2:00PM Water Cooler 3/16/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Mexico’s election poses a growing threat to NAFTA’s survival” [CBC]. “Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador​ — or AMLO, as the presidential candidate is known to most Mexicans — is leading in the polls by as much as 14 per cent over his nearest competitor. The campaign begins officially on March 30, with polling day set for July 1 AMLO’s platform calls for the suspension of NAFTA talks until a new Mexican president is elected, warning that a “weak” President Enrique Peña Nieto risks “selling” out the country under U.S. pressure.”

“In my view, US negotiators will use the threat of imposing the tariffs on Chinese producers as a way to persuade China’s government to abandon the policy of “voluntary” technology transfers. If that happens, and US firms can do business in China without being compelled to pay such a steep competitive price, the threat of tariffs will have been a very successful tool of trade policy” [Martin Feldstein, Project Syndicate].

“A European diplomat told Morning Trade that any further guidelines from USTR, which is handling the country exemption process, is expected to shed little light on whether the EU will be exempt [from the steel tariffs]. Even less clear is whether the EU will be considered a security partner per one of the criterion [sic] that USTR is expected to use when making a determination” [Politico]. “‘He [Lighthizer] had a very broad understanding of security relationships,’ said the diplomat, who was briefed on Malmström’s meeting with the U.S. trade chief in Brussels on Saturday. ‘I’m absolutely sure the guidance will leave no definitive clarity on that.'”



PA-18: “Conor Lamb Ran as a Change Agent in PA-18. So Are Lots of Other Democrats” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “But, Trump’s not totally wrong when he says that Lamb co-opted his message. Lamb, like Trump, ran as an outsider and a problem solver who would take on the entrenched special interests and fight for the hard-working, but under appreciated middle class. Take this ad, where Lamb tells voters that while he’s honored to be stopped at airports and thanked for his military service, he wants to see teachers and nurses thanked for their important service to the country too. Lamb doesn’t call these folks, ‘forgotten men and women,’ like Trump does, but it’s essentially the same message.” Voters voted for change in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2014, and 2016. They haven’t gotten it. So we’ll see how it goes in 2018. And: “I’ve met a bunch of Democratic candidates who are running in GOP-held districts. None are highlighting their opposition to Trump. Almost all, however,are highlighting their opposition to an agenda they say is only benefitting the elites and not the regular person. They are running against Washington dysfunction and obstruction. One candidate, I met this week told us: ‘I’m not focused on what Trump is or isn’t doing, but on [A] finding solutions to our problems.’ Another told me, ‘Congress is out of touch and not paying attention to [B] kitchen table issues.'” Well and good, but [A] and [B] are both centrist bafflegab, devoid of programmatic content. “Finding solutions,” in particular, is the catchphrase of the “No Labels” “Problem Solver Caucus” (Co-Chair Joe Lieberman), a notoriously squishy gaggle of centrists.

PA-18: “[T]he way Lamb won does little to help Democrats adjudicate the raging debate on the left over how should they run in November: as proud left-wing populists or relative moderates willing to reach across the aisle. The 33-year-old Marine vet, federal prosecutor and Allegheny County political progeny didn’t pick a side. He took some positions from out of each camp’s bucket, all while brandishing his assault rifle” [Politico]. I think if you don’t support #MedicareForAll, you do pick a side.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Lamb Is A Victory For Wypipo Labor Democrats Moderates Clintonites Berniebros Anti-Racism The DCCC Republicans” [Eschaton]. Atrios writes:

“Another kind of a Democrat.” “A new kind of Democrat.” “A Democrat, but not like those other nasty Democrats.” This is not a branding operation that works long term. There’s just an immense amount of self-loathing in the party that assh*les like me can’t even begin to match. The right thing to do when someone like Lamb wins – whatever his politics – is to stamp a big D on the win and claim him, not distance him from the party. It’s one thing to expand the tent, it’s another thing to say that everyone who wins does so by standing outside the tent pissing into it.

IMNSHO, what Atrios misses is that liberal Democrats are right to loathe themselves. Michael Hudson (I think) at NC:

It’s true that the Democrats don’t want to govern. But they also don’t want anyone ELSE (esp. to the left) to block the Republicans from enacting the Blue-Dog/Republican neoliberal code.

The Democratic strategy is to protect the Republicans from a left attack; by blocking any alternative party, from Bernie’s independents to the socialists. Co-opting any real left by “identity politics” that excludes wage-earners, workers, etc.

What’s not loathsome about that?

“A Party Within the Democratic Party” [The New Republic]. A Congression Progressive Caucus [CPC] strategy summit where “the CPC had invited for the first time a delegation from European left parties: U.K. Labour’s Diane Abbott (who drew cheers from the crowd when she introduced herself in her keynote as being from ‘one of the oldest socialist parties in Europe’), as well as Sevim Dagdelen of Germany’s Die Linke (Left Party), Eduardo Maura of Spain’s Podemos, and Yiannis Bournous of Greece’s governing Syriza party.” This is at least an original. (Note that in at our London meetup, we saw connections made at the activist and software level between Labour’s Momentum and Sanders campaign staffers.)

“If the Democratic wave manages to breach the barriers erected by the GOP in Congress and key states, liberals and progressives can begin to dismantle these institutional obstacles to majority rule. Note that when they do so, the victorious Democrats will be unlikely to enact in-kind countermajoritarian hurdles against Republicans” [The Week]. Oh?

“[Mister] Rogers created a neighborhood that was united by values and seemingly impervious to racial animus and urban crisis, a neighborhood that fit better in his imaginary world than in the actual one inhabited by the millions of Americans who tuned in. He created a Neighborhood of Make-Believe that children could enter through a magical trolley ride and the flights of their own imaginations. But in his imagination, there was a place where a code of compassion ruled, where conflicts were few and resolved quickly, and where it was possible to welcome every person as a neighbor” [JSTOR].

Stats Watch

Quadruple witching:

Industrial Production, February 2018: “Industrial production showed life in February, up 1.1 percent but following a soft run that is underscored by a 2 tenths downward revision to January which is now minus 0.3 percent. But February was a very good month” [Econoday]. “February was held back by a 4.7 percent decline in utility production which is subject to weather-related volatility. And a special sign of strength comes from capacity utilization which jumped 7 tenths to 78.1 percent and which will take the notice of Federal Reserve hawks who are looking for capacity stress and related inflationary risks. Yet one month of strength is only one month and a run of strength, especially in manufacturing, will have to unfold before any immediate inflationary concerns develop.”

Consumer Sentiment (Preliminary), March 2018: “Consumer sentiment has been showing less strength over the last year than other confidence readings but now the report, driven especially by the assessment of current conditions, is beginning to gain momentum” [Econoday]. “A very important sign of strength is in inflation expectations which are up 2 tenths to 2.9 percent for the year-ahead outlook though unchanged at 2.5 percent for the 5-year outlook.” And: ” What is amazing about the gain is not only that it seems to be getting better each month. This was the highest preliminary sentiment reading going all the way back to 2004, and we are seeing an all-time high in the assessment of current economic conditions” [247 Wall Street]. “According to the University of Michigan’s preliminary survey, all the gain in the sentiment index was among households with incomes in the bottom third (+15.7), while the economic assessments of those with incomes in the top third posted a significant monthly decline (−7.3).”

Housing Starts, February 2018: “Home sales turned lower in January as did housing starts and permits in February, and noticeably so” [Econoday]. “Besides completions, another positive is homes under construction, up fractionally to 1.115 million which is a new expansion high. But the bulk of this report is unexpectedly soft and confirms that the housing sector, despite strong year-end momentum and a very strong jobs market, opened 2018 on the defense, getting no help from rising mortgage rates which are at 4 year highs.” And: “The housing market is in the best shape in at last a decade despite gradually rising mortgage rates. It might not grow as fast as it’s been growing, but it’s unlikely to suffer a long letdown, either” [MarketWatch].

