2:00PM Water Cooler 3/29/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“U.S. negotiators are considering putting forward a proposal that would include workers’ salaries in the calculation to determine which cars qualify for reduced duties under the agreement. The development, which was first reported by Inside U.S. Trade and confirmed by the Canadian Press, has been floated informally over the past week and is aimed at incentivizing car companies to pay wages far higher than the current average rate in Mexico” [Politico]. “‘Of course, Mexico does not agree with’ the reported proposal, a source close to the talks told Morning Trade. Mexico rejects the idea ‘because it makes North America less competitive. If you artificially increase wages for one industry, you can be sure of that.'”

“A quarterly report on global trade patterns published today by transport and logistics giant DHL indicated a strengthening of activity in March over the last reading in January, DHL said. The ‘DHL Global Trade Barometer’ increased to 66 points in March from 64 points in January, when the index was published for the first time. With an index value well above the break-even mark of 50, the report is sending bullish signals about the current and future outlook for trade, DHL said” [DC Velocity].



“Many of the negatives about Trump are already baked in, said Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray” [The Hill]. “‘There’s no question, Donald Trump is the chaos president, pretty much from the campaign through the first months of his presidency, he established that would be the pattern,” Murray said. ‘So in many respects, the fact that we have all these new revelations doesn’t change that voters were expecting chaos.'”

“Baked in” for Stormy Daniels, certainly. From a transcript of a focus group of female Trump voters on Anderson Cooper 360:

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She’s enjoying this way too much.

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Palm Sunday, these conservative Christian women gathered in Dallas to watch Stormy Daniels’ interview on “60 Minutes.”….

KAYE (on-camera): What was your first impression of Stormy Daniels?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel sorry for her. My heart hurts for her.

SHERRY MASSEY, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTERS: This is a porn star. Why are we giving it any credibility?


KAYE (voice-over): These women all voted for Donald Trump, and despite Stormy Daniels’ claims, they still don’t buy her story.

(on-camera): Why would she come out and give this interview if she wasn’t telling the truth?


KAYE (voice-over): Most in this group believe God ordained Donald Trump to be president and stand by him despite his imperfections.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that when I voted for him, I wasn’t voting for a choir boy.

Very reminiscent of what Bill Clinton supporters said of Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, etc.

“Buttigieg Gets Closer to a 2020 Campaign” [Politico]. “Pete Buttigieg’s PAC is investing money here—but also in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan and Colorado. And Iowa, per an announcement coming Tuesday. Next month, he’ll campaign in Ohio. It’s not happenstance. Nor is keeping on Lis Smith, the hard-charging political operative who makes sure he’s constantly in the news. Or keeping up with Obama strategist David Axelrod, who recommended he hire Smith in the first place for the Democratic National Committee chair race that put Buttigieg on Democrats’ radar last year. Or quietly building relationships over dinners and drinks with big-name Democrats, or courting national reporters, or wooing donors for his PAC, or digging in on political advertising research.” For a “fresh face,” this sounds deeply conventional.

“Deconstructed Podcast: We Need to Talk About Inequality (With Bernie Sanders)” (podcast) [The Intercept (JohnnyGL)]. Well worth a listen, only fifteen minutes or so. Sanders is always on message.

Always on message:

UPDATE “Bernie Sanders coming to Jackson for a town hall with the mayor” [Clarion-Ledger]. “U.S. Sen. and 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will join Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba in Jackson next week. Sanders and Lumumba will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr on April 4. The event, titled “Examining Economic Justice 50 Years Later,” will be held from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Alamo Theater in the Farish Street District. The city’s communications department plans to launch a multimedia campaign to gather public input this Friday. In August, Sanders joined Lumumba in support of unionizing workers at Nissan’s Canton plant.”

UPDATE “Tom Steyer’s Impeachment Campaign Is Building Him a Political Death Star” [Daily Beast]. See, that’s what we need. A good oligarch for President.

2018 Midterms

“Can Obama Rescue the Democrats?” [James Wolcott, Vanity Fair]. “[L]istening to fellow liberal neurotic Democrats over the last year, I detect a sense of abandonment. Of Obandonment, to be more precise. Obama, Obama, where art thou? The Obamas get to land a joint book deal in the ballpark of $65 million, which is one hell of a ballpark. Obama gets to deliver speeches to Wall Street firms for hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop while millions of Americans (whom I’ve never actually met but am certain exist [That’s it right there, isn’t it?]) have to make do at Costco. O.K., maybe he’s earned his perk walk, his frolics in the holiday sun, but still!” Yet there is hope:

Obama is aware [how many years late?] of the need to rebuild troop strength. Reinforcements are being trained and readied. In 2017 the Obama Foundation held three Training Days—the first in Chicago, the next two in Tempe, Arizona, and Boston—to teach organizing skills to a new generation of activists from all over the country and world. Many more of those days will take place in 2018. It’s not as sexy to the media as a superstar mogul summit at Davos or Aspen, but it shows that the Obamas haven’t forsaken teaching and inspiring rookie activists to become the change agents of tomorrow. Obama plays a long game, doing his patient best to bend the arc of history an extra bend toward justice. Hence, the Obama Presidential Center, to be built on the South Side of Chicago, will be more than a museum—according to its Web site, it will function as “a living, working campus—an ongoing project where we will shape, together, what it means to be a good citizen in the 21st century.” It’d be nice to return to the 21st century and make it our home [And there it is, a second time] again.

It’s the rare piece that makes me want to scrub the smarm off in a hot shower afterwards, but Woolcott’s piece is one such. And liberal Democrats wonder why they lost…

“As of this writing, just 379 of 435 House districts will have incumbents running in them this November. That’s the second-lowest total of the post-World War II era” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “The 56 total open districts include 37 open Republican-held seats and 19 open Democratic seats. The best pickup opportunities for both parties come in these open seats…. It’s possible the Democrats could get a third or more of the way toward flipping the House just through netting gains among the open seats.”

UPDATE Then again:

It’s crossed my mind that the Democrats don’t actually want a landslide. If they got one, they might have to govern, which they strenuously avoid doing.

UPDATE “Tom Steyer Is Going To Hold Debates In Democratic Primaries Across The Country” [Buzzfeed]. Why the [family blog] is a squillionaire holding debates? See above… More: “The debates will also serve as fundraisers for local progressive groups. As they are targeted to young voters, they will be hosted at venues that cater to those groups — for instance, the debate in Pennsylvania’s 7th District will be held at a brewery. Candidates will be welcomed onto the stage to the strains of an unspecified pop song. The tentative format of the debates will be a combination of a moderated question-and-answer session and rapid-fire questions, bracketed by opening and closing remarks by the candidates. The hope is that the debates will be hosted by national activists or celebrities whose presence will appeal to young voters. Steyer himself may even host one.” We’ll see who those “progressives” are, I suppose.

PA: “Democrats can win a whole lot of House seats in Pennsylvania” [Vox]. “Pennsylvania holds the key to the 2018 midterms for Democrats — and could determine which party will control the House of Representatives come January 2019…. The other piece of good news came for Democrats on Tuesday, when progressive candidate Beth Tarasi, who had been weighing an insurgent primary bid against the newly elected Lamb, announced that she would withdraw from the race.” And why is that good news for Democrats?

