2:00PM Water Cooler 3/7/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Trump’s tariff proposal sparked an intense battle in the administration between free-trade supporters led by Cohn and the nationalist wing, which included White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Trump ultimately ignored the free traders, who launched a last-ditch effort to change his mind with a White House meeting Thursday with executives from industries likely to be hurt by the tariffs. That meeting has now been canceled” [Politico].

“Why a full-blown Trump trade war won’t happen” [MarketWatch]. “Donald Trump’s plan to impose big tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum has spawned lots of talk about a destabilizing global trade war that’s an echo of the Great Depression, but the White House move is better characterized, for now, as a mere skirmish. The real worry is the skirmish will metastasize into something far worse, especially in light of the president’s mercurial approach to policy. Smoldering disputes over steel and a handful of other goods, however, are far from the raging fire that is a global trade war. That’s why the world hasn’t seen one in a very long time. Trade disputes — as opposed to trade wars — are common and long predate Trump. The U.S., for example, only gets 2% of steel imports from China even though the Asian country produces about half of the world’s supply. How come? The Obama administration hit Chinese steel with heavy tariffs in 2016 that sharply reduced imports, and those remain in place.”



He’s running:

“[Sanders] pressed his calls for universal coverage and said ‘I think that the most cost-effective way to do that is by expanding Medicare, eliminating the private insurance companies, and then saving tremendous amounts of money in administrative costs.'” [The Hill]. “‘I believe in a Medicare for all, single-payer, but to the degree that people are talking about guaranteeing health care to all people, it’s a step.'” Please don’t dilute the message, Senator Sanders; CAP and @USofCare are very far from being your friends.

“Biden hits campaign trail for red-state Dems” [The Hill]. Conor Lamb (PA-18), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). “The appearances highlight how Biden’s star power is attractive to Democrats seeking to hold on to or win back offices on political ground where their party is vulnerable. It also shows the concerted effort that Biden is making to remain front and center on the national stage as he considers whether to run for president for a third time.” It also shows Biden fully on board with the Democrat effort to forestall #MedicareForAll. Lamb, Tester, and Heitkamp are all Blue Dogs. For more on Heitkamp, see below.

“Deval Patrick says a run for the White House in 2020 is on his ‘radar screen'” [Boston Globe]. “Patrick, who described himself in the interview as a ‘pro-growth Democrat,’ joined Boston-based Bain Capital as a managing director after leaving office in January 2015.”


TX: “Here’s what happened in the 2018 Texas primaries” [Texas Monthly]. Some snippets: 1. “More than 1.5 million people voted in the Republican primary, with close to 100 percent reporting, compared to about 1 million Democrats, also with a near 100 percent reporting.” Hard to see how that signals a wave that will “turn Texas Blue,” as the slogan has it, though of course that doesn’t preclude the pickup of individual seats. 2. “Laura Moser secured a slot in the party’s primary runoff Tuesday, despite rare attempts [Rare? Really?] by national Democrats to end her bid over concerns she is too liberal for the district. Moser, (24%) a journalist and activist, will face attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (30%) in the May 22 runoff — which will likely be a brutal intra-party fight and could divide west Houston and the national Democratic Party.” I’d be happier if there were 10 such races.

TX: ” Of the nearly 50 women running for Congress in Texas, more than half won their primaries outright or advanced to runoffs. What’s more, at least three of those runoffs in May will feature women going head-to-head, including a key race for Democrats in their bid to take control of the U.S. House this fall” [AP]. From a policy standpoint, I don’t know why I should care about this. We should have learned from Obama that ascriptive identity doesn’t map directly to political views. The United Daughters of the Confederacy, after all, played a key role in propagating the Lost Cause mythology, greatly damaging the country.

TX: “Ratings Update: Texas Primaries Narrow Democratic Fields” [Inside Elections]. Some snippets: 1. “The primaries are significant considering Democrats have multiple targeted races including the 7th, 23rd and 32nd Districts. But the Democratic nominee won’t be known in each race until after the May 22 runoff. That doesn’t mean Democrats can’t win in November. In spite of competitive and expensive Democratic primaries, President Donald Trump will likely unify and energize the Democratic Party in each race before November.” 2. “Fletcher has an endorsement from EMILY’s List and should be equipped to run a competitive primary, but if the district becomes a proxy war for the Bernie Sanders faction of the party, the race could become unpredictable.”

TX: “While Democrats outperformed previous midterm turnout levels, the results also produced some tough lessons. Hoping to capitalize on gradual demographic shifts and newfound energy, Democrats have placed their long-shot hope of turning Texas purple in the hands of Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who won the party’s nomination to challenge Sen. Ted Cruz in the general election. But the vaunted El Paso congressman received less than half of the vote total Cruz did, suggesting the GOP base is still formidable on the statewide level” [RealClearPolitics]. “Still, the primaries demonstrated that Democrats are prepared to compete everywhere, as they had no shortage of viable candidates vying for federal and local offices. Texas is hosting a handful of key House races in the kinds of suburban swing districts Democrats are targeting nationwide, where voter enthusiasm could make a difference.” Just so long as they don’t support #MedicareForAll, they’ll have all the support the Party can give!