JOLTS, January 2018: “JOLTS proved volatile in the January report, headlined by a far higher-than-expected 6.312 million for job openings but including heavy downward revisions to prior months” [Econoday]. “Details include rising openings for construction and for warehousing and especially for professional and business services where gains point to general and immediate demand for labor…. In an economy at or close to full employment and possibly nearing the risk of wage inflation, a bit of cooling in openings might be a welcome outcome.” And: “The jobs market is so strong that some Americans receiving disability benefits have rejoined the workforce and companies are even hiring and training people with criminal records” [MarketWatch].

Commodities: “China is locking up the supplies for an electric-car future. Swiss commodity giant Glencore PLC agreed to sell a chunk of its cobalt production to Shenzhen-listed GEM Co…., extending China’s efforts to dominate cobalt resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which turns out about 60% of the world’s supply” [Wall Street Journal]. “China is revving up its electric-vehicle industry, helping feed a kind of global gold rush for raw materials like cobalt, a critical ingredient in batteries for electric cars and smartphones. Apple Inc., Tesla Inc., Volkswagen AG and others have been scrambling to secure their own cobalt supplies, an effort that inevitably runs through Glencore, which controls about a quarter of the world’s cobalt output.”

Real Estate: “As more consumers continue to buy groceries online, it has the potential to drive up the demand for roughly 35 million square-feet of United States-based cold storage space moving from retail stores to warehouses and distribution centers over the course of the next seven years” [Logistics Management]. “What’s more, [CBRE Senior Vice President for its Food Facilities Group Art Rasmussen] pointed out that new retailers from Europe such as Aldi and Lidl and established retailers such as Target are increasing their frozen and refrigerated food offerings frequently. And he noted that demand for frozen food has proven to be pretty inelastic, pointing out that during the 2008 recession, restaurant visits dropped dramatically while demand for frozen food products increased. He also observed that demand from the evolving “food halls” concept is driving demand for cold storage facilities as well.” Frozen food is counter-cyclical? Remarkable!

Retail: “Amazon.com Inc. is wrestling with a market-share problem in Japan. The e-tailing giant has cornered so much of the country’s online sales that it’s coming under antitrust scrutiny for the second time in as many years over its relationships with suppliers” [Wall Street Journal]. “Japan is Amazon’s third largest market, after the U.S. and Germany, and generates $11.9 billion in sales. In Japan, it commands the biggest portion of the country’s online market, at more than 20%, and government officials have said the scale makes it hard for sellers to push back on Amazon as they seek customers from a shrinking population.”

Retail: “Toys ‘R’ Us Is a How-Not-To Guide for the Retail Business” [Bloomberg]. “A full diagnosis of the company would likely identify its massive debt load as its primary illness…. The retailer was saddled with hefty debt in a 2005 leveraged buyout in which Bain Capital, KKR & Co. and Vornado Realty Trust took the retailer private. In recent months, the company’s financial burden went from seriously challenging to unsustainable.” But there were other issues: “August 9, 2000, may have been a fateful day for Toys “R” Us. That was the day the company entered a 10-year agreement with Amazon.com Inc. to create a co-branded online store…. But it probably hurt Toys “R” Us to lean on Amazon’s strategy and expertise as long as it did, because it meant there was less urgency to build out its own. That partnership effectively put Toys “R” Us on the path to a long and losing game of catch-up.”

Shipping: “Container fire breaks out on a second Maersk box ship, but crew is safe” [The LoadStar]. There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.

Shipping: “DHL launches local parcel delivery product for retailer e-commerce orders” [DC Velocity]. “The product, called “DHL Parcel Metro,” has been rolled out in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. It will be launched in Dallas and Atlanta in the second quarter, San Francisco in the third quarter, and Washington, D.C. before year’s end…. The product will function through what DHL called a “virtual delivery network” of local and regional delivery vendors and crowd-sourced drivers. DHL’s software platform will select drivers that offer the capacity and meet the service levels on the specific routes.” Hmm.

The Bezzle: “When Self-Driving Cars Can’t Help Themselves, Who Takes the Wheel?” [New York Times]. “Developers of self-driving cars from Nissan to Zoox say such technology may be needed to address ‘edge cases’ — the unique situations that software programs can’t anticipate. A fallen tree, a sinkhole, a string of strange pylons, a flash flood, a fire or some other obstruction on a lonely road could make an autonomous car stop safely, but then what? In other words, a situation that human drivers face all the time could brick your two-ton robot car in the midde of the road; that’s an “edge case.” And if your algo can’t handle the edge cases, sell an add-on product. More: “A car in need of help would automatically contact a Phantom Auto center, where a remote operator could use the car’s cameras and sensors to see what was happening, then maneuver the vehicle out of trouble. The technology prefigures a time when most passengers wouldn’t be able to take control for the simple reason that they won’t know how to drive a car — or because the steering wheel and pedals have been removed.” “Automatically connect” unless there are connectivity problems, of course. And those remote operators: Will they be caring nurterers, or more like Verizon support? What do you think? And of course, there’s this scenario: “Sir, everything is going to be OK. We just have to download a software patch.” “How about will that take?” “Oh, about twelve hours.” “In the middle of the road?” Who thinks up these ideas? And who backs them with hundreds of millions of dollars?

The Bezzle: “Traders who look for future price direction in chart patterns are finding more indicators suggesting the world’s largest digital currency may have further to fall” [Japan Times]. “Bitcoin’s 50-day moving average has dropped to the closest proximity to its 200-day moving average in nine months. Crossing below that level — something it hasn’t done since 2015 — signals fresh weakness to come for technical traders who would dub such a move a ‘death cross.’ Another moving-average indicator of momentum has already turned bearish.”

The Bezzle: “‘They’ll squash you like a bug’: how Silicon Valley keeps a lid on leakers” [Guardian]. “The public image of Silicon Valley’s tech giants is all colourful bicycles, ping-pong tables, beanbags and free food, but behind the cartoonish facade is a ruthless code of secrecy. They rely on a combination of Kool-Aid, digital and physical surveillance, legal threats and restricted stock units to prevent and detect intellectual property theft and other criminal activity. However, those same tools are also used to catch employees and contractors who talk publicly, even if it’s about their working conditions, misconduct or cultural challenges within the company.” Perhaps that’s why so many of the problems with robot cars are only coming to light when the software firms have to interact with other industrial sectors?

The Bezzle: “Tesla Semi prototype spotted apparently broken down makes naysayers rejoice, but there’s a twist” (photos) [Electrek]. “Here’s the twist: Tesla says that the prototype wasn’t even ‘broken down’ and that they simply stopped to do some tests and make adjustments as part of the test program.” So the “twist” is that Tesla’s public relations department emitted a statement. Alrighty then.

Infrastructure: “Is Accelerated Construction to Blame for Fatal Florida Bridge Collapse?” [Governing]. Very good summary. Last lines: “But [Robert Bea, a University of Californai Berkeley engineer and catastrophic risk expert] cautioned that innovative methods sometimes produce new ways for structures to fail. ‘Innovations always bring potential ‘failure modes’ that have not been previously experienced,’ he said.” Ah. Innovation!

