2:00PM Water Cooler 3/22/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“In Nafta Talks, U.S. Tries to Limit Junk Food Warning Labels” [New York Times]. “Urged on by big American food and soft-drink companies, the Trump administration is using the trade talks with Mexico and Canada to try to limit the ability of the pact’s three members — including the United States — to warn consumers about the dangers of junk food, according to confidential documents outlining the American position.” Maybe I should have filed this under Neoliberal Epidemics…

“Trump Orders Tariffs on Chinese Goods Over ‘Economic Aggression'” [Roll Call]. “The administration is eager to use the coming penalties to try to force Chinese officials to cease alleged actions including acquiring all or shares of U.S. firms to obtain data about American technologies they then hand to Chinese firms that then dominate the markets there that depend on those stolen technologies. The penalties will also target China’s alleged habit of crafting licensing terms for specific products to favor domestic firms over American companies…. The action the White House announced Thursday, once implemented, would be Trump’s harshest move yet against the Asian giant after his 2016 presidential campaign featured daily attacks over China’s trade tactics and bold promises to alter Beijing’s behavior. But just how far the action might go will not be decided for months. That’s because the White House officials who briefed reporters Thursday morning described the documents Trump will sign around midday as only starting a bureaucratic process to identify Chinese goods that might be slapped with import penalties. That process will take weeks, then the actual tariffs would have to be crafted.”

“Battle lines are being redrawn in the last hours before what some believe will be a trade war over tough new protectionism in Washington. The Trump administration is in close talks with several allies and trading partners on exempting them from U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum….” [Wall Street Journal]. “Talks over exemptions are underway or starting soon with Argentina, Australia, and the European Union, and waivers also may go to South Korea, Canada and Mexico, depending on broader negotiations. Those separate talks with Mexico and Canada are picking up steam, with signals emerging that the countries may have cleared a road block on critical auto-industry issues. For now, the administration may postpone the steel and aluminum tariffs for some countries, but it’s not putting the trade weapons away completely.” Come on down!



I hate to file this here, but nobody in Clinton’s circle will tell her she shouldn’t run:

2012 Post Mortem

“It’s Time to Break Up Facebook” [Politico]. “According to Carol Davidsen, a member of Obama’s data team, “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.” The social graph is Facebook’s map of relationships between users and brands on its platform. And after the election, she recently acknowledged, Facebook was ‘very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.'” Holy moly.

2016 Post Mortem

UPDATE The Democrat doom loop:


“Exit Stage Left or Right: Midterm Retirements and Open Seats in the House From 1974 to 2018” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “Republicans already have more retirements than any presidential party in a midterm cycle from 1974 to 2018, and they are not far behind Democrats in 1978 in terms of the open seats they hold. Because seats lacking an incumbent are more difficult for the incumbent party to retain, this situation should deeply worry the GOP.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Democratic Emergency” [The American Prospect]. “When the greatest threats to democracy in the United States come from the man exercising the awesome powers of the presidency, our constitutional system has failed in a crucial sense.” Big if true.

UPDATE “Trump, the FBI, and the Final Debasement of American Politics” [The American Conservative]. “[N]obody credits anybody else with even a modicum of good faith or integrity in the blood feud that now roils our country.” Seems legit.

UPDATE “15 Years After the Invasion of Iraq, Here Are the Dems Who Just Voted for Endless War in Yemen” [In These Times]. Among them, Doug Jones, heroic Resistance member.

Stats Watch

Leading Indicators, February 2018: “Weakness in the stock market and building permits are trouble spots but they couldn’t hold down the index of leading economic indicators which rose 0.6 percent in February on top of a revised 0.8 percent jump in January” [Econoday]. “Strength in February was led by the factory workweek with unemployment claims and ISM new orders close behind. Interest rates and consumer expectations were also positives.” But: “Because of the significant backward revisions, I do not trust this index” [EconIntersect].

Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index, March 2018: “Among the regional manufacturing surveys, Kansas City is in the middle of the pack which nevertheless still translates to very strong growth” [Econoday]. “The workweek is up, deliveries are slowing sharply, and input costs are highly elevated which are all indications of rising pressure on the supply chain and potential capacity stress.” But: “Kansas City Fed manufacturing has been one of the more stable districts and their index was unchanged. Note that the key internal “new orders” was in contraction this month” [Econoday]. And: “So far all of the regional Fed surveys have been solid in March” [Calculated Risk].

Purchasing Managers’ Index Composite Flash, March 2018: “Solid growth for manufacturing highlights an otherwise soft PMI flash report for March” [Econoday]. ”

Strength on the manufacturing side includes orders, production and employment but price pressures are perhaps the most telling result. A number of survey respondents cited higher prices for metals and increased charges by suppliers amid strong demand for raw materials. At the same time, selling prices rose at the strongest pace in just over 6-1/2 years.”

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of March 18, 2018: “Volatility in the stock market remains a non-factor for the consumer comfort index which, getting a boost from this year’s tax cut as well as continuing strength in the labor market, rose 6 tenths in the March 18 week to 56.8 which is only 2 tenths shy of a new expansion high” [Econoday]

Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index, January 2018: “Yesterday Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said there was no risk of excess value in the housing market but today’s FHFA data do hint at unusual acceleration” [Econoday]. “Questions of a possible bubble are centered in the western states with the Mountain region in this dataset at a year-on-year 10.0 percent and the Pacific region at 9.4 percent. Yet three other regions are 7 percent and over… Low supply of homes on the market is a key factor giving prices a boost though strength in the labor market and high levels of consumer confidence are also at work.”

Jobless Claims, week of March 17, 2018: “The monthly employment report looks to be strong again based on initial jobless claims which, in the sample week for the monthly report, remain low and favorable” [Econoday].

Shipping: “Tight motor carrier capacity and rate gains continue to remain two of the dominant themes in freight transportation, according to the most recent edition of the Trucking Conditions Index (TCI), which was issued this week by freight transportation consultancy FTR” [Logistics Management[. “FTR said that the January reading represents upward trajectory reflecting maxed out capacity and the accompanying rate increases being realized by carriers, adding that trucking conditions have been unusually strong in the first quarter with carriers approaching the most favorable environment they have experienced in 14 years.”

Shipping: “Cass Freight Index highlights ongoing gains in shipments and expenditures” [Logistics Management]. “February freight shipments, at 1.198, saw an 11.4% annual gain, while coming in 5.9% ahead of January. [The report’s author, Donald] Broughton observed that this confirms that the strength of the U.S. economy continues to accelerate, adding that February’s reading is in line with the peak month of June 2014 at 1.201. What’s more, he said that January and February’s shipment readings highlight that 2018 is off to a strong start, which suggests that 2018 could be in store for a record year.”

Shipping: “FedEx Corp.’s investments in improved ground services paid off for shippers during the peak season—but not necessarily for the parcel carrier itself. Some retailers gambled on deliveries by choosing slower and cheaper options later than ever heading into the holiday crunch…, avoiding the express services that bring FedEx higher yields while still getting their goods on time” [Wall Street Journal]. “In fact, FedEx Ground delivered 54 million packages a day earlier than expected during the last quarter. The results highlight the difficult holiday balancing act parcel carriers face during the seasonal shipping surge, when demand drives up costs and the crush of packages can bury profit-making efficiency strategies. In this case, the holiday rush pushed operating profit at FedEx’s ground unit up 23%, but operating profit at FedEx Express tumbled 24%, pulling down overall earnings.


Amazon turns the screws for the first time, however gently?

Shipping: “Digital evolution of air freight advances with e-Dangerous Goods Declaration” [The Loadstar]. “The air freight industry has moved a step closer to digitalisation and data-sharing with the launch of the e-Dangerous Goods Declaration (eDGD). The eDGD, which is IATA compliant, uses supply chain community platforms to enable collaboration between partners, traceability and reduce errors and delays…. The current ‘proof of concept’ phase involves the three airlines behind the initiative, Lufthansa Cargo, Swiss World Cargo and AF-KLM.”

Supply Chain: “Some companies across Europe are starting to reset their supply chains as the U.K. exit from the European Union approaches. A survey of supply-chain managers shows around one in seven EU companies have already switched suppliers…, and more than 60% expect to do so ahead of Brexit” [Wall Street Journal]. ” The survey by the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply suggests the dread and debate over Brexit is giving way to concrete action, with a growing lineup of companies building new distribution channels. British companies also are acting, with many raising prices and preparing to reduce headcount to fit expectations for leaner demand.”

The Bezzle: “Twitter’s chief information security officer is leaving the company” [The Verge]. “News of Coates’ departure comes on the same day that Michael Zalewski, director of information security engineering at Google, announced his departure from that company after 11 years. (Zalewski was a high-ranking security executive at Google but not its chief security officer; that role belongs to Gerhard Eschelbeck, vice president of security engineering.) not And it comes two days after reports that Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer, plans to leave the company in August.” Rats leaving the sinking ship?

The Bezzle: “UAW vs. Tesla: It’s on” [Automotive News]. “Tesla Inc.’s fraught relationship with the UAW may soon come to a head. As part of its effort to organize the electric automaker’s Fremont, Calif., factory, the union has filed a string of unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. The complaints, grouped with reports of working conditions at the plant and a changing political environment, could soon turn up the heat on Tesla as it deals with production issues…. The most recent unfair labor practice complaint, filed with the NLRB in February, claims Tesla disciplined or terminated employees for participating in union activities in the past six months, according to documents obtained by Automotive News via public records request. In October, the automaker fired 700 workers, which Tesla CEO Elon Musk said was part of routine performance reviews.” I guess the free yoghurt wasn’t enough…

The Bezzle: “This is the moment when we decide that human lives matter more than cars” [Curbed]. “The fact that [Arizona] is so deadly for walkers is not a coincidence. The same factor that is responsible for Arizona’s high number of pedestrian deaths is the very same reason Uber is testing there—the state prioritizes cars over the lives of pedestrians.” There Uber goes again: Regulatory arbitrage (unlike GM, which is testing in Manhattan). More: “Experts have long attributed the state’s high rate of pedestrian deaths to exceptionally wide streets that are engineered to move cars fast and do not provide adequate safety infrastructure for people who are on foot or bike.” More from this important article:

Each day, human drivers on U.S. streets kill at least 16 pedestrians. Among wealthy democratic countries, this makes the U.S. not just an outlier, but an anomaly.

