2:00PM Water Cooler 3/21/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Politics

Midterms

“How Badly Has The Corrupt Stench Of The DCCC Spread Across America? Now It’s Infected California” [Down with Tyranny]. Fun stuff. “…Gill Cisneros, the ‘ex’-Republican lottery winner the DCCC wants to sell the CA-39 nomination to….” California readers, is this over-egging the pudding on Cisneros?

NY: “Cynthia Nixon Asks if Cuomo Is a ‘Real Democrat’ at Campaign Debut” [New York Times]. Yes, for some definitions of “real,” “Democrat,” and “real Democrat.” More:

In Ms. Nixon’s first speech, delivered before a small, mostly African-American crowd in Brownsville, Brooklyn, she outlined the themes of her insurgent bid to knock off Mr. Cuomo, a two-term incumbent, in the Democratic primary: tackling the “very segregated” school system, fixing the subways and addressing the “crushing inequality” in the state.

…. “New York State itself is the single most unequal state in the country,” she said.

“This is not something that just happens by mistake. It comes from a choice. It comes from a choice to slash taxes for corporations and the super rich and slash services on everybody else,” she said from a podium. “And it’s a choice we’re used to being made by Republicans like Donald Trump. But for the past eight years, it is a choice that’s been made by our governor, Andrew Cuomo.”

IL: “Illinois Primaries: Ratings Changes in Two Races” [Inside Elections]. A wrap-up of the whole state. This caught my eye: “At this point, it feels like Democrats expect to gain at least two seats [in November] based on their confidence in a suburban surge in the 6th District and the strength of their nominee in the 12th District. A great night for Democrats would include victories in the 13th and 14th districts as well” (more on these districts).

IL: “While [Republican Governor Bruce Rauner challenger Jeanne] Ives seemed to emerge from nowhere for most Illinoisans, she has worked to carve out a space for herself as a culture warrior since she entered the Illinois House of Representatives in 2013. That same year she called gay relationships “completely disordered” [Belt Magazine]. “Given the ferocity of her ad and her extreme right wing statements, one might assume that Ives represents an area in Illinois’ deeply red rural counties. Not quite: She lives in Wheaton, a western suburb of Chicago located in DuPage County that Hillary Clinton won by 53 percent to Trump’s 40 percent…. This phenomenon is not limited to Illinois alone. The Detroit suburb of Macomb County voted for Obama twice, but Trump managed to win it by 12 points…. We can observe similar dynamics in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Clinton improved upon Obama’s totals in four suburban Philadelphia counties, but Trump managed to flip many of the outer suburbs from blue to red…. The suburban areas, like DuPage County, prove to be the true outliers, and they more than any other region demonstrate the radical splits occurring in American politics and provide a preview of what’s to come in the 2018 midterm elections.” I’m not sure that the author is throwing Maccomb county into the right bucket (see pollster Greenberg here). Wheaton and Macomb County may both be “suburbs,” but if Obama’s auto bailout is what flipped Macomb County to him, I don’t think Macomb County’s economy is the same as Wheaton’s, which looks like it’s dominated by educational institutions. Nevertheless, if Wheaton flipped from Clinton to Ives… That’s pretty volatle.

IL: “Democratic primary turnout was up across the state — overall, it was triple what it was in 2014, according to the Democratic Governors Association” [Politico]. “And turnout was 30 percent higher on Tuesday than in 2010, a more comparable primary election since there was a competitive Democratic primary that year. In an ominous sign, Republicans saw an estimated drop of 30 percent in turnout over 2014, which was a highly competitive primary where Rauner edged out three other top contenders.” And–

IL: “The Chicago machine is still humming” [Politico]. “J.B. Pritzker was criticized for being too close to the ‘machine,’ the Chicago political organization powered by Democratic Party Leader Mike Madigan. So was Dan Lipinski and Kwame Raoul. Yet they all won — Raoul captured the Democratic nomination for attorney general against a crowded field — ensuring that the machine lives on and remains a force to be reckoned with.”

IL-03: “Conservative Democrat Dan Lipinski Survives Primary Challenge From The Left” [HuffPo]. “Rep. Dan Lipinski, who has represented his southwest Chicago district since 2005, won a tight primary race on Tuesday night against progressive challenger Marie Newman. Lipinski, co-chair of policy for the centrist Blue Dog Coalition in the House of Representatives, belongs to a dwindling breed of Democrats who oppose abortion rights. The seven-term congressman has also co-sponsored anti-LGBTQ legislation, opposed federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and voted against his party on the Dream Act and President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. Progressive politicians and groups backing Newman ― including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Planned Parenthood Action Fund and EMILY’s List ― had hoped to capitalize on the current political momentum and replace so-called ‘Trump Democrats’ like Lipinski, whose views on abortion and birth control they characterized as ‘extreme.'” This is silly. Liberal Democrats are perfectly happy backing “Trump Democrat;” that’s what Doug Jones is.

2016 Post Mortem

“The Problem Isn’t Cambridge Analytica: It’s Facebook” [Forbes]. “When the Obama campaign pushed the boundaries of precision voter targeting, pioneering techniques like peering into the privacy of American’s living rooms through their DVRs to see what each individual voter was actually watching on their televisions, the press and public cheered, hailing it as a long overdue modernization of the campaigning process and holding up the campaign’s data scientists as miniature heroes showcasing what could be done with data today. In the leadup to the 2016 election, the press and public derided the Trump campaign as apparently being data-devoid, while hailing Clinton’s campaign as picking up the data-first mantle from the Obama campaign and pushing it even further.” Just another example of what was business-as-usual until Trump did it…

“Trump Hacked the Media Right Before Our Eyes” [Ross Douthat, New York Times]. “But the liberal establishment’s fixation on Facebook’s 2016 sins — first the transmission of fake news and now the exploitation of its data by the Trump campaign or its appendages — still feels like a classic example of blaming something new because it’s new when it’s the old thing that mattered more. Or of blaming something new because you thought that “new” meant “good,” that the use of social-media data by campaigns would always help tech-savvy liberals and not their troglodytic rivals — and the shock of discovering otherwise obscures the more important role that older forms of media played in making the Trump era a reality…. Where did so many people originally get the idea that Trump was the right guy to fix our manifestly broken government? Not from Russian bots or targeted social media ad buys, but from a prime-time show that sold itself as real, and sold him as a business genius. Forget unhappy blue collar heartlanders; forget white nationalists and birthers: The core Trump demographic might just have been Republicans who watched “The Apprentice,” who bought the fake news that his television program and its network sponsors gladly sold them.” Amazingly enough (Douthat) this is pretty good, though Douthat forgets to mention that Clinton’s “Pied Piper” strategy encouraged “old media” to boost Trump.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?” [Paul Street, Counterpunch]. “Saying that Russia has undermined American democracy is like me – middle-aged, five foot nine, and unblessed with jumping ability – saying that the Brooklyn Nets Russian-born center Timofy Mozgov undermined my potential career in the National Basketball Association.”

“Yet if any situation has ever begged for a truth-commission understanding of the role, L’Affaire Russe cries out for a capacious public reporting function. The questions it raises are sweeping and implicate not just presidential conduct but the integrity of an American presidential election. The question may boil down to how urgent Mueller feels the need is for Congress, or the public, to understand what happened—and also the extent to which he can play the needed public education role simply using the tools of the conventional prosecutor” [Lawfare].

“The Population Slowdown in the Outer Suburbs of the East and Midwest” [New York Times]. “Through 2016, about one in four outer-ring suburbs were experiencing more deaths than births, including 18 of 30 such counties in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Some of the once-fastest-growing counties in the United States are growing no more, and nationwide, the birthrate has dropped to levels not seen since the Great Depression. “It is one of the biggest puzzles of my career as a demographer,” said Kenneth Johnson, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire who has studied the various components of population change for years. “Each year when new data comes out, I expect to see a significant uptick in births, but I have yet to see it.” More than 1,200 counties in the United States — home to one in seven Americans — had a negative natural increase in population in 2016. In total, 1,700 counties experienced a negative natural increase at least one year this decade.”

Stats Watch

Architectural Billings, February 2018: “While the pace of growth in design activity slowed a bit in February for an ABI score of 52.0 (any score over 50 indicates billings growth), it still reflects a healthy business environment. In particular, firms with a multifamily residential or an institutional specialization continued to report extremely strong billings” [The American Institute of Architects]. “The Architecture Billings Index (ABI), produced by the AIA Economics & Market Research Group, is a leading economic indicator that provides an approximately nine to twelve month glimpse into the future of nonresidential construction spending activity.” And: ” This index was positive in 11 of the last 12 months, suggesting a further increase in CRE investment in 2018″ [Calculated Risk].

Current Account, Q4 2017: “The current-account deficit increased to a roughly as-expected $128.2 billion in the fourth quarter vs the third quarter’s slightly revised $101.5 billion deficit which benefited from $24.9 billion in hurricane-related insurance payment” [Econoday]. “Fourth-quarter details include a swelling in the goods deficit, reflecting rising imports of industrial supplies and consumer goods, and also a deepening deficit in secondary income, here reflecting a decrease in U.S. government transfers.”