Our Famously Free Press

I have a weakness for Chris Cilizza for the same reason I like brandy-and-cigars election handicappers: They are consistent and so I can discount what they write properly. But people seem to be upset with him:

Dear me! And then this:

Roth is, of course, editor of Foreign Policy, the Heart of the Blob, who’s been War Scaring and Red Scaring since forever, but especially since his favored candidate, Hillary Clinton, lost.

Anyhow, the article that caused the dustup: “Donald Trump is producing the greatest reality show ever” [Chris Cilizza, CNN]. Judge for yourself. I think “sociopathic” is a little harsh, especially coming from Roth (and his crowd).

New Cold War

“Democrats Need to Unite the Country Against Russia” [Mother Jones]. From January, still germane. “In tying the Republicans to an enemy, the Democrats have the potential to break the Republicans. Do they stand with America or do they stand with Russia? The best part is that the Democrats do not have to lie, distort or otherwise misrepresent reality to make the case.” “The best part…

As I’ve been saying, the Russian War Scare unites liberals and conservatives against the left.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“One of the fundamental ideas of the thread was that the country had entered a period where our normal ways of talking about subjective probability made no sense in terms of politics. You could still make directional and even ordinal statements, but we were so far outside of the range of data and precedent that you could no longer confidently assign upper and lower bounds to the probability of a number of events including the destruction of the Republican Party. Note, I never said that this was “likely” to happen, but rather you can’t say that it can’t happen now” [Observational Epidemiology]. “If I were writing this today, there are obviously things I would handle differently, but I’m reasonably comfortable standing by the main points.” As Charles Cook said (in essence) yesteday: Nobody knows anything. If you’re a volatility voter, that’s not necessarily such a bad thing.

* * *

“Can the Bernie Sanders ‘Our Revolution’ Put Progressive Populism Back Into the Texas Democratic Party?” [Texas Monthly]. ” Sanders supporters are infiltrating the party as a new and revitalized progressive wing of the party. They are among a crowd of 346 candidates under age 40 seeking office this year. Although the actual number of Sanders progressives running for office is small, they are persistent.” So Moser is not the only one. More: ” Across Texas, the Sanders-supporting Our Revolution Texas is organizing the election of precinct chairs while preparing to reignite populism in the state. The Texas operation is a spinoff of Sanders’s national organization, which includes former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower as a board member. ‘My slogan for Texas is: We’re not here to protest the government. We’re here to become the government,‘ Hightower told me. ‘It’s not an attempt to take over the Democratic Party. It’s an attempt to build the progressive force, a progressive voice into the Democratic Party.’… Whether any of these candidates wins in Tuesday’s voting or makes it to runoffs is not the most important thing, Hightower said. The effort has to start somewhere and build. And as part of that, Hightower said he expects Sanders to fill a 3,000-seat stadium at Trinity University on Friday night for a post-election rally. ‘We’ve got really good people and have a really serious objective, and it’s perfectly OK for us not to be taken seriously by the establishment right now, because we’ve got to do it, whether they know about it or not.'”

“The Outside Group Aligned With Bernie Sanders Is Backing Stacey Abrams In Georgia’s Tight Governor’s Race” [Buzzfeed]. “An outside political group backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders is set to announce two endorsements Monday in Democratic gubernatorial primaries: Connie Johnson in Oklahoma, and Stacey Abrams in Georgia, a spokesperson for the group told BuzzFeed News. The endorsement from Our Revolution, a 501(c)(4) Sanders started to build off the momentum of his near-victory in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, is one of the strongest signals that national progressive groups are in favor Abrams’ political strategy. Abrams is aiming to expand the state party’s electorate by identifying and turning out unlikely voters, as well as investing in the base, instead of working to win back white votes that have gone Republican in recent years.” I hate that “outside group” phrase. Why isn’t the DNC called an “outside group”? They certainly were just that in the Ossoff race! Anyhow, I find this encouraging for two reasons: First, a focus on expanding the electorate (which liberal Democrats most definitely are actively avoiding). Second, “a spokesperson for the group told BuzzFeed News.” That shows basic blocking and tackling is being done.

“Dem split intensifies as Senate relief bill moves forward” [American Banker]. “‘This bill is all about helping the big banks,’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said at a press conference Tuesday morning. ‘All I know is how the American people feel about bank deregulation, and telling a bank that it can be deregulated, and everyone who votes for this bill has to acknowledge this.’ But at a competing press conference, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, one of the Democrats who helped steer the bill out of the Senate Banking Committee, said she won’t let the bill be ‘papered by misstatements.’ ‘This is our moment to get this done,’ said Heitkamp, who was joined by other Democrats supporting the legislation.” “This is our moment….” Wowsers. The headline is accurate to the extent that the Democrats are run running a “revolving hero(es)(ines).” play, but I believe Warren comes by her convictions on bankers honestly.