WI: “Gov. Scott Walker abandons court fight to hold off special elections after appellate judge rules against him” [Journal-Sentinel]. No time to impeach the judge, I guess. More: “Republicans are seeking to approve legislation next week that would head off the special elections and give Walker broader powers to determine when to allow voters to fill vacancies in the Legislature. In the meantime, Walker is under a court order to issue a call for the special elections, which would likely be held June 12. But Republicans contend those elections would be canceled if Assembly Bill 947 is approved.”

MD: “Supreme Court To Take Hard Look At Partisan Gerrymander, This Time By Democrats” [HuffPo]. “The Maryland case is different from the Wisconsin one in a few key ways. While the Wisconsin lawsuit challenges an entire map, the Maryland suit seeks to redraw just one district (though obviously that would affect other districts). The Maryland case is being brought by Republicans, who were the main beneficiaries of congressional gerrymandering after the 2010 Census. And the Maryland plaintiffs are advancing the novel legal idea that partisan gerrymandering amounts to an unconstitutional retaliation based on voters’ past choices.”

Obama Legacy

UPDATE “Obama Library Already Displacing Residents” [Beachwood Reporter]. “Tenants who live in the Jackson Park Terrace Apartments, across the street from the proposed Obama Center, are already facing a rent increase ranging from $100 a month to more than $250 a month. ‘[Obama] heard that we would not be displaced but my rent is going up next week,’ said Cindy Lee, a Jackson Park Terrace tenant and longtime neighborhood resident. ‘I don’t want to move now that the Obama Center is coming, but with this rent increase I may have no choice.’ The building is owned by politically connected Leon Finney, who has put up ‘We Trust Obama’ signs on the housing development.” Ouch. Quick, somebody tell James Wolcott!

Health Care

“David J. Shulkin: Privatizing the V.A. Will Hurt Veterans” [New York Times]. Newly fired, Shulkin writes: “The advocates within the administration for privatizing V.A. health services, however, reject this approach. They saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed. That is because I am convinced that privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans.” Sanders, with his long record on the Veterans Committee, should own this issue, and it will be interesting to see how he plays this. It will also be interesting to see which Democrats try to hijack it, and how the coverage plays out.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The problem is, striving for equality only with respect to opportunity is myopic. This approach focuses on fairness of process, while ignoring inequality in outcomes. It reflects the very meritocratic mentality that has helped sustain wide gaps between black Americans and white Americans, between the genders, between classes, and between broader demographic categories. Envisioning our future through an egalitarian lens would require us to seriously reconsider political ideologies that embrace equal outcomes. More broadly, it would compel us to prioritize the well-being of the collective over that of the few, even if this came at the expense of the few” [New York Magazine].

UPDATE Demographics and the major parties:

UPDATE “American Voting Machines Are Old and Vulnerable, But Who Will Pay for New Ones?” [Pro Publica]. Nobody should pay. We should hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public. Election day should also be a national, pai holiday.

Stats Watch

Consumer Sentiment, March 2018 (Final): “Consumer sentiment held strong the last two weeks of the month as the final March index came in at a 14-year high” [Econoday]. “The gain here [in current conditions] is tied to rising confidence among lower income respondents in contrast to the expectations component… is being held back by easing confidence among higher income respondents. The report notes that the risk of rising interest rates, tied to Fed policy, is a negative factor for the high-end group…. This report took much longer to get going than other measures of consumer confidence making its positive signal for March, especially for current conditions, a new positive in the indicator mix.” And: “The general trend in the Michigan Sentiment Index since the Financial Crisis lows was one of slow improvement. The survey findings saw a jump in late 2016 with improvements that have continued through present” [Econintersect].

Personal Income and Outlays, February 2018: “Inflation data are inching higher while softness in spending is offset by strength in wages” [Econoday]. “The strongest news in the report comes from the wages & salaries component of personal income which posted a fourth straight sharp gain, at 0.5 percent. This helped total income which rose 0.4 percent for a third straight month and also helped the savings rate which rose 2 tenths to a still modest 3.4 percent…. Also helping savings, unfortunately for retailers at least, was softness in spending which gained only 0.2 percent for the second straight month. Spending on services, at 0.3 percent, continues to hold up this component…. wages and inflation are moving in the right direction, that is consistent with moderate economic growth and gradual removal of stimulus by the Fed.” But! “The savings rate improved but remains near 21st century lows. Consumer spending growth is higher than income growth year-over-year. The backward revisions are driving this analyst crazy. They continue to change the trends” [Econintersect].

Chicago Purchasing Manager’s Index, March 2018: “Unexpected slowing to what nevertheless is a very strong rate of growth is March’s signal from what usually is a robust report” [Econoday]. “This is the slowest rate of growth for this index since this time last year as is growth in new orders which likewise slowed. The build in backlog orders also slowed as did production. But signs of capacity stress are still evident with delivery times lengthening and respondents still having trouble finding skilled workers.” And: “The Chicago Business Barometer again declined but remains firmly in positive territory” [Econintersect]. “The results of this survey continue to correlate to district Federal Reserve manufacturing surveys – and generallly aligns with the overall trend of the ISM manufacturing survey.”

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of March 25, 2018: “The consumer comfort index held unchanged … only 2 tenths shy of a record” [Econoday]. “This year’s tax-cut boost and continuing strength in the labor market are big pluses for consumer confidence.”

Jobless Claims, week of March 24, 2018: “March looks to be another strong month for the labor market based on jobless claims which are at record lows” [Econoday].

Shipping: “Stronger U.S. domestic shipping demand is translating into higher earnings for truck drivers. An American Trucking Associations survey showed annual driver salaries rose as much as 18% from 2013 to 2017, and operators at the high end of the business working for private fleets reached top annual compensation of $86,000. Pay for the biggest share of drivers was well below that: ..[T]he median salary for a truckload driver working broader, “irregular” national routes was around $53,000 last year, up around 15% from four years earlier” [Wall Street Journal]. “Wages vary widely by job, but the broad trend shows trucking companies are paying more to keep drivers on board. That’s echoing across supply chains, with a growing lineup of retailers and suppliers reporting soaring logistics costs and thinning margins. With freight marketplaces persistently reporting far more loads than trucks on the spot market, those shipping costs and driver wages are likely to continue rising.”

Shipping: “Shipments of motor vehicles and parts on U.S. and Canadian railroads were off 7.1% in the first two months of the year, according to the Association of American Railroads” [Wall Street Journal].

Infrastructure: “U.S. transportation infrastructure spending is veering in a sharply different direction. The Trump administration has more than tripled the amount of money flowing from a popular transportation grant program to projects in rural areas, a shift in priorities likely to raise heated and politically-charged arguments in infrastructure circles. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or Tiger, grants will send nearly $500 million to highway and transit projects… and almost two-thirds of the money will go to rural locations” [Wall Street Journal]. “The administration says it is helping regions that have been neglected since the recession with projects like freight rail enhancements in Oklahoma. Critics say the grants give weak attention to relieving congestion in the cities and suburbs where the vast majority of Americans live. With diminished federal backing, those densely populated areas may become bigger draws for the private investment the administration wants to attract.” It’s a two-fer, isn’t it? Send money to the Republican base, p0wn the Democrats by privatizing their stuff.

The Bezzle: “The turmoil at Uber Technologies Inc. following a fatal auto crash is reaching the company’s freight business. Lior Ron, the head of Uber’s freight trucking operation and a key figure in developing its autonomous-vehicle technology, is leaving the company” [Wall Street Journal] “Mr. Ron’s departure isn’t related to last week’s fatal accident in Arizona involving one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles, an operation he was not working on. Uber had been testing its autonomous-truck technology in Arizona before the passenger-vehicle crash, and that program was suspended following the fatal collision.”