U.S. cities have a 40 percent higher rate of traffic deaths compared to our peer nations. American children are twice as likely as kids in those countries to be killed by cars.

The deaths of nearly 6,000 pedestrians on American streets every year are clearly unacceptable.

But the death of Elaine Herzberg is particularly unacceptable because it has now set a dangerous precedent.

The failure of most local authorities to address the fact that Uber’s vehicle was speeding, or Arizona’s prioritization of cars, or the dangerous design of Tempe’s streets as factors in this crash has now reinforced the belief of many Americans that pedestrians who are killed are “distracted walkers” who deserve to be punished or ticketed or criminalized or slandered.

Yet statistically, the people killed by cars in this country are our most vulnerable residents—the youngest, the oldest, the sickest, the poorest, and overwhelmingly likely to be people of color.

So, it looks like our treatment is pedestrians is as “exceptional” as our treatment of those who need health care. The whole article is well worth a read. If pedestrians die because of poor signage (say), and improving signage is necessary to provide cues for faulty robot car algo (as the Tempe incident suggests), then we need to net out the lives saved by robot cars by subtracting the lives that would be saved by improved signage alone.


The author works on Deep Learning at Google…

Five Horsemen: “All of the Fab Five are puking vigorously as the US declares trade war on China” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Mar 22 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “The mania-panic index slid to 37 (worry) as the put-call ratio rose to 1.16, signifying a surge in fear-driven put option volume” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood]. (The NakedCap mania-panic index is an equally-weighted average of seven technical indicators derived from stock indexes, volatility (VIX), Treasuries, junk bonds, equity options, and internal measures of new highs vs new lows and up volume vs down volume … each converted to a scale of 0 to 100 before averaging, using thirty years of history for five of the seven series.)

Mania panic index Mar 21 2018


“Lone resource officer’s quick action stopped the Maryland school shooter within seconds” [CNN]. A “resource officer” is an armed guard (in this case, a former SWAT team members). So, a “resource” in a school isn’t a book, or a skill, or counseling… but armed response George Orwell, courtesy phone! And maybe I should have filed this under Neoliberal Epidemics…

UPDATE How long has this been going on:

And will it stop.

Health Care

“Medicare Doesn’t Equal Dental Care. That Can Be a Big Problem.” [New York Times]. “Almost one in five adults of Medicare eligibility age (65 years old and older) have untreated cavities. The same proportion have lost all their teeth. Half of Medicare beneficiaries have some periodontal disease, or infection of structures around teeth, including the gums. Bacteria from such infections can circulate elsewhere in the body, contributing to other health problems such as heart disease and strokes. And yet traditional Medicare does not cover routine dental care, like checkups, cleanings, fillings, dentures and tooth extraction.” All their teeth?! That’s grotesque. Maybe I should have filed this under Neoliberal Epidemics…


“Nature-Based Solutions for Water” (PDF) [UNESCO]. “[The 2018 edition of the UN World Water Development Report (WWDR2018)] illustrates that working with nature, rather than against it, would enhance natural capital and support a resource-efficient and competitive circular economy. [Nature-Based Solutions (NBS)] can be cost-effective, and simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits. These interwoven benefits, which are the essence of sustainable development, are central to achieving Agenda 2030.” MarketWatch comments: “There are different kinds of NBS, that range from the personal — a dry toilet — to applications that include conservation agriculture to minimize soil disturbance, maintain soil cover and regularize crop rotation. There are also NBS that could be used in urban areas, including green buildings, green walls, roof gardens and vegetated infiltration or drainage systems, landscape restoration, or even systems that improve the performance of built infrastructure. Adopting NBS does not necessarily mean spending more money, but such efforts will require the redirection of funds and resources toward green infrastructure. The emerging green bond market is one example that also has the benefit of showing that NBS can perform well when measured against more traditional investments, said the report.”


“‘Catastrophe’ as France’s bird population collapses due to pesticides” [Guardian]. “Bird populations across the French countryside have fallen by a third over the last decade and a half, researchers have said. Dozens of species have seen their numbers decline, in some cases by two-thirds, the scientists said in a pair of studies – one national in scope and the other covering a large agricultural region in central France. ‘The situation is catastrophic,’ said Benoit Fontaine, a conservation biologist at France’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author of one of the studies…. The primary culprit, researchers speculate, is the intensive use of pesticides on vast tracts of monoculture crops, especially wheat and corn. The problem is not that birds are being poisoned, but that the insects on which they depend for food have disappeared.”

“A Visiting Star Jostled Our Solar System 70,000 Years Ago” [Gizmodo]. “Around the same time our ancestors left Africa, a dim red dwarf star came to within 0.8 light-years of our Sun, marking the closest known flyby of a star to our Solar System. New research suggests Scholz’s Star, as it’s known, left traces of this interstellar encounter by perturbing some comets in the outer Oort Cloud.” Probably when the aliens who manager our sector set up the quarantine.

Book Nook

More for Civil War buffs. It turns out there’s a podcast called New Book Network that interviews authors:

“Was Presidential Leadership Decisive in Determining the Outcome of the Civil War?” [New Book Network].

“Midnight in America: Darkness, Sleep, and Dreams during the Civil War” [New Books Network].

“Sex and the Civil War: Soldiers, Pornography, and the Making of American Morality” [New Book Network].

Guillotine Watch

“Puerto Ricans and Ultrarich “Puertopians” Are Locked in a Pitched Struggle Over How to Remake the Island” [Naomi Klein, The Intercept]. Great reporting, with a really, really hopeful part. But I’ll pull out the downside: “[T]he libertarian project some are calling “Puertopia” that is being conjured up in the ballrooms of luxury hotels in San Juan and New York City, [grounded] in a desire for a small elite to secede from the reach of government altogether, liberated to accumulate unlimited private profit…. Now rather than simply shopping for mansions in resort communities, the Puertopians are looking to buy a piece of land large enough to start their very own city — complete with airport, yacht port, and passports, all run on virtual currencies.” Thiel had to go all the way to New Zealand; but a commercial flight to Puerto Rico takes 3 hours and 42 minutes from New York. (We mentioned in our last report on Puerto Rico that Klein was rethinking shock doctrine; this seems to be that article.)

Class Warfare

“Are More Strikes Coming? West Virginia Wasn’t the Only State Neglecting Employee Health Care.” [Governing]. “In the last decade, states have increasingly opted to fund their employee health plans rather than turning to an insurance company. Currently, 29 states self-insure all their employee health plans, while another 19 self-insure a portion of them. According to the Self-Insurance Institute of America, states that self-fund insurance commonly keep funds for employee health care on reserve because claims can fluctuate from one year to the next. That way, even when faced with an unexpected rise in costs, employee claims can still be paid. But faced with other budget problems, some states are neglecting to fully fund these reserves — and that could lead to more labor unrest outside West Virginia. The problems caused by an underfunded health plan have been particularly severe in Illinois.”

News of The Wired

“Psychopaths fail to automatically take the perspective of others” [Prcceedings of the National Academy of Science]. “Psychopathic individuals have the ability to take the perspective of others but lack the propensity to do so.” Like cats, then?

“The physicists software engineers have known sin, and this is a knowledge they cannot lose.” —Robert Oppenheimer. Oh? Thread:

“When I next interview for a job, I won’t have an Instagram page to show that my love of science doesn’t make me boring and unfriendly. Publicly documenting the cute outfit I wear and the sweet smile I brandish in the lab isn’t going to help me build a fulfilling career in a field where women hold less senior positions, are paid less, and are continuously underrated. Time spent on Instagram is time away from research, and this affects women in science more than men. That’s unfair. Let’s not celebrate that” [Science].

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. JTMcPhee

    “Democratic Emergency” and who or what is “the greatest threat to our constitutional system: Got news for you, Mr. Lawyer, your “constitutional system” is nothing but an ever more evanescent (if mildly and diminishngly comforting) myth. Thinking and looking back, that was the case when I was getting spoon-fed the civics and history lessons in grade and high school and Boy Scouts and even Walter Cronkite’s CBS News.

    1. Kevin

      The constitution is a piece of paper. If the elected and those who elected them aren’t willing to uphold said piece of paper it’s as good as trash. Hence the civic lesson I was also taught as an Eagle Scout is that it’s up to us to defend that document.

      1. Sid Finster

        The Soviet Constitution purported to guarantee all manner of rights, freedom of speech, association, religion, and so forth.

        And if you believed in those fine-sounding words….

    2. djrichard

      From the article, “The entire government, indeed, the whole direction of the country, now seems to revolve around one man and his whims, hatreds, and ignorance. “

      What’s the point of having oligarchs pulling strings behind the scenes if they can’t protect us from this bad outcome?

    3. Carolinian

      I used to love Eric Sevareid. He just looked like knew what he was talking about.

      We are a long way from the sober sided TV news of yesteryear. And this started long before Trump–at least as far back as O.J.

    4. Altandmain

      Going back to the days of Obama and Clinton is not going to “save” democracy. That’s a sham democracy where the rich really run things – a plutocracy pretending to be a democracy.

      It’s just that Trump has blown off the comfortable mask and the “big lie”.

      It should also be noted that inequality and economic despair brought about the conditions such that people would be willing to consider a demagogue like Trump to begin with.

    5. djrichard

      Isn’t it the separation of powers that’s supposed to protect us from over-reach by any one branch? If congress and supreme court do their job, then in theory we have nothing to worry about from the executive. Right? LoL.

      Edit: “LoL” because obviously they can be gamed.

      In giving this more thought, I guess the thinking was that in previous administrations, all that gaming applied to the executive as well, in that the President himself can be gamed, which is what in previous administrations would have kept him on the reservation, at least the reservation of the gamers. I guess the point of this article is that we have a President who is not as much under the yoke of being gamed, which liberates him more to be off the reservation. The risk is intolerable apparently.

  2. Wukchumni

    We were playing parents for 10 days last year with our 9 & 11 year old nephews, when my sister and her husband took a well deserved vacation, and I became better acquainted with elementary schools that could be repurposed as prisons in a pinch, and one thing I noticed was every kid had a giant daypack on their back, some of which you could use for a 2 or 3 day backpack excursion, being so large.

