2:00PM Water Cooler 2/9/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“The coalition of U.S. business and agriculture groups working to save NAFTA are heading back to Capitol Hill on Feb. 14 for a Valentine’s Day push with House members. The 150-strong delegation organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Foreign Trade Council, National Association of Manufacturers, the American Farm Bureau Federation and other groups will target Republican and trade-friendly Democratic offices to voice their support for the deal and push their priorities, according to sources familiar with the planning” [Politico]. “The lobbying push comes roughly midway between the sixth round of talks in Montreal and the upcoming round of negotiations starting in Mexico City on Feb. 26.”

“Applications for 200 Chinese migrant worker visas to finish luxury Auckland hotel video” [Stuff]. Not the locals, perhaps a factor along the One Belt, One Road….



“Thanks to a loophole in Kansas law, 6 teens are running for governor” [CNN]. “Kansas is one of only three states, along with Vermont and Massachusetts, that don’t have an age requirement to run for governor.”

“Senate 2018: Republicans Still Have Plenty of Targets” [Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “Because the map is so good for Republicans, it is possible they will add to their majority even if the electoral environment otherwise breaks against them in other elections, such as those for the U.S. House of Representatives. That said, the Democrats do have a path to a Senate majority, albeit slim… Democrats need to defend all 26 of the 34 seats they currently hold,[1] and then flip two of the eight Republican-held seats. Those would most likely be Arizona, an open seat, and Nevada, where Sen. Dean Heller (R) is seeking a second term…. Democratic incumbents are defending seats in the following five landslide Trump states: Indiana (Trump +19.0 points), Missouri (+18.5), Montana (+20.2), North Dakota (+35.7), and West Virginia (+41.7). If these states were House seats — two of them, Montana and North Dakota, actually are because both states only have single, statewide at-large seats — all would rank among the top third of Trump’s districts nationally…. So the danger for Democrats is that all five of these incumbents are living on borrowed time and several of them may be doomed no matter what the national environment is.”

“The GOP’s Misguided Midterm Optimism” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “[D]ata from individual races on both the district and statewide level reveal that the plight of Republicans actually appears to be even more difficult than it seemed last fall. This is particularly true with individual-race polling, but other indices such as candidate recruitment and campaign fundraising are sending “Danger, Will Robinson!” messages. This is particularly true in the House, where there are quite a few GOP incumbents in competitive and potentially competitive races who are not raising the kind of money they will need if there is much of a Democratic wave at all… In an analysis released Sunday of more detailed data from the Jan. 15-18 ABC News/Washington Post poll… districts already represented by Republicans, the GOP advantage on the generic was just 6 points, 51 to 45 percent. In other words, Republicans have a lot of districts where their leads are very, very narrow while Democrats have very big leads in their districts. It wouldn’t take that much of a wave for a large number of seats to drop against the GOP. The serious Republican strategists that I have talked with in recent days are extremely worried about this election.” I’m not sure that six points is “very, very” narrow in absolute terms, but those numbers are certainly unusual for incumbents.

“Republicans on the Hot Seat in AG Races” [Governing]. “In fact, of the 30 elected [Attorney General] seats that are up this cycle, 18 are held by Republicans and 12 by Democrats. More critically, of those 30 seats being contested, we consider nine to be “in play,” meaning they are rated tossup, lean Democratic or lean Republican…. Furthermore, six of the seven contests that we consider to be tossups are currently in GOP hands. They are the open AG offices in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio, plus the seat held by a Republican incumbent in Wisconsin. The one Democratic-held seat in the tossup category is an open seat in Connecticut.” (And see the photo; the troops have orange hats instead of pink hats.)

Iowa: “Forty-four percent of Iowans approve of Trump’s performance as president, and 40 percent see the country headed in the right direction, according to the latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll” [Des Moines Register]. Fifty-one percent, conversely, disapprove of the job Trump’s doing, and 49 say the country’s on the wrong track. Still, those figures represent marked improvement from December. In that Iowa Poll, just 35 percent approved of Trump’s performance and 60 percent disapproved. Twenty-nine percent of Iowans in December said the country was headed in the right direction, while 60 percent said it was on the wrong track.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The “role of government” question, which has been asked by the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey since at least 1995, seeks to take the public’s temperature about the correct role of government. The two most recent polls that asked respondents about their views of government were conducted after Trump became president — April 2017 and January 2018″ [Inside Elections]. “Both surveys showed a dramatic swing toward concern that government is not doing enough ‘to solve problems and help meet the needs of people.’ In the Jan. 13-17, 2018, survey, 58 percent of adults said government should do more, while only 38 percent said government is ‘doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals’ — a 20-point difference. That is a huge gap, historically…. In fact, the last time those favoring “more government” had an edge comparable to this month’s survey was in September 2007, when respondents said the government should do more by a margin of 17 points. Of course, Barack Obama was elected president shortly, about a year later.” So we’ll see if the Democrats squander their 2020 opportunity (if any) exactly as they squandered their 2008 opportunity.

* * *

“Remember “this is not normal?”… A year ago, it was the motto of the self-styled “Resistance”—the coalition of liberals, Democrats, and a few wayward conservatives who were implacably opposed to the Trump administration…. And yet, today, in the highest circles of Democratic party politics, resistance is waning… Whatever the outcome, the course of these negotiations demonstrates the erosion of the idea that Trump constitutes a crisis in American governance—that he should be treated differently than any other president. And the same change can be found inching into other Democratic rhetoric” [McClatchy]. “As a result, Democratic electoral fortunes depend on maintaining Trump’s unpopularity, much more than any rhetoric of their own. Uniform and unequivocal opposition has helped weigh Trump down in the public eye; abandoning this successful strategy for equivocation and compromise might lift him up.” So, The Desistance?

“Left-leaning groups that spent months pressing Democrats to fight for the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers were stiff-armed yet again by the party’s leaders. They cut a bipartisan budget deal that left House Democrats scrambling to square their advocacy for immigrants with the party’s fear of shouldering the blame for a second government shutdown in a matter of weeks” [Politico]. For some definition of “left.” To my mind, life expectancy (“deaths of despair”) is the key issue, but for whatever reason, liberal Democrats feel no need to address it.

I think this is fair:

“What’s The Difference Between A Blue Dog And A Republican?” [Down with Tyranny]. Republicans are more honest? More: “Not everyone thought it was sage to help defeat a Democrat in a perilous election. ‘But what exactly,’ I asked at the time, ‘does Bobby Bright bring to the table?'” Well, in 2018, the Blue Dogs will bring the ability to defeat #MedicareForAll, a key liberal Democrat objective. So there really are two sides to this story.

* * *

“California voters could be asked to borrow $450 million for updating aging elections systems” [Los Angeles Times]. Holy moley. Hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public, would be hella cheaper, besides being better. What’s wrong with these people?

“Matt Masterson, chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, spends his time working with local election officials. And he said that lately, they’re starting to see themselves more as managers of complex IT systems” [GovTech]. Please kill me now.