The Bezzle: “Tesla Urges Workers to Prove the ‘Haters’ Wrong and Ramp Up Production” [Bloomberg]. “Tesla Inc. exhorted its factory workers to disprove the ‘haters’ betting against the company wrong and asked for volunteers to join the effort to ramp up output of the crucial Model 3 line. In a pair of internal memos last week, the heads of engineering and production spelled out measures to free up workers for the Model 3 line and challenged them to reach production goals. Doug Field, the engineering chief, told staff that if they can exceed 300 Model 3s a day, it would be an ‘incredible victory’ at a time when short-sellers and critics are increasingly doubting the company’s ability to fulfill CEO Elon Musk’s vision of building a mass-production electric-vehicle manufacturer.” Volunteers… They’re not even offering free yoghurt?

Mr. Market: “Commentary: Welcome to the machine” [Pensions & Investments]. “What will the next wave of managers look like and where will it come from? We believe we know, because over the past three years we have found and met with more than 200 of them. We call them managers specialized in “autonomous learning investment strategies” or ALIS. They are usually run by millennials, some of whom were hackers or gamers, whose brains seem to be wired differently from the earlier generations. They believe they can use advances in artificial intelligence, record low cloud computing storage and processing power and new, unstructured non-financial data sources to run investment strategies at a fraction of the cost of established managers. With the newer AI techniques, ALIS managers have the “learning” taking place within the machine, with the machine gaining experience and teaching itself at an exponentially faster pace than a human, on thousands of securities, potentially with thousands of data points per security. This means that instead of dozens, or in some instances more than a hundred Ph.D.s needed to run a quantitative strategy, one now only needs a few…. February was an important reference point. Markets shifted gears and volatility spiked. Commodity trading advisers fell 4.8%, according to the Eurekahedge CTA/Managed Futures Hedge Fund index. Yet the top commodities/futures ALIS managers, according to our ranking system, were up materially in February. Digging into why this was shows ALIS managers aren’t just smaller and leaner versions of established firms, they are investing in a different way.” “Brains” aren’t “wired,” since the brain is living tissue. That said, readers, is it likely the quant PhDs are going to lose their Wall Street jobs?

Mr. Market: “A source who’s spoken to POTUS: “[Trump has] wondered aloud if there may be any way to go after Amazon with antitrust or competition law” [Axios]. Worth returning to the Axios story that sparked the Amazon sell-off, because antitrust has dropped out of the coverage as a theme; they cover the Post Office, taxes, and dying retail (which, to be fair, are the topics of Trump’s tweet on this subject).

Mr. Market: “What makes [Trump’s expressed views on Amazon] a conundrum is that Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post, which regularly publishes inside scoops exposing the worst of what’s going on in the White House. The president is often critical of the “failing” newspaper. So, even when Trump has a point, it’s impossible to take him seriously because there’s at least the appearance that he has a corrupt motive” [Gizmodo]. Unlike anybody else in Washington DC. Gotcha. That said, the whole article is worth a read, because it’s a good roundup of the back-and-forth on the Post Office, Amazon’s tax bill, and retailers (but not concentration). It’s better than today’s story in the Times, in fact.

Mr. Market: “Amazon’s stock falls further as Trump again lashes out at company” [Los Angeles Times]. “Before the latest declines, Amazon’s shares had soared more than 70% over the prior 12 months, a surge that more reflects Amazon’s future growth prospects than its current size and earnings ability. So investors were ready to cash out at least some of those big gains when the news site Axios.com reported that Trump was ‘obsessed’ with somehow further regulating Amazon’s business model.”

Five Horsemen: “Amazon continues its slide as Facebook bounces” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Mar 29 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “The mania-panic index eased to 21 (worry) as new 52-week lows exceeded new highs for the 11th day running” [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 28 2018

Facebook Fracas

“Facebook Delays Home-Speaker Unveil Amid Data Crisis” [Bloomberg]. “The social-media company had already found in focus-group testing that users were concerned about a Facebook-branded device in their living rooms [and bathrooms. And bedrooms…], given how much intimate data the social network collects. Facebook still plans to launch the devices later this year.” Of course they do.

“Facebook Could Be Fined Millions for Violating Consent Deal” [Bloomberg]. “Former Federal Trade Commission officials say that Facebook Inc. appears to have breached a 2011 consent agreement to safeguard users’ personal information and may be facing hundreds of millions of dollars in fines. The agency could fine Facebook up to $40,000 per violation per day — which could add up quickly with millions of users involved — if it finds the social media giant broke its earlier promises to protect user data, they say.” Millions? Not billions? Apparently not: “‘The penalty could potentially be huge,’ because each user adversely affected could be considered a violation, said [Jessica Rich, a former head of the FTC’s consumer protection bureau], now vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports. ‘The FTC is unlikely to get billions,’ Rich said. ‘It could get hundreds of millions.'” Curious example of the revolving door….

“Facebook can’t stop monetizing our personal data for the same reason that Starbucks can’t stop selling coffee — it’s the heart of the enterprise” [New York Times]. Interesting idea: “Making social graphs temporary, rather than preserving them forever by default, would undoubtedly be bad for most social networks’ business models. But it could create new and healthy norms around privacy and data hygiene, and it would keep problems from piling up as networks get older and more crowded. It might even recapture some of the magic of the original social networks, when things were fresh and fascinating, and not quite so scary.” Even more interesting, however, would be a system where people owned their data and were paid for what they create.

“Media vs. Facebook: This time it’s personal” [Axios]. “Outrage over Facebook’s misuse of user data and failure to rein in election fraud is real. But the zeal that media outlets bring to their Facebook coverage is personal, too. It’s turbocharged because journalists, individually and collectively, blame Facebook — along with other tech giants, like Google, and the internet itself — for seducing their readers, impoverishing their employers, and killing off their jobs.” Then again, both Facebook and the press are in the business of monetizing eyeballs for providing a public good….

Health Care

“Piecemeal bills will not fix California’s health care. Single payer is the only solution” [Sacramento Bee]. “Last June, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon unilaterally blocked public hearings, amendments and legislative votes on Senate Bill 562, a Medicare-for-all proposal that had passed the state Senate and that would guarantee health care for all Californians without ever-rising premiums, deductibles and other costs…. Now desperate for the appearance of action in an election year, Rendon is telling legislators to let a 1,000 ideas bloom. But in a telling admission, lobbyists for the California Medical Association characterized these bills as giving cover to Democrats not to support single payer as proposed by the California Nurses Association.”

“A new poll found that a majority of Americans support a radical change to the US healthcare system” [Business Insider].

The poll, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy think tank, found that:

  • 59% of respondents supported a Medicare-for-all healthcare system in which all Americans would get coverage through a government program like Medicare or Medicaid.
  • Moving to a public-option model, under which people could sign up for the Medicare-like program, would be even more popular.
  • About 75% of the public would favor a program framed as a public option for anyone who wants it.

No question which is the better policy; the “progressive” “public option” advocates, foot-soldiers the liberal Democrats’ log war against single payer, in 2009 did incalculable damage.