Infrastructure: “Contractors Behind Collapsed FIU Bridge Are Major Miami Political Players” [Miami News]. “To Miami-Dade County insiders, it was no shock when Munilla Construction Management (MCM) beat out three other competitors to win a $14.2 million bid to build a high-tech pedestrian bridge at Florida International University. That’s because Munilla is not only one of the biggest contractors in South Florida but also one of the most politically connected thanks to years of shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaigns…. But questions are bound to be raised about Munilla’s deep ties to local politicians, including U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez — especially because the firm has never been shy about turning its political generosity into favorable decision-making…. And Diaz-Balart, who is chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development, was instrumental in building support for the bridge’s creation. Last weekend, FIU praised the congressman, along with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for making the project a reality.” So it’s bipartisan!

Political Risk: “This political-risk gauge just hit a 15-year high — and here’s what it means for the stock market” [MarketWatch]. “[Saxo Bank’s head of commodity strategy Ole Hansen] highlighted the Geopolitical Risk Index in a tweet (pointed out in MarketWatch’s Need to Know column), noting that the previous high for the GRI was back in August during intensifying fears that North Korea could spark a military, or even nuclear, conflict.”

Fodder for the Bulls: “Even with the sudden prospect of a trade war, it’s hard to find a bear on Wall Street” [MarketWatch]. “According to the AAII Investor Sentiment Survey, just 21.3% of polled investors describe themselves as bearish, meaning they expect prices to be lower in six months. This is the second-lowest level of the year, and significantly below the historical average of 30.5%. It has been below that average in 13 of the past 14 readings. Compared with last week, the ratio of bears fell 7.1 percentage points. The current level of pessimism is only slightly above 20.7%, or what AAII sees as ‘the breakpoint between typical and unusually low readings.'”

Five Horsemen: “Speculative darling Amazon flatlines as stocks churn” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen March 16 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “Mania-panic index slips to 49 (worry) as new lows exceed new highs and down volume exceeds up volume” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood]. (The NakedCap mania-panic index is an equally-weighted average of seven technical indicators derived from stock indexes, volatility (VIX), Treasuries, junk bonds, equity options, and internal measures of new highs vs new lows and up volume vs down volume … each converted to a scale of 0 to 100 before averaging, using thirty years of history for five of the seven series.)

Mania panic index March 15 2018

Our Famously Free Press

“The $10 billion opportunity at Reuters” [Recode]. “Opportunities like this don’t come along very often — indeed, to a first approximation, they never come along. But now, thanks to a $17 billion M&A deal in which private equity giant Blackstone is taking over the Thomson Reuters financial-terminal business, Reuters News (which is not part of the deal) has found itself in possession of an astonishing $10 billion lottery ticket.” Of course, the newsroom won’t see a penny….

“On Tom” [DeadSpin]. From February, but I missed it. Stories about what it’s like to work with a really good editor (one of those positions that being slashed away at, crapifying writing everywhere).

“Local News Anchors Are Being Forced to Deliver Pro-Trump Propaganda” [New York Magazine]. Sinclair, the ClearChannel of print (though still in business).

Book Nook

“Memoirs of an Ass” [The Paris Review]. ” Probably around 180 A.D. (which is to say probably during the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius), a novel was written in Latin. It really is a novel. Trot out any definition of novel: it’s that. Also, it’s the only one, complete, that we have from ancient Rome…. The author’s name was Apuleius…. Once you grasp that Apuleius is right up there with Jonathan Swift in terms of playing dumb while installing deep ironies and perversities, you are suddenly faced with a book that will stand up to a half dozen rereadings…. Apuleius called this book Metamorphoses. History knows it as The Golden Ass.

Health Care

“Some thoughts on healthcare injustice, moralism, and suffering” [T-Bone Faust]. This whole piece is worth a read. It’s encouraging! But this story caught my eye. Pain City. And not HappyVille:

I met a couple, a husband and wife, in South Carolina. A few years ago, she was rushed to the hospital for an ectopic pregnancy (a common medical emergency in which the body implants a fertile egg incorrectly and a fetus begins to grow outside the uterus). It appears to cost a hospital a few thousand dollars to treat an ectopic pregnancy. Since pricing in healthcare is fully irrational, the cost to insurers is about $25k, while the uninsured are charged higher, unpredictable prices.

The husband worked a few jobs, including at a pizza place, but none that offered insurance. Thanks to federal ACA subsidies, they were able to get a plan with low out-of-pocket premiums. They lived in a nice home in a pretty neighborhood. He even got a raise at the pizza place; another dollar an hour. Things were going well..

Then they weren’t. The wife began bleeding. God, how awful—I get a little stressed out when my girlfriend has something as basic as an upset stomach—to feel that excruciating pain (or see your partner endure it). How cruel is God to let us at once understand the devastating certainty that the pregnancy is terminated, but not how or why. But they had done everything right, at least—they were responsible, At least they had insurance..


That little pizza raise changed the husband’s annual pay. Federal ACA subsidies are adjusted for income, so when someone’s annual income, the federal subsidy must increase or decrease to compensate. The husband had been particularly diligent—more than I would be, for sure—and remembered to report his raise to the IRS. This meant the federal payor would pay less per month to the insurer, who would then bill the husband the difference—a few dollars more a month..

But that didn’t happen. Nobody seems to know why. For some reason, the insurer received less subsidy from the federal payor, did not increase the amount billed to the husband, and then silently terminated the couple’s coverage after a couple months of “nonpayment”..

So while the wife lay on the hospital bed, her world split apart, she was uninsured and nobody knew it..

A few weeks later they got the bills. Massive, unreadable, terrifying documents—you know what they look like. Now they owe the hospital tens of thousands of dollars. A lifetime of debt for want of a few dollars per month—no fault of their own, but with no recourse.

Of course, with #MedicareForAll, this wouldn’t happen, because the eligibility determination process at the heart of ObamaCare wouldn’t exist.s

“Faust: Don’t let Chase or Amazon control your health care” [Houston Chronicle]. “The simple fact is that the private insurance market is incapable of reopening hospitals in rural Texas or sending doctors into poor neighborhoods. Amazon/Chase/Hathaway has no reason to invest in the programs that keep people healthy so that they never need health care in the first place, such as affordable or free housing for nonemployees, or providing or subsidizing healthy food for people who need it. But the federal government can – and it is accountable to us at the ballot box. Single-payer is moral. Single-payer is necessary. And single-payer is achievable. All we need to do is demand it – else we abandon ourselves to a nation of, by and for the likes of JPMorgan Chase, Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway.”

“Surprise Billing — Adapted from An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take it Back” [Elizabeth Rosenthal, Medium]. Her solution:

Until the laws and regulators in your state better address this problem, we have to push back ourselves. Informed consent is a bedrock legal and medical principle and your grounds to not pay. This is the essence of your argument:

  • You went to an in-network hospital so that your care would be covered.
  • You were not informed of the out-of-network status of these providers and did not consent to them participating in your care.
  • If it’s an emergency — if you were taken to the nearest ER or your newborn suffered a respiratory arrest — you were not in a position to go elsewhere.

Don’t write a check. Find out if your state has passed a surprise billing law. Then, whether it has or not, write a letter of protest. (In my book, I provide some templates for protest letters that you may adjust to suit your situation. They work. I’ve used them myself.)

Surely “the laws and regulators” ought to include #MedicareForAll?

Neoliberal Epidemics

“Delaware’s Opioid Crisis” [The Outline]. “It is perhaps the defining feature of someone my age and from my state to have a dead sibling, cousin, or friend.”