    1. foghorn longhorn

      The local school district actually has it (backpack) as a requirement along with pencils and notebooks.
      So glad to have grown up during the free-range era.

    2. pcraig

      These back packs should be properly fitted and come with a waist belt it seems to me. As a young father I taught each of my kids to launch themselves as I picked them up. This developed their squatting muscles and spared my back. Bending your knees promotes the proper spine shape and learning at an early age to squat when you pick up stuff can make a difference later in life. Back care -proper technique that is- should be taught as early as possible, like preschool or kindergarten. These too heavy and slung-to-low backpacks are not good.

      1. JCC

        Funny you should say that. A couple of years ago a close friend told me he spent close to $5K (including airfare) to visit DisneyWorld with his wife and two children for two weeks. I asked him why he would not have considered spending half that to take his kids to Manuel Antonio Park on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica and see twice as much real nature instead of cartoon nature?

        He looked at me like I had lost my mind.

        1. JohnnyGL

          Funny you mention that, I’ve run into similar issues in my household. Personally, I’d rather visit the dentist than go to Disney and I HATE princesses (monarchy isn’t something to celebrate) and have actively worked with my 2 daughters to squash Disney and their horribly evil-genius marketing techniques.

          I’m impressed that your friend pulled off $5K. I’d discussed with a couple of co-workers who said it’s really tough to have a good time AND spend less than $10K with the flight hotel, car rental, premium passes to avoid lines for all the rides, food, etc. it was a money pit.

          I went to six-flags a few years ago and it felt like the company was constantly extracting money from you the whole time.

          I’ve been trying to pitch cloud-forest as something cool. I can often get my kids to watch animal and nature videos, like the planet earth series on BBC.

          I’ll get them gardening with me as spring approaches…

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > Funny you mention that, I’ve run into similar issues in my household. Personally, I’d rather visit the dentist than go to Disney and I HATE princesses (monarchy isn’t something to celebrate) and have actively worked with my 2 daughters to squash Disney and their horribly evil-genius marketing techniques.

            Good for you!

        2. Wukchumni

          We were up in Sequoia NP waiting for a shuttle bus when a couple of deer were frolicking in the near distance, and a Korean-American tourist asked my wife “are they real?”

        3. fresno dan

          March 22, 2018 at 3:17 pm

          I have mentioned this before, but when I retired and drove cross country, I went through Yellowstone Park – in the park, a herd of bison ambled down the road – one would have stuck his big wet nose right in my face if I hadn’t quickly rolled up the windows. It was a chance to really see nature UP CLOSE.
          PEOPLE HONKED THEIR HORNS AT the BISON. (and not in a ‘go Bison!’ way, but a get out of the way, I gotta drive through nature as fast as possible way)

          1. Wukchumni

            My favorite touron moment interacting with nature was up in Redwood NP, where the 4 lane Hwy 101 cuts right through it, and we came around a bend, and there was a genius that had parked his car right in the slow lane and was about 10 feet away from a majestic 10 foot tall Roosevelt Elk in the middle of the road, playing paparazzi.

          2. Jen

            One of my most vivid memories of Yellowstone was the brochure that was handed to me at the entrance, with warnings about all of the things in the park that could kill you. I was younger and less cynical then – it was hard for me to believe that anyone needed to be told that trying to wade into a geyser was a really, really bad idea.

            And there were fewer idiots about 20 ish years ago than today.

        4. JohnnySacks

          Ugh, sounds as much fun as a wake. Or as Hunter Thompson says, what we’d all be doing if Germany won the war. Way to bring up another generation of superficial consumers and horrible way to distribute money into a local economy too. We used to rent Narragansett cottages for a week near a child friendly state beach. Good times for children, although my nephews can’t drive anywhere without their ninetendos plugged into an AC inverter on the car and noses in them constantly. Sad.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            I’ve only been to a DisneyWorld once (for a conference, back in the day when I did such things). The furniture in the hotel room was painted in a cute, Disney-fied fashion. It was also shoddily manufactured. The whole place gave me the creeps.

        5. Joel

          When there are so many amazing things to do with kids the idea of taking them to Disney or on a cruise just bogles my mind. Why would anyone do such a thing?

          1. Wukchumni

            It’s a world of retail
            A ship full of shops
            It’s fully laden with geegaws
            And the action never stops
            There’s so much that we can buy
            That it’s a great time to be alive
            It’s a mall world after all

            It’s a mall world after all
            It’s a mall world after all
            It’s a mall world after all
            It’s a mall, mall world

        1. blennylips

          Jeez louise Wukchumni, you left my social security number out of that URL!

          Sorry, pet peeve: just finished a fruitless search for a browser plugin to strip tracking tokens out of a URL before it is loaded…

            1. ocop

              I’m going to have to hold on to “derp state”. That one brought a smile to my face–conveys so much in such a small package.

        2. Kurt Sperry

          Everything after the “?” in URLs not only can but should always be truncated off before sharing them. That’s tracking data. The links will still work just fine.

          1. hunkerdown

            Not always. Sometimes the article identifier comes after the ? and the server won’t know what article to serve without it. But, anything after and including “utm_”, “SESSIONID”, etc. is definitely tracking data and therefore fair game.

      2. Janie

        Nature ain’t Disney indeed. Some years ago in an Oklahoma preserve we noticed a parked car with a New York tag. The man was standing near it, with camera, encouraging his small daughter to get a little closer to the cute buffalo calf. Mother looked on nervously. That is, the buffalo cow; the child’s mother sat placidly in the car. We stopped and my husband warned the man in urgent tones. The man told him to mind his own business. Nothing happend, but jeez Louise. ..

  3. Sid Finster

    Why should anyone take the FBI (or Trump) in good faith? Did not Senator Chuck Schumer not say that “the ‘intelligence community’ have seven ways until Sunday to get at you?”

    Are we really that stupid?

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      Not stupid, but undereducated, thanks to the 70-year media campaign to convince us a government controlled by rich people is our friend.

      I shocked someone yesterday by apprising them of John Brennan’s background after they were all googly-eyed over his attacking Trump. They literally had no idea. Four years ago, neither did I.

      A site like NC can be just as much a self-reflecting mirror as any other, despite the wide range of input. As such, it’s easy to sneer at “deplorables” who aren’t as factually knowledgeable as those here as “stupid.” After all, lack of knowledge on the part of their victims is how cult leaders are able to recruit.

    2. Procopius

      When I was a kid (born near the end of the Great Depression) the FBI was looked upon as heroes (all men).The idea that an FBI agent would be less that honest was unthinkable, although I now know that even then the local law enforcement agencies knew better. By the time I graduated from high school (the McCarthy Years) the running joke was that if all the FBI informers stopped paying their dues the Communist Party would disappear. J. Edgar was recognized as a vicious monster, detached from reality, convinced that there was no such thing as “organized crime.” Since then we’ve had the Church Committee and COINTELPRO. Why anyone would trust any FBI agent is a mystery to me.

  4. Knifecatcher

    Here’s a fun quote from the Governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, from late 2016. As you may recall, Uber moved their self-driving fleet to AZ after CA had the temerity to try and regulate the Uber autonomous roll-out:

    “Arizona welcomes Uber self-driving cars with open arms and wide open roads. While California puts the brakes on innovation and change with more bureaucracy and more regulation, Arizona is paving the way for new technology and new businesses.”


  5. Lee

    The same factor that is responsible for Arizona’s high number of pedestrian deaths is the very same reason Uber is testing there—the state prioritizes cars over the lives of pedestrians.” There Uber goes again: Regulatory arbitrage (unlike GM, which is testing in Manhattan).

    I was in Manhattan for a few weeks and being a Californian I rented a car. In my forties at the time, I experienced a reawakening of my misspent hot rod youth. I had some of the best, sustained adrenaline highs I’ve ever experienced since my younger days outside of skiing and motorcycling. To think of robots coursing sedately up and down those streets in lieu of quick-witted, ill-tempered drivers seems so unlikely and such a waste of potential peak experiences.

  6. Lemmy Caution

    One of the reasons Uber moved its autonomous car testing program from California to Arizona is that the latter does not require it to submit annual “Disengagement Reports,” which basically report on how many times the driver needs to take control of the car back from the computer. This lack of transparency is no acccident; it was part of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s effort to help make the state the “Wild West” for driverless cars.
    However, a leaked disengagement report from Uber about its Arizona operations came out almost exactly one year ago. In a particularly problematic part of Arizona, the report revealed that driver intervention was required more than once every mile. Here’s an excerpt from the article titled Here’s What Uber’s Leaked Disengagement Report Means:

    On Scottsdale Road, a 24-mile road in the Arizona city of the same name, a human took over from the computer once every 0.67 miles.

    Scottsdale Road happens to run one mile east of North Mill Avenue, the site of the collision that killed Elaine Herzberg.

    Now, to be even-handed, the leaked report is one year old. There is, apparently, a learning curve for autonomous cars when they first start to navigate a new area. After a year the disengagement report might show improvements. We won’t know unless there is another leak.

    But there is no doubt that Uber knew that this area was among the most challenging places in the whole state for its autonomous cars and their attendant drivers, and also the most dangerous for other vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists. I guess that’s proprietary information though.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Maybe it’s time to dream big, and go directly to self-flying cars.

      ‘No flying petty humans to worry about.’

      To quote Saint Exupery:

      “I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things. ”

      ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

      1. polecat

        Let’s ditch the flying car concept for good, and go straight to Saucers. I mean, if we’re gonna engage in a Cold War 2.0, might as well do it right and travel in the style accustomed by our alien overlords .. right ?

      2. JerryDenim

        “No petty flying humans to worry about.”

        I wouldn’t bet on it. I once came very close to hitting a hang glider with a jet. There’s also some pretty large birds up there. Increasingly there’s drones being operated illegally in areas where they shouldn’t be.

        Big, wide open roads in Arizona are about as easy as it’s going to get for 1st gen autonomous vehicles.