“US senator grills CEO over the myth of the hacker-proof voting machine” [Ars Technica]. Ron Wyden and good for him:

On Tuesday, US Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent ES&S Chief Executive Tom Burt a letter that in essence asked two questions:

  1. Has ES&S sold any products on which remote-access software was pre-installed?
  2. Have ES&S officials or technical support personnel ever recommended that customers install remote-access software on voting machines or other election systems?

The article includes ES&S’s response which, as I read it, denies #1, but leaves wiggle room on #2. Can readers confirm?

“Blocked From Voting, Kansans Get Their Day In Court With Kris Kobach” [HuffPo]. “Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who is a defendant in the case and is serving as his own lawyer, questioned how much of a burden it would have been for Stricker to prove he was a citizen to election officials, noting that there was an election office near the hotel where he worked, so he could have taken his birth certificate there during his lunch hour. Stricker said he frequently works nearly 12-hour days and often eats lunch at his desk.* Plus, in 2014 he had just started a new job and was wary about taking a lunch hour to go to the election office. He has since refused to register on principle, saying an average Kansan shouldn’t have to take legal action to register. The Kansas law has also been blocked since 2016, when a federal judge stepped in and issued a temporary injunction, a decision that allowed 18,000 people who had tried to register at the DMV but failed to prove their citizenship to vote that year.” * Class warfare makes it hard to vote. Who knew.

“Six Ways the ‘Resistance’ Gave Trump a Dictator’s Toolkit” [Truthdig]. “Think about this. Besides unlimited trade authority, many Democrats also voted to continue to give Trump unlimited war powers with the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Thirteen Democratic senators voted to continue to have no congressional oversight over Trump’s wars… A few weeks ago, Congress passed a spending bill that took away the remaining congressional oversight of the intelligence community. Before that, they voted to continue giving Trump unlimited surveillance abilities.”

Stats Watch

ADP Employment Report, February 2018: “ADP sees a strong employment report for Friday, calling for a 235,000 rise in private payrolls which is well above Econoday’s high estimate” [Econoday]. “But ADP has been running on the high side of the government’s data in recent months which will limit the impact of today’s results on expectations.” And but: “This month the rate of ADPs private employment year-over-year growth remained in the tight range seen over the last year” [Econintersect]. “ADP employment has not been a good predictor of BLS non-farm private job growth.”

International Trade, January 2018: [Econoday]. “The nation’s trade deficit widened sharply in January, to $56.6 billion which is beyond Econoday’s deepest estimate and marks a negative start to first-quarter net exports. Imports, at $257.5 billion, were unchanged in the month but not exports which fell a sharp 1.3 percent to $200.9 billion. Exports of services were steady at $66.7 billion while exports of goods fell 2.2 percent to $134.2 billion. And here to blame are industrial supplies, which includes primary metals, down $1.3 billion to $41.5 billion and also capital goods, a central focus of U.S. strength that fell $2.6 billion to $44.9 billion and includes a $1.8 billion decline in civilian aircraft exports to $3.8 billion.” And: “The data in this series wobbles and the 3 month rolling averages are the best way to look at this series. The 3 month averages are little changed for exports and slowing for imports. However, imports are declining slower than exports – thus the trade balance worsened” [Econintersect]. “The data is worse if one considers inflation is grabbing hold in exports and imports – and the headline numbers are not inflation adjusted.”

Productivity and Costs, Q4 2017 (Revised): “Productivity in the fourth quarter is revised slightly to no change from an initial decline of 0.1 percent though the revision for unit labor costs is more tangible, now at plus 2.5 percent vs 2.0 percent initially” [Econoday]. “This reflects an upward revision to compensation now at plus 2.4 percent with hours worked, up 3.3 percent, and output, up 3.2 percent, both unchanged. A rising cost for labor relative to output is a negative for profit margins as companies, given lack of traction for selling prices, have to absorb the imbalance.” And but: “A simple summary of the headlines for this release is that productivity contracted while the labor costs grew. However, year-over-year analysis show equal growth” [Econintersect].

Commodities: “Villagers denounce irregular operations by the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company” [Mining.com]. “According to Chairman Malvern Mudiwa [of the Marange Development Trust], the different kinds of abuses that villagers have been enduring for decades have intensified. He said that locals are subjected to beatings, are asked to relocate with little notice and with no compensation, and air pollution, environmental degradation, and poverty are rampant.”

Shipping: “Shippers fear huge surge in costs if IMO rules box ships must slow down” [The Loadstar]. “World Shipping Council (WSC) vice president Bryan Wood-Thomas said the [International Maritime Organization] would next month meet to discuss curbs on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from shipping – and potentially the enforced reduction of ship speeds. Shipping consultant Franck Kayser, until recently chief operations officer at CMA CGM, said his ‘coffee pot’ prediction was that if speed limits were enforced – reductions of 10-30% – shippers could be faced with freight rates increasing 25-30% and bunker adjustment factors (BAFs) rising 50%.”