Black Injustice Tipping Points

Why proposals to further militarize the schools in reponse to mass shootings aren’t met with universal enthusiasm. Thread:

UPDATE And the same point made by Stoneman Douglas students:

Class Warfare

Light dawns?

News of The Wired

Sounds legit:

“Pre-Columbian earth-builders settled along the entire southern rim of the Amazon” [Nature]. Super interesting:

The interfluvial (terra firme) forests that account for ~95% of the Amazon are particularly uncharted. These areas have been archaeologically neglected following traditional views that Pre-Columbian people concentrated on resource-rich floodplains. However, the discovery of large Pre-Columbian earthworks in terra firme along the Southern Rim of the Amazon (SRA) undermines the assumption that these areas were marginal in terms of past human impact and the development of complex societies

And from WaPo’s coverage of the Nature article:

Since the 1970s, scientists have identified large, elaborate geoglyphs across other parts of the Amazon. Some have estimated there is about 60,000 square miles of terra preta in the basin. Others’ research shows that entire regions of the rain forest are dominated by tree species once cultivated for food by indigenous people. And highly planned networks of villages have been identified on either side of the region de Souza studied.

The latest discovery, de Souza said, suggests there was a continuous string of settlements across the entire southern rim of the Amazon basin.

So it looks like Charles Mann’s picture of Amazonia in his wonderful 1491 (2005) was substantially correct, including the idea of the Amazon basis as the world’s largest horticultural project and a “cultural artifact” (see NC here on that topic and edible forests in the United States).

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (PM):

PM writes: “First trillium. Idylwood Park, Redmond WA.” Yay! Five days earlier than the trillium I published in 2017, FWIW (not much…).

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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. Lemmy Caution

      One of the more alarming aspects of self-driving freight trucks is the likelihood of platooning on roads and highways — that’s when a series of trucks all move in a unified group with electronically coordinated sensors, acceleration and braking.

      Michigan’s Governor Snyder signed a law allowing automated vehicle platoons, as have Governors in at least four other states: Nevada, Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee. There are probably others.

      This interactive map tracks How States Are Legislating Autonomous Vehicles and includes relevant bills and laws for each state, complete with links that take you right to the actual bills. Very useful.

      But to get back to the push for self-driving trucks. With the Wall Street Journal article about surging wages of truck drivers included in the Water Cooler link above, is it any wonder that companies like Walmart — who are currently testing autonomous scanning robots for inventory duties — might also be interested in autonomous versions of its 6,000-truck fleet? God forbid anyone get in the way of one their platoons, right? Gotta move those color TVs.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Hey, the notion of “platooning” has been around as long as there have been Citizens Band (“CB”) radios and 18-wheelers. Remember CW McCall’s Classic Americana song and imagery from “Convoy”? https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EnJEeHND_lQ

        “10-4, good buddy… we got us a CON-voy!”

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          That was the first word (convoy) that came to me when I read platooning.

          I pictured convoys with war materials to Murmansk….Russia.

          Right then, I had to get rid of that thought quickly.

        2. Lemmy Caution

          In 2016, crashes involving 18-wheelers caused 4,327 fatalities. The people that usually died weren’t the ones driving the trucks — 72 percent of them were in passenger cars and an additional 11 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, roadway workers or police officers standing beside the highway, according to the NHTSA.
          Now imagine an electronically-connected platoon of 80,000-pound trucks of the future, trailing each other by about 50 feet, zooming along together at 70 mph on the freeway? One little oopsie and it would be like a freight train derailing in the middle of four lanes of traffic. Keep the shiny side up indeed!

          1. JTMcPhee

            That 80,000 pound number is subject to some caveats — many states allow significantly higher weights, and of course there are already lots of “Longer Combination Vehicles” consisting of the truck/tractor and two or three (or more, if the greedheads that are constantly lobbying for “more appropriate regulation” get their way)more towed units. A nice compilation of all the stuff ‘legally” on the highways is found in this report: “Compilation of Existing State Truck Size and Weight Limit Laws — Report to Congress”

            Note that a lot of the regulatory limits are set based on the ‘Federal Bridge Formula,” a calculation that’s supposed to “protect” the Nation’s Bridges. And also not included in this report are stats on the enormous damage that Big Rigs do to those bridges and of course the road surfaces themselves, and the trucking companies, like Walmart and Amazon and the rest, get to socialize the costs of road building and maintenance and repair onto the groaning camel of MMT funding, and state budgets (“that have to run like a household, expenses not supposed to exceed income”) that have to pay their “fair share” out of tax receipts (that get lobbied to minimize “business costs”) and other income streams or “savings” from cutting public-benefitting programs and selling public assets.

            What’s also not included in that report are the number of overloaded trucks running out there, to maximize profits at public expense. And of course drivers who are tired or medicated or otherwise impaired. And anyone who believes that Code is going to do a better job (“better,” by WHAT definition?) of moving all the “stuff” that makes up “commerce” on the public roads is operating, IMVHO, quirte a few bricks short of a wall….

          2. Oregoncharles

            Trains should be on tracks. I feel the same way about doubles and, especially, triples.

            Actually, all but local delivery freight should be on tracks.

  1. Michael Fiorillo

    I hope Sanders is better on VA privatization than he’s been on school privatization, where he (like Elizabeth Warren) utters weasel words about charter schools, refusing to call them out, and continuing to refer to them as “public charter schools,” which is a misnomer, at best, and misdirection at worst.

    No matter how much so-called education reformers keep calling them “public charter schools,” it’s still not true: they’re private entities that receive public dollars.

  2. CT

    Interesting about Jackson Park Apartments. I lived just down the road on Hyde Park Blvd.
    We moved because our kids were school age. It was either fork over about $50K a year for our two kids to go to pre-school at University of Chicago Lab School or go to the “neighborhood school” a half block away. No talking in the hallways or at lunch. Kids wear uniforms. The path forward after elementary school is rough – 70% graduation rate.
    A few years ago, I attended the opening of a new wing at the Lab school. Then superintended Arne Duncan spoke. There was a nice reception. During that time, the Lab School had a fundraiser and got a $50 million check from Melody Hobson.
    Anyway, Hyde Park is one of my favorite places in the entire country. It feels integrated. It also feels telling that within a block you have two extremely divergent paths through life – tough public school and elite private. All within a five minute walk of Obama’s new library.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      Actually, that “public school” sounds more like a “no-excuses” charter. That’s why I give politicians who’ve been dealing with the steady expansion of “education reform” some wiggle room with regard to charters, especially if they come from states that haven’t turned the education system over to them. It’s an issue that gets way too little attention paid to it by the MSM, and all too often what attention is paid relies on false data provided by the charter school industry.

      1. CT

        It’s tough, isn’t it.
        On the one hand you have a ton of urban schools failing (rural, too), but on the other you have charters. Are they better? I think the data finds that there are good and bad to both. You’ll find Uncommon schools led by Paul Bambrick that are no nonsense success stories
        Then you have other charters which are far from successful.
        But I think it’s notable that in two blocks you have University of Chicago Lab and Bret Harte – vastly different demographics, socioeconomic status, and results. Both look out at the Museum of Science and Industry – Obama’s Library.
        One is funded by Chicago Public Schools – terrible organization all around. The other by UChicago – more money than they can think of what to do with.

        1. DJG

          Sorry, but the Chicago Public Schools isn’t a terrible organization all around. It has become a “terrible organization” the more that it has had to serve those terribly undeserving minority children and as it has become majority minority. You may want to read up on Troy LaRaviere and his statistics about CPS and what it can do.