        I think it’s time our greedy capitalist overlords stop dreaming about throwing a huge percentage of the population out of the workforce while they’re achieving record profits. If they’re going to be greedy, immoral bastards potentially tipping off a social unrest situation one would think they would at least have the decency to wait until their technology is mature. Machines are not ready for driving/piloting in complex dynamic environments. Software is too glitchy, AI is not sufficiently advanced to recognize emerging dangerous scenarios, and sensors are not yet advanced enough to emulate a scanning human eyeball.

        1. Procopius

          I really would like to see the economic analysis that persuades rich people to put huge amounts of money into Uber. I understand how Bernie Madoff did it, but from what I’ve read, Kalanick really isn’t a very charming or pleasant human being. Uber, especially, makes no sense to me, because in their current incarnation the drivers bring their own car, pay for the gas, the insurance, the tires, the repairs, and barely make minimum wage if they’re lucky and work long hours. Driverless cars are currently much more costly than ordinary cars because they need radar and lidar. The dotcom bubble shows that investors can be really, really irrational and even stupid. Is this a rinse, repeat thing?

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > There is, apparently, a learning curve for autonomous cars when they first start to navigate a new area.

      Fortunately, once a “new area” is learned, it becomes an “old area,” which does not change.

      That link is a good find.

      1. Darthbobber

        One of the better deadpan lines I’ve encountered lately. As the meltoff continues from yesterday’s spring dusting of snow, I can be sure of a brand new half-dozen axle-breaking grade potholes for my trip to work this evening.

        No idea where they will be. And that’s one of the more straightforward daily changes.

        1. Jen

          Thankfully the hinterlands of the Granite State aren’t attractive to those peddling autonomous vehicles. The towns have posted their “frost heave” warnings. In bad season, the only option is to drive down the middle of the road. Those heaves won’t just break the axles, they’ll strip the entire undercarriage clean off.

    3. cnchal

      About Uber’s leaked disengagement report, and the article written around it, does anybody there have any common sense or is everything BS these days?

      In California, car companies are required to produce disengagement reports, which show how many times a human driver took over from the computer. Waymo, which operates in California and so has to produce these reports, claimed that the human took over 124 times over 635,868 miles. That’s once every 0.0002 miles, covering the period between December 2015 and November 2016.

      According to the first bolded section, the human driver took over once every 5,128 miles, which is not credible either. How math challenged are people these days, and why are they on the internet writing gibberish?

      There is something interesting about your comment referring to the AI robot “learning” the area as it drives around, and it raises a whole bunch of questions.

      Fundamentally, my understanding of AI and neural networks is limited to some basic concepts, which may or may not be correct, and the first is that the scientist/engineers don’t actually know why and how an AI neural network makes the internal connections it does, they cannot determine or diagram the circuit after it’s made those internal connections and the only thing that can be determined is what it does after a specific input. If this is even remotely close to how this operates, the conclusion I come to is that no two AI neural network “brains” are or need be identical physically as long as the results of each input and resultant output are identical, and there is the rub.

      If a system is designed to “learn” an area it will have different outputs for the same input and no two AI robotic cars will react the same way given the same inputs. I might be seeing ghosts where there are none, but I am not reassured by the tech bro secrecy and the race to get these systems into wide use and this is a fundamental issue with how I understand how this is supposed to work, being the same inputs result in the same outputs, always. Otherwise there will be spooky behavior from AI robot cars.

  7. Mark Gisleson

    Amazon has been turning the screws on small-time sellers for years. They let indie book sellers destroy the brick and mortar used bookstores, then immediately started pressuring indie sellers to warehouse their books with Amazon instead of doing their own fulfillment.

    I’m out of that racket now (used book sales) but at some point they did away with penny books after they’d put the brick and mortar crowd out of business.

    There is no aspect of AMZ’s business model that is not a constant assault on antitrust law.

    1. djrichard

      Vice versa, I noticed Amazon now allows me to bundle returns which span different orders, presumably to save on return shipping (which would help my bottom line). I’m assuming that is something new as well, though it’s been awhile since I tried to do returns which spanned multiple orders.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      That’s very true; I should have pointed out that what has now changed is that Amazon is now putting the screws to customers, which strikes me as new (although surely the ultimate goal).

      Now I can’t order a single packet of safety razor blades, for example; which is one way Amazon replaced local retail.

      1. Katy

        Amazon: “If your cart consists entirely of Add-on items with a total value of less than $25, you will not be presented with a ‘Proceed to check-out’ option but will have the option to ‘Continue shopping’.”

        Amazon literally won’t allow you to buy small-value items, even if you were willing to pay shipping for it.

        I’m delighted to announce that my Amazon Prime membership expires tomorrow. And there’s no way that I’ll renew it.

        On the other hand, you can buy small-value items from Marketplace Sellers. Because Amazon just skims off the top from them–no work and no risk involved.

        1. Skip Intro

          I wonder what that does to all those evil/ridiculous ‘buttons’ you could stick in your laundry room, or whatever, that would order more Tide ™ for you… The horrifying inefficiency of ordering single items to be delivered has finally run out of amazon subsidy I guess.

      2. Geo

        This has been my fear since the early days of Amazon. Much like WalMart used its dominance to oust local and mid sized retailers, Amazon has done it even better. But, with the mass migration to shopping on Amazon it’s what they are doing to consumers that is scariest of all.

        Once they have overwhelming market dominance they will be able to do what they please with what they sell. Slowly raise Prime membership fees, minimum orders costs, etc. Nickel and dime their customers.

        Add to that what this race to the bottom has done to the concept of “value” and it’s downright dystopian. I hear my hairstylist friends complain about customers that always want deals but then buy cheap clothes and furnishings online, while my fashion industry friends complain about lagging sales and cheap clothes on Amazon or “fast fashion” retailers then use Groupon for hair stylists.

        None seem to realize the same motivations that are destroying the monetary value of their own profession are the motivations they succumb to when buying things for themselves.

        I can count the times I’ve purchased from Amazon since it’s inception on one hand but, as a filmmaker, I give them my money for my IMDB and Withoutabox accounts, and my movies generate the vast majority of their audience through Amazon video and my distributor pays through PayPal so even my attempted boycott is merely symbolic. Heck, I’ll bet even my websites and cloud-based client portals are mostly Amazon owner servers.

        They truly have us in thetheir r tentacles no matter how hard we try to avoid them.

      3. Jen

        I don’t completely see this as a bad thing. If you don’t have a lot of local options or the ones you have are prohibitively expensive, I’m sympathetic to ordering from Amazon, but ordering batteries, for gods sake (and to use an example from a friend of ample means) when you can easily buy them in the fantastic local hardware store in town, to me, is a practice that should be discouraged.

        1. Katy

          That’s the entire problem with what Amazon and WalMart have done. They destroyed local options. And the few local options that are left are only “prohibitively expensive” in relation to monopolistic predatory pricing. Amazon has already started exerting its market power though; its prices have increased to above-market rates in some cases.

    3. Oregoncharles

      There are TWO brick-and-mortar used book stores in my town, plus a wonderful local new-bookstore. 50,000 people. But then, this is a bit of an oasis, and has a university. Or, better, the U. has us.

    4. djrichard

      More to Mark’s topic (my apologies that my previous post wasn’t on topic), and the the topic of “It’s Time to Break Up Facebook”, how do we actually break up Facebook and the likes of Amazon, Google, etc? Is there a way that some kind of divestiture can be crafted to split various functions apart and then a brokerage inserted so that other players can be at the table and compete in the same space in doing business with the pieces that have been split apart? That would seem to be pretty ambitious coming out of the gate.

      Or let’s say we’re going to be less ambitious and simply regulate Amazon so there’s a level playing field between them and bricks-and-mortars, so for instance that Amazon can’t use it’s profits from the cloud-side of the biz to offset it’s losses on the retail-side of the biz. I think we should at least be doing that, but to be honest, I think the bricks-and-mortars are doomed regardless. These big portals have really changed the nature of how network-synergies work. They’re effectively natural monopolies.

      In which case, I’m wondering if it makes more sense to regulate these big portals the same way we do public utilities. At least make them good corporate citizens, e.g. put a lid on what they can do with private data.

      But perhaps more importantly, put a lid on their ability to exploit their natural monopolies to enter into new market spaces. To the point that these natural monopolies are allowed to atrophy. So that if new entrants come up with a way to better exploit some other biz and can fulfill what these natural monopolies are doing, then let the new entrants win (and then regulate them as monopolies as well). This would go a long way to making these businesses resemble the utilities that they really are, with stock prices that should reflect that.

      In a way, this happened with Microsoft. A lid was put on their ability to lock the user into their choice of browser on the desktop. And in a way, Microsoft has atrophied, at least when it comes to the internet space. Though it’s stock price hasn’t suffered too much. What would have been truly interesting is if Microsoft was busted apart so that their office apps were divested from the OS. But that would have perhaps atrophied Microsoft too much?

      Anyways, just thinking out loud. Trying to figure out what we mean we talk about applying anti-trust to these dot coms.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Facebook is a natural monopoly; people want to be on it because everybody else is on it (with the exceptions duly noted here). You could require it to split into, say, 4 different sites, but one would prevail over time unless they can find niche markets.

        Google has competitors, some of which are markedly better. Its near-monopoly is mostly just habit, and will probably decrease over time.

        And Amazon is just a mail-order company, albeit a very large one. It’s only a monopoly because of successful monopolistic practices. It should be split into many little pieces, by type of merchandise and then within each type – 4 bookstores, etc.

        I’ll repeat my proposal for an effective antitrust system: a sharply graduated business income tax, levied on profits but at a rate determined by the company’s total business (including foreign). Ideally, it would be a “hockey stick” curve: starts pretty nominal, increases slowly to a point where it goes hyperbolic. Beyond that, it should be prohibitive and force companies (not just corporations) to subdivide. Mergers and acquisitions should not be allowed at all short of bankruptcy. Antitrust that depends on bureaucratic and political judgment will never be effective for long, as we’ve discovered.

        businesses respond very well to financial incentives.

        1. djrichard

          Oregon, has this topic already been broached on NC? Or if not that, where your thinking was originally posted? The reason I’m kind of interested in this is that I think the conversation could include what to do about other types of natural monopolies:
          – the last-mile ISPs
          – the health-care insurance industry

          For instance, I’m in favor of nationalizing those natural monopolies. There really is no more evolution that is happening in those spaces. So if they atrophy (if you will) as part of gov, there’s no real loss. As opposed to the dot coms and microsoft of the world where evolution is still happening. Anyways, gives us a way to think about this.