Shipping: “More money is flowing to companies that help retailers stave off the behemoth of digital commerce. Private-equity firms GTCR LLC and Sycamore Partners will pay $1.1 billion to buy technology platform CommerceHub Inc…. taking private a business that connects some of the world’s biggest retailers to brand suppliers and then gets goods to online customers” [Wall Street Journal]. “The strategy helps retailers including Walmart Inc. and Best Buy Co. build up the products they offer to consumers online without bulking up inventory at their own distribution centers. The company uses a tactic called drop-shipping to speed goods along,

Shipping: “Supply chain bottlenecks could be a bonus for buoyant air freight sector” [The Loadstar]. “Air freight volumes jumped some 8% in January and, while Chinese New Year may have distorted year-on-year figures, analysts believe the drivers of growth remain buoyant. IATA’s air freight market analysis shows a month-on-month increase from the last part of 2017, and suggests ‘rising bottlenecks’ within the supply chain would likely ‘benefit air freight over other modes of transport’…. However, IATA notes reports suggesting bottlenecks in the supply chain may be most acute in capital goods – particularly steel – which could limit the benefit to air freight.”

Infrastructure: “Highway and port backers probably never thought infrastructure started in the laundry room, but that may be where investors are heading. With big projects involving roads and trains stations in short supply, many investors are finding ways to put their money to work by stretching the definition of infrastructure to other deals they hope will offer steady returns…. [I]ncreasingly fund managers are looking at targets like airport luggage trolleys, coin-operated laundry machines and college-town apartment buildings that may lack industrial scale but won’t tie up money for years” [Wall Street Journal]. We’ve got some of those apartment buildings (cheapjack townhouses) in my college town; I think the only money that stayed in the town went to whoever paved the roads and did the landscaping. But we went ahead and gave them the tax breaks anyhow.

Mr. Market: “Why Would Billionaire Oprah Sell Weight Watchers Shares?” [MarketWatch]. “Billionaire media personality Oprah Winfrey sold a portion of her holdings in Weight Watchers International Inc. It is unlikely she needs the money, which makes the decision unexpected and hard to understand….. Perhaps the Weight Watchers stake is among the most liquid assets she has. Her net worth, according to Forbes, is $2.7 billion. Much of her fortune is tied up in companies that are private, which means access to capital from those is limited…. Alternatively, Winfrey may have lost some of her confidence in Weight Watchers…. Weight Watchers did not post strong guidance for 2018.”

Mr. Market: “The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wednesday afternoon gave up its year-to-date gains, as Wall Street wrestled with news that National Economic Adviser Gary Cohn has resigned from the White House. Market participants fear that Cohn’s departure suggests that President Donald Trump will push forward on tariffs and on steel and aluminum imports that the key adviser has opposed. Moreover, Cohn was viewed as a chief engineer of the president’s pro-business agenda” [MarketWatch].

Five Horsemen: “Owing to its astronomical run-up, Amazon is close to displacing Alphabet as the second-largest cap stock after No. 1 Apple” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Mar 7 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “The Mania-panic index rose to 37 (worry) on improvement in all but one of its components.

” [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 6 2018

Neoliberal Epidemics

“Overshadowed by the Opioid Crisis: A Comeback by Cocaine” [New York Times]. “The opioid epidemic just keeps getting worse, presenting challenges discussed at length at a White House summit last week. But opioids are not America’s only significant drug problem. Among illicit drugs, cocaine is the No. 2 killer and claims the lives of more African-Americans than heroin does.”

Class Warfare

“West Virginia answers teacher strike with 5 percent pay raise” [Stillwater News Press]. “West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed legislation Tuesday afternoon that will provide all public employees in West Virginia with a 5 percent pay raise, ending a nine-day teacher walkout that closed all public schools to about 277,000 students in the state…. Still on the table is public employees’ health care managed through the Public Employees Insurance Agency. A task force to study remedies to rising health care costs and premiums will meet next week to begin its effort to find a stable funding source for the program…. Democrats said they supported the new version of the bill, but expressed concern that its cost may bring cuts to other programs.” Since this was a wildcat strike, I’ll defer to the judgment of the teachers. Assuming the health care task force is legic, what concerns me the most is Justice’s divide-and-conquer strategy of paying for the raised with Medicaid cuts. Hard to think the teachers haven’t thought that through, though.

“I Work at a West Virginia High School. Here’s My Message About Our Protest.” [Esquire]. “At its core, the West Virginia work stoppage was about a 5 percent raise and a permanent fix to our increasing health insurance costs.” And this: “When we return to the classrooms and hallways, we will be wearing our red shirts and we will walk into school together, 55 strong. And if you’re reading this and you’re a public school employee somewhere else in the country: Don’t be afraid. Fight for your worth. Your students will watch you, and they’ll thank you for it later.”

* * *

“If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets”” [Real World Economics Review]. “[E]ven the experts underestimate the degree of inequality in the United States. The usual numbers that are produced and disseminated indicate that, in 2014 (the last year for which data are available), the top 1 percent of Americans owned one third (35 percent) of total household wealth while the bottom 90 percent had less than half (45.3 percent) of the wealth. According to my calculations, illustrated in the chart at the top of the post, the situation in the United States is much worse. In 2014, the top 1 percent (red line) owned almost two thirds of the financial or business wealth, while the bottom 90 percent (blue line) had only six percent. That represents an enormous change from the already-unequal situation in 1978, when the shares were much closer (28.6 percent for the top 1 percent and 23.2 percent for the bottom 90 percent)…. Why the large difference between my numbers and theirs? …. If we take out housing and pensions and calculate just the shares of financial or business wealth—and, thus, equities, fixed-income claims, and business assets—the degree of inequality is much, much worse.”