          Up here in the successfully integrated part of the North Side (no wall of money from the UofC to keep things under control), Senn and Amundsen are doing just “terribly,” now aren’t they?

          I won’t mention Walter Payton High.

        2. bob

          Both sides have you surrounded!

          “On the one hand you have a ton of urban schools failing (rural, too), but on the other you have charters.”

          This NPR level of debate, where “a ton of urban, and rural schools are failing”, is marketing. Well, you stick with the failing urban, or rural school. or you CHOOSE charter schools.

          It’s a no brainer. Now, go fishing, you’ve worked hard!


          1. flora

            And who stands to profit from charter schools? Who has investments in their expansion and rents stream of money? Not the local school board. Follow the money, as always.

        3. Michael Fiorillo

          CT, I’d look a little more carefully and critically at the “failing public school” trope, which has been repeated endlessly for more than twenty years now, as well as the stats from No Excuses charter schools like Uncommon, which are juked by cherry-picking the student body (no matter the propaganda about them having “waiting lists” and conducting lotteries) and the “counseling-out” of students who either bring the test scores down or can’t handle the sweatshop/Skinner Box conditions.

          These schools work for a some students, in practice very few; they represent a very, very small subset of the school-age population. To call these colonialist outposts public schools is a misnomer at best, and disinformation, at worst.

          Eva Moskowtz’s Success Academy in NYC- of the same ilk as Uncommon Schools – just graduated it’s first class from high school, a total of seventeen students. “But they all got in to college!” we keep hearing from NPR and other echo chambers of so-called ed reform. Meanwhile, the huge majority of kids for whom this model doesn’t work went back to the public schools. It’s all a toxic combination of scam – Moskowitz earns over twice as much as the Chancellor, who oversees over a million more students – union busting, labor de-skilling and social engineering operation, which in practice nets out to a from of wealth extraction and social vandalism.

          Moskowitz graduated seventeen kids, but nevertheless, has her claws sharpened and a bank account ready to put over a hostile takeover of public school real estate all over NYC, and has bi-partisan support to do so. Chicago, under the demonic Rahm Emanuel, has different players, but similar dynamics, and has undergone even more destruction.

  3. Synoia

    The building is owned by politically connected Leon Finney, who has put up ‘We Trust Obama’ signs on the housing development.”

    We most certainly do trust Obama; to be absolutely selfless. Absolutely.

    1. Darius

      The important thing is that he “reads” as selfless to enough people.

      If Obama wanted a suburban campus for his library with “ACRES OF PARKING!,” he should have put it there. So many zombie malls needing a new purpose. Instead, he puts it on precious, historic urban parkland. And we’re supposed to applaud. Because Obama.

    2. flora

      [L]istening to fellow liberal neurotic Democrats over the last year, I detect a sense of abandonment. Of Obandonment, to be more precise. Obama, Obama, where art thou? -Vanity Fair

      Gosh, I’ve been thinking that since, oh, late 2009. Nice to see that Vanity Fair (which I like) is catching up.

    1. flora

      Yep. But FB and Cambridge Analytica’s competition have to love seeing Facebook and Cambridge Analytica brought low in the MSM and political dock; seeing their competition in the dock of effective but ill repute. I think Google and Amazon Cloud Services and various data mining outfits must be loving the four-corners attack on Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Taking out the competition means there’s more money for them.

      On the other hand, if I were Facebook or Cambridge Analytica I’d remind myself that all publicity, even bad publicity, is good. I mean, if FB and CA are THAT effective then I’d sure want to hire THEM. Is the fight over bad behavior, or over whose bad behavior is most effective? (Popcorn futures, I tell ya, popcorn futures!)

  4. Rob P

    Mr. Market: “What makes [Trump’s expressed views on Amazon] a conundrum is that Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post, which regularly publishes inside scoops exposing the worst of what’s going on in the White House. The president is often critical of the “failing” newspaper. So, even when Trump has a point, it’s impossible to take him seriously because there’s at least the appearance that he has a corrupt motive”

    Speaking of a ‘corrupt motive’, why exactly did Bezos buy WaPo? Presumably, to help him exercise political influence in Washington. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if oligarchs started to think buying media outlets to influence politics could backfire on their businesses.

    1. Quentin

      He adopted the Russian oligarch model. That Adelson casino guy had a newspaper in Israel, doesn’t he, dedicated to Netenayhooo?

    2. Elizabeth Burton

      I believe the purchase came shortly after he completed his $600 million contract with the CIA. Draw your own conclusions.

        1. WheresOurTeddy

          Paid approx $300M for the Post.
          Gets $600m from CIA contract.

          So who really bought the Post?

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The ‘corrupt motive’ is always used selectively.

      For example, would it be or not be corrupt to vote for universal health care, in exchange for war with Russia or North Korea, and benefits after retirement (hypothetical, with no one in particular in mind)?

  5. Edward E

    God ordained someone to be President? Quotation from James Martin SJ
    “A funnier thing is that Jesus spent more of his time with prostitutes than with presidents. Funnier still, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.” (Mt. 21:31)”

    1. Sid Finster

      What about Obama? Did God ordain Obama to be president, too? Or does that mandate of heaven thing apply only to orange carnival barkers?

      1. Synoia

        Did God ordain Obama to be president, too?

        No, it must have been the other guy. God does not appear to have a tormented sense of humor.

          1. Edward E

            Is anyone else having the spam problems I’m having? Wal-Mart win 2018 club, Samsungwin2018club, McAfee warnings and other chaos?

  6. timotheus

    Tesla: Prove the ‘Haters’ Wrong and Ramp Up Production

    Perhaps Stakhanov is available for the volunteer shift.

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      As much as the geek in me enjoyed watching Musk’s SpaceX land the first stage boosters, I really think he screwed the pooch with Tesla when he ran off the UAW. Instead of calling for volunteers, he needs to call up the union.

    2. Summer

      I don’t see how volunteers would speed up work. That gives the other workers more unpaid work…making sure they are safe and trained.
      Musk talks like all they have to do is lick stamps.

    3. Mo's Bike Shop

      That’s just such a breathtakingly stupid thing to say on so many levels.

      Just for one, the assumption that the employees have been slacking up until now. One wonders if anyone any of the suits involved has assembled so much as a Revell model.

  7. Left in Wisconsin

    On single payer: the “progressive” “public option” advocates, foot-soldiers the liberal Democrats’ log war against single payer, in 2009 did incalculable damage.

    I’m not so sure about this. Counter-narratives can only be speculative but I have a hard time seeing how we ever get to single payer without first having a go at something like O-care. I tend to the view that it has taken the failure* of O-care (which, granted, seemed obvious to many of us) that has brought many around to the need for single payer.

    *Yes, I know O-care helped a lot of people.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      And, unfortunately, the people for whom it did and does work are oblivious to the millions for whom it didn’t and now doesn’t. They will attack savagely anyone who questions its contribution to the public good.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I have a hard time seeing how we ever get to single payer without first having a go at something like O-care

      You would start by giving single payer advocates a seat at the table, which liberal Democrats have consistently refused to do since the Clinton era. You would also not run nakedly obvious bait-and-switch brand-hijacking operations against them, like the public option back in 2009, and “Medicare Extra” (nice to be superfluous, eh?) today.