Existing Home Sales, February 2018: “A jump back higher for single-family homes leads a positive existing home sales report for February” [Econoday]. “Home sales are struggling to move higher, held down by lack of choice for buyers and also high prices. Rising mortgage rates are another negative factor.” And: “The rolling averages have been slowing since the beginning of 2017, and they marginally decelerated this month. The rolling averages are continue to be marginally in contraction. Housing inventory is now at historical lows for Februarys – and if you do not have enough houses for sale – then that means home sales cannot improve” [Econintersect].

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of March 16, 2018: “Purchase applications for home mortgages rose a seasonally adjusted 1 percent in the March 16 week, raising the year-on-year gain in the unadjusted Purchase Index by 3 percentage points to 6 percent” [Econoday].

Retail: “True Value To Sell 70% Of Company To Private Firm” [Industrial Distribution]. John Hartmann, president and CEO of True Value: “We are very excited to be partnering with ACON, which has an impressive track record and highly relevant experience and expertise. We believe this is a fantastic opportunity for our retailers that will allow them to unlock the substantial majority of their investment while accelerating the transformation of the company to better serve our customers. We look forward to discussing the compelling benefits of this partnership with all of our retailers, and we are confident that they will support this initiative as the best way to ensure the long-term viability of the independent hardware retailer.” See also Retail Dive.

Retail: “Whole Foods calls supplier summit amid Amazon angst” [Reuters]. “Whole Foods will host a summit on Tuesday for up to 200 of its suppliers, amid anxiety about how its ongoing business revamp will play out under new owner Amazon.com… In a restructuring effort underway before the acquisition, Whole Foods earlier this year began requiring suppliers to use a firm of its choosing to restock shelves and run promotions. As first reported in the Washington Post, Whole Foods is charging some suppliers the equivalent of 3 percent to 5 percent of sales to cover the cost of those broker services.” Hmm.

Shipping: “February truck tonnage is mixed, according to ATA data” [Logistics Management]. “”Despite a softer February than January, freight remains robust as exhibited in the year-over-year increase,’ said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello in a statement. ‘The drivers of truck freight – personal consumption, factory output and construction – are good, plus the inventory cycle is in favor of motor carriers, so I expect freight tonnage to grow at a decent pace in the months ahead.’ Costello’s takeaways are in sync with overall market sentiment, as well as decent mainstream economic metrics like GDP, retail sales, industrial production, and manufacturing output, among others. But, as has been reported, over-the-road capacity remains very tight, due to the ongoing driver shortage, and the recently-implemented ELD mandate for motor carriers.”

Shipping; “Shipping companies world-wide are facing a tough choice on meeting impending emissions rules: Pay many millions of dollars now or perhaps even more later on. It’s a multibillion-dollar question facing ocean carriers, and there may be no good answer” [Wall Street Journal]. ” Maritime executives say the sulfur restrictions will cost the industry some $40 billion, which will likely be passed along to shipping customers through higher freight prices. With some doubting enough low-sulfur fuel will be available, many operators are turning to sulfur-trapping exhaust scrubbers. But even those may not be enough to meet stricter pollution caps expected in the future.”

Shipping: “Analysts say issues involving fleet valuation are growing more important as merger-and-acquisition activity heats up in the trucking market. Many fleet owners have reaped big gains from the new U.S. tax law, giving them cash to buy up other operators and bring in the trucks and drivers they need to take advantage of robust freight demand” [Wall Street Journal].

Shipping: “A $50 million cash infusion into San Francisco-based KeepTruckin Inc. is part of the growing rush by venture funds into businesses aimed at streamlining connections between trucking companies, drivers and shipping customers” [Wall Street Journal]. “[T]he company is building out services around driver apps and electronic logging devices, and the money will back new products like a marketplace linking drivers to available cargo loads. That’s an offshoot of the information that comes with ELDs, in what experts say is an example of the greater efficiency and operating revenue that can come with new technology.”

Shipping: “FedEx Office, a unit of Memphis-based FedEx Corp., and Walmart Inc., said today they have agreed for FedEx Office to place 500 of its locations inside a number of Walmart’s U.S. stores over the next two years” [DC Velocity]. “Besides Walmart, FedEx has retail access locations in nine supermarkets and drug store chains like Walgreens Inc.”

The Bezzle: “Toyota Takes Self-Driving Cars Off Road After Uber Accident” [New York Times]. “Two other carmakers, Ford Motor and General Motors, are still performing tests of their self-driving cars on public roads. Waymo, the autonomous vehicle division of Google’s parent company Alphabet, and Lyft, Uber’s chief rival in the ride-hailing sector, declined to comment on the status of their testing programs on Tuesday…. After the Tempe accident, G.M. said Tuesday, ‘our plans to commercially launch in dense urban environments in 2019 remain unchanged but, as we’ve said from the start, we will not launch until we are satisfied that it is safe to do so.'”

The Bezzle: “Ether plunges after SEC says “dozens” of ICO investigations underway” [Ars Technica]. “The price of ether, the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum network, has fallen below $500 for the first time this year. The decline comes days after a senior official from the Securities and Exchange Commission acknowledged that the agency had ‘dozens’ of open investigations into initial coin offerings. The price of ether has fallen 19 percent in the last 24 hours, from $580 to $470.”

The Bezzle: “The peculiarities of the US financial system make it ideal for money laundering” [Chuck Grassley, Sheldon Whitehouse Quartz]. “Although dirty money often comes from the most corrupt, unstable countries in the world, it often ends up—ironically—in the United States. Why? Partly because we have the most stable financial system in the world, and these malefactors seek rule-of-law protection for their ill-gotten gains. But they also come because our system is so opaque.”

Tech: “Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and our personal data” [I, Cringely]. “There are hundreds — possibly thousands — of companies that rely on Facebook data accessed through an Application Programming Interface (API) called the Graph API. These data are poorly protected and even more poorly policed. So the first parts of this story to dispel are the ideas that the personality test data obtained by Cambridge Analytica were in any way unusual or that keeping those data after their sell-by date was, either. That doesn’t necessarily make the original researcher without blame, but the Cambridge folks could have very easily found the same data elsewhere or even generated it themselves. It’s not that hard to do. And Facebook doesn’t have a way to make you throw it away (or even know that you haven’t), either. Facebook never really tried to protect its data in any big way. They have a rate limiter to slow down the number of pulls through the API, but it is (maybe was depending on events of this week) all very lenient. The only trick is getting Facebook members to authorize you. Facebook’s safe harbor, you see, is the fact that you have authorized this specific release of personal data. Often, however, the Facebook member has no idea they have authorized anything.”

Tech: “Facebook hosts emergency staff meeting on the Cambridge Analytica crisis” [Daily Dot]. “Facebook is in crisis mode. The social network will reportedly hold an open meeting on Tuesday for all employees to discuss how political analytics firm Cambridge Analytica illegally harvested data from 50 million users, the Verge reports. Paul Grewel, the company’s deputy general counsel, will head the meeting and provide background on the incident, which caused Facebook’s stock to plummet in premarket trading on Monday. The meeting, reportedly scheduled for 10am PT, will have a polling feature so concerned staff can ask questions. This will be the first time Facebook brings together its entire team to discuss the scandal.” And “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Will Speak About Data Crisis in Next 24 Hours” [Bloomberg]. “Zuckerberg’s silence so far on the escalating crisis has only fanned the flames, sending the shares tumbling in recent days. The CEO’s remarks will be aimed at helping to rebuild the public trust, according to the person familiar with the plans… The stock reversed an earlier decline on the news.”

Five Horsemen: “Dip buyers lift Facebook back to market performer, matching the S&P’s gain from last April” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Mar 21 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “The mania-panic index gained one point to 41 (worry) as buying of put options declined” [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 Mar 20 2018

Rapture Index: Closes down one on Earthquakes. “There has been no major quakes in recent days” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 184.

Net Neutrality

“New Jersey Takes Up Net Neutrality: A Summary, and My Experiences as a Witness” [Freedom to Tinker], A report from a technologist. ” In such a committee hearing, advocates and lobbyists abound (on both sides); technologists are rare. I suspect I was the only technologist in the room. Additionally, most of the people in the room have jobs to make arguments that serve a particular stakeholder. In doing so, they may muddy the waters, either accidentally or intentionally. To advance their arguments, some people may even say things that are blatantly false (thankfully that didn’t happen on Monday, but I’ve seen it happen in similar forums). Perhaps surprisingly, such discourse can fly by completely unnoticed, because the people in the room—especially the decision-makers—don’t have as deep of an understanding of the technology as the technologists. Technologists need to be in the room, to shed light and to call foul—and, importantly, to do so using accessible language and examples that non-technical policy-makers can understand.” I’m not sure about this “techologist as neutral arbiter” concept.

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

“How Europe is better at protecting data than the U.S. — and what the Stasi and Nazis have to do with it” [MarketWatch]. “From a legal standpoint, everything that EU lawmakers do on this front, GDPR included, is based on the bloc’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. This document includes rights to privacy and the protection of personal data, neither of which is explicitly protected under the U.S. Constitution. But that’s largely down to Europe’s past experiences. ‘With some of the European countries, particularly the Germans, there is the memory of the Stasi and, before that, the memory of the Nazis,’ said Paul Bernal, a technology law lecturer at the University of East Anglia’s School of Law… With those collective memories, it is hardly surprising that Europeans, particularly those northern and eastern regions, take privacy and data protection so seriously.”