Stats Watch

Wholesale Trade: “Inventory build for wholesalers came in 2 tenths stronger than expected at a 0.4 percent gain in December but in an offset for the second estimate of fourth-quarter GDP, the build for November is revised down 2 tenths to 0.6 percent” [Econoday]. “Much of the recent build has been centered in autos where sales have been slowing noticeably. Yet autos aside, inventories in the sector do appear to be too low relative to wholesale sales… Growth in the nation’s inventories slowed in the fourth-quarter which is a negative for GDP but, given the strength of overall demand, the slowing points to the need for restocking which should prove a concrete plus for first-quarter production and employment.” And but: “The improvement this month in the headline data was primarily due to electrical durable goods and petroleum. Overall, I believe the rolling averages tell the real story – and they marginally improved this month. The current trends are showing a slowing in the rate of growth” [Econoday]. “Inventory levels remain elevated but below recessionary levels. To add to the confusion, year-over-year employment changes and sales growth do not match.”

Consumer Credit: “It’s been decelerating all year with a year end move up that’s likely to be reversed as personal income growth continues to be very low” [Mosler Economics].

Debt: “One company will now handle close to half of all student-loan payments” [MarketWatch]. “In an ideal world, no federal student loan borrower would default on his or her debt thanks to the myriad of programs available through the government, but in reality, roughly 1 million defaulted last year — a sign, advocates say, that student loan servicers aren’t doing enough to work in borrowers’ best interests.” I seem to recall similar issues with mortgage servicers….

Commodities: “Copper steadies, iron ore price climbs on blockbuster Chinese imports” [Mining.com]. “The increased volumes over 2017 are indicative of Beijing’s clampdown on copper scrap imports as part of the country’s crackdown on pollution and consolidation of heavy industries. A recent report by BMO Capital Markets forecasts that China’s scrap imports could halve in 2018 boosting concentrate cargoes to another all-time high this year.”

Retail: “When one considers that nearly 70% of economic activity focuses on consumer spending, it only raises the importance, and relevance, of good, old retail sales numbers—and for good reason. Retail sales are a direct, and largely current, barometer of economic activity, more so than the aforementioned consumer confidence, which really gauges how consumers “feel” about the economy at a given moment, with feelings and sentiment able to quickly change based on just about anything” [Logistics Management]. “That leads me to numbers issued today by the National Retail Federation (NRF), focusing on retail sales projections for 2018. NRF expects 2018 retail sales to head up 3.8%-to-4.4%.”

Retail: “The “Amazon effect” is hitting the shelves at Whole Foods, and that means suppliers will get squeezed. The supermarket chain is asking suppliers of all sizes to pay new rates for prime shelf space, a new step in owner Amazon.com Inc.’s effort to remake the grocery’s supply chain even as Amazon resets the Whole Foods approach to consumers. Many suppliers will see an increase from the average $25,000 fee companies pay to be featured in the stores’ most-visible areas… and the company wants suppliers to offer bigger discounts on their products to earn the space” [Wall Street Journal]. “The changes signal that Whole Foods is resetting its supplier relationships after years spent gaining cachet with upscale shoppers by highlighting new, niche brands. Now, the company is matching centralized purchasing decisions, tighter inventory control and new sales-tracking technology to understand whether those consumers are reaching for the goods on the shelves.” We already have one Walmart. Do we need two? And: “Amazon is updating the demand side at Whole Foods while it works on the supply side. The e-commerce giant plans to start delivering Whole Foods groceries through its fast Prime Now delivery option in four markets.”

Retail: “According to a report by the Luxury Institute cited by eMarketer, affluent shoppers made 38% of their luxury purchases online last year” [247 Wall Street]. Presumably, at least for couture and accessories, they wear it once and then return it?

Shipping: “Amazon reportedly launching a delivery service for businesses; FedEx, UPS shares slide” [CNBC]. “The service is called “Shipping with Amazon” and will see the tech giant picking up packages from businesses and delivering them to customers.”

Shipping: “Disappointing Q4 sees Maersk Line miss profit target for 2017” [The Loadstar]. “Tougher market conditions, due to lower freight rates and higher fuel costs in the final quarter, meant that Maersk Line missed its full-year profit target. Maersk Group’s guidance – which it reiterated in November – was for an improvement of around $1bn for the carrier, which lost $384m in 2016. And despite the Petya cyber attack in the summer, Maersk was confident it could still achieve its guidance.”

Supply Chain: “countries around the world are starting to hold large companies accountable for labor conditions not just in their own business but also for the conditions in their supply chains. For companies in manufacturing, this means being able to affirmatively say that your suppliers of raw materials, parts, and equipment are not using any forced labor” [Industry Week].

The Bezzle: “Tesla Averts Cash Crunch as Musk Mystique Offsets Late Cars” [Industry Week]. “‘If we can send a Roadster to the asteroid belt, we can probably solve Model 3 production,’ Musk said on a conference call with analysts Wednesday, shortly after tweeting another photo of his Roadster hurtling through space.”

The Bezzle: “Elon Musk decries UAW union, promises employees frozen yogurt and rollercoaster machine” [San Francisco Chronicle]. And: “Does anyone here know how to park? Bedlam reigns in Tesla’s Fremont lot” [San Francisco Chronicle]. Unless it’s a feral management technique: Five desks for six employees incentivizes early arrival.

The Bezzle: “Uber Giving Waymo $245 Million Equity Payout To Settle Google Trade Secrets Case” [TechCrunch]. “Uber will give Waymo an equity payout of 0.34% of its Series G shares, valued today at around $245 million, but no cash.” That’s not very much (though the lawyers will make out nicely).

The Bezzle: “Vanguard’s chief economist: ‘Decent probability’ that bitcoin goes to zero” [MarketWatch]. Goes to zero for whom? IIRC, Bitcoin’s ownership is highly concentrated….

Mr. Market: “As US Enters Formal Stock Market Correction, Global Stock Exchanges Follow Suit (and Some Are Worse)” [247 Wall Street]. “While drops of 10% sound atrocious, we have to keep in mind that the drops come as the bull market was one month shy of nine years old. We also have to note that the Dow rose about 25% in 2017 and the S&P 500 was up more than 19% in 2017. The major indexes were up about 300% from the panic selling lows of March 2009. And the U.S. markets had not seen a 5% correction since the start of 2016, when the market had some of the same fears and worries that it has today.”

Mr. Market: “Here’s How Much More The S&P 500 Has To Fall Before We’re In A Bear Market” [Forbes]. “A bear market is when stocks fall 20% or more from their 52-week peak over a two-month period. In other words, the S&P 500 has to fall another 12.36% between now and April before we’re in a bona fide bear market. Until then, investors will be paying attention to the usual economic fundamentals, and the algorithm-based funds and technical guys will be paying attention to the moving averages.”

Mr. Market: “This week’s stock market drop was machine-made. The freakout that followed was man-made.” [WaPo]. “Analysts, investors and financial commentators have cautioned for many months that markets have been long due for both a correction and a return to volatility….. [T]he question for most involved in financial markets has not been whether that calm would continue, but when it would end, and it finally did…. . The real issue for markets is how technology and automated, program-driven trading can and is creating powerful anomalies in how markets work. Markets have roiled before, but the way they plunged and then recovered in the past few days can only be explained by software and passive trading that lead to blind selling and blind buying. At one point Monday afternoon, shares of a company such as Boeing traded down nearly 10 percent in a few minutes. But as Steve Grasso, a CNBC analyst and longtime trader explained, ‘There is never a time when a human being is going to sell a stock down that much in a matter of minutes. People don’t liquidate stocks like that; machines do. And then people react and start to mimic.’ On the flip side, almost no one pushes the buy button as quickly or aggressively as algorithms.”