          Cheers and thanks!

          1. Oregoncharles

            Utilities are the usual example There are at least 3 models: privately owned but tightly regulated; owned by a municipality; or customer-owned. They aren’t hugely different in practice, though I prefer the last. I think nationalization is the only practical approach to medical insurance.

            The antitrust issue as come up repeatedly; I’ve proposed my tax-regulation idea before, but not gotten a lot of response. Thanks for replying.

    5. Elizabeth Burton

      after they’d put the brick and mortar crowd out of business.

      I empathize with your loss of your business, but independent bookstores have, in fact, been steadily increasing in number and viability for the last nine years. I suspect it was their tenacity that has led Amazon to begin building their own bricks-and-mortar stores. Well, that and the fact those stores refuse to carry Amazon-published books.

      As for the “small-cost item” thing, they’ve been gnawing at that for at least the last two years by listing certain low-cost items as “add-ons” requiring a minimum $25 order. It may have been a test-run that they will now expand to all items costing less than X.

  8. Jeff N

    IL resident here. Daniel Biss sucks, he was one of those “tough choices” guys when he first got elected to state office, and co-wrote bills to gut pensions. Now he says he was wrong to do that…
    Lousy billionaire/private-equity Pritzger got all the unions behind him (just as the unions all got behind Rahm instead of the more progressive Chuy Garcia during the mayoral recall election)
    I voted for the 4th place guy, an actual union member (who got maybe a thousand votes statewide).

    1. Toni Gilpin

      Thanks for saying this. I commented in yesterday’s Water Cooler about Biss’ phony progressivism and what a mistake it was for Our Revolution to back him (I know union members who would sooner cut off their own hands than ever, ever vote for Biss for any office ever again.) Not to mention that Biss had been an early Clinton supporter in 2016, and has never been a vocal proponent of those things (like Medicare for all, $15 minimum wage, free college, etc.) that he suddenly claimed to be for while running for governor. Biss clearly thought that adopting the Sanders’ mantle (late in the day) was his route to higher office, but too many voters saw that for the scheme it was. Which just points out the difficulty of judging from afar who is really a “progressive.” Ya gotta know the territory.

    2. katenka

      I disliked Biss too — I am willing to give people the benefit of the doubt that they can learn and improve their views and behaviors over time (I certainly try to do that myself), but that wretched debacle with Carlos Rosa pushed it over the line for me. I think Biss showed himself to be a coward, and so I wouldn’t and won’t and didn’t vote for him. I voted for Bob Daiber, and I’m happy with my vote (though not with the election!).

  9. SerenityNow

    Great Curbed article on pedestrians, roads, and how we build our landscape. Most of the U.S. is designed for cars and not people, especially the areas out west or built after the 1950s. Sadly, the problem is very deeply entrenched at nearly every level of government and policy making–the federal government provides miles of freeways and other benefits/subsidies, state departments of transportation run programs that favor high-speed traffic first, and local governments build parking requirements (which induce demand to drive), car-friendly roads, and low-density development (which is impossible to access or use without a car) into zoning and subdivision codes. The rules were written by traffic engineers intent on making driving as convenient and comfortable as possible–they did a great job. Not such a great situation for anyone who believes people are humans before they are drivers, however.

    1. Arizona Slim

      This morning, I rode to work with a neighbor who had been struck by a car back in 2012. Not only did she recover, she got back on her bike and has become quite the feisty advocate for the rights of cyclists.

      For example, there’s one of those green bike boxes near where we live. Cars are supposed to stay out of this area and cede the right-of-way to cyclists. The goal is to give us a little head start at intersections.

      Well, waddya know. There’s a car with two fancy-dancy racing bikes on its roof rack. And said car is stopped well inside the bike box. Neighbor B and I rode up to the very front edge of the bike box so we could block that car.

      And the driver got the message. Not that he backed up or anything, but he didn’t try to go around us.

      1. SerenityNow

        I’m glad to hear your neighbor is back on the road–for a lot of people the fear of cars is what keeps them from riding in the first place, and getting hit would undoubtedly make that worse. It is sad that we think of roads as spaces only for cars, but ultimately they are rights-of-way—land that should be available for everyone to move using a variety of modes of transportation. But I think in many places we have a long way to go in getting people to understand the importance of that subtlety!

      2. WobblyTelomeres

        I have been hit by cars three times in my motorcycling life and resumed riding as soon as possible. However, returning from a trip to the Three Sisters in Texas, I was at a stop light in Waco. Of the 9 cars that went through the intersection, turning left before me, 8 were on their cell phones. Personally, I think humans are the greater threat.

        1. Carolinian

          In my vicinity someone was killed the other night on a “motorized bicycle.” Hit and run. Pedestrians and cyclists do bear some fault if they are taking unreasonable risks. Indeed even between two cars it frequently takes two to create an accident.

          And re Phoenix–a friend remembers when horses were quite common on city streets. Now the traffic is more like Atlanta if not worse.

          Finally perhaps one reason US pedestrian deaths are higher is that pedestrians are far less common than in Europe. Cars are not expecting them.

        2. Wukchumni

          I got hit by a car when I was riding a bike in my early 20’s, and the bicycle was tweaked nine ways to sunday, but I ended up on the hood, unhurt.

          It’s much safer to walk in the mountains, not many multi ton conveyances coming your way @ 40 mph.

          That said, when we had a bear invasion here in the fall of 2015, at least 10 bears were hit and killed by cars over the course of a month or so, they just had no experience in that regard.

        3. Summer

          “Personally, I think humans are the greater threat.”

          Hal…Hal…open the pod doors, Hal.

      3. Mo's Bike Shop

        I’m in the pre-50s area of a city in the south, which makes cycling very nice. I’m always on the minors streets of the grid, so I only have to compete with cars at the intersection of arteries. I feel for you people who have to interact with four lane traffic your whole trip.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      One time, from my car, I asked a lady taking her postprandial walk around the neighborhood why she didn’t stay on the concrete sidewalk, but was instead, walking on the side of the paved street.

      She said it was due to the cut in the sidewalk for the driveway in front of each house that made walking not comfortable or even dangerous (to the ankles, I supposed).

      Of course, when there was a parked car, she would have to go around it, usually staying on the street, and not by getting back to the sidewalk.

      And I have seen many people take their walks here that way.

      Not me.

      I’d always stay on the sidewalk, except when I am cross a street.

      1. Wukchumni

        One thing i’ve noticed about us, is most of my countrymen and women have great difficulty walking on uneven surfaces, as they almost never come across it in their lives.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Not in my house.

          I have many opportunities, every day, to practice walking around obstacles and uneven surfaces.

        2. SerenityNow

          I imagine they have equal difficulty driving over uneven surfaces as well!

          Drivers get one standard of infrastructure, while pedestrians get another. That there is a difference is any issue of values.

        3. The Rev Kev

          I would call that a pretty profound insight into modern lifestyles Wukchumni. Good thought that.

      2. SerenityNow

        The idea of the street as the exclusive domain for motor vehicles is a fairly recent one.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Be that as it may, I would not argue my case with my own life.

          I’m just not that convinced.

    3. Adam Eran

      OK, now for some cheerful news: The State of California now mandates new development come with “Complete Streets”–i.e. streets that accommodate something other than autos. You know, like pedestrians. This is a pretty big deal. One organization to thank: the Planning and Conservation League.

  10. drumlin woodchuckles

    So . . . Amazon is going to start limiting small order shipments to contain shipping costs, eh? Does this reveal a weakness that Amazon has? Does this show Amazon to fear that it is beginning to leak a little bit of money?

    Is anyone else thinking what I am thinking? Is there a more creative way to destroy Amazon than by brute-force Boycotts? Can Amazon be killed with the Death of Ten Thousand Mosquito Bites? Can millions of Amazon haters order millions of lowest-value trinkets individually, over and over and over again, to force Amazon to keep paying to keep shipping them out? Could this be done in such a way as to make Amazon bleed money on shipping?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Can millions of Amazon haters order millions of lowest-value trinkets individually, over and over and over again

      I would think a simultaneous order would be more effective? A million tiny items all at once? Hopefully something Amazon itself sells, maybe even a loss leader.

  11. a different chris

    >Amazon turns the screws for the first time, however gently?

    I’m sure that was always part of the plan, but with Walmart and Target still out there for “drive bys” this is pretty risky. The whole model of general retail is “go in for toothpaste, come out with a couch” and if I know I* can’t just click and buy toothpaste I’m* going to stop at Rite-Aid on my way home.

    *I don’t buy anything from Amazon, just using the generic “I”…

    *Again, not me :)

  12. Jason Boxman

    I stopped shopping at Amazon years ago when, having taken full advantage of the sales tax loophole to get huge, flipped and decided to embrace charging sales tax, having become the dominate company of seemingly all things. These days I swing by Target on the subway ride home and pickup whatever individual personal items I may need; that ultra convenient world of stuff shipped right to your door seems to only apply to those that spend $100 a shot.

  13. Wukchumni

    I’ve been to New Zealand and Puerto Rico and both are islands, and that’s where the similarity ends. I’m with Thiel on this one, no comparison.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Both are mountainous islands, and PR has the advantage of being tropical. So what’s the difference? Why is the “Rich Port” poor?

      Come to think, why aren’t they growing coffee on a large scale? Might be able to do cacao, too. To say nothing of oranges – Florida is being wiped out by citrus greening. Being an island has its advantages.

      1. Wukchumni

        I was in Puerto Rico for a week once, and it seemed 6 days too long. A hot sticky place that seemed to reek of not being cared for enough, and this was a few decades ago.

      2. JBird

        One is a wealthy independent country with a competent functional government and military that can tell anyone to get bent.

        The other has been a colonial possession for about 500 years including 120 years under the United States. American financial interests, including banking and investment companies, have used their connections both in Congress and the Federal Judiciary to use the military, private armed “police,” Federal legislation, illegal arrests, murder, assaults, to actually steal profitable farms, businesses, banks and the island’s government.