Dear Old Blighty

“It’s Increasingly Obvious The Grenfell Inquiry Will Not Bring Justice And Change My Community Needs” [HuffPo]. “As I look at the burnt-out shell of Grenfell Tower today, it is being covered slowly in white plastic – now up to about the sixth or seventh floor. This material cover-up prompts me to be aware that there also appears to be a cover up and whitewashing of the public inquiry.” See NC on Grenfell Tower here and here.

Gaia

“Complex Animals Led to More Oxygen, Says Maverick Theory” [Quanta]. “According to one unorthodox theory, the evolution of diverse, complex animals that fed in shallow waters and then returned to greater depths each day helped to oxygenate the ocean during the Cambrian Period…. [Nicholas Butterfield’s] hypothesis focuses on diurnal vertical migration, a daily process during which sundry organisms, ranging in size and complexity from zooplankton and sponges to fish and squids, migrate between shallow and deeper waters to find food and avoid predators. By feeding up above and metabolizing down below, the animals scrub and help ventilate the ocean, raising oxygen concentrations at the surface while driving anoxic regions to greater depths. This redistribution of oxygen would also have improved the transparency of the water column, allowing light to penetrate farther down and escalating predators’ reliance on vision at deeper and deeper levels when hunting. The subsequent evolution of larger, deeper-diving visual predators would then have pushed the “oxygen minimum zones” to even lower depths, creating a feedback loop.” Big if true!

“Complex behavior arose at dawn of humans” [Science]. “More than 320,000 years ago in the Rift Valley of Africa, some early innovators adopted a new technology… [T]hese toolmakers in the Olorgesailie Basin in Kenya chose as raw material shiny black obsidian and white and green chert, rocks they had to get from distant sources or through trade networks. In another first, they chiseled red and black rocks, probably to use as crayons to color their bodies or spears—an early sign of symbolic behavior…. By analyzing artifacts over time at one site, the papers also show that these behaviors developed as climate swings intensified, supporting the idea that environmental variability drove innovation.”

“American cockroaches thrive in cities, thanks to their incredibly long genomes” [Science]. “Compared with other insects, the genome of the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) is the second largest sequenced to date after the locust… But the secret to its urban success may lie in another part of the genome. The American cockroach has genes that code for more than 150 scent receptors and 500 taste receptors, the most found in any insect so far. These, coupled with hundreds of other chemical receptors, are likely the reason cockroaches are such effective scavengers…” They’ll be around long after we’re gone….

Guillotine Watch

“This Couple Got Married at the Walmart Where They Met So Their Coworkers Could Come” [MSN]. “Originally, they were planning to get married in a private ceremony at home, but then they realized many of their coworkers wouldn’t be able to get time off to attend. So they decided to bring the wedding to them. Naturally, their guests loved it.”

Class Warfare

“How Cities Are Divided By Income, Mapped” (maps) [City Lab]. “Put simply: As the rich cluster together, the poor get poorer, because the effects of living in poor neighborhoods are passed down from one generation to the next. That’s why dismantling economic silos within a city can boost its total well-being and economic health.”

“Their Pay Has Stood Still. Now Oklahoma Teachers Could Be the Next to Walk.” [New York Times]. “Across the state, teachers say they make ends meet by selling their blood plasma, or by working second jobs as luggage handlers, Uber drivers or in lawn maintenance.”

News of The Wired

“Utah governor signs law legalizing ‘free-range parenting'” [Deseret News]. “The bill, which Gov. Gary Herbert announced Friday that he’d signed, specifies that it isn’t neglectful to let kids do things alone like travel to school, explore a playground or stay in the car.” Good news!

“The Glory That Was Yahoo” [Fast Company]. Fun fact: “Thanks to its entrepreneurial instincts and strategic acquisitions, Yahoo was well ahead of the curve in nearly every internet category. But it failed to capitalize on its early leads, leaving the field to be dominated by later entrants. Yahoo Briefcase, for instance, did cloud storage long before the likes of Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive.”

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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 (WB):

Bee balm and butterfly. Bee balm creates masses of color, as you see, and attracts hummingbirds as well as pollinators. It’s invasive and requires no care. The perfect plant for me!

* * *

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About Lambert Strether

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

164 comments

  1. djrichard

    Just for yucks, putting my marker down that I think the Fed Reserve will do a 50 bps hike today. They’re well behind the curve on what the 3 month treasury, libor and commercial paper markets are doing.

    Reply
    1. Arizona Slim

      Does that FINALLY mean that I can earn decent interest on my savings?

      I mean, come on, I know I had to take one for the team during the Great Recession, or so said the central banksters. But jeez Louise, I’m tired of being *this* kind of one percenter.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        Relax, with the right CD now and the miracle of compound interest, you could easily double your money in 66 years or so.

        Reply
      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        You were lucky to be in the ‘one percent.’

        For a while there, they put me in the 0.1 percent bracket.

        Reply
          1. WheresOurTeddy

            came here to post same comment. Other things I hear olds talking about that I don’t understand, maybe people can describe these concepts to someone born in the 1980s: “pension”, “vacation”, “raise”, and “retirement”

            Reply
            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              i work in a large Academic University Hospital pharmacy. A lot of my co-workers are youngs, clearly born in the 1980s. I hear them talking lots about “pensions”, “vacations”, and “raises”. I don’t hear them talking about “retirement” much because when did people ever talk about retirement much when they were young?

              But yes, the youngs among my co-workers talk about the vacations they took or will be taking, the pensions they are saving for here at Mighty Midwest Hospital, and the small-but-real raises they get.

              They may be younger than you are. And yet they know all about these concepts. Maybe its because they made a good choice . . . to become pharmacy technicians ( like I did 32 years ago). Maybe you just made a bad choice. Did the olds make you make that bad choice? How come the olds weren’t able to make all the youngs who work here at the hospital make a bad choice?

              Reply
              1. Ptolemy Philopater

                Yes, it’s all about making the right choice. How clever of you. Those not so clever deserve what they get, right?

                A variety of the paradox of thrift. What if everyone makes the right choice and there is a surplus of pharmacy technicians? What happens to your vacations and pensions then.

                But of course the gatekeepers of the professions keep that from happening by restricting enrollment to the “best and the brightest” and socially correct.

                More of the I got mine culture, get your own or die! Without morality there is nothing. Being clever is not morality, it is depravity.

                Reply
                1. drumlin woodchuckles

                  Dear Mr. Ptolemy Philopater,

                  Thank you for your interest in my comment. I am always happy to hear from you. Please let me know if you have any other concerns.

                  Reply
              2. WheresOurTeddy

                My wife actually does quite well and I do fine. I reserve the right to take up for my generation, where college costs 100K. It was made that way by administrators who paid 10% of that when they went to school a generation before.

                Glad you got yours, to heck with everyone else I guess.

                Reply
                1. drumlin woodchuckles

                  As long as you wish to make blanket falsehood-based statements based on “generational membership”, I will keep noting the falsity of those statements with regard to whatever generational group of people you are writing about.

                  As in, for example, my demonstration that your claim that the “youngs” know nothing about “pensions”, “vacations” and “raises”.
                  was clearly false based on my own personal knowledge of numerous youngers at my own place of work who plainly have these things and therefor know all about discussing them.

                  I would also note your clever little attempt at diverting attention to “me getting mine” in hopes nobody will notice that I was writing about numerous youngers getting theirs. Now that I have drawn attention to it, will it work?

                  And will you revert to generation-based blanket falsehoods about entire multi-million-person batches of people? Time will tell.

                  Reply
                  1. WheresOurTeddy

                    If I overgeneralize, you’re the Betsy DeVos of Baby Boomer apologists.

                    *INDIVIDUALS, I TELL YOU.* There are no trends. “I know some kids who got into good schools and have good jobs under my wing, therefore the trend of stagnating wages and increasingly difficult upward mobility is not only invalid, it’s the fault of those who suffer under the yoke of it, because PERSONAL DECISIONS.”

                    You are part of the problem, Betsy.

                    Reply
        1. Pavel

          About ten years ago a Japanese friend complained that even with the equivalent of $100K in a savings account he only received enough interest in the year to buy a cup of coffee (about $5). Then that happened to the US “savers”.

          Apparently US citizens can buy US Treasury notes on their own, directly. The 28 day notes pay around 1.65% annually (early March 2018 rate). Much better than leaving money in the bank, perhaps.

          (Information at http://www.treasurydirect.gov. DISCLAIMER this is not financial advice! :)) )

          Reply
    2. JohnnyGL

      No way, Mr. Market would $h!t a brick and Trump would probably fire Jerome Powell on the spot.

      Media would scratch their heads about whether or not it was legal….but then immediately return to the usual rounds of warnings that firing Mueller would be grounds for INSTANT IMPEACHMENT!!!

      Reply
    1. Octopii

      It bugs the crap out of me that maps of the region never show Aqaba (Jordan) right next to Eliat on the…wait for it…Gulf of Aqaba.