Class Warfare

Tech: “It’s Time To Get Real About Power in Silicon Valley” [Medium]. “Power is sought so it can be wielded. Just as no one builds a multi-billion dollar empire without some sort of savage determination and intense will to power (otherwise they would have stopped at some earlier point, taken their winnings and gone home), no one accumulates power and then declines to use it in the face of existential threats — of which Thiel counted Gawker as one to his business interests. A Mark Zuckerberg or an Elon Musk doesn’t build an empire and allow others to encroach on their borders. And yet, it says something about our reflective, childlike understanding of the minds of these people that we condemn, the Koch Brothers or George Soros for various schemes, without stopping to think about why they are doing these things. It’s not simply to save on their taxes, I’ll tell you that. It’s because they have those same “privileged claims to knowledge” and “strong claims of human agency,” that Peter [Theil] was talking about.”

News of The Wired

“The Multiworse Is Coming” [BackReaction]. “The reason this cycle of empty predictions continues is that everyone involved only stands to benefit. From the particle physicists who write the papers to those who review the papers to those who cite the papers, everyone wants more funding for particle physics, so everyone plays along. I too would like to see a next larger particle collider, but not if it takes lies to trick taxpayers into giving us money. More is at stake here than the employment of some thousand particle physicists. If we tolerate fabricated arguments in the scientific literature just because the conclusions suit us, we demonstrate how easy it is for scientists to cheat. ” Ouch.

“In a Historic Vote, Renowned Art School Cooper Union Commits to Bringing Back Free Tuition For All” [Artnet News]. GOOD NEWS! “In an historic vote on Wednesday, the school’s board approved a 10-year plan to bolster its finances in order to provide a free education, the principle on which industrialist Peter Cooper founded the school in 1859. Citing a budget squeeze, the school caused an uproar when it began charging some students tuition in 2014. ‘I came here because I deeply believe in what The Cooper Union stands for,’ president Laura Sparks, who took office in January as the school’s first female president, told artnet News via email.” (See NC on Cooper Union here.)

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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 (Shane in Australia):

Shane writes: “This is a purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea venosa) from my collection (almost looks wild since you can’t see the pot).”

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the NC fundraiser. So do feel free to use the dropdown and click the hat to make a contribution today or any day. Here is why: Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of small donations helps me with expenses, and I factor that trickle in when setting fundraising goals. So if you see something you especially appreciate, do feel free to click the hat!


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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Jim Haygood

    If the claims in this article are true, it’s a smoking bombshell of insider corruption:

    Newly discovered text messages obtained by The Federalist reveal [that Peter Strzok and Lisa Page] conspired to meet with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) judge who presided over the federal case against Michael Flynn.

    The pair even schemed about how to set up a cocktail or dinner party just so Contreras, Strzok, and Page could speak without arousing suspicion that they were colluding. The judge, Rudolph Contreras, was recused from handling the case just days after accepting Flynn’s guilty plea.

    The text messages about Contreras were deliberately hidden from Congress, multiple congressional investigators told The Federalist.

    In records provided by DOJ to Congress, the exchanges referencing Contreras, and plans to meet with him under the guise of a cocktail party, were completely redacted by federal law enforcement officials. The exchanges obtained by The Federalist include information that was never turned over to Congress.


    One is shocked … shocked … to learn that collusion was going on between the FBI and the FISC.

    Were the virtuous James Comey still at the helm, he would send the errant lovebirds a strongly-worded letter. :-)

    1. Rob P

      The conversation Flynn allegedly lied to the FBI about didn’t happen until 6 months after Strzok and Page’s meeting with Contreras, so this couldn’t be directly related to Flynn’s case. What were they talking about, then? Contreras is one of the three FISC judges for Washington DC. I wonder if he was the one that signed off on the Carter Page warrant.

      The pair even schemed about how to set up a cocktail or dinner party just so Contreras, Strzok, and Page could speak without arousing suspicion that they were colluding. Strzok expressed concern that a one-on-one meeting between the two men might require Contreras’ recusal from matters in which Strzok was involved.

      If Contreras really is the judge who approved the warrant on Carter Page, it’s hard to see what innocent explanation there could be for all this.

      1. Jim Haygood

        FOIA request pending:

        WASHINGTON (Feb 5, 2018) — The New York Times is asking the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to unseal secret documents related to the wiretapping of Carter Page.

        The motion is unusual. No such wiretapping application materials apparently have become public since Congress first enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978.

        But President Trump lowered the shield of secrecy surrounding such materials on Friday by declassifying the Republican [Nunes] memo about Mr. Page, after finding that the public interest in disclosing its contents outweighed any need to protect the information.

        Because Mr. Trump did so, The Times argues, there is no longer a justification “for the Page warrant orders and application materials to be withheld in their entirety,” and “disclosure would serve the public interest.”


        Stuff’s gettin’ real here in New Nigeria.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          Wish I could see “realness” on the horizon the way you do Dr. Jim.

          To me, “real” would mean “real” people getting “real” consequences. You remember, back in the Republic’s “Constitutional Age”, when there was something called “the law of the land” and every citizen was equal before that law.

          What I do see is a costume change in the kabuki, that’s all, the hapless audience may notice a rustling of garments and a few new players getting their turn, but there will be no actual “law enforcement” anywhere in sight. Heavens, no, that would mean, what? Rich white people being “convicted” of “crimes” and going to jail? Surely you jest.

          1. John k

            Back in the constitutional era blacks, Hispanics, and often women were not equal under the law.
            Problem now is that white non-elite males aren’t either.
            We’re getting a taste, and it’s not sweet.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        It they didn’t talk about Flynn, and if they didn’t talk about Carter Page, then it could be about something even bigger, or wider.

      3. cocomaan

        Wiretapping Trump Tower, is my wild, conspiratorial guess. There’s people who say Trump moved headquarters in order to avoid surveillance.

        Hence why Obama has been keeping a low profile. It could be a new Watergate.

        1. Sid Finster

          No, it will not be a new Watergate.

          The establishment was ambivalent at best about Nixon. The establishment actively detests Trump.

          Therefore, even if it were to be revealed that russiagate were concocted out of whole cloth by an all-star cast including Strok, Page, Comey, HRC and Obama, with the active connivance of the entire FISA court and the GCHQ, and that only because they were unable to slip enough ricin into Trump’s Cinco de Mayo burrito bowl, nothing will happen and nothing will be done.

        2. Arizona Slim

          Far be it from me to be a Trump fan, but I can understand why he moved HQ in order to avoid surveillance. If I was in his shoes, I’d do the same thing.

          1. cocomaan

            Oh man, if I was running for office I’d be making my house into a faraday cage. The potential for misdeeds is too great.

        1. Sid Finster

          If Trump were to take steps to deprive McCabe of his pension, McCabe would be a certified Martyr for Democracy(tm) and a bona fide Hero of the Republic(R) to boot.

          In other words, just the talk show appearances alone would be enough to make McCabe forget all about his pension. Once that brouhaha died down, some public spirited oligarch would take the suffering little lamb under his wing and give him a cushy no show job in recognition of his service and his sacrifice.

          1. Jim Haygood

            All of this makes the timing of James Comey’s forthcoming book rather, errr, delicate:

            A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership is set for publication on April 18. It was originally scheduled for release on May 1, but the publisher last month announced it was moving up the publishing date because of the “intense scrutiny” surrounding the FBI.

            The FBI inspector general’s report reviewing allegations of misconduct by Comey in connection with the email probe is also expected to come out this spring.

            “It’s hard to believe it won’t be critical of how he handled things,” said Matthew Miller. “There is speculation that he moved up the publication date to get ahead of the report. In the book he will come off as the saint he thinks he is.”


            How awkward it would be if IG Horowitz’s report flatly contradicts Comey’s account. Hope Jimmy told the whole troof and nothing but!