Mr. Market: Helpful advice:

Tech: “In my opinion, the first problem — the engineered addiction — is the more pressing issue surrounding social media. These services relentlessly sap time and attention from peoples’ personal and professional lives that could be directed toward more meaningful and productive pursuits, and instead package it for resale to advertisers so the value can be crystalized for a small number of major investors” [Cal Newport]. “Facebook’s revenue, for example, is almost entirely a function of the number of minutes the average user spends per week engaging with the service. Reducing this by even 5 to 10% — by tamping down or eliminating some of Facebook’s most addictive features — would have a disastrous impact on the quarterly earnings of this $500 billion company.”

Tech: “The Formula for Phone Addiction Might Double as a Cure” [Wired (DL)]. “[E]very [one of BJ Fogg’s psychology classes at Stanford] begins with his signature framework, Fogg’s Behavior Model. It suggests that we act when three forces—motivation, trigger, and ability—converge. In Silicon Valley, the model answers one of product designers’ most enduring questions: How do you keep users coming back? … [C}ritics say that companies like Facebook have taken advantage of these psychological principles to capture human attention.” The whole article is really an explanation of why “might” means “probably won’t.” Well worth a read.

Five Horsemen: “Amazon, the ultimate Shoppers Paradise stock, is down in morning trade despite the fire hose of fiscal stimulus teed up in the budget deal” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen February 9 2018

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 8 Extreme Fear (previous close: 16, Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 58 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Feb 7 at 7:00pm. Still lagged!!!

Health Care

“Here’s How Amazon Could Disrupt Health Care (Part 1)” [Forbes] (part 2 and part 3). “Amazon could think big by simply applying the standard operating principles and capabilities that is has perfected for retail—comprehensive data, personalization, price and quality transparency, operational excellence, consumer focus and high satisfaction—to health care. It also has differentiated technologies like Alexa, mobile devices, cloud (AWS) and AI expertise. It could leverage its recent years of health-care-specific exploration, such as those in cardiovascular health, diabetes management, pharmacies, pharmacy benefit management, digital health and other health care research. It could use Whole Foods as a physical point of presence.”

Sports Desk

One more for the Eagles:

Class Warfare

“A California state assemblywoman and prominent voice in the fight against sexual harassment in Sacramento is now facing allegations that she harassed and groped a legislative staffer” [Governing]. Power is gender-fluid…

“Oklahoma schools go on four-day weeks so teachers can make rent by working at Walmart on Mondays” [Boing Boing]. I like that. Shows initiative.

“Photo Algorithms ID White Men Fine—Black Women, Not So Much” [WIRED]. Training sets…

“How America Uses Digital Tools to Punish Its Poor” [Pacific Standard]. “[T]he Allegheny [child abuse and neglect] algorithm is fed not only by referrals from the public and by caseworker notes, but also by records of individuals’ every other interaction with state aid. Coming to the state for help with anything from food stamps to psychological counseling automatically bumps up your numerical score, which inevitably increases your chances of being flagged and investigated as an abusive or neglectful parent. Of course, when middle-class and wealthy people pay private providers for help with their struggles, the database makes no record of it. Poverty puts you on the system’s radar, and poverty makes the system—now armed with a powerful central database—more likely to further impose its scrutiny and judgments on your private life. It might even remove your child from your custody. These judgments pass down through generations: Childhood interactions with social services also bump your score up.”

And speaking of algorithms:

News of the Wired

“ODINI : Escaping Sensitive Data from Faraday-Caged, Air-Gapped Computers via Magnetic Fields” [arXiv.org]. Oh, good.

“It’s not how you play the game, but how the dice were made” [Eurekalert]. “The researchers conclude in their article, ‘Gamblers may have seen dice throws as no longer determined by fate, but instead as randomizing objects governed by chance.'”

“Shocker: Humanities Grads Gainfully Employed and Happy” [Inside Higher Ed]. Ha.

* * *

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 (Nik Shuliahin):

Maybe the intensity slider is just a little too much to the right?

* * *

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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. allan

    “resistance is waning”

    Democrats Pessimistic on Tax Cut: “We’ve Got What We’ve Got for the Next 30 Years” [The Intercept]

    … In interviews with The Intercept, a range of Democratic senators either said they have not yet thought about what repeal and replace would look like, or offered broad guidelines for a policy, rather than specific plans.

    “Not yet,” replied Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who served as the party’s vice presidential nominee in 2016, on whether he’s put any thought into how they would replace the tax law. …

    Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz concurred with Kaine. “Not yet,” he said in response to the question.

    Montana Sen. Jon Tester didn’t have any specific ideas in mind, but offered some principles the party should look at. … He was, however, fairly pessimistic about any changes happening in the near future. “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,” he conceded. “I think we’ve got what we’ve got for the next 30 years.” …

    Those are certainly inspiring messages to inspire the #Resistance and attract new voters.

    But weirdly,

    Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has been among the most precise, saying he would roll back the breaks for the rich, keep the new deductions, and restore some of the old ones. “We can permanently double the standard deduction, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, reinstate the personal exemptions, and make the Child Tax Credit fully refundable,” Sanders said in a statement. …

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      And a new deduction – for organic foods consumed at home.

      “You eat out? Tough luck. Try making organic salads at home…100% deductible now.”

      “Last year, our family totaled six thousand organic-dollars. By eating organic, we lower our tax bills.”

    2. Darthbobber

      Whatever Senator Tester may pretend to think, if there’s one thing I’m sure of it’s that we don’t have what we’ve got for anything resembling 30 years.

      1. edmondo

        I assume the GOP will lower rates again for the uber-rich in 2019 if they hold on to both houses o Congress

        1. Summer

          They’re going for 0% rate – officially on paper (as opposed to the way it is done now).
          And the Democrats that let them do it are going to retire well and provide for THEIR families.

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      “Tim Kaine, who served as the party’s vice presidential nominee in 2016, ”

      Hey, who remembers Tim? I assume this line wasn’t so much an accolade as a reminder that Timmy existed.

  2. ChiGal in Carolina

    So, The Desistance

    You do have a way with words, Lambert, one of the great pleasures of NC!

    1. John D.

      The Assistance, maybe? They’re not really impeding Trump in any substantial way, and the Dem “leaders” have adopted a habit of voting for things that he wants. But I guess we’re not supposed to notice that last part.

    2. Carolinian

      Desistance until closer to the election and then they will pretend they were resistors not desistors.

      Or something. Did they ever have a plan? Impeaching Trump was the ultimate unicorn.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Have you tried to tell the resistors about the Constitution and the order of succession? I have. An exercise in futility if there ever was one.

    3. cocomaan

      “The Impedance”

      Resistance is the opposition of electrical current flow.

      Resistance occurs in AC & DC circuits.

      In addition to Resistance, AC circuits also exhibit Reactance.

      Reactance is also the opposition to electrical current flow.

      By its very nature a DC circuit will not exhibit any form of Reactance, therefore opposition to current flow will always be measured in Resistance.

      Reactance exists in two forms, Capacitive & Inductive.

      the combination of Reactance & Resistance is called Impedance

      I like it because it’s about being reactionary.