      Reply
  2. Wukchumni

    Whole Foods is charging some suppliers the equivalent of 3 percent to 5 percent of sales to cover the cost of those broker services.” Hmm.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Wasn’t the old financial fable, that supermarkets only made a few percent on everything sold in the store, overall?

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      So, who’ll have grounds for complaint next? Starbucks?
      I’ll bet that Starbucks will do well in any such legal action. After all, they have a deep stable of bar-istas.

      Reply
    2. Anonymous

      It’s Amazon’s business model to give low prices to the customer, but make their money by ripping off the vendor. I know this from personal experience when they tried to sign up my service company on their “Home Services” site. All they want is a 20% fee! We’re not talking a “low marginal cost” App; we’re talking a company with old world physical costs–people, trucks, fuel, materials. Depending on the job, you might have a “gross profit” of 20% to 50%. So you’re going to pay a 20% Amazon-as-broker fee! Right. As another perspective, my industry often pays 10% to salesman to go out at their own expense and sell jobs. But we’re going to pay an “online bulletin board” (Amazon) 20%? Yeah right. The same with the Whole Foods vendors. Why the hell would they pay 3% to 5% to Amazon for shelf stocking services? Deal with Amazon in a significant way and you lose. As Yves says, “If your business is heavily dependent on a platform, you don’t have a business.

      Reply
      1. WheresOurTeddy

        Worked in a warehouse last decade. Worked with a guy named Tommy. Tommy worked half the year on a fishing boat in Alaska. Uncle owned the boat. Uncle sold his catch at dock to middlemen, took his profit, took the other half of the year off.

        Uncle decides to enter into agreement with Walmart to sell his entire catch to them. Gets better price than middlemen at the dock. For a while.

        First year was great. Bought 2nd boat. 2nd year great. 3rd year Walmart informs Tommy’s uncle the price paid will be going down 20% this year. Tommy’s uncle back to one boat. Tommy in the warehouse with me.

        Alice Walton buys another painting.

        Reply
    3. WheresOurTeddy

      only the small family firms like my former store operate on such a thin margin. Economy of scale crushes all competitors in all industries, none so much the last 25 years as that one.

      Sold it a couple years ago for full retail to a sucker who thinks we’re at just about full employment and “when Trump wins he’s gonna turn it all around”. I do not feel bad about this at all.

      Reply
      1. MK

        Good for you. Really proud of your taking advantage of others hope and such. Although, buying a small store these days is not the best use of one’s capital, so buyer beware.

        Two livlihoods to avoid, family business selling out and depending on mother nature.

        Reply
        1. WheresOurTeddy

          I set a price and he met it. Who got taken advantage of? He and his sons are doing fine. Evidently it’s my responsibility to let him know my prognostication for the industry over the next 10 years is continued consolidation and to water down my selling price, according to you. I made a shrewd decision. In America, that’s all you can do in the second Gilded Age.

          Reply
  3. Wukchumni

    [T]hese toolmakers in the Olorgesailie Basin in Kenya chose as raw material shiny black obsidian and white and green chert, rocks they had to get from distant sources or through trade networks.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    How very interesting, in that obsidian and chert were used here for making arrowheads for thousands of years by the Wukchumni tribe.

    Locally sourced chert was pretty useless compared to exceptional obsidian, all of which came from the other side of the Sierra Nevada, in trading with the Paiute tribe.

    Reply
  4. diptherio

    Re: True Value

    The vote for demutualization isn’t, as far as I know, a foregone conclusion…although the management is sure pitching it that way. ACE members considered a similar offer in ’07, but ultimately decided against it. I find it interesting that of the listed benefits of PE acquisition, all of them except the first are basically assurances that nothing will change.

    But True Value offers their members a lot of benefits apart from the ones the management is swearing up and down won’t go away. I see no mention of their low-interest loan program, nor of their start-up support (just remodel), so I assume the PE guys will be giving those the ax, if they get their way. I think a lot of members understand the true value of what they’d be losing, and that it’s worth a lot more than a one-time $50K payout. We’ll see.

    Reply
  5. George Phillies

    Free range parenting
    My brother and I walked home from Grade school. I escorted him. After all, at the youngest he was in kindergarten, and I was in second grade. It was five blocks, one quite long and three short, with a crossing officer at the main street.

    Reply
    1. RUKidding

      ha ha! I just mapped out the route I used to walk to grade school (way a long time ago), and it was a half mile. Got to walk on my own through all kinds of weather (suburb of Pittsburgh PA) beginning in 1st grade (so: what? like 7 years old)?? I can still remember having “bomb” drills during the Cuban Missle crisis, where we had to run home, so that we could “hide” in our basements!! Like that woulda helped, I’m sure.

      Back then, that’s how it worked.

      There was a school crossing guard at the one main, busy street. Otherwise just on neighborhood roads.

      Most people these days won’t let their kids walk a few blocks to school, even in temperate Sacramento CA.

      Reply
      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Did your grandfather then say to you, ‘That was nothing. When I was your age, there was snow and miles…?”

        Reply
        1. Arizona Slim

          My mother is from Buffalo, NY. And, yes, she did walk to and from school during blizzards. She’s quite proud of that fact.

          Reply
          1. Wukchumni

            My wife is also from Buffalo, and she loves to tell the tale of the brutal ’77 snowstorm, where she and her sister skied out from the 2nd story window of their house in Cheektowaga.

            Reply
            1. ObjectiveFunction

              Me too, and I was in the comparatively ‘light’ snowfall area north of Buffalo! I remember climbing a drift to look into the second floor window of our home. And trudging a mile to school and back in a whiteout so dense I couldn’t see either curb (snowbank) from the center of the street. Great times.

              ….and I will never again live in a place where palm trees don’t grow naturally.

              Reply
          1. WheresOurTeddy

            Grandpa tried to tell me that once when I was 7. My response: “Grandpa, if you were going uphill in both directions that means it was possible to go DOWNHILL in both directions too.”

            He smiled, patted my head, and told my mother “You don’t have to worry about this one.” RIP Stan

            Reply
        2. RUKidding

          Probably!

          I really didn’t think anything about it. It was just something we did back then. And we did have blizzards on a routine basis in the winter. Aaand (wait for it), I did have to walk up 2 rather high hills (they’d probably look small to me now) to get to school.

          I can remember one blizzard where my older sister had her leg in a cast. She was still walking to school but during that blizzard the milk man drove her up the first hill. I hadda walk it!!

          Tune in next time for more cranky times with RU Kidding Me!! (get offa my lawn!!)

          But… it is why I kinda shake my head when my friends nowadays insist on driving their kids a coupla blocks to school in mild, temperate FLAT Sacramento…

          The times, they are a-changing…

          Reply
      2. nippersmom

        I just checked my kindergarten path home, and it was about three-quarters of a mile. Walked home alone virtually every day, although I don’t remember having to walk in really bad weather (southeastern Wisconsin). Once I started regular grade school, I got a ride along with my older siblings (our grade school was about 2.5 miles away).

        Reply
    2. Wukchumni

      I grew up as a kid living a life of adventure, real or imagined and mostly the latter. My surroundings was the ‘outback’ of L.A., but I might have met up with Kit Carson, and participated in the battle of Big Horn, or Belleau Wood @ any given time, at least in my mind.

      I asked my soon to be 93 year old Mom a few weeks ago if she was ever worried about me when I was a tyke, and she said being a Bohemian’s Bohemian, I was bound to wander, ha!

      Reply
      1. RUKidding

        I feel so lucky bc my ‘rents gave us tons of freedom to roam. There was a small woodsy area behind our house, and the neighbor kids and I played in there all summer. Plus I started walking alone to the local public swimming pool in summer – yet another quarter mile away and across one busy street – by myself by the time I was about 8 (after several years of swimming lessons).

        It was great to be able to roam far and wide and not have it be a big deal. I really do feel sorry for kids today who are so sheltered & have to be driven or taken everywhere they go. I guess it’s necessary??? But too bad for them. Really.

        Reply
        1. Wukchumni

          I grew up in one of the first subdivisions in a rather hilly area, and all of the future ‘burbs in the near back of beyond were uninhabited, that is except for it being our bailiwick.

          Do boys still build forts nowadays?

          Reply
          1. LifelongLib

            My parents still live in the house we kids grew up in (built 1960). The vacant lots we used to build forts on and ride our bikes across to get to town have all been developed. I guess nowadays we’d have to dig up our own yards and ride in the streets…

            Reply
    3. Yves Smith

      My mother has a friend (90ish) who grew up on a farm in South Dakota and rode a pony to school.

      And when I was in first and second grade, I walked about a mile to school and was allowed to do whatever I wanted outside as long as I was home by 8:00 PM. I cannot begin to relate to how kids are raised now. No wonder they need so many meds.

      Reply
      1. ebbflows

        Wellie now days a kid can be excited about having advanced hunchback from all that phone or tablet screen time, not to mention a plethora of other musculoskeletal problems. Seems there is a roaring businesses opportunity, more privatize the profits and socialize the costs.

        Reply
    4. Paul

      I grew up in Montreal in the 70’s. I had a bicycle from 8yrs old, no boundaries, and a transit pass at 10.
      Most of the students at my school took the bus and/or metro.