News of The Wired

“People Don’t Actually Know Themselves Very Well” [The Atlantic]. “Sixteen rigorous studies of thousands of people at work have shown that people’s coworkers are better than they are at recognizing how their personality will affect their job performance. As a social scientist, if I want to get a read on your personality, I could ask you to fill out a survey on how stable, dependable, friendly, outgoing, and curious you are. But I would be much better off asking your coworkers to rate you on those same traits: They’re often more than twice as accurate.”

“Why being a loner may be good for your health” [BBC]. Forced loneliness, not so good. But: “For those of us who just prefer plenty of alone time, emerging research suggests some good news: there are upsides to being reclusive – for both our work lives and our emotional well-being..,. emerging research suggests some potential benefits to being a loner – including for our creativity, mental health and even leadership skills.”

* * *

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 (Chuck Roast):

Chuck Roast writes: “Springtime in South Portland.” Yay!

* * *

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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. DJW

      I was initially confused. Why is the Foreign Policy guy talking about Cody Bellinger, last year’s Rookie of the Year for the LA Dodgers? Then I looked at the tweet. David Roth is a sportswriter and, as he says in his little bio, he is also not the guy form Van Halen or the magic guy/

    2. MinesAllMines

      “The Irony. The Irony” – Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. Oops, he didn’t say that? No room for irony, GTFO

  1. Carolinian

    Your link labeled Mother Jones actually goes to Washington Monthly. Which doesn’t make the sentiments expressed any less despicable.

    How can Democrats do this without abandoning what makes them a liberal party: its values, its pluralism, its privileging of liberty and justice for all, its historic goal of creating a more perfect union? How can they ask voters to vote Democrat by doing what the Republicans do? These are difficult questions, but I think the Trump presidency offers a possible answer. The Democrats should do everything they can to tie the Republicans to something most sane people would agree, even if they are hopelessly polarized, is an indisputable threat to the United States—Russia.

    However the article does neatly summarize the attitude of the fabricators who currently populate the Dem party. It doesn’t matter–they think–whether the things they say are true as long as they advance the cause of good people such as themselves and smite the bad people in that bad other party. Some of us are old enough to remember that Nixon was mainly despised by liberals because of his early career red baiting. Tricky Dick, meet your new comrades.

    1. grayslady

      From what I can gather as a non-Texan, the progressive vote was split between Moser and Westin. The two combined received 44% of the vote, compared with Fletcher who only had 29% of the vote. Looks to me like Moser has a good chance of defeating Fletcher in the run-off if Westin progressives shift their loyalty to her.

  2. Jim Haygood

    Facebook’s digital panopticon:

    Facebook has been collecting and keeping everything — I seriously mean everything — we have ever done on the site — all the conversations, videos, pictures and documents we have shared or have had sent to us.

    It has facial recognition data (Facebook has 105 examples of what I look like), exhaustive photo metadata including your location and the time the photo was taken and data about every time you logged onto the site such as the IP address, location, browser and device used.

    My file also contained the names and numbers for everyone in my iPhone’s contact list – and yours will too.

    Facebook not only knows everything you’ve ever done on its platform but via cookies it leaves in your web browser it also tracks you wherever you go on the internet — even if you don’t use Facebook. It’s called surveillance capitalism and it’s the reason why Mark Zuckerberg is worth $92 billion.


    It’s the theft of contacts — so that they can spammed with fake messages that appear to come from yourself — that antagonizes me. Both LinkedIn and Facebook stole my contacts … and I dumped them like bagged dogsh*t.

    1. Enquiring Mind

      One FB feature/bug that may have been addressed elsewhere: search for Posts (your name) has liked. You don’t need an account. Anyone can see those. Recall that you are the product, well beyond any conventional notions of productness :(

    2. Olga

      That gives one an idea – Fborg to buy LinkedIn – surprised they’ve not done it yet. Studiously avoid the former, but not the latter (hope mr. zuck does not read NC).

    3. Arizona Slim

      Dumped them like bagged dogsh*t? Wowsers.

      I just decided to give up Faceborg for Lent, and, yes, I know. Lent has been going on for almost a month. But I tried giving up drinking and swearing and couldn’t do either one.

      What am I doing instead of Faceborg? Spending more time on NC. And making an effort to have real-world conversations with acquaintances that I usually don’t talk to. It’s fun! I recommend it to others!

      Mr. Haygood’s post reminds me that I need to lift my game. To the dumping the Borg level.

      1. Procopius

        Heck, I gave up drinking 42 years ago. Even managed to give up smoking 9 years ago, much harder. But there’s no way I can give up swearing, given the yahoos that control both parties.

    1. Jim Haygood


      Despite Israel’s claims that occupied East Jerusalem is part of its “eternal, undivided” capital, the Palestinians who are born and live there do not hold Israeli citizenship, unlike their Jewish counterparts.

