest, as far as predictions go, with that 0.8 per year additional growth?

      1. allan

        Fed’s Kashkari unsure if tax cuts will lift investment [Reuters]

        The “best hope” for the impact of the Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion tax overhaul on the U.S. economy is that it boosts investment and thus productivity, Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari said on Wednesday.

        But whether it will do so and deliver faster economic growth in the process is unclear, he said at a dinner hosted by Bloomberg News and broadcast on the regional Fed bank’s website.

        “There’s a lot of maybes hopes and wishes between here and there,” Kashkari said, adding that companies had plenty of access to credit before the tax cut to fund their investments.

        “I‘m not sure it’s going to lead to a dramatic change in investment. … I hope it does, that would be good for the economy as a whole,” he said. …

        Diplomatese for “I’ll have what Hassett’s smoking”?

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          With it being unclear, lots of maybes, hopes and wishes, being not sure, if they want to be immodest, they have lots of room to be so at this time, and maybe for some time.

  19. John Steinbach

    Re Socialist Sprouts DSA childcare- There was a time from the late 60s through the mid-90 when it was understood that if the Movement were to recruit young activists, childcare needed to be a priority. We would have a separate political program for the kids & give them a chance to present at the end of the day. Since then not so much

  20. Christopher

    Lambert, I hear your Pres has suggested arming teachers and training them as a means to stop gun violence in schools.

    Help me here. I can’t see any teacher except the ones in movies having the capacity to take down a crazed person with an assault rifle.

    There is only one solution, the John Howard solution, buying back the guns and banning assault rifles and automatic weapons. They are designed to kill humans, not animals.

    Until this happens, expect more of the same. I wouldn’t put my kid in one of your schools.

    1. savedbyrirony

      I can imagine some of those corporal punishment loving Charter School “educators” getting a real taste for being gunned up while pursuing their pedagogy. No doubt their students will feel all the more safer and comfortable under such authorities.

    2. Mark P.

      I can’t see any teacher except the ones in movies having the capacity to take down a crazed person with an assault rifle.

      More to the point, what will happen if such an extraordinarily stupid idea is pursued is that the crazed person with an assault rifle makes a point of targeting any teacher first.

      1. Christopher

        Thank you Mark and SBI, Pres has also said perhaps armed former soldiers can protect the kiddies…

        He is obviously not listening to the kids who’ve bravely come out in the media – they want solutions…

        Great for sales of firearms though, so there’s that

      2. HotFlash

        what will happen if such an extraordinarily stupid idea is pursued is that the crazed person with an assault rifle makes a point of targeting any teacher first

        Or if the crazed person is the teacher?

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Teachers who shield students, sacrificing themselves to save students, are heroes.

      These are quite extraordinary deeds…and not something we see everyday, above and beyond the call of duty.

      We admire and honor them.

      It’s possible some teachers would even arm themselves, in addition to shielding students, if that will save lives, in a world not completely free of violence.

      1. Darius

        America is going to have to decide which is more important, schools or guns. Apparently, we can’t have both. Or are we now just normalizing routine scholastic mass slaughter?

    4. Darthbobber

      I don’t see the odds as really all that great for someone in what is guaranteed to be a panicked crowd getting their piece out and getting off an accurate shot against somebody who already has their assault rifle out and doing business.

      I also don’t see any proposals for significant additional compensation for teachers if they do decide to go with the idea that engaging in gunfights at the OK Corral with well-armed opponents should really be regarded as part of the normal duties expected of an educator.

  21. ObjectiveFunction

    Wow, Georgian era debtors gaols are returning. (All privately operated, no doubt)

    … Hey Millenials, there’s good money to be made as a tipstaff in the retro gig economy!

    What’s next, the return of tax farming? Letters of marque? Transportation to Botany Bay? We already have the rotten boroughs.

  22. Altandmain

    A bit about the Olympics and exploitation:

    It’s pretty sad to consider the fact that the games have a long and rather sad history of displacing poor people. I think it’d be better off if we had one location and let it host endlessly.

    That said, I suspect the real reason for the games is to make the very corrupt IOC rich, but they will never admit that.

    1. HotFlash

      You know, I think you are right on both counts. Perhaps they could put them in DC (she said wistfully).

      1. Oregoncharles

        The most serious suggestion I’ve seen was to hold them in Greece, near the original location. They also suggested a very pared-down set of games, more like the original.

        The Greek economy could use the stimulus.

        Come to think, they did hold the Games in Athens, didn’t they? One of the factors bankrupting Greece, IIRC.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I haven’t watched the Olympics since, well, I can only guess, 1978 or 1982.

      Perhaps when athletes again compete in the nude, the way it was, when no money or little money was involved , maybe I will watch again.

  23. allan

    Most Taxpayers’ Benefits Come Mainly from the TCJA’s Individual Provisions,
    But the Rich Get Much of Their Tax Cuts from Corporate Changes
    [Tax Policy Center]

    Weirdly, the individual provisions sunset in 2025 while the corporate provisions are from here to eternity.
    But as former progressive icon, former DSCC chairman and current #Resistance Potemkin village performance artist Jon Tester put it, “There are a lot of things that could be changed in that, but I don’t see any effort to do any of those things … I think we’ve got what we’ve got for the next 30 years.” Feel the Blue Wave surge.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      He’s sounding pessimistic that when the government does something, it’s very hard to undo it.

      As if the government is quite inflexible, not adaptive to changes in the world, seeming to imply, to the reader, that it’s better the government does nothing at all…because 30 years is a long time.

  24. Darthbobber

    The Gessen piece is worthwhile. How it managed to be allowed into the New Yorker at the present juncture is anybody’s guess.

    When the archived posts from the Facebook posts of the “Russian Troll Army” (more like troll squad, if that, by comparison with much more massive efforts produced everywhere) were first posted, I actually spent a couple of shifts worth of time plowing through the output from different slices of time, and I was at a loss to find something consistent with a determined, much less, “sophisticated” effort to push things in a given direction. I’m pretty sure that any consultant who was trying to get a gig swaying an election and presented something like this as the master plan would not get the job.

    The kind of content is pretty consistent over a period from well before the Donald was a candidate or Sanders was seen as any kind of threat to Clinton to well after the election was done and dusted. And the fraction of the content which has anything to do with directly promoting a candidate or discouraging voting is pretty minute. Most of it looks like its been just copied without attribution from the tediously numerous American pages doing the same things. What’s there really seems much more consistent with the MoA clickbait interpretation than with any eleventy dimensional Putinchess theory, particularly since the hot-dog man does mainly work-for-hire for anybody who finds a bunch of trolls useful in addition to his occasional Putin favors.

    (This is the sort of thing you do if you just want to maximize shares and clicks without regard to accomplishing much of anything besides creating an impression that you have reach and therefore potential ROI.)

    There’s also no particular effort to build to any kind of a crescendo as the election approaches, beyond the normal uptick in visibility you see for all politically focused crap as the quadrennial circus approaches decision day.

    Nor is any of it the sort of thing that would persuade much of anybody who wasn’t already fully on board with whichever view was being pushed to become so. (unsurprisingly, since it mostly just copies the style of American versions of the same thing on Fbook, which also largely consist mainly of preaching to the like-minded.)

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