      Reply
  6. flora

    re: Dan Lipinski

    Don’t forget railroads. Oh boy, can you get railroaded. From March 14th, a week ago.

    Lipinkski’s campaign riches come largely from industry, especially railroad company PACs, who contributed nearly a sixth of his warchest. They owe Lipinski, who lead the effort to delay the imposition of a key safety measure called Positive Train Control, saving railroad companies millions and putting America lives at risk.

    https://boingboing.net/2018/03/14/negative-train-control.html
    and
    https://theintercept.com/2018/03/14/dan-lipinski-marie-newman-railroads/

    Reply
  7. a different chris

    >we will not launch until we are satisfied that it is safe to do so

    They expect you to read that sentence as human safety, but it really is just an echo of FoMoCo’s Pinto idea – it means when it’s safe enough to the bottom line. It’s amusing, and displays the stupidity of the likes of Kalanick, that Uber et. al. tried to sneak around the political process. To be sucessful in something so anti-the-real-public, you *need* those politicians to pass laws walling you off from your victims. As we will soon start to see happen.

    Reply
    1. Eudora Welty

      This reminds me of the gun retailer who advertised that they were stopping gun sales (a few years ago, after some atrocity), and then quietly started again after the outcry was over and everyone had moved on.

      Reply
    2. Procopius

      I have never seen any real effort to explain the economic advantage of driverless cars. Unless there’s some kind of breakthrough in sensory input devices, I can’t see how they figure the capital investment will be paid for. In their current business model, even though they’re subsidizing drivers’ fees, drivers are providing the vehicle, paying for insurance, paying for maintenance, paying for the fuel and lubrication, paying for the tires, and probably paying for more as well that I haven’t taken into account. I think equipping the vehicle with lidar, radar, and digital vision inputs will, I believe, add about $30,000 to the basic cost of the car. I am told that a lot of very rich people are actually very stupid. I’m not sure I disbelieve that.

      Reply
  8. Jim Haygood

    New frontiers in flakery:

    Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) proposed building a border wall between California and Arizona to protect the state.

    “As we look in Arizona, we often look into the dangers of the southern border,” McSally said during a round-table discussion about “sanctuary cities” Tuesday at the White House.

    “But if these dangerous policies continue out of California, we might need to build a wall between California and Arizona as well to keep these dangerous criminals out of our state,” she said, smiling.

    She added that California can’t just “provide sanctuary for these criminals and think that it’s only impacting California dangerously.”

    http://thehill.com/homenews/house/379460-gop-lawmaker-we-might-need-to-build-a-wall-between-california-and-arizona

    She’s not serious, of course. Hatin’ on hispanics is just red meat for white folks in the non-inclusive R party.

    Proposed slogan for Martha McSlimy’s Senate campaign: It’s a dry hate

    Reply
    1. JBird

      What baloney about “these dangerous criminals…”. Just about all immigrants, whether they are here legally, or illegally, just want to escape the often American fomented economy Hellscape of their homes. I do not want them here, but they are suffering human beings not monsters; there is a difference between wanting to get better control on immigration and hating the immigrants. It would also help to not destroy other countries for political fun and profit.

      Both political parties obfuscation the difference of course as that is just good business. If they did not, real questions about why there are so many people willing to risk death, or at least leave their whole world behind to come here, and why are the companies who hire the conveniently cheap, controllable, and disposable labor them never prosecuted?

      Reply
    2. Wukchumni

      Had an interesting moment yesterday when the judge was filling out the jury, in that the defendant accused of ‘grand theft pistachio’ was Hispanic, and one of the prospective pool of jurors asked if said defendant was an American citizen, and the judge informed him that he wasn’t allowed to say one way or the other.

      It’s hard to say if the gent asking was looking for a way out of being a juror, or just openly prejudiced?

      There was an awkward tension in the room for a scintilla, I felt.

      Reply
    3. WheresOurTeddy

      When you have a state with 7 million people in it, and damn if 3 million of them aren’t Baby Boomer McCain voters, you’re going to get stupid crap like this.

      My snowbird relatives from Minnesota will be all for this.

      Reply
  9. Summer

    Re: Facebook and data

    I read about all the trouble people have de-activating or deleting an account. I hear it is particulary cumbersom if you’ve forgotten your password – as if they can’t verify who you are after all that data is collected.
    Peculiar, huh?

    Internet Platfoms: Everybody can get in, but no one can get out.

    Reply
    1. Ed Miller

      Roach motels: “Internet Platfoms: Everybody can get in, but no one can get out.”

      Yup, to the oligarchs we are the roaches.

      Reply
  10. jo6pac

    “This Couple Got Married at the Walmart Where They Met So Their Coworkers Could Come

    I’m confused by why this is in that heading?

    Reply
    1. RUKidding

      I can’t say what Lambert was thinking in placing that under “Guillotine Watch,” but my guess is that it’s about how this couple’s co-workers at that Walmart could not get the time off to attend their wedding unless they held it at the Walmart.

      Walmart is notorious for treating their workers like you know what, and for making it difficult for workers to have a steady work schedule, take time off (to be sick, even), etc.

      Although the article itself is written with a happy, positive glow to it – and good for the couple and their friends if they enjoyed themselves and had fun – but really? Feeling somewhat constrained to hold their wedding at a Walmart Garden Center because their friends couldn’t get a few hours off? Ugh.

      Shame on Walmart, as usual.

      I’m sure the insanely wealthy Walton spawn don’t hold their weddings at their local WalMart garden center.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        I’m surprised one of the WalMart scions didn’t show up at the wedding and claim “Droit du Seigneur.”

        Reply
        1. Wukchumni

          Or at least get the exiter (the W*M employee that checks your receipt as you’re leaving to make sure you paid for everything) to perhaps participate in the happy day, by tossing instant rice @ the newlyweds as they depart the store.

          Reply
      2. Jeff W

        Feeling somewhat constrained to hold their wedding at a Walmart Garden Center because their friends couldn’t get a few hours off? Ugh.

        I agree. The oblivious frame of this article is more depressing than it is heartwarming.

        “Naturally, their guests loved it.”

        As you said, “good for the couple and their friends if they enjoyed themselves and had fun,” but I have a hunch that if those workers were guaranteed paid time off—like people in the other 20 richest OECD countries (30 paid vacation days in France)—so they could actually take time off to attend their coworkers’ wedding they might love it even more.

        Reply
      3. Carolinian

        So according to you the workers at Walmart are so oppressed and beaten down by their jobs that they had their wedding there and “had a good time”? I have to agree that in the category of guillotine worthy offenses this one is a bit of a stretch.

        Reply
    2. WheresOurTeddy

      And I thought we’d reached *peak Oligarchy* when the Walmart management — with no sense of self-awareness whatsoever — put out a donations basket in the break room so that underpaid Walmart employees could help their less fortunate co-workers this holiday season.

      And Alice Walton buys another painting.

      Reply
    3. John

      Medieval serfs got more time off: http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2013/08/29/why-a-medieval-peasant-got-more-vacation-time-than-you/ and considering the times, probably better benefits when one considers what was available at that time than what the Duchy of Waltonia provides its serfs.

      Our overlords have even convinced many of us that our electronic slave collars are status symbols. These electronic collars occupy non working attention with meaningless, non rebellious activity, provide opportunity for monitoring and are as beloved today just as the church was by many European serfs. That’s why its a guillotine watch item.

      Reply
  11. Toni Gilpin

    Re the IL election (my home state): beware relying too much on the Democratic Governor’s Association’s rosy assessment of voter turnout in yesterday’s primary from the Politico piece cited by Lambert above. Turnout was barely 30% in Chicago and suburban Cook County, a figure in a hotly-contested primary election officials called “disappointing.” Turnout among millennials in Chicago was a dismal 3%. (Yes, that’s three percent.) Now, it’s true the overall figure yesterday represents a big percentage jump from 2014 — but that’s because turnout then was a really awful 16%.

    I expect J.B. Pritzker to prevail over the horrible, damaged Bruce Rauner, but what else yesterday’s election portends for November is difficult to say here. None of the choices in the Democratic gubernatorial primary were genuine Bernie-type progressives, despite their attempts to depict themselves as such. Voters, especially young ones, were repulsed by all the faux-folksiness, the disingenuousness, and the name-calling. (And Our Revolution IL made a big mistake, in my view, by engineering a non-transparent “endorsement” of Daniel Biss. Members of Our Revolution IL received an emailed ballot for the governor’s race a few months ago, but we were not given the choice of “no endorsement,” which would have been my choice, and I bet for a lot of others, too. And the final results of the straw poll were never released — only that the majority, we were told, had chosen Biss. That Biss came in a distant second yesterday should not be of any comfort. A lot of young people and DSA members in particular were permanently alienated when Biss dumped Carlos Rosa, while many public employees irrevocably loathe Biss for his phony budget-balancing scheme of a few years back that would have eviscerated their pensions. Our Revolution IL lost a ton of credibility here among those folks — and with me, too. )

    There were some good local wins — the victory of 27-year old Aaron Ortiz against the Chicago machine maybe the best among them — that were at least as significant as the congressional races, I’d argue. And now the countdown for the really important race begins — which will be the Chicago mayoral election in 2019.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If members in the field of Our Revolution are reading this and might get such notices about whom to endorse or not in the states they are living in, they might well hand-write a line onto their mail-received “whom to endorse” questionnaires which reads: I do not endorse anyone. And draw a little box nest to that line and make a check in the little box.