      Palestinians in the city are given “permanent residency” ID cards and temporary Jordanian passports that are only used for travel purposes. They are essentially stateless, stuck in legal limbo – they are not citizens of Israel, nor are they citizens of Jordan or Palestine.

      The new bill will only worsen the difficult conditions for the 420,000 Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem, who are treated as foreign immigrants by the state.

      “Treated as foreign immigrants by the state” — trying to recall the German politician in the 1930s who denounced a certain religious minority that way. But the name escapes me …

      Former apartheid South Africa attempted to force its black population into bantustans where they would be stripped of South African citizenship and rendered stateless in the eyes of the rest of the world, which refused to recognize the bantustans.

      Like South Africa’s notorious Group Areas Act which segregated the population by race, Jerusalem contains “two almost completely economically and politically segregated populations, each interacting with its separate central business district (CBD)” according to two Israeli academics. With no equivalent of the US Fair Housing Act, Israelis can and do refuse to sell or rent to Palestinians in areas where they aren’t wanted. It’s de facto government policy.

      Ol’ Jim Crow ain’t dead … he just up and moved to Israel. :-)

      1. Oregoncharles

        Nietzsche: “If you stare too long into the abyss, the abyss also stares into you.”

        I think that’s what happened to Israel.

      2. ambrit

        How Israel treated the Ethiopian Jews, a surviving population of an early form of Judaism, was that nations real “Jim Crow” moment.

      1. nippersmom

        The article referenced the national group. The link I posted is to the state affiliate, which endorsed Stacey Abrams weeks ago, and provided in detail the reasoning behind their endorsement (which I, as a Georgia voter, found helpful and informative).

    1. Jen

      “First, the failed electoral strategy of pursuing legacy dixiecrat voters and their sympathizers must be consigned to the dustbin of history. It has failed spectacularly on multiple occasions. Nunn, Carter, Barnes, and a slew of conventional acolytes have run the same race. What follows is the cyclical death rattle of Democratic politics in our state. White moderate runs. White moderate improves on previous white moderate, but not substantially more than population changes would already suggest probable. White moderate rallies the troops into one last stand at the Alamo, and then we all recede into hibernation until another independently wealthy or pedigreed white moderate assumes the position. ”


  3. Robert Tetrault

    ES&S statement has plenty of wiggle-room: their claim of cleanliness, in reference to certification and acceptance procedures, leaves the door wide open to actual shipped product and after-sale installations.

    1. Stephen Gardner

      The bottom line is that you don’t need remote access software to be hacked. All you need is a network connection.

      Let’s just be clear. We don’t need voting machines. We need paper ballots.

  4. HopeLB

    This is interesting. Hmmm….


    “This is the first part of a three-part article.

    An extraordinary number of former intelligence and military operatives from the CIA, Pentagon, National Security Council and State Department are seeking nomination as Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections. The potential influx of military-intelligence personnel into the legislature has no precedent in US political history.

    If the Democrats capture a majority in the House of Representatives on November 6, as widely predicted, candidates drawn from the military-intelligence apparatus will comprise as many as half of the new Democratic members of Congress. They will hold the balance of power in the lower chamber of Congress.

    Both push and pull are at work here. Democratic Party leaders are actively recruiting candidates with a military or intelligence background for competitive seats where there is the best chance of ousting an incumbent Republican or filling a vacancy, frequently clearing the field for a favored “star” recruit.

    A case in point is Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA operative with three tours in Iraq, who worked as Iraq director for the National Security Council in the Obama White House and as a top aide to John Negroponte, the first director of national intelligence. After her deep involvement in US war crimes in Iraq, Slotkin moved to the Pentagon, where, as a principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, her areas of responsibility included drone warfare, “homeland defense” and cyber warfare.”

    1. grayslady

      Thanks. This is why I love wsws, although sometimes reading the unvarnished truth becomes unbearably depressing. Interestingly, I submit that, once upon a time, this is the sort of piece Lee Fang, now of The Intercept, would have been all over. Times change, I guess.

    2. Oregoncharles

      The Dems have long been in the business of killing the peace movement. At this point, Veterans for Peace and the Greens are about all that’s left. Kerry’s campaign was the most egregious example, but it’s long term.
      It’s a war party, just as it was in the 60’s.

    3. The Rev Kev

      Maybe they should make things obvious by changing the system so that all political candidates must have a security clearance as issued by intelligence and military operatives before they can officially run for office. That way, intelligence and military operatives get ahead of the pack by already having had this done doing their service.
      Any other candidates can then be vetted and security risks to the nation like Trump and Sanders would never be allowed a look-in. Maybe make the system more clearer by reserving the Senate for veterans of intelligence organizations and the House of Reps for military and military intelligence veterans. So, win-win?

      1. pretzelattack

        maybe private intelligence contractors could get the supreme crt, and the presidency in alternating terms. it would help keep our nation safe.

  5. Summer

    Just don’t call it an “ideology?”