      1. redleg

        Resistance is the perfect term, as the so- called “resistance” ™ does nothing to change the direction or (gasp) reverse course. They’re just a little headwind that the oligarchs must overcome as part of business as usual.

  3. Wukchumni

    “Applications for 200 Chinese migrant worker visas to finish luxury Auckland hotel video” [Stuff]. Not the locals, perhaps a factor along the One Belt, One Road….

    NZ homes have an awful reputation for being leaky, and yeah it rains a bit there, but you don’t hear about it much in other places so endowed with downpour. No wonder they just couldn’t find quality help for a luxury hotel build. Their housing bubble has already peaked and on the downslope, so it isn’t as if there isn’t available manpower. Enter the dragon.

    I’ve long had an interesting cuisine habit in that I enjoy eating Chinese food in other countries, and it always varies a great deal, as we were served bread with our meal in Prague, and once in HK I ordered ‘braised fish lips’ just to see how many you’d get in an order, or the one in Vienna that had beautiful artwork on the walls and had been there an awful long time, with Chinese waiters barking out orders to the kitchen in Deutsch.

    But hands down, the worst Chinese food i’ve ever eaten on a country by country basis, was in NZ. There was a constant lack of appeal to everything on the menu with an emphasis on utilizing the deep fryer somehow.

    1. sleepy

      Fried fish lips? Haven’t tried that, but had some fried cod tongues in Newfoundland where it’s a local favorite. Louisiana pickled pigs lips are good as well.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      How do you rate Chifa, the Peruvian Chinese cuisine that has been around, I think, since around 1920*?

      *China can now claim their ubiquitous Latin American presence is not new, but historical.

    3. Sid Finster

      We had a mainland Chinese trade delegation for five days in North Dakota. The local trade office, fed their guests steak, pizza, various American delicacies, but on Wednesday, the Chinese asked for [wait for it] Chinese food.

      The Dakotans tried to warn the Chinese that North Dakota Chinese food is was nothing like Chinese food etc., but the Chinese persisted. Someone was tasked with finding the least bad Chinese buffet, so as not to unduly insult our guests.


      Not only did the Chinese eat thirds and fourths, they happily photographed everything and then demanded to return to the buffet the next day for lunch, and dinner, and over and over again until it was time to leave.

      They were honestly disappointed that the buffer wasn’t open for breakfast, or they would have eaten breakfast there as well.

    4. perpetualWAR

      No way. The worst Chinese food I ever ate was in England. Slimy and absolutely no spices.
      Gross. It was like that American-Chinese food used to be in the early ’80s.

      1. Mark P.

        ‘The worst Chinese food I ever ate was in England.’

        Pfft. They actually have real Chinese people running restaurants in England. You haven’t lived till you’ve gone to a ‘Mexican restaurant’ in Edinburgh, Scotland.

        Admittedly, that was in 1998. So maybe the ‘Mexican food’ in Scotland is now in some more proximate relationship with Mexican food as we know it in this timeline of Earth, rather than some mirror universe.

      2. Yves Smith

        When I lived in London briefly (summer 1984), the best food you could get was Indian and Chinese, save for British cheeses, preserves, clotted cream, and some desserts.

    5. Greg

      No comment on terrible “chinese” food (i blame british heritage and its primary directives of boiling to death or deep frying to death), but the leaky homes thing was a debacle in the 90s resulting from drastic deregulation, followed by cost cutting measures like using spraycrete everywhere and rooves that are way too flat for the environment, missing sofits, etc.
      Long after it became obvious how wrong the building industry had gone, there was a crackdown, and new regulations put in place in the early 00’s. Most of those houses have been straight up demolished now because they weren’t worth repairing and the housing bubble is all land value. You still see a few where they’re up for sale for not much more than land value and they were built between 92 and 04, and sit on the market for months or years. Wasn’t really a commercial industry thing though.

    6. Swamp Yankee

      Bread is also served with Chinese food here in this neck of southern New England. Apparently we wouldn’t accept it as a meal around here unless the restaurants added bread, so they put in stale rolls and butter pads. I’ve had friends who are used to Brookline-quality Chinese food react with disbelief to this, but I really like both the bread and the butter; it reminds me of my youth.

    1. sleepy

      When I was a kid I remember my uncle renting geese to eat the weeds in his cotton field. The owner would show up with a couple dozen geese and a movable fence which would be moved around the field for a week or so until all the weeds were gone. Apparently they would eat everything but the cotton which tasted bad, plus they pooped all over which was good for the soil.

      In the 50s it seemed pretty common in eastern Arkansas.

      1. bassposaunist

        Goat rental is pretty common for clearing vacant lots, fallow fields, and roadsides in Colorado. A truck or two delivers goats and moveable fences, the fences are moved every couple of days. Soon all of the weeds are gone and all that’s left is high-quality fertilizer. They can go where no mower dares.

  4. Wukchumni

    “Thanks to a loophole in Kansas law, 6 teens are running for governor” [CNN]. “Kansas is one of only three states, along with Vermont and Massachusetts, that don’t have an age requirement to run for governor.”

    Yeah, but if weighed against a backdrop of Brownback mounting the religious post back east in Humordor, any one of those teens would be a marked improvement.

  5. John k

    Liberal (D): neolib corporatist that mouths ethnic concerns but does nothing to help them. Police brutality is exclusively directed to the weakest members of society, those that contribute little to gdp, and therefore don’t matter. Police protect against pitchforks that might someday assail gated communities, best for them to be well armored. Pelosi and Obama, and most D’s, are liberals.

    Progressive: somebody that consistently pushes for real material benefits for workers. Sanders is a progressive. Also a few D’s, and imo indies.

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      If you want to see real hate in America, get a well-heeled self-professed liberal to talk about the white working class.

      1. Anon

        So Thomas Frank, then? Ever since Listen, Liberal! and that one post from Water Cooler a few weeks back, I haven’t seen anything from him.

      2. Darthbobber

        Or any working class for that matter. They may at times affect to like black/Brown/whatever workers in their role as hypothesized generic people of color, but NOT in their role as workers.

      3. marym

        Liberals can be mean-spirited, snobbish, hypocritical, and counter-productive. No excuses for the harm they do in many areas of political, economic, and social life.

        However, if we’re talking hate, they’re not the ones saying everyone not like them, including citizens and taxpayers, are criminals and interlopers, to be deported, incarcerated, banned, prevented from accessing social services, or lose their voting rights. In fact in their bumbling, nimby, elitist way they’d even kind of like it if everyone not like them had some health insurance.

          1. marym

            Right, there’s a thousand things wrong with any liberal approach to health insurance; but if the subject is hate, they’re not the ones saying there are whole categories of people they hate who therefore shouldn’t have healthcare.

              1. marym

                Yes, I concede that there’s commentary like “They voted for Trump, who cares if they lose their Medicaid expansion.” However, I don’t think it’s the norm among liberals or the basis of their (flawed) policy proposals.

                Nor do I think having a corporatist, profit-based, ineffective, and sometimes self-serving approach to health insurance (indefensible on many levels) is comparable to saying as a matter of policy “demographic X is unworthy. Deport them. Ban them. Deny them access to social services, etc.”