      Reply
  12. freedeomny

    Just a healthcare rant: My bill came in for my one night hospital stay. Just for the hospital….it was 72K….the hospital…not the surgeon, labs, anesthesiologist, etc. Just for one night in the hospital. For the exact same surgery 3 years ago, at the same hospital, the hospital bill was 68K for 2 nights (the total was 100K).

    The insurance company wouldn’t pay for 15K of this years bill and I had already met my out of pocket. So…the hospital was “kind” enough to provide a “discount” of 15K. I laughed when the insurance rep told me the hospital gave a “discount” – funny they would call it that. There was no discount – they tried to grift the insurance company – couldn’t get it – so the 15K was negotiated. However, it just goes to show you that the insurance companies and the doctors and hospitals are complicit – the insurance company reps are instructed to use the word “discount”…wink, wink, wink…

    Reply
    1. Scott

      I’ve contended for some time that as much as hospitals and doctors like to complain about insurance companies, they much prefer this structure than single payer. Under the current system, much of the blame goes to the insurance companies (rightfully so). However, under single payer, people would be more likely to see that one of the biggest reasons for the healthcare costs is simply the amount that goes to compensation for the providers. Yes the bureaucracy is a pain, but do hospitals prefer this model, with the associated high prices to one with less bureaucracy and significantly lower prices?

      Reply
      1. Zzzz Andrew

        Generalizing about these things is fraught, and that goes for what I’m about to say too; but I think that your lumping “hospitals and doctors” together in the pro-bureaucracy pool isn’t quite accurate. The physicians I know in the Boston area, and I know a bunch, mostly tend very strongly to the anti-bureaucracy side of the equation. I believe it breaks down roughly like this:

        – Hospital administrators: all for bureaucracy, because it justifies their outsize salaries (closely analogous to what you see in US universities).

        – Doctors who don’t need to see many patients, or aren’t responsible for chasing down all the details involved in the provision of medical care (clinical investigation, calling in prescriptions, justifying needed treatments to insurance companies, coordinating with specialists, documentation, etc.), which is to say mainly surgeons and doctors providing elective care: don’t care too much because the bureaucracy doesn’t affect them much. This is a small minority of physicians.

        – Doctors who see lots of patients and deal with all the details involved in actual care: hate the bureaucracy with a passion. This is the majority of physicians.

        For the last group, getting e.g. a 30% cut in pay for a 50% cut in workload would be a huge win, since most of them could simply see more patients, spend more time with all of them, and still come out ahead. Most of the ones I know don’t think that this kind of tradeoff can ever happen, believing that the bureaucracy, electronic medical record systems, and other factors on that side of the equation are too entrenched to be shifted. But that isn’t the same thing as not being in favor of such a tradeoff, and there are an increasing number who begin to see single-payer as the only hope for shifting our system in that direction. I try to keep talking it up.

        freedomny, hope you recover soon!

        Reply
        1. freedeomny

          Thanks Zzzz Andrew – I don’t typically lump doctors with hospitals, however, in my case my surgeon works for the hospital. And there was “definitely” pressure on him by hospital administration to make sure as much money was squeezed out of me (my insurance company) as possible. I requested several times that I only wanted to stay in the hospital one night, and as I am extremely healthy, there is no reason why that couldn’t happen. My surgeon insisted, prior to surgery, that I stay 2. It was only after I basically told every nurse and doctor who I came in contact with, starting while I was in the recovery room, that I had every intention of leaving the next day that they realized I was not going to follow their instructions. My sister and her husband are both doctors/surgeons who work in private practices. They are not bound by hospital administrators and therefore relate/react to their patients in a very different way….but this is becoming the exception. Hospitals are buying up private practices left and right and therefore doctors are increasingly subject to the bureaucracy of hospital administrators/ceo who try to extract as much money from the patient and the insurance company as possible while pressuring doctors to see as many patients as possible.

          Reply
  13. Jean

    “We at True Value are very excited to be partnering with ACON,…”

    So excited you lost control of your corporate bowels?

    Reply
    1. WheresOurTeddy

      to the remaining workers of TruValue:

      Take whatever shares, buyout, severance, or non-bolted-down items of value you can, because ACON is racing to take it from you first. The longer you wait the worse it will be.

      Reply
  14. Carey

    What those who rule us say that that are doing “for” us, they are actually doing *to* us, and from so many
    angles that it seems almost impossible for we-the-many to defend ourselves: the self-driving cars used to
    terrorize; the GMOs and their necessary chemicals sickening, endocrine-disrupting, and eventually
    killing us, with the Bayer-Monsanto merger virtually ensuring a doubling-down on the latter… no need
    to go on, I guess.

    Good thing our hosts kindly provide the daily Antidotes, which are so appreciated. What times.

    Reply
  15. DJG

    “Some of the once-fastest-growing counties in the United States are growing no more, and nationwide, the birthrate has dropped to levels not seen since the Great Depression.”

    Gosh golly gee, what kind of economic problems are we having that resemble those of the Great Depression? And what would negative birthrates be a symptom of, if we look back at the Great Depression? Lack of jobs. No disposable income. Disinvestment. Stagnation. And now these birth-rate-lowering phenomena are complicated by the absurdly expensive and capricious U.S. health-care system.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      What we call homeless camps now, are what was termed ‘Hoovervilles’ early in the great depression era of the dirty thirties.

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        Maybe re-name the generic from “Hooverville” to “Obamatown?” “Clinton Hollow?” “Bush Acres?”

        Reply
        1. polecat

          Poorville ‘subdivisions’ ..
          I’m quite sure there are several ringing every .. uh .. “great” city.

          Reply
      1. Skip Intro

        That Full Employment meme is a wonderful way of separating the wheat from the deplorable chaff. If we are at full employment, but you are unemployed, what are you?

        Reply
    2. Etherpuppet

      I’m thinking the drop in birthrate was brought about by the need for both parents to work full-time. Raising kids is a full-time job. I know first-hand, now that I’ve been the stay-at-home dad for the last 4 years. We’ve both worked full time jobs for some of that time, and the kids are the losers in that equation, even with good hired caregivers in the mix.

      Reply
  16. dontknowitall

    On Facebook and “Facebook hosts emergency staff meeting on the Cambridge Analytica crisis” it is important to keep reminding people that the Obama 2012 campaign suckered Facebook out of their data first to use in their analytics programs. Cringely mentions a lot of other outfits did too either directly like Obama’s Davidson or through intermediaries like Cambridge Analytica working for Trump. This smells like a manufactured crisis. Cui bono?

    I think the answer is the DNC and its perennial presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who wouldn’t want to see a billionaire named Zuckerberg running against her in 2020. The British government going to bat for Hillary yet again via a patsy with a convenient attack of conscience…

    Reply
    1. WheresOurTeddy

      Five Eyes of a feather stick together

      She’s running again and she’ll lose again. If at first you don’t succeed, blame Russia I guess, or the stupid white women who don’t know what’s good for them.

      The only thing that will kill this woman’s ambition to be president is death itself.

      Reply
    2. ewmayer

      Exactly – oh *now* it’s a scandal, because it was used by the Evil Campaign … but this shockingly truthy admission on Twitter this week by Carol Davidsen, director of data analytics for the Obama 2012 campaign (bolds mine) is not scandalous?

      An example of how we used that data to append to our email lists. pic.twitter.com/VHhSukvXDY

      Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing.

      They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.

      Reply
  17. Carey

    Regarding the NYT article on the “puzzling” below-replacement-rate birthrates, I am in California, and when I
    think of the large often-Catholic, relatively happy families I knew growing up, I can’t think of one woman
    from the offspring who have had more than one child, and often they had no children at all.

    I surmise that researchers like the one mentioned are paid quite well to be so “puzzled”.

    “It’s a big club, and… “

    Reply
    1. Sid Finster

      In my neighborhood in Fargo, North Dakota, people get married right out of college and then get cracking producing a brood of three or more. Mommies stay at home and participate in PTA.

      I frequently find myself forced to remind my wife, who is not from the US, that our neighborhood should not be confused with The Real World(tm).

      Reply
  18. Harold

    I think I would call bee balm an aggressive spreader, rather than invasive. It is a mint after all. The brilliant M. didima needs moist soil to thrive. All prairie wild flowers are pretty robust growers, but they play well with other meadow plants. Anyway the mauve kind really lifts the heart, esp with yellow composites.

    Reply
  19. clarky90

    Re “L’Affaire Russe”

    I happened upon a recent video of Hillary Clinton falling, twice, on some steps in India.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rbp3yne4h_4

    She is only a few years older than me. Her present behavior is incomprehensible. Why is she still running?…..Unless….

    IMO, we are watching an attempted “Counter Revolution” (to overthrow the original 1776 USA Revolution). The Counter Revolutionaries are a cadre of the CIA/FBI (Rhymes with CHEKA/NKVD). (Is ALPHABET.INC an in-joke?)