        2. integer

          Meanwhile, tomorrow’s the deadline for firing former FBI Deputy Director McCabe before his pension fully vests. Tick tock, Andy.

          Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!


        3. Oregoncharles

          Word is that McCabe’s been fired, one day before his pension vests.

          Isn’t that an attack on Obama?

  2. lyman alpha blob

    I just posted something similar in today’s links, but in case nobody is still reading there I’ll mention it again here so apologies in advance for the duplication.

    Regarding the alleged poisoning of the spook and his daughter, one thing I haven’t seen mentioned much is the fact that they are also allegedly still alive. Supposedly they remain in serious condition. Well how serious and when do they get to talk and shed some light on their predicament? Isn’t there a single reporter who could find that out? Rather than all the rampant speculation, maybe someone could just ask them what happened.

    Also, from what I understand the UK is about the most widely surveilled area on the planet with security cameras everywhere. Were any pictures of the victims released showing them passed out on the park bench? Serious question – if there were pictures I missed them. If there were none, then why not?

    And why do I get the feeling that rather than their condition going from serious to stable, it will suddenly take a grievous turn for the worse and we’ll never hear a peep from them?

    1. Byron Microfiche, the Side-Scroller

      Alive. Technically. Organs will never function without mechanical intervention. Binding to acetylcholinesterase, nerve agents halt the enzymatic breakdown of acetylcholine. Synapses flood with electrochemical activity exhausting the body’s systems, burning everything out. The kicker: there is no medical intervention for the arrested cellular respiration. Irreversible. Death sentence from the moment the binary precursors were introduced.

      In general, I would add this: how can so many news reports be simultaneously both phony, and yet, revelatory of truth. Or is it all about capturing the disinformation traffic of paid-for commentary. Curious, isn’t it? Angry people click more.

      1. Oregoncharles

        The condition you describe would not be classified as “serious” condition. It would be called “braindead.” “Serious” means they’re likely to survive – assuming that is the right word.

    2. Kevin

      “Traitors will kick the bucket. Trust me. These people betrayed their friends, their brothers in arms. Whatever they got in exchange for it, those 30 pieces of silver they were given, they will choke on them.”
      – Putin (when Sergei Skripal was sent to the UK in a Cold War-style spy swap between Russia and the US)

      My sense is he’s “alive” in the sense that he’s on a ventilator and being fed TPNs. His brain and most of his nervous system is likely to be completely destroyed.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          Why would someone speaking for the state warn ‘traitors’ not to go somewhere they might be killed? Seems like they would do the opposite were they really concerned about ‘traitors’.

          Are you sure this wasn’t satire? Or is anything that fits the Democrat party narrative immediately believable to you?

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          On the Russians: I don’t get the timing, I don’t get the location, I don’t get the method, and I don’t get cui bono.

          I have answers to all those questions, especially the last one, on our side of The Pond.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Putin said ‘kick the bucket’? I’m not quite so credulous to take that at face value so you’ll have to provide a source for that quote to be believed.

          1. lyman alpha blob

            Thank you – that makes a little more sense. I believe Putin speaks English fairly well and that doesn’t seem like something he’d say.

      2. Sid Finster

        So we are now supposed to believe that Putin is a mastermind able to flip elections with nothing but FB ads and able to hack any computer anywhere (except of course HRC’s impenetrable homebrew bathroom server) and otherwise is responsible for every bad thing that happens in any western country? But at the same time we are supposed to believe that Putin has no imagination how to use these superpowers, no sense of timing and he leaves tons of clues for professional and internet sleuths to find, all the while after he telegraphs his actions?

        Come on. This isn’t believable for The Joker in Batman comics, much less the real world.

        Whoever said that this is so absurd as to function as a loyalty test, like the Emperor’s New Cloths, is right.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > flip elections with nothing but FB ads

          Obviously, we should be hiring those 13 Russians. Certainly more efficient than spending $1.4 billion dollars, but perhaps that’s the issue, after all.

          “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to stay as they are.” As the saying goes.

  3. Peter VE

    In reaction to the collapse of the new bridge, ” Over the coming weeks, forensic engineers will try to unravel what happened in a complicated analysis that involves picking through debris, looking at designs, and piecing together inspections…” Maybe that’s the procedure that should have happened in the fall of 2001, instead of shipping the 350,000 tons of evidence to China to be melted down. Maybe… naahh, forget it.

  4. Jim Haygood

    The sleazy side of trade warrior Peter Navarro:

    [US steel maker] Nucor paid $1 million in 2011 to Utility Consumers’ Action Network (UCAN), a San Diego nonprofit that in turn paid Mr. Navarro’s production company to make the film Death by China.

    UCAN received a federal grand jury subpoena as part of a broader investigation into its finances. Federal investigators scrutinized a range of financial dealings by the nonprofit, said Kim Malcolm, who briefly served as executive director of the nonprofit in 2012.

    The allegations led UCAN to file for court-supervised dissolution—the equivalent of bankruptcy protection. The investigation included payments to Mr. Navarro’s production company, made in installments of $600,000 and $400,000 over two years, according to Ms. Malcolm.

    Ms. Malcolm said she initially withheld the second payment to Mr. Navarro because she wanted to better understand why the nonprofit financed a film about China and U.S. trade policy.

    It was so outside the mission of the organization,” she said.


    So Navarro helped bankrupt an astroturf consumer advocacy group by hijacking it into producing Big Steel-funded agitprop that had zero to do with holding down utility bills in San Diego. Classy!

    But no reasonable prosecutor …

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Was he aware of what that organization’s mission was, or that his film would be outside of it?

  5. laughingsong

    “IMNSHO, what Atrios misses is that liberal Democrats are right to loathe themselves. Michael Hudson (I think) at NC:

    ‘It’s true that the Democrats don’t want to govern. But they also don’t want anyone ELSE (esp. to the left) to block the Republicans from enacting the Blue-Dog/Republican neoliberal code.'”

    Chaos is a ladder.

  6. polecat

    A thumbs up for the antidote above !
    My Sarracenias (2 species) are just starting to send up lots of new ‘leaves’. For them, this growing season is going to be epic ! … dito for all of my terrestrial orchids as well.

  7. Louis Fyne

    – Frozen food is counter-cyclical? Remarkable!-

    even assuming that there’s time and money, a lot fewer people know how to cook from scratch these days.

    not wanting to knead dough and bake a loaf, i understand. but anyone with some pre-planning can roast a chicken.

    if i was dictator, i’d bring back home economics as a high school requirement

    1. Arizona Slim

      Me? I love, love, LOVE to cook from scratch!

      Matter of fact, I’m about to tackle energy bars because I am spending way too much money on those packaged thingies. I’m also trying to cut down on the packaging in my life.

      Anybody have an energy bar recipe?

    2. WobblyTelomeres

      Who needs to knead? I can no longer knead thanks to my arthritis. However, no-knead bread is the way to go. Here’s a recipe although there are thousands online.

      I’ve got it down to 5 ingredients: flour, water, yeast, sugar, salt. I’ve made it with only flour, water, and yeast. Add stuff once you see how it works. Oatmeal, different flours, bran, nuts, whatever. Instead of a dutch over, I use a smaller cast iron skillet/pan. Just make sure you preheat the pan. Hard to mess up as the yeast does all the work.

      1. c_heale

        Why do you need sugar for bread? Only if you use it to activate the yeast, otherwise, it’s definitely not necessary.

      2. grayslady

        Thanks. I’ve had the NYT no-knead recipe for years, but it always takes forever with all the bread rising intervals. Will you tell me how you prepared the oatmeal bread? Did it turn out well? I’ve given up white bread in favor of oatmeal.