  8. Jim Haygood

    The dogs bark, but the Permanent Campaign caravan rolls on forever:

    Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is back in New Jersey Thursday for a rare public appearance since she lost her bid for the White House.

    Rutgers will pay Clinton $25,000 from an endowment but use no money from tuition or state aid, according to the university. A Clinton spokesperson told NBC the former secretary of state plans to donate the honorarium to charity.

    Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics will host the event at Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway.


    “Donate the honorarium to charity” — which one, the Clinton Foundation? C’mon, think like a criminal — she does.

    Were I a stoodent at Rutgahs, I’d join my bros to burn a mountain of old tires in the middle of the quad to protest the school giving aid, comfort and credibility to a ghastly old warmongering has-been. Our yoof are our future!

    1. HotFlash

      Only $25 grand? How the mighty are fallen! Maybe there’s an honorary doc for Chelsea in there somewhere?

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      How many students will be there?

      At least her first come back appearance is at a university, and not on Wall Street, but also not at a closed Rust Belt auto factory either.

    3. a different chris

      >but use no money from tuition or state aid

      Oh good because money is the least fungible of substances, of course.

  9. JBird

    Several PoC #onhere including me have made mention of why simple “gun control” rhetoric doesn’t work for our communities and I want to take a second to explain what I mean by that.

    Here in the fabulous San Francisco Bay Area, Oakland has had a murder problem for decades; a hundred, or more, deaths per year. I think it’s gone down to only just below 100, but it is only blacks with perhaps the very occasional poor Latino or white.

    I must have missed all the national protests. /sac

    Perhaps if the police weren’t an occupation force of the community, but a service organization for the community, all that fear and anger that was the cause wouldn’t have happened. I breathlessly wait with joyful anticipation for that.

    BTW, pretty much all the murder weapons were unregulated, unregistered, illegally owned handguns.

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      Maybe it’s a cosmetic thing, but I remember them being called “peace officers” when I was young.

      “Law Enforcement” is adversarial and confrontational. Perhaps that’s the point.

  10. allan

    New York Progressive Action Network, which has no-nonsense thresholds on issues,
    makes its first endorsements:

    Jumaane Williams, Lieutenant Governor
    Ian Golden, U.S. House (NY-23)
    Liuba Grechen Shirley, U.S. House (NY-02)
    Dana Balter, U.S. House (NY-24)
    Jasmine Robinson, NYS Senate in District 23

  11. Left in Wisconsin

    “U.S. negotiators are considering putting forward a proposal that would include workers’ salaries in the calculation to determine which cars qualify for reduced duties under the agreement. The development, which was first reported by Inside U.S. Trade and confirmed by the Canadian Press, has been floated informally over the past week and is aimed at incentivizing car companies to pay wages far higher than the current average rate in Mexico”

    Well, leave it to Trump to finally propose a trade “adjustment” that would actually help working people. I can’t wait to hear from the Dems about why this is a terrible idea.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Perhaps someone should coin the phrase “Police Supremacy”.

      As in “stop Police Supremacy”.

      See who responds how . . .

  12. Byron "Hug" Niceman, epidemiologist

    “[N]ew revelations doesn’t change that voters were expecting chaos.” Chaos being a genus of amoebae. The amoeba, the cause of dysentery, amoebiasis. The kind endemic to areas fertilized by human feces. Untreated infections can reach the brain. With only the most rudimentary coordination, the Presidential Amoeba’s pseudopodia try to engulf every particle they meet, swallowed awash in corruption ooze. Just a gooey pattern of conduct, payoffs from the campaign—no, Trump Org—wait the lawyer took out a hund-thirty out of his HELOC for the D’s rando hatch—yeah, now he remembers—And the Democrats [pointing to sign] *Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt.* you say, are in trouble without the Ver-mont-ster?

  13. XXYY

    Tom Steyer’s Impeachment Campaign Is Building Him a Political Death Star

    Always with this:

    What Steyer is doing is acquiring the equivalent of prime political real estate. Through his self-funded Need to Impeach campaign, he has now built an email list of more than 5.1 million members, a total that one former presidential campaign manager called “staggering” and a top digital adviser called “one of the biggest Democratic lists out there.”

    The spirit of the direct mail industry seems to run deep in the veins of the Democratic establishment. Forget policy, forget constituents, forget citizens dying in the streets in horrifying numbers; what these people want is big lists. Strangely high numbers of stories about Bernie Sanders, both pre and post election, focused on the Dems getting their hands on his list, as though any Sanders voter anywhere would get an email from Debbie Wasserman-Schultz or Tom Perez without contemptuously deleting it or posting it on Twitter as a joke.

    Note to Dem list-a-holics:

    o Everyone gets a mountain of email saying stupid stuff and asking for money. It’s overwhelmingly ignored.

    o Most mail clients allow you to permanently block a sender forever with one mouse click.

    o The performance of Sanders’ list had nothing to do with the list. It had to do with Sanders.

    The idea that a big mailing list, on its own, is somehow going to change the course of politics, or solve any problems in the US that need solving, seems intensely self-absorbed, sad and pathetic. Like something a billionaire or a direct mail marketer might think.

    1. Rob P

      >The idea that a big mailing list, on its own, is somehow going to change the course of politics, or solve any problems in the US that need solving, seems intensely self-absorbed, sad and pathetic.

      You’re thinking about it the wrong way. Sure, if your goal is to ‘change the course of politics’, it won’t work, but that isn’t the point. The goal is fundraising for its own sake. Raise money from lists, spend it on more marketing to raise more money, and on and on like that, until nothing is accomplished except making millions for political consultants. Useless from a societal point of view, but great if you’re one of the grifters profiting from it.

      1. HotFlash

        Better, but, you still don’t get it. The point is to *sell the lists*, irregardless of whether they produce or not. Think of it as PE for political consultants.

      2. polecat

        Hopefully, this deathstar will go nova, no .. supernova … becoming a tiny-weeensy singularity of 10%er professional-left ineffectiveness …

    2. ewmayer

      The author of the “Death Star” piece also seems to have forgotten what happened to said Wunderwaffe.

  14. ProNewerDeal

    Since 0bama is in the news… recall the debate Who Is Even Worse: Bush43 or 0bama.

    Perhaps we could rate Bush43, 0bama, & Trump (or extend back to Reagan or LB Johnson or FD Roosevelt) on a scale of 0-100, with 100 being an Actually Net Good President like FD Roosevelt or say Sanders if he had been elected, & 0 being the Worst Eva.

    Have any historians/other social scientists analyzed the Presidents in this manner?

    Trump is terrible, especially on climate/environment/pollution issue.

    However I must admit with Trump that I no longer fear the constant threat of a Grand Ripoff of SS/Medicare & the TPP that I feared during 0bama. It seems that Trump has no work ethic or ability to focus to put an 0bama-Grand Ripoff-like sustained 8-year effort towards any issue, even his beloved Great Wall of Murica.

    With 0bama, it was fear of his INTENDED actions, whereas with Trump, I am fearful of the UNINTENDED consequences of his random & juvenile behavior, especially in foreign relations/war with North Korea (twitter beefin’ with Kim Jong-Un), reacting to Corp Ds like Hellary/Maddow insulting Trump as Putin’s B!tch by attacking Russia, etc.

    1. Adam Eran

      Trump is just Obama with the mask off. Sure, he’s bigoted, puts down the Hispanics, but it was Obama who tripled Bush 43’s deportations. Incidentally, roughly 50% of the undocumented are Hispanic (the rest are largely Asian), but 90% of the deportations are Hispanic.