    “He was extremely reassuring to everyone on Wall Street, and also in the business community,” said Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, a professor at the Yale School of Management. “They are losing an oasis of clear thought.”
    A former silver trader who sweet-talked his way into his first job at the New York Commodity Exchange and was later the second-highest-ranking executive at Goldman Sachs, Mr. Cohn understood the nuances of free markets and complex organizations, but was not locked into a specific worldview…”

    He’s jumping ship, but it’s not because of “specific worldview.” I guess the world all looks the same from such economic heights.

  6. Left in Wisconsin

    So apparently now being a good Democrat requires being in favor of starting a new Cold (or Hot) War with Russia AND being a free trader. Good to know.

    It will be interesting to see if Trump sticks to his guns on this one. The Repubs are willing to defend him on everything but opposition to free trade.

    1. JohnnyGL

      I was really impressed with how Trump managed to shift public opinion among Republicans against ‘free trade’.

      From +19 to -29 is really a crazy move, especially in such a short time.


      I have a suspicion that the public will back Trump over the Republican Party on this, and strongly so. On this site, we’ve focused a lot on the Dems in the mid-terms, but how Trump reshapes the Republican Party is an open question and an important one.

      If Ryan loses his seat in 2018, it sends a message to both parties.

  7. nada nada nada

    House Representative for Hawaii, Tulsi Gabbard introduces Bill to Require Paper Ballots

    You won’t find it in Google’s news search, but you can find it on Jimmy Dore’s latest video releases.

    1. Anon

      Yves posted about it in yesterday’s Links:

      Links 3/6/18

      That breaks a few ricebowls and kills a few narratives permanently, so I’ll be surprised if it catches on.

    2. Amfortas the Hippie

      You’re right, it ain’t on google news. But it’s on regular google as of a moment ago.
      I hate that google(dont be evil) is trying to become the Memory Hole.
      I’ve had trouble finding lots of stuff…even articles from a month or two ago.
      with Duckduckgo, I generally get a bunch of weird stuff only tangentially related to what I actually searched for.
      I can’t wait for the “nutrition labels” for news to come out./s

      1. lyman alpha blob

        You could try Qwant for search. Like duckduckgo it supposedly doesn’t track your searches and it also has a nice format, splitting search results into three categories.

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          Thanks. Will check it out.
          Of course, the Being Tracked Part is something I long ago gave up worrying about.
          I reckon if the NSA or whomever is all that interested in what I’m reading, they could just ask…but I get shyness.
          Hell, et tu TOR,lol…comes a point when it’s just easier to have “I’m being followed” as the default setting.
          at the very least, I hope my search parameters are interesting.

          1. Simon Girty

            Heck… soon, watching “Babylon Berlin” or eating borscht will get our doors kicked-in? Were you an innocent patriot, you’d be on Tinder, where our celestial overlords could track your every move? If you’ve done nothing wrong, what’s the problem, citizen?

            1. Amfortas the Hippie

              That was an excellent show…just finished binging it.
              The inevitable wiki=wander such things always lead me into was also very interesting(the show was more or less historically accurate). Through that lens, our society’s fragmentation can be seen as a good thing…at least as far as the militant right is concerned. Imagine if the Right were more on the same page…or with such a history of shared and intense history….rather than being shattered into numerous competing narratives.

  8. Inert_Bert

    Here’s the first english write-up I’ve seen of yesterday’s ECJ ruling on ISDS Clauses in intra-EU BITs (C-284/16).

    I tried to post a short run-down yesterday but it got eaten by wordpress/ the spamfilter/ my own browser so now you’ll have to make do with concise professional commentary by actual trade-specialists.

    Spoiler Alert: the ECJ is highly territorial. This judgement basically nukes enforcement for 196 BITs, potentially presages the court’s upcoming CETA-opinion and will probably give the comission a headache as they push the Multi-lateral Investment Court.

    1. SoldierSvejk

      Ok, I think this is the context to the above comment… was just reading about it:
      Imagine this – the dispute started in 2007-8 because Slovak government passed a law limiting (health) insurance profits! What sort of a world do we live in?! Limiting profits?! How dare they?!
      “According to the Finance Ministry, this is an unprecedented decision with an impact on all bilateral investment protection treaties between EU-member states. “I believe that this decision means a definitive end to this litigation with Achmea. I’m glad that the courts have agreed with us and accepted our arguments,” said Finance Minister Peter Kazimir (Smer-SD). According to the Finance Ministry, the EU Court of Justice stated that “the arbitration clause contained in an agreement between the Netherlands and Slovakia on investment protection is incompatible with EU law.”

  9. Swamp Yankee

    Liked Deval Patrick in 2006 (I was young, and yes, naive). But he ended up as a kind of proto-Obama, with everything two years sped up. Government of, by, and for the gentrification class, in city, countryside, and suburb alike, from the Berkshires to Nantucket and everywhere in between — the rule of the worst sort of corporate professional-class Dems as described so brilliantly by Thomas Frank. I know these people (sort of – went to school with some of their children, at least, deal with them at Town Meeting, and elsewhere), and they are not only generally pretty unbearable on a personal level, their political instincts are minimal when removed from their Front Row Kid context (h/t Chris Arnade). It’s frankly laughable — whether from hilarity or despair –that Deval Patrick thinks he has a shot. What were his main accomplishments — presiding over a Department of Children and Families that literally lost kids? Reminds me of a taunt David Cameron, of all people, used very effectively on Tony Blair: “He was the future once.” Patrick’s time has passed. People want bread and roses, not platitude-spouting corporate lawyers. Been there, done that.