    The last 16 months has been constant probing for ANY opportunity (real or unreal) to overthrow the elected USA government.

    Which brings me back to HRC. I speculate that she is the “Pretender to the Throne”. ie, If the counter Revolution were to succeed, they would need a “legitimate” (one who gained more votes etc) successor, to install in Donald Trump’s place, during the take-over. A place holder

    Echoes of the Soviet subversion, occupation and annexation of the Baltic States, 1939-1941?

    Reply
    1. roxy

      Lots of grousing from democrat insiders about hrc’s trip to India, with all the cringeworthy visuals and vocalizations. Would they really acquiesce to her going for #3? First time is tragedy, second time is farce, what’s the third time?

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        What choice do they have but to acquiesce to Hillary if she wants it? Tim Kaine? Biden? Harris? One of the other nothings?

        The next DLC candidate isn’t going to win Hillary’s primary lead from early red states or provide the political cover for the super delegates to uniformly support the candidate. Hillary might run on “the third time is the charm,” but it still boils down to a drooling Kennedy spawn or HRC. She really is the best the Democrats have. Defeating a Sanders style candidate is their top priority, so they don’t really care about coattails or actually winning the White House.

        Reply
      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        She is a perfect expression of everything they stand for. If she demands to run again, how can they say no?

        Reply
    2. Amfortas the Hippie

      nah. Republic fell some time ago–maybe 1963? it’s still up for debate, until a sufficient amount of FOIA Docs get released into the wild.
      There’s been Phases in the Managed Decline: 9-11 was a big step into a new Phase, for instance.
      When I saw that Bill had encouraged trump to run, and then that he did…and then that a bunch of Neocons and even regular Republicans were getting behind Herself, it occurred to me that maybe the PTB were attempting to birth a Great Big Middle Party of Pragmatic Pablum…making more or less official what had been de facto for a long while, and relegating everyone else into Fringe Status, right and left.
      It might be the next logical step in the ongoing consolidation of Power.
      But trump won(I don’t think he was supposed to), and the plans were quickly rejiggered to the new reality.
      I’ll bet a mess of green beans that Herself runs again.

      Reply
      1. HopeLB

        Love your descriptive name Amfortas The Hippie, Great Big Middle Party of Pragmatic Pablum. There should be a t-shirt!

        Reply
    3. WheresOurTeddy

      Edward Mandell House and Woodrow Wilson accomplished the counterrevolution in December 1913

      None of us have ever breathed a free breath

      Reply
    4. VietnamVet

      The Five Eyes Intelligence Agencies and Media Mogul’s Silent Coup to remove Donald Trump is still partially masked. Amazon’s Pravda is reporting that Donald Trump thinks that the FBI is out to get him. This is reported as a sign of his paranoia. Today’s news is that the Trump Campaign won because he used Facebook user data to efficiently target his money and convinced liberals not to vote in the swing states that he won. Yet, Democrats blame Russian Bots and perfidious Vladimir Putin for their loss. This is getting serious. A Russian with possible ties to the Trump Dodgy Dossier was poisoned by the Russians according to UK’s PM. Fear is an appropriate emotion in these opening days of World War III in Syria since thousands of American troops and contractors have not been withdrawn after the fall of Raqqa.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        It would make more sense to think that pro-Clinton pro-Brennan elements poisoned the Russian ex-spy and his daughter out of fear that the ex-spy might be going to expose the dodginess of the dossier and expose exactly who put the “dodge” in the “dodginess”.

        Reply
  20. JBird

    “How Badly Has The Corrupt Stench Of The DCCC Spread Across America? Now It’s Infected California”

    Oh yes. So true this.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      I had a daymare that Tony Soprano’s mom Livia was a Congresswoman, but Nancy only acts and looks like her, merely a coincidence.

      Reply
    2. Tom Stone

      JBird, the article understates things.
      What Yves and other readers of NC don’t seem to comprehend is that the corruption at CalPers is not an aberration, it is the norm.
      For a real horror show take a look at the department of corrections, for an example of extreme incompetence and corruption look at the new Eastern span of the Bay Bridge which is less safe than what it replaced.
      California is a one party State and a third world state at that ( Look at childhood poverty, the incarceration rate, ANY metric used to measure the public good).

      Reply
  21. marym

    Trump Golf Course Near NYC Seeks More Foreign Workers

    Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County is seeking permission to hire 14 foreign guest workers, saying it can’t find Americans for the jobs. The positions pay more than $14 an hour.

    The Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, New York, is once again seeking permission to bring in foreign workers to serve as waiters, waitresses and cooks, according to petitions posted online by the Department of Labor Wednesday.

    Mulvaney, Acosta Override Regulatory Office to Hide Tips Rule Data (1)

    Labor Department leadership convinced OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to overrule the White House regulatory affairs chief and release a controversial tip-sharing rule without data showing it could allow businesses to skim $640 million in gratuities.

    Mulvaney sided with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta over the government’s rulemaking clearinghouse—a little-known but critical wing of the White House called the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs—three current and former executive branch officials told Bloomberg Law. That allowed the department to delete from the proposal internal estimates showing businesses could take hundreds of millions in gratuities from their workers.

    Reply
  22. Craig H.

    “It is one of the biggest puzzles of my career as a demographer,” said Kenneth Johnson, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire who has studied the various components of population change for years. “Each year when new data comes out, I expect to see a significant uptick in births, but I have yet to see it.”

    “The most decisive mark of the prosperity of any country is the increase of the number of its inhabitants.” Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, p. 62 in my copy (it’s in ch VII if you have different pagination).

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      If having an increase in numbers of inhabitants meant something in terms of prosperity 50 years ago, why were China and India dirt poor?

      Reply
      1. witters

        Have a look at what the English East India Company did to both – along with all the other such companies and the states behind them.

        Reply
    2. Darthbobber

      I think Smith may be right for his time, but not for this one. Didn’t the article focus largely on upscale suburban counties?

      Throughout the oecd countries, I think a greatly reduced birthrate among the educated and the middle and upper classes has been the modern norm.

      Of course we know a lot more ways to avoid producing offspring now.

      Reply
    3. Sid Finster

      Keep in mind that what is considered the acceptable middle class minimum for raising a child has gone up astronomically since I was a kid, forget when my parents were kids.

      When my parents were kids, which was roughly Bible times, aka “the 1950’s”, if you fed your children most days, put a roof over their little heads, and generally did not beat them so badly that they never got to be big kids, you were doing a pretty good job as a parent.

      As a result, nobody other than a hedge fund billionaire can afford more than one.

      Reply
        1. LifelongLib

          I don’t know about fed, but the warm, dry, and vaccinated (i.e. housing and health care) cost far more in constant dollars than they did 50 or 60 years ago. Throw in the cost of education and the fact that most people have had no real increase in wages since the 70s and you can pretty well account for the smaller number of children. The extra gadgets are a drop in the bucket.

          Reply
    4. Katy

      My personal moral code is that it is unethical to bring human beings into the world in 2018. (Though I originally made this decision sometime around 2002, when there were only about 6 billion humans on the planet.)

      A decrease in human population is good news for the Earth.

      Reply
      1. John k

        Not politically correct, though certainly factually true.
        If you extrapolate this thought, it makes no sense to cure diseases, gun control is counter productive, and all these wars usefully reduce reproduction.

        If these seem distasteful? What else? How about free birth control worldwide of all types? Course, all the religions want ever more facing in their direction. Waste not thy seed!

        Reply
    5. Yves Smith

      He’s a crappy demographer.

      It was widely expected that the 2000 US census would show a population decline v. 1990. Birthrates fall below replacement rates in advanced economies. Women aren’t as keen about childrearing when they have other options and the men won’t pick up the slack.

      The reason population grew instead was immigration and high birth rates among Hispanics.

      Reply
  23. Rates

    Move fast and break things.

    Well, things are broken now. Presumably Humpty Dumpty has been summoned to make things right again.

    Reply
    1. Etherpuppet

      People always forget the assumed follow on to the “move fast and break things…” statement. “Iterate until the problem is solved” is the essence of what should happen next. E.g. keep working at the durn problem until it’s fixed. Then, move on to the next problem.

      Zuckerberg’s quote is a kind of robber-baron-corruption of what is supposed to be happening in organizations that follow the Agile manifesto and use Agile processes to develop products.

      Reply
  24. Synoia

    Births – Each year when new data comes out, I expect to see a significant uptick in births, but I have yet to see it. More than 1,200 counties in the United States — home to one in seven Americans — had a negative natural increase in population in 2016

    Would that be a consequence of Student Debt, Cost of Housing, and lack of Jobs with good pay?

    Or just a statistical aberration? /s

    R: Solution – Ban Abortion, ban Birth Control
    D: Solution – Resist T(R)ump!!

    Reply
  25. Synoia

    Their Pay Has Stood Still. Now Oklahoma Teachers Could Be the Next to Walk.

    My daughter is a Teacher in OK. One of the middle schools in her town has a 99% enrollment rate for subsidized breakfast and lunch.

    She, and the other teachers cannot go on strike before the summer break. If they do strike now their pay will cease until fall, because the legislature will not be in session over the summer. She states they do not want to strike because of the situation where they have large population of subsidized meals for many students.