        1. Ted

          Oh please, the liberal point has nothing to do with access to health care. They just want to make sure people must buy health insurance. (chaching!)

          Whether or not mopes oike us can afford any health care after buying health insurance is another matter. I have been in 24 hour clinics and watched people WITH health insurance cards be turned away unless they coughed up cash for the visit.

        2. Ted

          Oh please, the liberal point has nothing to do with access to health care. They just want to make sure people must buy health insurance. (chaching!)

          Whether or not mopes oike us can afford any health care after buying health insurance is another matter. I have been in 24 hour clinics and watched people WITH health insurance cards be turned away unless they coughed up cash for the visit.

        1. bassmule

          Speaking of human rights, I found this buried in a Michael Lewis story, Has Anyone Seen The President?

          The Time’s Up movement against sexual abuse and harassment now has Bannon’s full attention, too. “The top seven stories today are all guys getting blown up,” he says. “And these are not small guys.” He’s a connoisseur of anger, and in women’s anger about sexual harassment he senses a prelude to their anger about a lot more. “I think it’s going to unfold like the Tea Party, only bigger,” he says. “It’s not Me Too. It’s not just sexual harassment. It’s an anti-patriarchy movement. Time’s up on 10,000 years of recorded history. This is coming. This is real.”

          Yes, Steve Bannon. How about that?

    2. integer

      Here’s an exchange that shows the true colors of the D party’s liberal faction imo. I have remembered this since the 2016 primaries:

      Duncan Black:

      “Hope to be wrong, but suspect that team Clinton (very broadly defined) will still be talking about BernieBros in September. I’m quite happy for Hillary Clinton to be the nominee, as I always thought she would be. I’m not happy with the months of ‘we would have won it easy if not for these meddling kids who won’t vote in November’ rhetoric. Better figure out how to appeal to them. Stop calling them immature and stupid. The goal is to win, not to make early excuses for why you’re going to lose.”

      Brad DeLong:

      “Nah. After yesterday the word–and the obvious thing–is to stand down. Mind you: The day will come when it will be time to gleefully and comprehensively trash people to be named later for Guevarista fantasies about what their policies are likely to do. The day will come when it will be time to gleefully and comprehensively trash people to be named later for advocating Comintern-scale lying to voters about what our policies are like to do. And it will be important to do so then–because overpromising leads to bad policy decisions, and overpromising is bad long-run politics as well. But that day is not now. That day will be mid-November.”

  6. Jim Haygood

    Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 8

    As promised, we’re going to label single-digit F&G values as “Psychotic with Fear,” even if CNN don’t. Capitol Hill, after all, is a scary place. BofAML provides a graphical look at the fire hose of fiscal stimulus teed up by this morning’s budget deal:


    The big dips into fiscal deficit ending in ’03 and ’09 were caused by recessions which reduced federal revenues but hiked automatic stabilizer outlays and bailouts.

    By contrast, the dip into a trillion-dollar deficit in ’19 is entirely discretionary — reduced revenue due to enacted tax cuts coupled with uncapped spending on military, disaster relief and other political priorities.

    This chart from Dr Hussman shows how CPI inflation [red line] mirrors the growth rate of federal spending [blue line]:


    Pouring gasoline onto the crackling bonfire of the US economy is an epic error by the borrow-and-spend Republiclown party. Sadly the D party won’t be pointing it out until a couple of years down the road, when folks become angered by relentless food, gas and rent increases … and perhaps will have have forgotten that this foreseeable debacle was a bipartisan folly.

    *saddles up to ride with the bond vigilantes*

  7. drumlin woodchuckles

    About export-farmers lobbying to preserve NAFTA . . . . if American farmers did not lose domestic marketshare to imports, they would not have to seek foreign marketshare through exports. The deal I would impose, if I had any power, would be to ban food imports into America for anything which can be grown in America, and in return, the outer world could ban food exports from America for anything which can be grown outside America. That way, the American farmer would regain sole possession of the American market . . . . and “exports” would no longer be an issue.

    Why don’t Liberal Democrats address the Deaths Of Despair issue? Because the Despair Diers are working class and lower class white people , unlike the upper class 10 per centers. The Diers of Despair are the people whom the Liberal Democrat 10 per centers actively wish to see die off.

    About a $450 million bond issue for yet more digital voting systems, “what is wrong with these people” ?
    From a Silicon Industrial Complex viewpoint, nothing is wrong with them. They are protecting the Silicon Chiselers from the bussiness threat posed by cheap and affordable analog voting.

  8. TiPs

    Mosley has been pushing the slowdown in credit/debt for awhile now. Despite the majority of the benefits going to the top, the tax cut will spur growth in consumer credit, which should provide an additional boost to the economy. 2018 should show solid 3+% growth.

    1. a different chris

      Growth in….. credit. Wow that’s just awesome.

      So the banksters can somehow con the peons into buying more stuff made by offshore peons and then foreclose on the real asset – land. They so missed the Depression where they looked like they were going to own everything.

      Actually I do think the peons are getting a clue.

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        No nice things for us, but plenty of flexibility for the military. Funny how Orwell portrayed war as an all consuming popular diversion. Mentioning The War seems to be a pretty big faux pas in public gatherings nowadays.

        Is there an internet law about Orwelling a thread?

    2. UserFriendly

      , the tax cut will spur growth in consumer credit, which should provide an additional boost to the economy

      Only if beneficiaries of the tax cuts decide to put all their new found wealth in shadow banks. That is literally the only way we could get fractional reserve banking.

      Even apart from these criticisms, there is another fundamental reason to depart from the DSGE literature: though being now able to mimic non-linear dynamics, DSGE models still rely on external shocks to explain the origin of those nonlinearities. Admittedly, financial frictions DSGE models still fail to understand the inherent nature of finance and money (Werner, 2014, 2015). Most of these models either assume that banks are totally absent and all lending is direct, or adopt the loanable funds approach which reduces the role of financial institutions to mere intermediaries, accepting deposits of preexisting real resources from savers and lending them to borrowers. In reality banks do not intermediate, but rather create additional means of payment ex-novo by granting loans to non-bank customers. Every new loan recorded on the asset side of the bank’s balance sheet is immediately offset by a matching liability in the form of a new deposit, so that the loan creation process corresponds to an expansion of the bank’s balance sheet.

      Important consequences derive from this economic fact. First, since financing allows investment projects to be carried out, the national account identity between investment and savings implies that lending is a pre-condition for savings, rather than a consequence. Second, as long as banks are free to create claims which are universally accepted as means of payment, their credit creation potential does not find any upper bound in the amount of savings available in the economy. In financial frictions DSGEs, the monetary side of the economy is fully determined in the real sphere and savings need time to be accumulated through the production of additional goods. In reality, banks can create money instantaneously by expanding their balance sheet, the only limit being represented by their own assessment of the implications of new lending for their profitability and solvency. In practice, neglecting this aspect prevents to understand the causes of financial instability and induces to dramatically underestimate its consequences.


  9. WheresOurTeddy

    So you’re saying the #Resistance has no Persistence and its Desistance should be pilloried by *actual* Dissidents?

    On it. Remember folks: The next positive change in society that comes from the top down will be the first of its kind.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      The Gregorian Calendar? There was a lot less bickering about when Easter was. In the West. Eventually.

      Realizing more and more how much the steppe nomads were the pneumonia for decrepit civilizations.