      That said, I’ve literally met Trump derangees who have told me (unsolicited) they wouldn’t live in the same neighborhood as Trump voters.

      1. Kurtismayfield

        Mr Obama’s Administration didn’t really increase deportations. What he did was change how it was defined at the border.

        It depends on the definition of “deportation”

        Expulsions of people who are settled and working in the United States have fallen steadily since his first year in office, and are down more than 40% since 2009.

        On the other side of the ledger, the number of people deported at or near the border has gone up — primarily as a result of changing who gets counted in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s deportation statistics.

        So they started to call turnarounds at the border deportations, meanwhile other deportations went down.

    2. Elizabeth Burton

      Trump doesn’t need to go after SS/Medicare personally; he has people for that, just like other rich folks. He already knows Paul Ryan’s geared up to gut both programs as soon as can be managed, with the able support of McConnell if the Reps keep their majority in the Senate.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        That’s what the Trump Tax Cuts are for, is to foster conditions for an eventual deficit/debt so huge that officeholders at the time that deficit/debt bloats into view will use it as pressure to abolish Social Security and Medicare.

        Sanderistas can run on Protect Social Security, Protect Medicare, restore the missing taxes. Clintonites will reveal themselves by failing to support those same things in that same way. Any Sanderista who gets elected by honestly calling for just those things will be politically free to work for just those things.

    3. Amfortas the Hippie

      I, too, have taken some comfort(thin raft!) in the incompetence and four-year-old attention span spilling out of the WH.
      The myriad fax pas and floor-shitting don’t even register with me any more(they do with wife and mom), and I find that I’ll probably have to wait and see regarding all the serious stuff, like foreign and trade policy.
      to paraphrase Yoda, “The Chaos clouds everything”.

  15. allan

    Shane Goldmacher @ShaneGoldmacher

    The New York AFL-CIO — which four years ago did not endorse Andrew Cuomo — is out with an unsolicited statement bashing Cynthia Nixon

    Under the theory that our enemy is the enemy of our enemy. Or something.

    1. allan

      But wait, there’s more!

      Jesse McKinley @jessemckinley

      Another labor-friend-of-Cuomo (LFOC) — this time @transportworker president — goes after @CynthiaNixon, calling her “phony progressive.” It’s the third attack in the last 90 minutes.

      With all the spontaneity of a May Day parade in Pyongyang.

    2. Elizabeth Burton

      It’s my observation the national labor unions have all jumped the shark and will support any neoliberal who promises to ensure they’ll retain just enough membership to justify (and cover) their executives fancy salaries. World Socialist Web Site has at least one article a week exposing the shenanigans of the higher-ups in the long-established unions as they sell out the rank-and-file to the bosses then try to explain how settling for half a loaf is more realistic.

      In other words, they now sound just like the corporate Democrats they almost invariably hand their official support to election after election. Telling, that.

        1. Elizabeth Burton

          Oh, definitely. Several locals of SEIU were making it on to my Facebook newsfeed during the primaries, and they went ballistic when the national came out for Clinton. And, if you hang out at the World Socialist Web Site at all, they report regularly that locals have rejected deals negotiated by their nationals that sell them out to the bosses. Which is most of the time.

    3. Huey Long

      Ms. Nixon came out and placed 100% of the blame on MTA construction costs on organized labor yesterday:

      Nixon also said she didn’t understand why the Second Avenue subway had cost $3.5 billion. She feels the project should have only cost “half a billion” dollars per mile and said that union agreements would need to be addressed to bring costs down.

      “With the deals that they [unions] have now, you can’t hope to make improvements to the trains in a fiscally responsible way,” she said, not specifying which unions she was referring to. “Everybody’s got to pull together, and everybody’s got to make sacrifices.”


      She’s dead to me now.


  16. Carolinian

    More Wolcott on Obomber

    A president who didn’t brag about himself. Who made it about “we,” not “me.” Who could lankily stride around the Oval Office without getting winded. Occupying the White House for eight years, Barack and Michelle Obama conducted themselves beautifully and irreproachably, elevating the national tone, embracing the once excluded, and leaving 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue radiating an afterglow rare for presidents and first mates, second terms usually being brutal and humbling. Their afterglow persists, giving their absence a keener pang, but the halo effect they left on governance, integrity, and diversity was turned into a bent hubcap on Week One of the Trump presidency;

    Meanwhile Trump supporter Roseanne had a huge hit with the return of her sitcom. Tone is so hard to maintain.

    1. voteforno6

      Oh FFS, that’s just absurd. Obama “impressed” me early on for his rather pronounced self-regard. The verbal tic that bothered me was how he always referred to some appointment he made as “his” Secretary of Defense, or “his” Secretary of the Treasury, not “ours.” He’s got just as much of an ego as anyone who has ever held that office, if not more. I’m sure that he still thinks that he really was a great President.

  17. Gary

    KAYE (voice-over): Most in this group believe God ordained Donald Trump to be president and stand by him despite his imperfections.

    I hear this from time to time. But… would it not have worked the same for Obama then? Isn’t that how the whole God thingy is supposed to work?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      They also look at his motive, every single time (or often).

      It’s as if the other guys (and gals) have no ulterior motives.

      I think if a person acts out of a desire to win the Noble Peace prize, and we deem that to be selfish, or not selfish, the standard should be same for all.

      And that goes for Single Payer, peace, trust-busting, etc.

  18. ewmayer

    “Very reminiscent of what Bill Clinton supporters said of Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, etc.” — Except in Trump v Daniels we are talking about *consensual* sex (attached to a controversial no-tell legal contract), yes? That would appear to be a rather material difference.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      “What Bill Clinton supporters said,” yes. I thought “regardless of the merits” wasn’t needed, but perhaps not.

      And now we’re going after Trump for consensual sex. There doesn’t seem to be any threshold for the absurdity, does there?

  19. ScottS

    Re: “Tesla Urges Workers to Prove the ‘Haters’ Wrong and Ramp Up Production”

    I’ve never joined a cult before, but I did interview at SpaceX

    1. ewmayer

      Still waiting for the headline “Workers Urge Tesla to Prove the ‘Haters’ Wrong and Pay Them More to Ramp Up Production” to appear in our beloved corporate media.

      But preparing to conquer Mars takes rather vast sums of money, alas – musn’t do anything that would put even the tiniest dent in Elons’s ego-matching compensation package!

    2. Huey Long

      Elon is fighting tooth and nail to keep the UAW out of his death trap of a plant (injuries at Tesla are above the industry average) and now he’s calling on his workers to assist him in “proving the haters wrong,” i.e. to bail him out.

      The nerve!

      Tesla workers need to tell this spoiled obnoxious familyblogger to go pound salt until he stops trying to bust the union.


  20. DJG

    Ahhh, Pete Buttigieg. The problem that Pete faces is that U.S. culture still is not-so-hiddenly horrified at same-sex desire. Twenty-seven hundred years after Sappho and she can still get people’s toes in a twist.

    So the interesting thing is how much Buttigieg is going through classic résumé building of the acceptably ambitious. It appears that after Catholic high school, he’s now an Episcopalian. Harvard, Oxford, the military service (lieutenant) as inoculation, much like so many other politicians. Go to Wikipedia, and flip back and forth with Tom Cotton’s entry: Harvard, Harvard, think tank, military service as inoculation.