    She is aware of the W Virginia solution, of food pantries for children’s meals but is concerned that it probably did not provide enough food for the students.

    The root cause of the teachers poverty is no raises in pay for 10 – 15 years, and a state which has cur business, especially oil and gas, taxes for ideological reasons.

    What does it say about our society when our teachers, when our leaders behave in such a selfish manner? Business profits before children’s welfare?

    This is revolting.

    Oklahoma Slogan: Labor Omnia Vincit. Obviously not if you are a teacher.

    Reply
  26. leondarrell

    Regarding Illinois results, Wheaton, Illinois is famous for conservative religious schools and has a reputation for extreme probity. As a long time Illinois resident, I’m not surprised by the Ives turnout. Remember, this is the heart of Rep. Peter Roskam’s district, a well known Repub.

    Reply
    1. Camembert

      Agreed. Wheaton is famous for being populated by extreme right religious nutjobs who are closest to the GOP but map closest to hardcore culture warriors.

      Reply
  27. audrey jr

    Pritzker wins Illinois Gubernatorial Race. ZOMG. Maybe he’ll use his own money to bail out Illinois’ State Employees Pension, eh?
    I wouldn’t wanna be a life form of any type in Illinois these days.
    Are folks in Illinois really this uninformed on who they just elected or are all of the voting machines in this nation completely and utterly rigged? Or were the opposing candidates that bad compared to a billionaire? Seems billionaires have been winning all of the races they’ve been entering.
    Wish I had the money and connections to get the hell out of here.
    And yes, Lambert, Cisneros really is terrible. Thanks for an interesting water cooler today.

    Reply
    1. WheresOurTeddy

      buddy, if you had the money and connections to get out of here, *you probably wouldn’t want to*.

      It’s how they get formerly decent people to assent to Oligarchy. “I made it, what’s your problem, loser?”

      Reply
    2. OIFVet

      I asked the friendly guy who called me to urge me to vote for JB, “Give me two reasons why your billionaire is better than the other billionaire.” No doubt he had a spiel ready, but the word “billionaire” seemed to really freeze him. Then I informed him that I went to high school with two members of the Pritzker clan, one of whom was stoned 25 hours a day and got busted one spring break by US customs trying to bring almost a pound of Jamaica’s finest on the family’s chartered jet. No jail time, of course. True story, too. He was very generous with his stash, so maybe there is hope for JB, yet. /sarc

      Reply
  28. audrey jr

    Newly elected Governor Pritzker says he supports universal healthcare; he’s gonna introduce a “public option.”
    I laughed and laughed as I read this. I pictured Yves, Lambert and Jerri-Lynn’s faces – tough since I don’t know what they look like, ‘cept for Yves ‘cuz I’ve seen her on TV. Public Option.
    Okay, Lambert, Yves or Jerri-Lynn: the ball’s in your court. Rip this guy apart. Please.

    Reply
    1. WheresOurTeddy

      In my household “public option” is slightly less offensive than the actual N word. It is one of the truest tests to know whether the self-described progressive you’re talking to is not worth talking to further.

      Reply
  29. Summer

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/technology/facebook-zucktown-willow-village.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news/
    “In Menlo Park, Calif., Facebook is building a real
    community and testing the proposition: Do people love
    tech companies so much they will live inside them?”

    Wow. There’s a documentary on Netflix about this…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8tX9zjO698
    “Nosedive” – Black Mirror

    Reply
  30. Jessica

    About the woman killed by Uber’s robot car, why are they testing in urban areas at all? Why not start on rural interstates? Robot cars would be already in practical use on rural interstates before they would be ready for testing in far more complex urban and suburban environments.
    To put it the other way, if these systems are not ready to be released into normal use on rural interstates, then they are not ready for testing in more complex environments.
    This is a technology that can eventually be so useful, but the quick profits first way that we are going about it will never achieve safety.

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      Dynamite was a technology that could eventually be so useful too. As is artificial intelligence (sic) and the many wonderful things an inventive disruptor can do with CRSP-R. Automotive (“self-moving”) transport of humans for most purposes is vanity and “convenience” and all part of locking in the consumptive dead-end of our species. “See – the – USA in yer Chevrolet, America is asking you to call…” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boertpylK0M …”life is completer in a Chevy!” Check the comments for illumination…

      Anyone unclear on the notion of American Exceptionalism?

      Reply
  31. Octopii

    Re the Architectural Billings Index, good to see. My work is downstream of the architects, so it looks like my employment should continue for a while yet. We do love our multi-dwelling projects here in the big city.

    Reply
  32. WheresOurTeddy

    “The Population Slowdown in the Outer Suburbs of the East and Midwest” [New York Times].

    When everything for the under-30s is getting worse, why would you exacerbate the problem by multiplying the number of people you (can’t) care for? Intelligentsia navel-gazing akin to the “why aren’t they buying houses” and “avocado toast robble robble robble”

    Reply
  33. Matt L

    Wheaton, IL is a dichotomy of 2 worlds.

    It’s old school evangelical with Wheaton College there, home of the Billy Graham center. Mixed with suburban subdivisions only a couple of decades old filled with professionals that fled Chicago for a hour long commute to the city.

    Reply
  34. Edward E

    The truck driver shortage must really be bad. The company I’ve been employed the last ten years appears to think that it owns me. They’ve been sending me these ‘family blog’ emails that I haven’t responded to. Like someone or something is filling out an application, when I haven’t done anything. I might when finished with a few chores here at home. I’ve taken care of my dad’s VA benefits, homebound, aid and attendance (Korean War) and we toured all kinds of options. Almost ready, but this is a little concerning. They are offering $$$ bonuses, maybe I should see if they go up?
    “We are missing some required information on your application.
    This email contains the information that you will need to complete the application process by following the link below to our website.” 1. Click the link: login 2. Click Already have an account? 3. Enter Username 5442126 and Password (if you do not remember your password, click Forgot Password and a new one will be e-mailed to you) 4. Click Login 5. Complete all 9 steps… etc”

    Reply
  35. Oregoncharles

    “I’m not sure about this “techologist as neutral arbiter” concept.”
    Granted, only he (?) didn’t say that; they only said that they were INFORMED, as no one else in the room was. Hence, able to catch counter-factuals.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Sure, but in practice, in the actual human interaction in the meeting, that’s what happens. Also, the issue is’t being informed, it’s being tendentious, or at worst informed and tendentious. After we term-limited the Maine legislature, it turned out that the only institutional memory around was the lobbying firms, and they were informed, alright, and about the technical aspects of the legislation (that they themselves crafted).

      Reply
  36. Ignacio

    https://ep01.epimg.net/internacional/imagenes/2018/03/21/mundo_global/1521661405_657106_1521661854_noticia_normal_recorte1.jpg

    A picture of a cork oak in Portugal that was elected “european tree of the year”
    You migth want it as an antidote. Sorry it is not an original picture of mine. These trees are common in the southwest of the iberian peninsula, are exploited to obtain cork for bottles and resist fire vey well. This one produces enough cork for 100.000 bottles annually.

    Reply
  37. Tracie Hall

    Love the butterfly in the Bee balm! I may have to look into how well that plant does in my region. :-)

    Reply
  38. Ptolemy Philopater

    “Some of the once-fastest-growing counties in the United States are growing no more, and nationwide, the birthrate has dropped to levels not seen since the Great Depression. “It is one of the biggest puzzles of my career as a demographer”

    This is ethnic cleansing U.S. of A. style. Unemployment is genocide! Burdened with debt, unable to form households, families; the youth of this nation are being ethnically cleansed. Yes Class is the new ethnicity. From Greece through Italy through Puerto Rico 50% unemployment rates are destroying populations. You don’t have to go to Israel or the Ukraine to find ethnic cleansing. It is happening here in the good old U.S.of A, coincidentally by the same forces.

    Since World War II the inner cities of America have been ethnically cleansed to make way for the wealthy, the ubermensch, Ayn Rand’s god children. The “deplorables” are dispensable. Genocide by other means, don’t need death camps anymore. Just make it impossible for people to start and maintain families by extracting all the wealth out of communities other than the ethnically and financially privileged.

    Witness Greece and Puerto Rico. Hedge Funds and genocidal banks elect politicians who incur huge debt, use the funds for corruption back to the same overlords and leave the people to foot the bill. When the people can’t pay, the nations Greece, Puerto Rico are privatized the inhabitants forced to flee. Conquest and depopulation by other means.

    The eternal question, cui bono? The current rulers of our country are genocidal sociopaths. Without morality there is nothing but depravity and devastation. The elites and their governing philosophy are morally bankrupt. What we need is a mass incarceration of a different sort.

    Reply
  39. Luke

    Re the brokest countries ala Greece, Italy, and such… I have long wondered why the Germans did not propose a swap of national territory for debt. There would be quite the irony of the German flag once again flying over, say Crete… (ducking).

    A reason for Oklahoma’s state government keeping oil & gas taxes low might be that they don’t want to chase away O & G business via higher taxes the way Alaska has done. Remember that the break-even price per barrel is considerably lower in West Texas than anywhere in OK; to have even the same taxes would result in losing considerable business to W TX, beyond what has already occurred.

    Reply

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