        Currently, the government of Puerto Rico’s finances are controlled by a commission set up by Congress and run by corporate interests. Unlike any American State, which are much like independent states, it cannot declare bankruptcy or tell financial vultures to get bent.

        Restated, there’s no interest by powerful financial businesses and political institutions for Puerto Rico, or its people, be financially successful. The same businesses and their political connections do want to steal as much immediate wealth as they can. Profitable farming and businesses take too long and get in the way.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Yeah, that’s what I thought.

          But it isn’t because of the resource base; New Zealand mostly grows sheep.

  14. dcblogger

    Hillary Clinton is very popular, not in this community, but in the country. She got 65 million votes, that is a lot of votes. Her endorsement is valuable, and plenty will want it. She is NOT running again. You need big bucks to run for President and she will not be able to raise that amount another time. 2020 will consist of Bernie Sanders and 30 other candidates.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Also, many fashion magazines ordered their readers to vote for her (not sure I believe that, but I read it here).

        1. JBird

          Whaaaa? Who would use fashion magazines for political advice? I wouldn’t use the American Conservative for fashion advice.

          1. marym

            Women’s magazines have always covered political issues. Teen Vogue is particularly engaged these days.


            That blend of the serious and non-serious, the personal and the political, has always been what women’s magazines have done. (For example, Mademoiselle, which ceased publication in 2001, printed the first excerpt of a little book called “The Feminine Mistique,” written by one of its employees, Betty Friedan.) Women’s magazines published stories about women’s suffrage, the sexual revolution and the pill in more detail and in ways that most publications did not, [Amy Aronson, a Fordham University media historian] told me.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              They cover politics and they can give political advice.

              But this is perhaps an exaggeration (from yesterday’s links section):

              Kamala Harris Is Dreaming Big Vogue (J-LS). Note that all the fashion magazines, in the words of a fashionista who reads them all. “ordered” readers to vote for Hillary. The “dreaming big” suggests Vogue is leaving its 2020 options open.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            It was hard for me to believe at first, but when I thought it over, I reminded myself that fashion was more or less faith based.

            You have to have faith that tattooing your body is good for your beauty (mental or physical beauty…mental beauty is, I think, related to one’s soul).

        2. WheresOurTeddy

          evidently the orders of the fashion magazines paled in comparison to the commands of the husbands, fathers, and brothers of the white women who ruined her (at least in HRC’s mind)

    1. Pat

      Yes, it is a lot of votes. But it was only 48.5% of the votes cast. And that in an election where 42% of eligible voters chose not to vote. So not only did over 50% of the voters who voted vote for someone other than Clinton, some of whom voted for Obama, but a whole bunch of people who voted for him stayed home along with almost half. In fact if you count not voting as a no vote for Clinton along with the votes for someone else, over 70% of America rejected her. And her popularity has actually dropped since November of 2016.

      Personally I’m of the opinion that anyone who has given Clinton money since 2002 was the prime market for pet rocks and largely got more from the rock. Certainly since 2016 she shouldn’t be able to raise enough money for a big mac, but people are still buying her book and spending big bucks to purchase time in her presence and her autograph despite her obviously lack of understanding of the state of America, how to manage anything, or even the Constitutional method of vote counting. But she spent a butt load of money losing, so I can hope you are right and she won’t be able to fleece the American oligarchy for another billion to run and won’t do it without that.

    2. Darthbobber

      She also has a tendency to only endorse candidates who would already be heavily favored without that.

      I think you’re right about her running again. She and the remaining loyalists are maneuvering to maximize influence going forward.

      I think it’s clear that even those in the party who want to drive on with Clinton/Blair/Macronism want a different beard than her for practical reasons, so the next Hillary almost certainly won’t be Hillary.

    3. todde

      She got 65 million votes running against Trump.

      At some point in time people are going to have to realize a lot of people voted against Trump, not for Hillary.

      1. WheresOurTeddy

        only the most forward, economically dynamic, and — strangely — most unequal states in America!

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      The Clinton Dynasty has a core of support, no question. I doubt very much it’s growing, and I would bet it’s shrinking (which is why the intensity of Clinton support is so great among those who still support it). I think people are ready to, as we say, “move on.”

      It may be that the billionaires see the Clinton campaign as having squandered their money — and with good reason! — and so she can’t run again in 2020.

      You could be right on “Bernie and 30 other candidates.” Politico ran a profile on NOLA mayor Moon Landrieu today; an “outsider” supported by James Carville and Donna Brazile. Alrighty then.

      1. swangeese

        Just a quick correction: It’s Mitch Landrieu. Moon Landrieu, a former NOLA mayor, is his father.

        Mitch’s sister is former senator Mary Landrieu.

    1. Lee

      From the Chomsky interview posted above:

      In order for him [Sanders] to do anything, he would have to have a substantial, functioning party apparatus, which would have to grow from the grass roots. It would have to be locally organized, it would have to operate at local levels, state levels, Congress, the bureaucracy—you have to build the whole system from the bottom.


      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Building a whole system, I take it, is different from reforming an existing whole system, in the same way, when someone says “I am remodeling my house,’ we understand it to mean a new house is not being built here, or otherwise, something like ‘I am tearing down my old and putting up a brand new one’ would have been said.

        1. Summer

          Remodeling can also be new, thicker curtains so that people can’t see inside and a new security surveillance system.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          I don’t think building a house is quite the right image.

          1) You have an existing house (House D) and you are building a house (call it House L) next to it.

          2) You are House L, and all goes well with your building project until you discover that House D is sneaking in at night to steal your building materials, snuck in some ringers to sabotage your construction, and is poisoning relations with your contractors, and your neighbors. House D is also trying to get the Land Use board to revoke your building permit.

          3) Clearly, building your own house alone is not enough for House L. And building it faster isn’t an answer, because all that means is that House D redoubles its efforts.

          4) That is, working from the “outside” is not enough. At some point, House D needs to be confronted directly as a requirement for building your own house. Outside methods (say, on the Land Use board) can be useful. But “inside” would be the best, ideally a ringer of your own in the form of a “tenant from hell”?

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          How few though?

          Five, five hundred or five million (out of say, 200 million)?

        2. integer

          That’s quite the assertion. Do you consider yourself to be a part of the overwhelming majority that knows more than Chomsky about electoral politics? Personally, I would say that those who continue to get swept up in the hype surrounding each and every insignificant victory for “progressive” D party candidates are missing the forest for the trees; the forest being the Iron law of Institutions, from which the D party is no exception.

    2. Big River Bandido

      In a city of 3 million people, with dozens of political offices up for grabs, calling *4* victories “a string” is typical Democrat hyperbole.

      Not that I’m not pleased by those victories. I’m just not impressed by the empty, clumsy, blowhard nature of the spin. Similarly not fooled by the conflation of the Democrat sheepdog act “Working Families Party” with “progressive”.

  15. dcblogger

    Trump campaign taps census question as a fund-raising tool
    As part of a fundraising effort, the Trump-Pence reelection campaign is pushing for the addition of question on the 2020 Census that would ask respondents whether or not they are U.S. citizens.

    “The President wants the 2020 United States Census to ask people whether or not they are citizens,” states the new fundraising email. “In another era, this would be COMMON SENSE.” Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell called attention to the email in a March 19 tweet.

    Adding the new question at this late date, some census experts say, could drive up costs and degrade the accuracy of the final count.

    Phil Sparks, co-director of the watchdog group the Census Projet

    1. The Rev Kev

      When I was traveling around Europe in the 80s, I met a lot of American college kids in hostels. It was kinda weird listening to them talk to each other in how one would say that they were Polish and another would say that they were Hungarian. Of course I realized that they were talking about their ancestral family but I never heard other people talk like that. Imagine if on the US 2020 Census that people did the same on the question asking if they were ‘merican or not. It would be sheer, lovely chaos!

  16. Oregoncharles

    “Maybe I should have filed this under Neoliberal Epidemics…”
    “Trade” IS a neoliberal epidemic.

    1. a different chris

      Haha yeah I feel that.

      But actually alcohol is a good analogy. A bit of it is fun, may even be healthy! But treat it carefully.

  17. Summer

    Re: Clinton and IL gov race:

    The Democratic Party: you can’t “reform” it or the duopoly. You have to defeat it.

    Pritzkers and Obama. Pritzkers and Clintons.





  18. Oregoncharles

    ““When the greatest threats to democracy in the United States come from the man exercising the awesome powers of the presidency, our constitutional system has failed in a crucial sense.” ”
    You mean like suspending habeas corpus?

    1. Pat

      Huh?!?! Trump did that, too!!!???!!! /s

      I’m amazed how many ‘firsts’ have been attributed to Trump by those who think everything began in January of 2017….

    2. Big River Bandido

      The writers probably filed that story 16 years ago. Just took until now for TAP to publish it.

  19. Summer

    ((Yonatan Zunger))) @yonatanzunger

    I didn’t come up in computer science; I used to be a physicist. That transition gives me a rather specific perspective on this situation: that computer science is a field which hasn’t yet encountered consequences.

    I’d say it hasn’t yet encountered accountability.
    So it’s been a “consequences be damned” attitude.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Take a look down thread at one of the links he posts. This one talks about the consequences for physics in a capella format. Brilliant – Eminemium

      Which led me to this one which absolutely made my previously rather crappy day. If you want to restore your faith in humanity a little bit today, do yourself a favor and watch this – Bohemian Gravity

  20. kareninca

    I read the “humanity needs to cut meat and dairy consumption” article too late yesterday to comment. It includes the statement: “Going vegan will help reduce animal suffering, protect your health and halve your carbon footprint. So what are you waiting for?”

    I was an ethical vegan for 19 years. It was all whole grains and beans and veggies and fruit; not junk food. Now my blood sugar is so bad that I not only can’t be vegan, it is not even clear that I can be vegetarian, unless I want to take loads of drugs and ultimately insulin.

    I implore anyone who decides to be vegan, to purchase a blood sugar monitor and strips; you can get enough for $20 over the counter. Periodically check how your blood sugar reacts an hour after eating, and two hours after eating (how to do this and what counts as good readings are easily found online). If you start to get bad readings, STOP. Some people can grow more and more beta cells; some people cannot at all; their beta cells simply die. Eventually they may all die, and the person must take insulin.