        1. WobblyTelomeres

          I just swap out flour for oatmeal, 1-1. If I’m making 2 loaves (as I have two 9″ cast iron skillets), with, say 6 cups of flour, I’ll only use 5 cups of flour (whole wheat) and put in a cup of oatmeal. Gives it a nice nutty flavor. Similarly, I swap in instant potatoes. The key, for me, is having the same total amount of dry ingredients. So, oatmeal-potato-whole-wheat no-knead crusty bread. Mix it up in the evening, let it bubble all night, cook it in the morning. Easy.

  8. Jim Haygood

    Republican anti-populist Paul Ryan celebrates a Fifth Circuit court decision striking down the Dept of Labor’s fiduciary role, which mandated financial advisers to act in their clients’ best interest instead of their own:

    Paul Ryan

    Pleased that the Obama administration’s fiduciary rule has been struck down by the courts. It was Obamacare for financial planners. This is more good news for the economy.

    12:42 PM – Mar 16, 2018

    Over to the do-nothing SEC …

    1. Lambert Strether

      > Obamacare for financial planners

      Paul Ryan really is deeply stupid. The fiduciary rule is nothing at all like ObamaCare, except as a kneejerk shibboleth about big gummint.

      1. JohnnyGL

        The donor class has spent many decades selecting and breeding its preferred legislators to follow orders, not think about complex issues.

        That’s the difference between Repubs and Dems.
        The Dems want to dazzle donors with their ingenious ideas on how to make money for donors.
        The Repubs just do as they’re told.

  9. bob

    Bridge collapse

    I’d guess that one of, if not the biggest contributing factor was to keep traffic moving on the road under the bridge.

    Also, why on earth did they not add a column under the middle of the bridge? Keep the traffic moving! No way to do that without closing a lane or two.

    The pictures of the ‘bridge’ being set in place are in the dark. They couldn’t even muster the courage to close the road during the day to set it. This may or may not be important in the structure. It’s a lot easier to make or miss mistakes when working in the dark.

    It’s also very odd that the bridge has no sense of symmetry at all. You could and can do that, but it means the abutments and support at the ends of the bridge have to be different. I can’t see any abutments or supports on either end of the bridge. Just columns.


    Better pciture of it being set at night-


    Notice the triangles start as almost right on the left, and change moving right

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘It’s also very odd that the bridge has no sense of symmetry at all.’

      A model shows that the skewed symmetry allowed the tower to be located on the side of the road, where it would not take up a traffic lane:


      No sign of the tower is visible in photos of the collapse. Apparently the roadway span (basically a truss) was designed to be self-supporting until the tower and the other shorter span could be installed. But obviously its load-bearing capacity would be reduced until the tower and stays were installed.

      Show me the calcs …

      1. bob


        They built a bridge before they put the “tower” up?

        Who the hell ok’d this mess?

        There are a few pictures of the bridge after collapse that show a rod/cable that should have been in tension, but was pushed straight through the block on top. This would have been the block all the way to the left, on that picture of the model.


        There is a thermos/cooler on top of the block. The blue ended ‘thing’ was pushed though the block. Hard to tell if this was a cause of the failure, or a result of it.

        There is no reason to make this bridge so complicated. KISS

      2. bob

        Just saw a video that shows the moment of collapse. It failed right at, or very near the location detailed above. On the video, it shows it on the right side of the span. The model is shown from the other side.


        They built the wrong ‘half’ of the bridge first. They should have had the shorter span in place before they even attempted to put the long side into place.

        The incomplete short side seems to only span a parking lot. No traffic below. No excuses for not doing this span first. I’d bet it’s the same contractor who is working on the other project, at the end of the short span. They didn’t want to be working on the bridge while they were trying to get the buildings up. They needed the parking lot. So, they move the first part of bridge construction out above moving traffic.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I see a stream on the right side of the picture, on both the video and the model. They both seem to be taken from the same side???

          1. bob

            You are correct. I’ve just started looking at this this afternoon.

            The short span is over the water, not the parking lot.

      3. bob

        “But obviously its load-bearing capacity would be reduced until the tower and stays were installed.”

        The whole point of the tower is to support the weight of the longer span.

        You might be able to make a case that the shorter side could be completed before the tower and stays, but the longer side?


        The tower is supporting ALL of the weight of the spans on each side. They build out from the tower, equally, or close to equally on each side, keeping things balanced on each side of the tower. You can’t build a cable stay bridge without the tower.

        Again, I can’t believe that anyone with any knowledge of engineering would even entertain such an idea.

        “but the bridge wasn’t loaded”

        The bridge is the load. The bridge is going to be 1000x as heavy as any load that will ever be on that bridge.

        1. subgenius

          You would have thought the hint would be found in the phrase ‘suspension bridge’…

        2. Jim Haygood

          The roadway span is a truss, making this a semi-cable stayed bridge (not a suspension bridge). In your 3:07 pm post, the talkmedianews photo shows one end of the truss being lowered onto a concrete pier which will directly transfer load to the ground.

          I should have been more clear by saying that the bridge was not subjected to live load when it failed. The live load design criterion was 90 psf. Applied to a 175 x 20 ft deck, that’s 315,000 lbs or 157.5 tons … which is one-sixth of the reported 950-ton dead load.

          Conceivably the main span was designed to bear its own dead load to facilitate construction, while the later-installed pylon and cable stays would bear the added live load. Mistakes are made, but it seems highly unlikely that the contractor’s proposed assembly sequence went unreviewed by the designers.

          1. bob

            I’m still trying to get my head around this. But, why on earth would you think you could build the longer side of a cable stay bridge without the tower and stays? The truss members are meant to line up with the stays. Without the stays you change the loading of everything. Tension to compression. The different lengths of the spans, and loads, make this an even bigger issue.

            If you could do it that way, why would you design to to be a cable stay bridge at all? Fashion?

            I’m assuming they tried to do a regular (cheaper) truss first, and then found they had too much load. Where would they be most likely to have too much load? On the longer span.

            1. Jim Haygood

              If you could do it that way, why would you design to to be a cable stay bridge at all? Fashion?

              Good question. Aesthetics definitely are considered in bridge design, now more than ever. The design criteria state (page 9) that:

              The selection criteria will be weighed heavily towards an innovative design that represents the intentions of this project, creating a distinctive landmark for the region.


              Appendix A includes 18 pages of “design concept precedents.” Some are cable-stayed, but more of them are variants on trusses and cantilevers.

              At the same time, the Accelerated Bridge Construction section seems to describe moving a traditional truss into place, as does the section on bearings: “Bearings shall be designed and detailed to be replaceable by jacking the superstructure off the permanent bearings.”

              The ambiguity of the design document, coupled with the specificity of its accelerated construction method, may explain how FIU ended up with this odd hybrid.

              1. bob

                Well, they’ve got the ‘distinctive landmark’ part covered. Are there any milestone payments if they get that bit complete before the rest?

                Design build- whereby you try to design something, without designing it, in order to pass all of those “responsibility” type things off to someone else.

                Now, someone, most likely a taxpayer type/funded cohort, are going to have to pay LOTS to sit in court to try to fix the blame to *someone*.

                “Design build is easier and cheaper- not as much red tape” Not even in theory, let alone practice. If there is an accident it’s a lot more complicated. Rather than shedding responsibility, or cost, the buyer now has to sit in the middle of the ring, at considerable ongoing, indeterminate cost, and try to push the responsibility to *someone else*.

                It’s good they got a “hard” price up front, right?

                Half of that document is about the elevators.