  10. cocomaan

    “We believe the fairness of AI technologies is a critical issue for the industry and one that Microsoft takes very seriously,” the statement said.

    Good god. This is a family blog, so I’ll save my actual commentary

  11. Carolinian

    Somebody leash the Mad Dog?

    Perhaps Mattis is only feigning confusion here, but it isn’t encouraging that the head of our Defense Department claims not to know why forces aligned with the Syrian government might want to attack a base where the enemies of that government are located. They attacked the base because they “had long known the U.S. and allied forces were there.” They oppose the presence of “U.S. and allied forces” there. This should be clear by now. If our top leaders don’t know something as basic as this about the situation they are putting our soldiers in, that is deeply troubling. Mattis also “denied that the attack and the U.S. response constituted American engagement in the Syrian civil war,” but this is preposterous. By providing support to armed groups inside Syria and deploying our own forces alongside them, the U.S. is taking sides in the Syrian civil war whether our leaders want to acknowledge that involvement or not. By attacking pro-regime forces and killing dozens of their men, the U.S. has committed acts of war against another government on its own soil without Congressional or U.N. authorization.


    Those of us with long memories of Vietnam know the last people you should trust with strategic decisions are generals (that’s assuming Trump has no idea what Mattis is up to). And not just Vietnam…I’m currently reading a Max Hastings book that talks about MacArthur’s disastrous handling of his WW2 Pacific campaign. Because MacArthur was a press hero (and publicity hog) FDR indulged him.

    1. polecat

      Re. The term ‘pro-regime forces’

      Why is it that the Assad government is ALWAYS derided as a ‘regime’ … as they fight for their country’s very existence … while the US is considered a shining beacon of light … ?

      Why can’t we dispence with that odious nomenclature ?

      1. JohnnyGL

        This could be a fun way to replace the nebulous term, “deep state” with the equally nebulous “regime”.

        Let’s give it a shot….Trump wanted to make America great again, but the US regime had other ideas.

        Here’s another….Sanders has a shot at winning in 2020, but will the US regime let him?

        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          I’ve seen it before, reporting from flyover like it’s Beirut, but people shy away.

          Why can’t we use the videophone image generators to put corporate logos around anyone I’m watching on a video? Easy job for facial recognition. We could call them ‘holograms’ and get some buzzz.

      2. Darthbobber

        For the same reason that the big bosses don’t get called oligarchs unless they are of Russian origin.

    2. Wukchumni

      Have a read of David Halberstam’s “The Coldest Winter” for a frank appraisal of what a mess MacArthur made of the Korean War.

      1. Big River Bandido

        The second volume of Ian Toll’s Pacific War trilogy (The Conquering Tide) is similarly illuminating about MacArthur’s missteps as a combat leader in World War II. I think we are fortunate that Operation Olympic was short-circuited.

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      “Those of us with long memories of Vietnam”

      Its not just Vietnam but virtually any military misadventure. I think the lesson is to not let anyone who chooses a career in the military at 16 (which is when West Point Cadets are serious) to ever make too much in the way of strategy.

    4. integer

      Also, and I expect you already know this, it is far from clear that “the SDF headquarters location” was attacked by the SAA in the first place, and the fact that there were zero casualties on the coalition (i.e. the US and SDF) side, and many on the SAA side, suggests the SAA didn’t see the coalition forces coming (hat tip MoA). It concerns me that the CIA is still doing what it does in Syria, as there are certainly some who would be happy to see US troops get killed if it resulted in the US military engaging more heavily in Syria.

  12. PKMKII

    On the Pacific Standard article: as a parent of a child that had hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills covered by medicaid and is getting physical therapy paid for by the municipal government, what Allegheny County is doing both frightens and infuriates me. If you have a child and you’re seeking out public assistance, that means you’re trying to do right by your child, not harming them. You’re trying to get food stamps so you can feed them, you’re trying to get health care so your child is in a healthy household, you’re seeking out counseling so you can be a better parent. They’re incentivizing parents to not seek out that which improves their children’s lives.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      If it’s any consolation, all the tech is doing is making the job a little more efficient. Any person with children who needed “safety net” support was automatically rendered suspect as far back as the early ’80s. Not that those leveling accusations offered any workable assistance, which from what I read about the current system hasn’t changed, either.

      I speak from personal experience, of course.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      That’s really useful, thanks!

      OTOH, the functionality Apple removes re-appears in external gadgets like this one, in dongles, and in the general horrid mess Apple has made with cables and adapters. (Took me hour of research on the Intertubes to buy a cable from my 2015 MacBook Air to a new monitor. Everything was confusing: The shape of the ports constantly changed (Thunderbolt 2 to 3), confusingly, Mini-DisplayPort worked in Thunderbolt 2, and on and on and on.)

  13. rjs

    re this: Wholesale Trade: “Inventory build for wholesalers came in 2 tenths stronger than expected at a 0.4 percent gain in December but in an offset for the second estimate of fourth-quarter GDP, the build for November is revised down 2 tenths to 0.6 percent”

    the last part of that is irrelevant to GDP, because the inventory component of GDP is based on the quarter to quarter change, ie, the change from the end of September to the end of December…

    on the impact of this report on GDP, i wrote:
    in the advance report on 4th quarter GDP of two weeks ago, wholesale inventories were estimated based on the sketchy Advance Report on Wholesale and Retail Inventories which was released just before the GDP release…that report estimated that our seasonally adjusted wholesale inventories were valued at $611.45 billion at the end of December, $0.67 billion less than the $612.12 billion that this report shows…that would imply that the quarterly change in 4th quarter inventories was underestimated at a $2.7 billion annual rate, which would mean that the growth rate of 4th quarter GDP was underestimated by 0.06 percentage points, based on what this report shows…

  14. a different chris

    >If we can send a Roadster to the asteroid belt, we can probably solve Model 3 production

    Sigh. That’s like saying “if I can hit home runs in the major leagues, I can play violin for the New York Philharmonic”.

    *Or* the reverse. It’s not taking anything away from Giancarlo Stanton (or some NYP fiddler, pick one) to say I’m pretty sure he couldn’t ever, even if he had dedicated the same time and effort, played violin at anywhere near the level of success he’s had in baseball.

    Elon has turned into some weird caricature of a human being. And I mean weird, not a bad (Scrooge), or a good (Jesus in literature), or even just different (Budda), but weird, weird, weird.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner


      Even though I am loyal to the Sox, Bernie Williams was my favorite non-Red Sox player despite his obvious villainous nature. I don’t know what Stanton can or can’t do.

      In a way, Musk might be a Scrooge, not the pop-culture one, but the book one. Scrooge’s sin was ignorance of the world around him, a nose to the grindstone. Dickens accuses Scrooge of ignorance. The Marley Brothers were guilty of avarice.

    2. Darthbobber

      Given that the asteroid belt was not the intended destination, it’s even funnier.

      The Falcon Heavy is what it is, but it’s scientifically and technologically uninteresting because building such a thing required only the application of already known techniques to a limited and known “same thing, only bigger” problem.

      By way of comparison, we’ve been able for a decade and a half to send something off to Mars with considerable precision (as opposed to somewhere sort of in the general neighborhood) land a remote vehicle and have it wander around and report back for a prolonged periods.