    Be very careful when you read pro-vegan health studies. There is a lot of ideologically based reporting out there. Some people can safely be vegan and some can’t – make sure you are one who can. I am as pro-animal welfare as almost anyone I know, so I’m hardly happy to write this.

    I am eagerly hoping for meat and dairy from a vat, and I hope it will solve this problem.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      Bless you. I said words of a similar warning nature when someone mentioned she felt she was making progress turning her spouse into a vegan.

      I’ve gone vegetarian for short periods, but it became clear to me by how I felt that beans and other vegetable protein sources, even if consumed in conjunction with replacement vitamins, were not what my body needed. I get really tired of having people tell me I’m a barbarian because I have to consume meat, not to mention a major cause of climate change. Obviously, my cheeseburger is doing more damage than Exxon’s refineries.

      1. polecat

        Yes .. John Michael Greer’s recent references to America’s infatuation with the “Macronurotic Diet”, and the all virtue signaling that accompanies such rigid “dietary truths”, is what comes to mind.

  21. allan

    Good news for CEA chair Kevin Hassett: the Dow crosses a key threshold and is now 2/3 of the way to 36,000
    … oh, wait.

  22. Wukchumni

    We tend to notice when larger or louder animals aren’t around, such as black bears & Douglas squirrels here-which largely disappeared a few years ago, but i’m hearing and seeing much less in terms of birds, compared to the past.

    It isn’t only in France…

    1. JBird

      Like with Big Lead, Big Tobacco and Big Oil, I think pesticide and modified seed makers are actively burying, obfuscating, and just lying about the effects of their products. Pesticides are often useful, and even needed, but companies like Monsanto want people to recklessly spray dangerous chemicals everywhere. I hope we can stop them before something catastrophic happens.

    2. Ed Miller

      Insects! I know I am not the only one who remembers all the bugs we used to get on windshields driving on the highways in the 60s and earlier. This point has been made at NC before. I moved around lots after college so the changes since then weren’t always obvious but I haven’t had to clean my windshield of splattered bugs when I fill up for the next ~300 mile run since maybe the 80s.

      Locally (my yard), the bee population isn’t what it once was.

    3. Oregoncharles

      You’re welcome to our Douglas squirrels. They’re cute little pains in the tush.

      1. Wukchumni

        Usually the loudest sounds in the forest for the trees emanating from a rather diminutive creature, ha!

  23. Synoia

    I hate to file this here, but nobody in Clinton’s circle will tell her she shouldn’t run:

    Hillary Clint has announced that she’s applied for membership in one of the largest organizations on Earty – the UnDead.

    Her announcement before she passes is unusual. The Leader of the undead, who calls himself Vald, states her membership is currently provisional, but that she has all the attributes and skills to be a formidable member of the undead.

    By being member of the undead, Clinton can run for the presidency until her copus crumbles to dust. Which with modern expoxy glues could be an eternity.

    1. Darthbobber

      Doesn’t matter. When her circle starts working the big cash cows in the early stages, the results of THAT will tell her she shouldn’t run. In language she understands.

  24. David

    I’m skeptical of the NY Times story about food warning labels. First of all, the Times states “according to a draft of the proposal reviewed by The New York Times.” A draft of a proposal.

    Second, and more importantly, Mr Lighthizer testified before a House Ways and Means hearing the other day. He said the following about ISDS (transcript from International Economic Law and Policy Blog) [emphasis added]

    Number one, on the U.S. side there are questions of sovereignty. Why should a foreign national be able to come in and not only have the rights of Americans in the American court system but have more rights than Americans have in the American court system?…
    Our view was that rather than have this mandatory ISDS provision, which we think is a problem in terms of our sovereignty in the United States, encourages outsourcing and losing jobs in the United States, and by the way lowering standards in a variety of places, that we should be very careful before we put something like that into place.

    Why would he say this if his team is looking to undermine other countries food standards?
    Of course, Congress was very supportive of Mr. Lighthizer’s position (/sarc)

    Rep. Lynn Jenkins – …In addition, when the House and Senate passed Trade Authority, it established ISDS as a negotiating objective. So, not including ISDS in NAFTA would be a direct rebuke to Congress’ explicit direction and could undermine critical support for renegotiated NAFTA, lacking such protections. I urge you to reconsider your position on ISDS, continuing to include ISDS in NAFTA make those good policy – both good policy and political sense.

    Could this NYT article be a way to force Lighthizer’s position on ISDS?

  25. Summer

    The Bezzle: “Twitter’s chief information security officer is leaving the company” [The Verge]. “News of Coates’ departure comes on the same day that Michael Zalewski, director of information security engineering at Google, announced his departure from that company after 11 years. (Zalewski was a high-ranking security executive at Google but not its chief security officer; that role belongs to Gerhard Eschelbeck, vice president of security engineering.) not And it comes two days after reports that Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer, plans to leave the company in August.” Rats leaving the sinking ship?

    Michael Coates @_mwc
    Twitter has been an amazing ride, but as I mentioned internally a few weeks back, my time is coming to an end. I’m confident to leave the program with an amazing security team. What’s next? I’m off to co-found a security startup – hope to share more about what we’re doing soon!

    How many of the others are leaving to now tell people how to secure the information and data they helped to make unsecure?
    The bezzle indeed.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      If you said last December that stock valuations were too high, and we’re back to where they were 3 months ago, wouldn’t that be less insane?

    2. Jim Haygood

      Here’s a good way to smash it harder:

      President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster will resign and be replaced by John Bolton.Trump later confirmed the news in a tweet, saying Bolton will take over on April 9.

      Bolton is known for his hard-line views on Iran and North Korea, and previously served as United States ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush.


      Between trade wars and shooting wars, flake-o-nomics has reached full flower. Now it’s time for asset values to adjust — DOWN.

          1. Jen

            Gonna be hard to sell the plebes who can afford it on investing for their future retirement if they don’t think there’s going to be a future.

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            I don’t want to go all Pollyanna, but people went nuts about the steel tariffs too. Now everybody’s signing up for waivers (i.e., “deals”).

            Bolton’s a loon, but I don’t there’s necessarily a linear relationship between Bolton and war (war being driven, or failing to be driven, by larger institutional factors, not Trump’s personality and personnel choices).

            Adding… Granted, I’m counter-suggestible, and all the screaming and propaganda has made me very countersuggestible.

            1. polecat

              Look on the bright side (bad pun, I know) .. the appointment of one Mr. Bolton might just hasten the disintegration of empire … because President Twitter and little nikki can’t possibly have enough help in unpolishing Pax Americana’s image !

      1. djrichard

        Yawn. If I remember right, the stock market went up during the Iraq war. Wake me up when the yield curve is inverted.

        1. djrichard

          Anyways, good thing the swamp got rid of Flynn, right? It would have been so much worse if Flynn was in there paving a way to rapprochement with Russia.

    3. Kokuanani

      Re the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of March 18, 2018, reporting that

      “Volatility in the stock market remains a non-factor for the consumer comfort index . . .

      I’d like to see what that index looks like next week. I find it hard to believe volatility will continue to be a “non-factor.”

  26. Anon

    RE: Medicare & Dental care

    It is, of course, widely known by doctors and dentists alike, that dental problems lead to broader health issues. So why don’t Americans at least fund Dental Care for All in lieu of Medicare for All. Dentists are less costly to train, their offices are less expensive to operate, and everybody needs regular check-ups. The benefit is broadly used/needed by everyone and it would be a giant step toward a healthier population.

    What’s not to like?

  27. Tinky

    John Bolton – just named National Security Advisor.

    This is very big, and very bad news for the U.S. and the world.

  28. allan

    Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

    I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor. I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. There will be an official contact handover on 4/9.

    We will all become human shadows on the walls of Plato’s cave Retreat.

    1. Wukchumni

      I dunno, how about ‘Ear of Donysius’ instead?

      “The name of the cave was coined in 1608 by the painter Caravaggio after mathematician, antiquarian and archaeologist, Vincenzo Mirabella took Caravaggio to visit the grotto. It refers to the tyrant Dionysius I of Syracuse. According to legend (possibly one created by Caravaggio), Dionysius used the cave as a prison for political dissidents, and by means of the perfect acoustics eavesdropped on the plans and secrets of his captives. Another more gruesome legend claims that Dionysius carved the cave in its shape so that it would amplify the screams of prisoners being tortured in it.”


    2. Edward E

      I’m kind of surprised, didn’t think he’d do it. He must want war now. Well, guess he’s not so opposed to the Iraq War after all, just hired the neo who swore there were WMD’s and still thinks 4485+ dead Americans were worth it.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        I’d be surprised if Trump had ever even heard of Bolton until recently.

        I’d also be surprised if Bolton still has the job in a year. I’ll take the under.

        Granted he could manage to start some trouble in a short time.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > I’d also be surprised if Bolton still has the job in a year. I’ll take the under.

          I don’t think Bolton plays well with others. I’m with you.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        I’m not sure it’s useful to think of Trump’s appointments as signaling on policy (war) vs. signaling on worldview (realpolitik). Bolton rejects “the rules-based international order” beloved of the political and national security classes in favor of national sovereignty. So does Trump. The political and national security classes, it seems to me, have been seeking a war, any war, since at least the second Obama administration. (I mean, we had the State Department’s professionals petitioning for Clinton’s no-fly zone in Syria, which according to at least one general meant confrontation with Russia.) It seems the preferred opponent, whether Russia, North Korea, or Iran, is up for grabs. Two of them, Iran and North Korea, are Bush’s axis of evil, and the liberal Democrats added Russia. It seems madness to go to war with a nuclear power, whether directly or by proxy, which would seem to rule out Russia, and also North Korea. That would make Iran the most reasonable choice (and the Israelis and the Saudis would pay the political class heavily for the service). War with Iran also has the advantage of undoing Obama’s nuclear deal with them (one of the few unequivocably good things he did, IMNSHO). “Real men go to Teheran.” But what on earth does victory look like? Do we even have defined war aims? We can’t hold territory, we don’t have the troops. We can’t win a COIN war. I don’t think we can even install a puppet regime. If the idea is to “kill a chicken to scare a monkey,” that is, to secure a deal with North Korea by demonstrating our “will” with Iran, we’re trying to secure one deal by proving that we don’t adhere to the Iran deal. How does that work? (Bolton, of course, doesn’t believe such agreements to begin with, so he doesn’t care if the US is seen as a reliable negotiating partner.) If North Korea is the opponent, all the objections to a war with Iran apply as well. And if a decapitation strike were possible, we surely would already have done it.