              2. PlutoniumKun

                I’m kind of stunned if its true that they constructed the spans without the tension stays if that was the design. There is a fashion now for cable stay designs (I understand they are much rarer in the US than in Europe and Asia, where they are very common, mostly for aesthetic reasons). I wonder if they thought they were building a sort of mix of truss, cantilever, and stay design, with the ‘stay’ largely decorative. It sounds like under pressure to be ‘innovative’ they were shoving too many concepts into a simple bridge.

                Back in my days in an engineering company, all long span pedestrian bridges of this sort were truss designs, usually pre-constructed and set into place in a matter of hours. Very simple and reliable, if unfortunately invariably ugly.

                I used to marvel at the pedestrian bridges over the late 18th Century canals of the Midlands in England. Masterpieces of engineering. They were cast in a factory and assembled on site. They were usually long span arches, with the pedestrian rails part of a stiffened structure. They are exceptionally beautiful and elegant and pure engineering. Nowadays it seems we can only make things beautiful by going for stupid over engineering.

          2. bob

            Within a cable stay design, the “tower” is the foundation for the spans. It’s the part of the bridge that transfers the loads(live and dead) of the bridge to the ground.

            Yes, the foundation is higher than the spans. It’s still the way that those loads get transferred to ground.

            They built the bridge without first building the foundation for it. It’s that simple.

            Without the foundation tower, the whole thing is a cantilever, with or without the piers. What’s the problem with cantilevers? Shear stress within the truss, near the tower. Exactly how this appears to have failed. Cantilever bridges have thicker, wider trusses nearest the tower/pier to resist these stresses.


        3. steelhead

          It was a C…F….. from day one. This coming from someone with a second job title of “Commodity Damage Prevention Engineer”with a BS degree in Finance.

    2. ahimsa

      Not sure why so few news reports are mentioning this, but the bridge was in no way complete. Its design is a type of suspension bridge with, yes, a support in the middle and cables supporting the spans on either side of the middle support tower.
      See the video (around 1:00min mark) from todays links:
      Florida bridge that collapsed was touted as ‘engineering feat come to life’ ABC (Kevin W)
      The video also shows interesting footage of the span being set in place.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Which is a beautiful bridge indeed. But FIGG designed that bridge. It’s not clear that the issues with the FIU bridge occurred at the design stage.

    3. SerenityNow

      A vox article explained:

      While the university does offer shuttles between campus and the neighboring town, the bridge was being built to connect the campus with the town of Sweetwater, where thousands of students live.

      The bridge was installed using what was hailed as an innovative construction method — “accelerated bridge construction,” or “instant bridge” — which was meant to reduce risk to workers and pedestrians and prevent traffic in the area.

      Work through the night, cut corners on design, skip inspections if you need–but for god’s sake, don’t let the work impact traffic!

      This whole situation as depressingly indicative of American attitudes towards transportation and land use. Imagine if we built our cities so that people could walk unhindered from place to place, at grade, especially somewhere warm like Florida?

      1. wilroncanada

        I read that officials said the bridge would be built cheaper, faster, and safer than other equivalent pedestrian bridges.

        Two outa three ain’t bad, they might have said.

  10. a different chris

    >where Lamb tells voters that while he’s honored to be stopped at airports and thanked for his military service, he wants to see teachers and nurses thanked for their important service to the country too.

    Christ we won’t be able to make our airplanes at this point given all the bowing and scraping us non-military/non-teacher/non-nurse people will have to do.

    Probably just as well, given the unsafe airlines Freedumb has given us.

    1. DJG

      a different chris: “Lamb tells voters that while he’s honored to be stopped at airports and thanked for his military service,”

      I had the same reaction: Melodrama and decline of empire, now what could go wrong?

      “Conor! Thanks for your service in one of those countries with a Y or Q, I can’t remember which, but they’re all crazy Muslims, now please get out of my way because I have to get my emotional support peacock on the plane. These colors don’t run!”

      I wonder if people stop Gina Haspel in airports to thank her for her service maiming and killing Muslims.

      The war began to come home in a serious way with the attack on the World Trade Center. Now it is self-lobotomies, repeal of the Bill of Rights, and election of conserva-Dems. I feel so much more secure.

  11. Lee

    Guillotine Watch
    Another reason to hate rch phkrs from Silicon Valley.

    James Conaway: Bad Wine and Big Money in Napa Valley An interview from KQED Forum.

    The Napa Valley, a once rustic farming community, is becoming overrun with rich people and corporations who are failing as stewards of the land — at least according to author James Conaway. The former wine columnist says today’s vintners are not only taking over Napa Valley land, they’re also making mediocre wine. Conaway joins Forum to talk about the final book is his Napa trilogy, “Napa at Last Light: America’s Eden in an Age of Calamity”.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Color me as someone who has never been impressed with California wines. But, then again, I was raised by a couple of New Yorkers. In our house, it was a sin to drink any wine that didn’t come from the Empire State.

  12. Wukchumni

    “When Self-Driving Cars Can’t Help Themselves, Who Takes the Wheel?” [New York Times]

    We have daredevil quail here that occasionally dart on the asphalt towards your wheels as you drive by, and i’ve never hit one yet amazingly, out of say several hundred times it’s happened over more than a decade, but they come really close.

    Wonder how a self driving car would handle their presence on the ground?

    1. Lee

      They’re pecking the seeds and insects out of your tire treads. Some populations have become entirely dependent on passing cars for their food source. ;O)

  13. Bittercup

    Apologies if this has already been posted, I checked but couldn’t find it. The first half of the article is oddly satisfying in its summation of liberal value drift.

    A Liberal Who Remembers

    Lefty friends keep asking me if — or telling me that — I’m a conservative now. But I’m just a liberal who remembers what they’ve forgotten. I remember what it meant to be a liberal back when I really started to identify as one, back around 2000, during Bush v. Gore, 9/11, the PATRIOT Act, the Iraq War. Of course, I may just have been gullible. Maybe it meant something different before that and maybe it came to mean something different after. Maybe it’s all just “tribal” signifiers, all just flags and symbols. But if it is, the forgetting must help, and that just isn’t what I’m good at.

  14. Jim Haygood

    Well, there they went again … that mysterious cabal of sellers, who kicked the market to the curb in the final minutes of trading so that it closed near the low of the day (though still up slightly).

    Strong start, weak finish syndrome happened every day this week. It’s an ugly pattern, since the bulk of institutional trading happens at the end of the session. When the big boys want out, it’s difficult to keep their cloven hoofprints from showing up on the tape.

    Politics are not usually very important in the market, which is more of Fed-managed liquidity machine most of the time. But the current political scene, both domestically and internationally, is so patently unhinged that a coffee can buried in the back yard is starting to look like an attractive receptacle for savings.

    1. PKMKII

      The YTD charts for the DIJA and S&P 500 are looking an awful lot like that point in the market bubble charts where everything is about to go into free fall.

    2. cnchal

      . . . which is more of Fed-managed liquidity machine most of the time . . .

      Is that a rational, irrational, or malfunctioning machine? Are a few levers bent or broken or the splines stripped because of too much power being transmitted when the impeller tries to push through a thick glob of goo?

  15. Jeremy Grimm

    I got a new motherboard for an old tower I had. I want to replace the video card but I got quite a shock when I looked for a recently built high end card. The large number of bit coin miners of Ethereum have driven the price of even older video cards to double or triple the price they cost when they first came to market a few years ago.

    The guy I got the motherboard from impressed me as very knowledgeable and extremely helpful. I talked with him while he installed the motherboard I bought from him — I figured I’d have to do that. He was a younger guy around thirty and unemployed. He had some kind of heart problem that prevented him from working at his old job and kept him from finding a new job. He had Obamacare for health insurance and told me he’d been told he was over-qualified for several of the jobs he applied for and after he had been unemployed for two years he was told by a personnel type that they really wanted to hire him but Corporate had a policy NOT to hire anyone who had been unemployed for more than two years.