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        Every self-landing rocket that does not land is actually a lot of capital out the window.

        Perhaps humanity’s first Kessler syndrome will induce us to behave better when the next window opens.

  15. Tertium Squid

    “Does anyone here know how to park? Bedlam reigns in Tesla’s Fremont lot”

    Tesla’s HQ across the bay has a valet service. The factory doesn’t?

    1. The Rev Kev

      The answer is that as far as Tesla is concerned, the problems that their employees have in the parking lot is an externality and can thus be ignored. I have been calling this attitude for years now an NMP – Not My Problem!

      1. redleg

        To paraphrase Douglas Adams:
        The most effective kind of invisibility is SEP invisibility. It doesn’t require any technology or energy- since it’s someone else’s problem, everyone chooses to ignore the obvious.

  16. Darthbobber

    Apologies if this story was posted here recently and I missed it.
    Not quite as bad as the absurd power restoration contract for the unfortunate island, but still a fine piece of grifting at the ol’ public-private interface.


    A thirty million meal contract for a one-woman bidding and subcontracting operation?
    Who decides that a wedding-catering firm employing 11 people can do the lion’s share of the work because they’ll “scale up?”

    Well, she had managed to deliver 56,000 by the time there were supposed to have been 18.5 million, though apparently the 56,000 were not to spec.

    Some commenters hammer on this as an example of specifically Trump-related FEMA incompetence (which is true enough), but she’s been running this grift since 2013, and it seems this will be the 6th failure to perform on a contract she’s managed to rack up.
    “Ms. Brown described herself in an interview as a government contractor — “almost like a broker,” she said — who does not keep employees or specialize in any field but is able to procure subcontracted work as needed, and get a cut of the money along the way. She claims a fashion line and has several self-published books, and describes herself on Twitter as “A Diva, Mogul, Author, Idealist with scars to prove it.””
    I’ll let that pass without comment.

    In another article on the same thing (cnn, I believe) she explains that there are difficulties stemming from being “a young woman in the food industry”, cute except she’s not really in the food or any industry. She’s in the go-between business.

    FEMA insists this was not a problem for the end recipients because there “were plenty of commodities in the pipeline” at the time of cancellation. But there really seems to be a big disconnect between FEMA’s evaluation of the situation at every step of the way, and the evaluations given by the people actually attempting to live on the island. So I’ll take that for what its worth, which is nothing.

  17. Jim Haygood

    Hildo’s been hitting the vape again … hard:


    Any responsible physician would recommend her to switch to edibles.

    Yeah bring me champagne when I’m thirsty
    Bring me reefer when I want to get high
    Well you know when I’m lonely
    Bring my woman set her right down here by my side

    — Muddy Waters

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Okay, ‘makers’ isn’t the duct tape, clock spring, and 3D printing crowd.

      I was confused. Still don’t know what it means.

  18. Daryl

    Came here to post Cal Newport’s piece, glad to see it’s already here. All the pearl-clutching about Russian bots doesn’t even come close to capturing the true harm these companies are doing.

  19. JohnnyGL

    “…landslide Trump states: Indiana (Trump +19.0 points)…”

    This is a state Obama won in 2008, let’s remember.

  20. Summer

    The Bezzle: “Tesla Averts Cash Crunch as Musk Mystique Offsets Late Cars” [Industry Week]. “‘If we can send a Roadster to the asteroid belt, we can probably solve Model 3 production,’ Musk said on a conference call with analysts Wednesday, shortly after tweeting another photo of his Roadster hurtling through space.”

    The power of mystique…Blaine, Copperfield, and Houdini didn’t think big enough. Who would’ve thought they left trillions untapped.

    1. Jimmie the Q

      Well, at least that’s one Tesla delivered on time. Although, I thought it was going to Mars.
      What’s the big deal ! Just off by a few million miles !

  21. Elizabeth Burton

    I have to say I really think the “experts” who keep talking about the upcoming election in terms of “places Trump won” are as ignorant of reality as the Democrats who think they can shove the progressive toothpaste back in the tube if they just ignore it.

    The majority of Trump’s votes came from hardcore Republicans, bolstered by a lot of p***ed off people who turned out and half a voting-eligible population who stayed home because they couldn’t stomach voting for either candidate. Building any kind of speculation of what will happen in November on data from the ’16 election seems more intended to advance the standard establishment narrative, because every one I’ve seen here to date totally ignores the roiling current of progressive activism going on. To no surprise, of course, since the application of the Sanders Freeze-out is considered to have been successful, by those with heads firmly in dark nether places, at putting the kibosh on that sort of lefty nastiness.

    1. Fraibert

      While I believe the growing progressive activism is important, I’m not really certain that it will have much effect on the elections. I don’t imagine that most of the Democratic congressional candidates will be particularly sympathetic to progressive ideas and policy priorities, so it strikes me as difficult to believe that the growing activism will translate into Democratic votes–why should people do legwork for candidates who won’t even try to pursue any of their preferred policy preferences?

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        See, this is why media blackouts are so successful, and why those who refuse to spend time on social media, especially Facebook, suffer from a serious lack of essential information.

        There are progressives running in just about every important primary this year, and most are gathering both momentum and money. Bernie Sanders recently announced that he is gearing up his own fund-raising mechanism to help with the latter, and that he will do all he can to support the former, including traveling to wherever.

        There is even a progressive Republican running, believe it or not.

        Using the phrase “Democratic votes” reveals too much reliance on these establishment-driven pundits. The bulk of the voters in the US are independents; they made up most of that 40% who stayed home because they had no one to vote for. All of the “predictions” I’ve seen here so far are clearly designed to ensure the entire focus is on the establishment parties. Or, to put it another way, I don’t see real speculation about what’s going to happen. I see propaganda intended to produce precisely the kind of “nothing will change” mindset that dismisses the very real gains made and continuing to be made at all levels of government by real progressives.

        It’s vital that those who truly want to see change understand that we as a nation have been skillfully trained to embrace the narratives of the establishment. They are experts, and they have refined their methods for decades. The only reason I’ve become able to see through a lot of it is that I’ve spent the last three years deliberately breaking the spell. Granted, having a journalism background and much editorial experience, I have a solid basis for breaking the propaganda into its constituent parts, but it’s something anyone with the will to do it can manage.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Speculating freely:

      Voters will vote for “change,” as they did in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2014, and 2016, and will be disappointed, as they were in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015, and 2017.

      “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

  22. perpetualWAR

    If the Democrats would have fought for the 19 million homeowners upended as much as they seem to be fighting for the Dreamers, perhaps there would be a Democrat in the Presidency? Comments?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      They only seem to be fighting for Dreamers. The Democrats simply chose not to do the right thing in 2009 and 2010 too. Obama issued relevant executive orders later, but Team Blue hid behind that pesky 60 vote threshold created by the Senate rules which can be done away with or ignored by a 50+VP majority of the Senate.

    2. Fraibert

      I fully concur.

      To the average citizen (and, frankly, to me personally), it would appear that the Democratic Party cares more about noncitizens than United States citizens. This position is not tenable for a party that has to convince citizens to vote for it.

      In fact, I think there’s a good argument that a political party that places noncitizens above citizens should not even be allowed to continue existing. Unless, and until, the Westphalian system of nation-states is replaced, the primary goal of the United States government, and of the political parties that seek to run it, should be the welfare of its citizens. Otherwise, what is citizenship supposed to mean?