        I can’t help but picture a scene where the war planners show off their scenarios at the White House, and in each one the pathway to victory is so littered with improbabilities — “And then, a miracle occurred!” — that they’re sent back to the drawing board. A Gulliver vs. the Lilliputians strategy.

        1. Edward E

          The CNY oil contract is about to go live, now four participating countries have been heavily sanctioned like two trading days before it.
          Honestly, I thought Trumthschild was here to help usher in a new multilateral monetary system, SDR w/crypto and put the warhawks to bed instead of letting them do a takeover. Woke up this morning, he’s NSC wanted to crawl back into bed. Flying Monkey Ale Smashbomb has taken over DC.
          Gotta finish some bird houses I’m building from leftover PVC pipe & boards. Will send you some pictures.

    1. Jim Haygood

      So on the 15th anniversary of the Iraq debacle, a neocon who cheered it on is rewarded with a national security post where he can cue up the attack on Iran that was always the ultimate prize for Israel’s US stooges?

      Guess we’ll be out marching again, just like last time. Bolton’s walrus mustache is the 21st century version of Adolph H’s toothbrush mustache. Down with the Persian Untermenschen! /sarc

      1. Carolinian

        Of course while working for Cheney Bolton was pretty confident about getting Dubya to start a war with Iran and that didn’t happen. Here’s a backgrounder that suggests that Bolton is tight with both Adelson and the Mossad so one way of looking at this has Russia fading as a target and Iran falling under the bulls eye. Trump’s recent friendly phone call with Putin was contrary to instructions from his NSC and therefore presumably McMaster.


        Looked at optimistically it could be out of the frying pan and into a smaller frying pan (for us if not for Iran but that remains to be seen).

        Of course looked at pessimistically it’s terrible news but if the public and Congress are afraid of Trump gratuitously starting a new war then perhaps they should take away his power to do so. Seems the Constitution did have something to say about that.

        1. integer

          Here’s a backgrounder that suggests that Bolton is tight with both Adelson and the Mossad so one way of looking at this has Russia fading as a target and Iran falling under the bulls eye.

          Israel is hostile to Russia, especially since Russia became involved in the Syrian war, however seeing as they prefer to have the US to do their dirty work, they presumably see no point in publicizing this animosity. My observations lead me to believe that Israel goes to great lengths to maintain the appearance of always being in control, with part of this strategy consisting of downplaying any conflict in which the other party has ascendancy. In any case, with regard to Bolton’s appointment, it’s worth remembering that McMaster was pretty bad too, as evidenced by his speech at the 2018 Munich Security Conference. McMaster was essentially pursuing the globalist establishment’s agenda rather than Trump’s, so perhaps Trump thinks he will be able to keep Bolton on a tighter leash.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > if the public and Congress are afraid of Trump gratuitously starting a new war then perhaps they should take away his power to do so

          Well, they had a chance to do that with the Yemen bill and didn’t.

    2. barrisj

      Tol’ja so…these miserable wretches simply cannot die…resurrection a promise any time a misfit administration takes power…all that audition time on FoxNews paid off…Trump stripping the cable channels of right-wing bloviators…”best people for the jawb”, don’t you know.

  29. Wukchumni

    I could hardly believe it
    When I heard the news today
    I had to come and get it straight from the top

    They said McMaster is leavin’
    Someone’s tweeted him away
    From the look upon this farce,
    I see it’s true

    So tell me all about it
    Tell me about the Persian plans you’re makin’
    Then tell me one thing more before I go

    Tell me how am supposed to live with you
    Now that you’ve been a neocon so long
    How am I supposed to live with you
    How am I supposed to carry on
    When all that i’d been hoping ‘for is gone

    I didn’t come here for cryin’
    Didn’t come here to see our system breakdown
    It’s just a dream of mine is coming to an end
    And how can I blame you
    When I build my world around
    The hope that one day we be so much
    More than enemies of everybody
    And I don’t wanna know the price I’m
    Gonna pay for your scheming
    When even now it’s more than I can take

    Tell me how am I supposed to live with you
    Now that I’ve been loathing you so long
    How am I supposed to live with you
    And how am I supposed to carry on
    When all that I’ve been hoping for is gone


      1. o4amuse

        The city of Modesto in Stanislaus county which has 2 or 300K people is on the Tuolumne river downstream and has seen flooding in the past, (I went canoeing down 9th street once) but It looks like the Moccasin dam is holding and the much larger Don Pedro dam not far below that has plenty of capacity.

  30. Wukchumni

    China Plans 15% Tariffs On US Steel Pipes, Fruit, Wine
    -Plans Tariffs On USD3 Bln On US Imports
    -Reciprocal Tariffs On US Fruits, Nuts And Wine
    -Plans 25% Tariffs On US Pork Imports
    There’s the screwing of the far right farmers that voted for the reign of error, and it serves them right.

    1. integer

      Who would you have suggested they vote for? Hillary “we came, we saw, he died” Clinton? Either Trump or Clinton was going to win the 2016 election, and a pretty good case can be made that Trump was the better choice out of the two.

      Anyway, enjoy the schadenfreude.

      1. Wukchumni

        I’m much more interested in the farmers being dissuaded from voting for charlatans in the future, slim chance of that ever happening though.

        1. Pat

          I’m actually more interested in the myth of the American farmer dying a long deserved death. Farmers in America now mostly fall into a few categories not remotely what people imagine. There are the large corporate farms, there are the struggling farms subcontracted to those large corporations who in some ways resemble share croppers, there are the gentlemen landowners who play at farming for the tax benefits, and only a few of those midsize farms who are family owned operations whose plight gets touted to propagandists so many things.

          Don’t get me wrong, I do worry about keeping those few farmers who fit the myth and would love expansion of their numbers, think less Tyson control and ownership for one. I just wish more of the country understood how much that way of life has been destroyed by the same forces which have undermined so much of the American workplace in the name of progress and profit.

          Unless you invest for a living, there was no real choice between the two major candidates. It was roll the dice and hope the unknown rich guy who at least acknowledged there were problems might help or go with the known quantity who didn’t even bother to pretend they gave a damn or go with a sure to lose third party.

    2. rps

      China- Plans 25% Tariffs On US Pork Imports….There’s the screwing of the far right farmers that voted for the reign of error

      Interesting, considering not only does China consume half of the world’s pork but the USA has become China’s own(ed) factory hog farm. Smithfield founded by Joesph Luter & Son in Smithfield Virginia was purchased by China’s WH Group in 2013 for $4.9 billion (parent organization Shuanghui Industry). A purchase subsidized by the Chinese government to the tune of a $4 billion loan to take over Smithfield. The loan to Shuanghui was approved in a single day.

      In addition to, the over 500 farms Smithfield owns in the United States, another 2,000 independent contract farms around the country grow Smithfield’s pigs. The Virginia-based company also bought two Ohio grain elevators in September (2016). For the first time, it can ship grain directly from Ohio to feed the pigs that Smithfield slaughters at its Tar Heel, N.C., packing plant — the world’s largest, processing about 32,000 hogs daily. Smithfield now buys 65 percent of its animal feed directly from (USA) farmers, up from the 10 percent of feed it directly bought in 2010.

      According to Nathan Halverson’s investigative report “How China purchased a prime cut of America’s pork industry”- not only has China acquired US hog farm operations, but more importantly, importation of US technology to the world’s most advanced animal rearing, slaughtering and meat processing and distribution. Chinese businesses are able to undercut the prices of American producers due to the heavy subsidies from the Chinese government to compete against other U.S. industries such as steel, paper and solar power, to control a larger and larger share of the market.

      Halverson states, In 2011, Chinese nationals owned $81 million worth of U.S. farmland. By the end of 2012, the Chinese owned $900 million in U.S. farmland – a 1,000 percent increase – making them the largest buyers that year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Smithfield deal included another $480 million in U.S. farmland, which would push the Chinese stake to nearly $1.4 billion in less than two years.

      The USA has become China’s third world producer for environmental pollutant animal breeding operations, and the hog carcasses are shipped in frozen containers to China for processing.

  31. kareninca

    “All their teeth?! That’s grotesque.”

    It is not at all rare for a money-strapped person to lose some teeth and then start to think that having the remainder removed would save them a lot of money and misery. That they can just get dentures and it would all be simpler and cheaper. The problem of course is that if the pressure from teeth chewing is removed (denture pressure is not adequate for this purpose), the oral bone is reabsorbed and the person ends up with a deformed face – think of elderly women with tiny wrinkled mouths. I always thought that the tinyness of their mouths was due to the absence of teeth, but it is not – it is because (following the loss of teeth) the jaw bone has disappeared.

    When I was in high school in the 70s I had a neighbor who was trying to convince his dentist to remove his remaining teeth so that he could get dentures. I recently heard a (poor) family friend mentioning a rule of thumb about how many teeth in a row one would lose before getting dentures. I don’t know if dentists are actually willing to pull healthy teeth.

  32. Darthbobber

    WTO3 has pretty extensive provisions for dealing with systematic ip protection violations, but I dont think the us has ever sought to deal with its assorted allegations against China via that route.

    They’ve also acquired a much-improved rep in that area over the last half-decade or so.

    Formal demands linking tech transfers to some kinds of fdi are a separate matter. Not trade of goods and services at all.

  33. anon y'mouse

    How long has the clear bag thing been going on?

    I don’t have the answer, but quite a long time for retail workers, since it is automatically assumed that we are all participating in pilferage. This is possibly true, since the main cause of pilferage is insufficient compensation (or more appropriately, the worker feeling that the job is taking more out of their lives than it is giving back).

    disclaimer::I have never taken anything home from work that I did not buy, or was not given outright(gift from boss/co-worker or things being tossed in garbage ie. packing materials). But I have been accused of theft, been treated like a thief on nearly a daily basis, and had the “uncompensated wait to be let out of the workplace because workers are on prison lockdown until an authority figure can look you over/unlock the door”. and I have been accused of theft by a former employer

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