    I understand that Buttigieg has the endorsement of Frank Bruni, possibly the most deeply shallow of the NYTimes columnists (tough to pick a winner, but I’ll go out on a limb).

    But the question for gayfolk has always been: Is acceptability what it is all about? The marriage campaign had that undertone–and critics and skeptics weren’t treated kindly. (And marriage was also sold as a property / financial arrangment, which is mainly what it is anyway, but let’s not go that big.)

    So: Buttigieg? What is the meaning of his campaign? Looking to be vice president? Looking to be acceptable to DNC on economic issues? I’m not seeing him as willing to expand the scope of ideas of masculinity.

  21. The Rev Kev

    Trump is notorious for wanting to re-negotiate agreements, right? Whether you are talking about the Paris Accord, NAFTA, the South Korean trade agreement, etc. He will just up and say, I don’t like that agreement so I am going to break it until I get my way.
    Has anybody considered the possibility that Stormy Daniels has simply learned from him and has decided that she no longer likes the agreement that she made with him twelve years ago? She is just doing her dash for cash and learning that agreements are made to be broken until you get the agreement that you want.

    1. wilroncanada

      Rev Kev
      No. she finally just decided she’d had enough.
      To quote that late great American philosopher L S Boreman (pseudonym L L), she’d “had it up to here.”

  22. Utah

    Re Trump, Amazon and the Postal Service. Gizmodo does a disservice in the article on reflecting on the postal service. The government does not subsidize the post office. I would argue it’s the other way around.
    The retirement pre-funding mandate for people who will be retiring in 80 years has been swiped by the government, and word around the NALC (letter carrier’s union) water cooler is that it was used to pay for the Middle East Wars. I wish everybody would stop saying that the government subsidizes the postal service. It does not. It cannot make a profit by virtue of being a government entity, and even though it is supposed to get a kickback for reduced rate nonprofit mail, that has also been taken away.
    This is a good blog article about it, but the comments are just as good, and better informed about the 2006 prefunding.: https://www.linns.com/news/postal-updates/2017/april/congress-raid-usps-coffers-30-years.html

    Long story short- Trump is complaining about Amazon/ Bezos bilking the government, but they’re not. They’re playing by the rules that Congress set. Now if only we could get some former postal employees elected who understand what it’s like on the ground.

  23. Polar Donkey

    Ransomware news- A friend who works for John Deere said the company’s parts and invoicing system got hit yesterday with ransom. Whole system locked up.

    1. allan

      So, a company that denies its customers the right to repair has its dealer network denied the right to repair. Sad.

      Nothing ruins like a Deere.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        “Floating point numbers are like piles of sand; every time you move them around, you lose a little sand and pick up a little dirt. ” — Brian Kernighan and P. J. Plauger.

        I’m starting to feel like routing any process through a computer acts like that: Lose a little sand, pick up a little dirt. There’s an irreducible amount of crapification that happens when digital middlemen enter the equation.

        1. foghorn longhorn

          The solution is quite simple, don’t buy the new crap.
          I can do anything I want to my ’99 model.

  24. giantsquid

    Re: “Tom Steyer’s Impeachment Campaign Is Building Him a Political Death Star”

    “But Steyer’s support for Sanders goes beyond their shared interest in mobilizing millennials to turn out at the polls. Steyer is also throwing his weight behind some of the once-fringe issues that Sanders championed on the campaign trail, such as single-payer health care.”

    ““The idea that we’re not going to cover people is over,” Steyer explained. “Health care is a right. The question is how do we deliver it in the most efficient manner possible.”
    Steyer admitted that getting to a single-payer system in the U.S. would be “really difficult,” but he believes that other countries’ systems are hurting American competitiveness. “Single-payer is a system [elsewhere] that is kicking our ass,” he said.”

    So the question is: Does being an oligarch automatically eliminate Steyer as a credible candidate in the minds of members of the nakedcapitalism community? If there’s no evidence that he’s also a grifter, I’d consider him (he’s good on climate; he’s apparently good on health care insurance), although I’d prefer Bernie or possibly Elizabeth Warren.


    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      True, there’s a refreshing simplicity to having oligarchs running the country openly, instead of through straws. But it all has a rather late Roman Republic feel, doesn’t it? “That nice young Octavius boy. Why don’t we try him?”

      1. giantsquid

        “But it all has a rather late Roman Republic feel, doesn’t it?”

        Of course. How is that different from what we already have?

      2. giantsquid

        And we might get a bit more bread to go with our circuses, although another traitor to his class in the vain of FDR would be too much to hope for I suppose.

  25. djrichard

    UPDATE “Tom Steyer Is Going To Hold Debates In Democratic Primaries Across The Country” … “The debates will also serve as fundraisers for local progressive groups. As they are targeted to young voters, they will be hosted at venues that cater to those groups — for instance, the debate in Pennsylvania’s 7th District will be held at a brewery. Candidates will be welcomed onto the stage to the strains of an unspecified pop song. The tentative format of the debates will be a combination of a moderated question-and-answer session and rapid-fire questions, bracketed by opening and closing remarks by the candidates. The hope is that the debates will be hosted by national activists or celebrities whose presence will appeal to young voters. Steyer himself may even host one.”

    The simulation will look so real people won’t be able to tell the difference.

    Unspecified pop song? Make it complete and simulate that too. The completely simulated debate, with simulated pop song, simulated candidates, simulation of it being participatory through moderation and boutique brewery simulating working-class bonafides.

    A simulation by a billionaire who knows he’s part of the act. Including his being a simulacrum of something else.

  26. The Rev Kev

    Yulia Skripal, daughter of Sergei Skripal, is no longer in a critical condition, say Salisbury doctors. In a totally unverified and bogus quote, her first words were: “What? Didn’t our suicide pact work out?”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think there’s some merit to the idea that if the Skripals had been assaulted by Russians (at least by professionals, whether mercenaries and/or state-sponsored) they would be dead, not alive. I admit I have no alternative to propose. We never did figure out the anthrax attack on the US Capitol after 9/11, either.

  27. Edward E

    It is good to hear and see higher earnings for truck drivers, we basically didn’t have a raise for three or four years prior. This capacity issue may be why sign on bonuses sent to me through email are in the $7 k range solo, up to $30 k team. I’ll try to send Lambert some of the cabbage soon. He’s earned a bonus.

    ELD compliance still a problem as April 1 approaches — FreightWaves

    Evans notes that there are at least half a million Class 8 vehicles without an ELD device on them and that the majority of the 16 million Class 3 to Class 7 vehicles are not compliant either. “We have data on how many devices that we think have been manufactured and it is not anywhere near enough to support the whole industry,” he said.


    Myths Busted: Top 4 Truck Driver Myths

  28. leondarrell

    Regarding low House incumbency for the upcoming, does anyone know how many of these creatures are going in to lobbying or revolving-door type jobs?

  29. ChrisAtRU

    “It’s crossed my mind that the Democrats don’t actually want a landslide. If they got one, they might have to govern, which they strenuously avoid doing.”

    THIS … so absolutely right. They’d rather play the vacuous #NotTrump game till #2020. A “premature” majority means hand wringing over donors versus voters on policy. Not that voters have much of a chance with the current crop of establishment enablers. However, even the blind could see that if Democrats fail to move the needle forward on progressive issues like healthcare, wages, inequality and injustice after a successful midterm, then the trap is set for a repeat failure in #2020.

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