      1. marym

        “Average citizens” support the Dreamers

        Sixty-five percent of Americans said they favor giving legal status to DREAMers, as a deadline set by President Trump quickly approaches for when temporary status will run out for hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients. That includes 81 percent of Democrats, 51 percent of Republicans and 66 percent of independents. (DACA, or Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals, is the executive order signed by former President Obama and rescinded by President Trump.)

        In the case of the Dreamers, the distinction between citizens and non-citizens is a cruel ploy to stir up animosity. These young people were brought here as children, have lived the lives “real Americans” are always telling minorities they should (learn English, get an education, work, pay taxes, take care of your family). Had there at any point been a legal path to citizenship most of them would probably have followed it, no matter how onerous, just as they have met all the bureaucratic requirements for DACA status.

        1. Fraibert

          While I understand what you are saying, I think average citizens can support DACA out of human decency, while also feeling that the Democratic Party is acting like it cares more about noncitizens than citizens. The two positions aren’t incompatible.

          I think comparing the following illustrates what I’m saying:

          1. A January 18, 2018 article reporting that 9/10 Americans support the Dreamers, but also 46-48 split in favor of whether it’s worth shutting the government down over DACA. (http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/369487-poll-nearly-nine-in-10-favor-allowing-daca-recipients-to-stay)

          2. November 9, 2017 article reporting on a poll where only 29% of Americans feel DACA is “a top priority” and also that only 15% feel “it should not be done.” (https://morningconsult.com/2017/11/09/polling-shows-waning-enthusiasm-congressional-action-dreamers/)

          In short, as far as I can tell, it appears both that the public in general terms supports a DACA-like program but also that the program is not a high priority. If that is correct, then I think it’s a reasonable conclusion that the average citizen will feel that his or her own concerns are being given secondary weight, since it is DACA which the Democrats raised as the justification for the government shutdown–not resolving the opioids crisis, or jobs, etc.

          1. Fraibert

            And, to bring my last comment back around to the original comment by PerpetualWAR–the Democrats were enablers in covering up the foreclosure crisis. From those policy decisions, it appears to me that ensuring citizens are not removed from their houses unlawfully is not as important as DACA to the Party.

          2. marym

            The choice isn’t between an honorable and humane resolution of the Dreamer situation and keeping the government running to meet the needs of “citizens.” The Dreamers are part of our country, they’re not asking for anything that diminishes life for anyone else, and the government largely serves the 1%.

            It’s a false choice designed solely to create a false division.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        Performative speech on DACA is far more important than even mentioning tens of thousands of excess deaths yearly, and declining life expectancy. Thanks, liberal Democrats!

    3. Darthbobber

      Fighting. You mean when Pelosi was briefly waving that rubber knife around?

      As Lu Xun said: Hurling threats and insults is certainly not fighting.

  23. The Rev Kev

    “Oklahoma schools go on four-day weeks so teachers can make rent by working at Walmart on Mondays”

    That would work out well that. Those teachers would get to work alongside all their ex-students who could only score themselves a Walmart job as most other jobs have been exported overseas. Be like a class reunion that.

    1. Annotherone

      Why won’t somebody impeach that flippin’ woman, our Governor Mary Fallin? Can Governors be impeached? – This would be a disgrace in any self-respecting state – or country. What is wrong with Okie parents? (Perhaps don’t answer that, anyone).

      1. Fraibert

        Section VIII-1 of the Oklahoma Constitution states in part that:

        “The Governor and other elective state officers, including the Justices of the Supreme Court, shall be liable and subject to impeachment for wilful neglect of duty, corruption in office, habitual drunkenness, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude committed while in office. All elected state officers, including Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals, shall be automatically suspended from office upon their being declared guilty of a felony by a court of competent jurisdiction and their pay and allowances, otherwise payable to such official, shall be withheld during the period of such suspension.”

        While I’m not familiar with the details of Governor Fallin, this seems to set a pretty high bar to impeachment. And, I imagine that one should be very careful invoking the “incompetency” ground because ready invocation becomes a slippery slope into political oblivion.

        1. Annotherone

          Thank you for that information. Yes, nobody is likely to risk political oblivion, their corporate donors would not be impressed at all! Also, none of ’em really give two hoots about it.

  24. Synoia

    And yet, today, in the highest circles of Democratic party politics, resistance is waning…

    Oh! No! the resistance carrot for the Donkey (D) is rotting…

    Left-leaning groups that spent months pressing Democrats to fight for the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers were stiff-armed yet again by the party’s leaders.

    Ah! A new carrot. Where’s the Donkey whip?

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      The McResistance is a front for Democrat Party fundraising, period. I speak as one who enjoys their pathetic attempts via email to appear progressive.

  25. Ted

    Re: Mr. Market does a Sad

    Sigh … remember the days when people started noticing exponential growth in fictitious capital and credit-debt creation. Good times.

  26. allan

    Equifax hack put more info at risk than consumers knew [AP]

    … The credit reporting company announced in September that the personal information of 145.5 million consumers had been compromised in a data breach. It originally said that the information accessed included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and — in some cases — driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers. …

    However, Atlanta-based Equifax Inc. recently disclosed in a document submitted to the Senate Banking Committee, that a forensic investigation found criminals accessed other information from company records. According to the document, provided to The Associated Press by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office, that included tax identification numbers, email addresses and phone numbers. Finer details, such as the expiration dates for credit cards or issuing states for driver’s licenses, were also included in the list. …

    On the bright side, no fingerprints or iris scans were compromised.

  27. knowbuddhau

    “One company will now handle close to half of all student-loan payments” [MarketWatch]. “In an ideal world, no federal student loan borrower would default on his or her debt thanks to the myriad of programs available through the government, but in reality, roughly 1 million defaulted last year — a sign, advocates say, that student loan servicers aren’t doing enough to work in borrowers’ best interests.” I seem to recall similar issues with mortgage servicers….

    Can you believe this guy’s “ideal world?” That’s some authentic frontier gibberish. Worse, bad myth-making. I was sure someone would’ve jumped on this by now. But after searching, it doesn’t appear so.

    In my ideal world, students wouldn’t have loans. Boom, zero defaults. #FIFY

    Simply by making a lot of loans, some defaults are going to happen. This system, as designed, causes harms unrelated to the education process. But in an ideal world, thanks to the gov’t, that doesn’t happen. Say what?

    So in the author’s ideal world, government services can perform mathematical miracles?

    They make the defaults possible, then decry their ever increasing abundance, strangling countless careers and families in the cradle in the process, providing services that would have to be perfect, and have perfect participants, to produce zero defaults, but don’t suggest the stupendously simple solution of not selling access to education so dear that people “have to” take on huge debts in the first place?!

    Anyway you look at it, it’s not just absurd, it’s worse: bad myth-making. Bad myth-making brings into being entire worlds of hurt. It’s so astonishingly easy to bring whole worlds into being out of nowhere, and to convince others they really exist. Propagandists count on it.

    But a propagandist’s malign myth is like a parasitic placenta. It gets between an organism and it’s environment and sucks the life out of both.

    If we’ve not got our worldview right, how can we be in the world aright?

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