    The next day I went to Walmart to pick up a couple of DVDs and a small bowl. There were only three cashiers working at 7 PM on a weekday. A manager was there telling people the you-check-yourself-out registers were open and trying to herd some of the line over that way. I told her there was no way I was going to check-myself-out. She told me it wasn’t her decision. The decision came down from Corporate and was only the beginning. I told her I was NOT going to help get rid of clerks and if that was the direction Walmart was headed in she would NOT see me in Walmart in the future. I took my items, replaced them where I found them [no wish to make life harder on the clerks] and left the store.

    I am beginning to feel like a stranger in my own land. Have those who rule us truly lost their minds? Are the complacent Americans I saw in Walmart really so different from the one-time angry but complacent people who rioted in the 1960s? I feel as if I walk through dry tender when I venture into urban areas, even somewhat urban areas like the smaller cities near where I live. My betters seem so completely unaware. I feel more strongly a need to rush my move further to the periphery.

    1. Eureka Springs

      I took my items, replaced them where I found them [no wish to make life harder on the clerks] and left the store.

      I always ask that floor manager, would you like to open another cash register now or put these items back? So far it’s worked well. A couple of times over the last dozen or so years I have left my cart without purchase.

      They act like they are giving you a choice (person or robot), so why shouldn’t the customer do the same (person now! or no sale)?

      1. beth

        Walmart: Recently I picked up 2 items and the checkout charged me more than the price on the shelf. $1 more for each.
        The next time I selected 4 items to check out and I was charged extra for 2 of the 4 items. I asked for a refund the first time and just walked out the second time w/o replacing the products on the shelves. I also talked with other customers telling them to check each item.

    2. crittermom

      Good for you for refusing to use the self-checkout.
      I, too, have refused to use ’em since they were first introduced at a grocery store (chain) years ago.

      When it’s suggested I use self-checkout, I ask ’em flat out, “Why should I do all the work? Will it lower my prices on every item?” Of course not.
      Even if it did, I’d still use a cashier.

      1. sierra7

        I do sympathize with your attitude….but….do you also do that at your local ATM? Go into the bank and demand that a person take care of you???? Every time an ATM is used is another period of continuing depersonalizing the service and an escalation of laying off more people at those banks. Just saying.

        1. Eureka Springs

          Unless traveling I haven’t used an atm in over a decade. It never occurs to me. In fact I haven’t had a pin in over a decade.

        2. marym

          During the brief time my supermarket had self-checkout I used it, but NC comments actually convinced me I shouldn’t! This thread started with JG asking where all the angry people are. Not using a self-checkout isn’t the revolution, but it’s an opening to talk to other people, build awareness, show solidarity, let those workers know that if they someday strike, or organize, that there are people on their side.

  16. DJG

    Thanks for the Salve to Apuleius. I read the Golden Ass years ago, in the translation by Robert Graves. It has romance. Magic. A special appearance by the goddess Isis. How can anyone resist? And the main character, young Lucius, is charming and scheming and regularly hoisted on his own petards.

    Wikipedia claims that we know Apuleius only by his surname. “Lucius” is a name applied to him in the middle ages by scholars–they named him Lucius Apuleius after his famous main character.

    Another novel also often called the first is Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu. Like Apuleius, we don’t know her name–“shikibu” is probably her father’s status as a Shinto priest at the Imperial court. So she, too, is named after her main character–the unforgetable Lady Murasaki, who herself is named after the light purple hue that the Japanese consider a symbol of love and devotion.

    From the golden ass who eats roses to the lady in lavender who gives Shining Genji some humanity: Books still have a few things to teach us.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      I had a great conversation with a student today about Rand. He is a typical libertarian so I told him that Rand received Social Security and Medicare at the end of her life. He told me he didn’t believe it, and I told him to look it up. I also suggested to him to follow what people do, not what they say.

    1. cnchal

      . . . – is that that is the goal in the US, too?.

      Bezos shoots, he scores with two assists, one from his right winger The FED and another from the left defenseman Big Guv.

  17. allan

    Louise Slaughter: commenter petal posted this morning about her passing.
    From the article:

    … She chaired the powerful House Rules Committee, which determines how bills reach the floor for a vote, from 2007 to 2011. She was the only woman to hold that position and remained the committee’s ranking minority member at the time of her death. She was the oldest member of the House of Representatives, and only nine current members had served longer. …

    The list of Slaughter’s legislative accomplishments is lengthy.

    Slaughter authored the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), leading the bill for 14 years before it finally passed Congress and was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008.

    Slaughter was instrumental in the passage of the STOCK Act (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge), which blocked Congress, Congressional staff, and other government employees from using non-public information to benefit themselves through stock trading. She worked for years to champion the bill, and was finally joined by colleagues after a 60 Minutes expose revealed how Congressional representatives were benefiting from information that the public did not have.

    Slaughter also co-authored the landmark Violence Against Women Act, which has helped reduce cases of domestic violence by 67 percent since 1994. …

    R.I.P., but not mentioned in the article is that, as chair of the Rules Committee in 2009-2010,
    in particular during the lame duck session after the GOP took over the House in the Tea Party election of 2010,
    Slaughter helped ensure that even the public option never had a chance to make it into the ACA,
    facilitated the extension of the Bush tax cuts, and set the table for the sequestration fiasco.

    She almost lost in 2014, so NY-25 staying in the D column is definitely not guaranteed.

    1. petal

      allan, thank you for elaborating! I had a super busy day today and couldn’t do much other than post it.
      I can’t remember a time when Louise wasn’t a rep, so it came as a bit of a shock this morning to see she had passed away. I had been dismayed with her for a while(as you touch on in your last paragraph) but my Rochester people still worshipped her and she could do no wrong. I hadn’t realised she was 88, and you are right, NY-25 is not exactly a sure thing. It will be interesting to see how things play out. Cheers.

  18. The Rev Kev

    I was just reading an article about Trump and Tillerson when an idea struck me. In the government, you get someone who is selected and approved to take up a post like Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense where they basically serve until the term of that president is up when they are either turfed out (like Rumsfeld) or renewed or even promoted. All pretty simple, right?
    What if Trump doesn’t view it that way. What if he views his political appointments like a bunch of contractors. That is, you bring them in for a job and when, in your view it is finished, you give them the boot. It would explain in part the high turn-over in his staff. He might even bring them in to do a specific job and when it is done, turf them out along with the criticism that they accrued. Just a thought.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Well, yeah. “You’re Fired” was the prep for Li’l Douche. Have we checked out Rusky funding for ‘The Apprentice’?

    2. John k

      A while back Yves said trump MO was to hire and fire until he had a team he liked. Not there yet.

  19. Mo's Bike Shop

    If I am a better person than I might have been, it is because of Mister Rogers.

    Nobody else has ever been accepted talking like that on TV.

  20. Darthbobber

    Feldstein’s tariff article. If his take is accurate this would be using trade policies as commonly understood to demand changes in rules governing foreign direct investment, which is a different thing.

    Definitely not about American jobs in that case as liberalizing fdi requirements increases ease of moving more production to China. Which is the opposite of the rhetorical pose.

  21. WFGersen

    “Lamb tells voters that while he’s honored to be stopped at airports and thanked for his military service, he wants to see teachers and nurses thanked for their important service to the country too.”

    What do military service men and women, teachers, and nurses have in common? They are all funded by the government… Maybe some Democrat will have the courage to take the position that government ISN’T the problem…

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