    1. Big River Bandido

      I agree with your assessment of Patrick, and his chances. But I think his biggest handicap is that his geographical base is a complete political backwater in national politics.

    2. Kurtismayfield

      Deval is a grifter.. He probably figures he can land a better gig than “advising” at Bain for six months work. I guess people will never hear of the New England Compounding Pharmacy Scandal, or the Drug lab scandal that happened under his watch. Don’t worry, everything is going to be fine!

      And he was called “Mini-me” by some political writers here.. Obama’s sidekick.

    3. Darius

      Not voting for Deval under any circumstances. Same for Cuomo. That’s who the Democrats think they’re going to vomit up? They’re marginally better than Trump and that’s good enough? I wish them all the luck. Contact me in 2024.

  10. Jim Haygood

    Ku Klux Jeff invokes the War Between the States in California, just to pour a little more gasoline on the bonfire:

    “I understand that we have a wide variety of political opinions out there on immigration. But the law is in the books and its purposes are clear and just,” Sessions said during a speech to the California Peace Officers’ Association in Sacramento on Wednesday.

    “There is no nullification. There is no secession. Federal law is the supreme law of the land. I would invite any doubters to go to Gettysburg, to the tombstones of John C. Calhoun and Abraham Lincoln. This matter has been settled,” he continued.


    Whereas Gov Jerry Brown already called Sessions’ application for a federal injunction an “act of war.” Fifteen million hispanics in California (its largest ethnic group) ain’t gonna put up with an Alabama cracker shoving federal law down their throats in such a manner that anyone who looks hispanic had better keep a wary eye out for his jackbooted ICE troops.

    Repubs talk a good game of states rights in state government. But when they’re in charge in DC they wield federal law like a bludgeon, steamrolling state initiatives on everything from drivers licenses to cannabis to immigration, to enforce their ideological obsessions.

  11. Jim Haygood

    Forbes billionaire list:

    Centi-billionaire Jeff Bezos secures the list’s top spot for the first time, becoming the only person to appear in the Forbes ranks with a 12-figure fortune of $112 billion.

    He owns 16% of Amazon, which he founded in a garage in Seattle in 1994.


    In the past 12 months Amazon’s stock price rose 82.5%. :-0

    1. Bittercup

      Aha, maybe that’s why Alexa is laughing!

      Over the past few days, users with Alexa-enabled devices have reported hearing strange, unprompted laughter. Amazon responded to the creepiness in a statement to The Verge, saying, “We’re aware of this and working to fix it.”

      1. The Rev Kev

        That would seriously creep me out and is why I absolutely refuse to use software smarter than myself. Of course, that means that I am stuck using Windows 3.1 but there it is.

  12. Scott DeAmicis

    Two different articles on Trump, trade and tariffs, both of which are arguing that the impact will be small.

    This one from The New Republic. I actually learned quite a bit from it, including the source of the 200,000 job loss claim (a trade group). The whole thing is worth a read, it’s one of the better takes on the whole issue.


    The other is about the impact on GE. It’s the first time that I’ve seen a company admit that the impact on it is minor. The money quote: “Reports on the impact of potential steel and aluminum tariffs on GE’s costs are completely ungrounded,” GE spokesman Jeff Caywood said. “Our internal data shows that our consumption of imported materials likely to be impacted by the tariffs is minimal. We are monitoring the situation as it develops.”


  13. phemfrog

    This guy won the D- primary in my very red suburb of north Texas:


    He came to my door and we had a chat. Very nice guy, and a strong supporter of Medicare for All (single payer). Even has this line on his issues page, which made me think of you Lambert:

    “Not just “access to coverage.” Healthcare when you need it from the provider you choose to use.”

    Not sure he has a chance here against Burgess, but it sure is nice to have someone to root for thats not a choice between evils.

  14. Mark Gisleson

    Republican RW Painter announced he’s running for Al Franken’s seat today, a seat in play only because of allegations that no one is talking about anymore, at least not in Minnesota. He’s hedging on which party he’ll run in so technically this is still an exploratory thing but it means a seat that shouldn’t have been up until 2020 is in play and could easily be lost.

    Running as an independent scares MN Democrats the most, but anything that makes people pay attention to this election is bad for Democrats. And yes, it was painfully obvious in December that this is how things would shake out. This seat is at risk.

    1. Louis Fyne

      Clinton barely won Minnesota in 2016. (less than 2 percentage points if i recall correctly).

      That seat is definitely at risk.

      And knowing the DNC it wouldn’t surprise me if it was taken for granted. Because people in DC think that all the women from Minnesota are strong and everyone is above average in progressiveness.

  15. CalypsoFacto

    Nauseating style hagiography of Mueller in the New Yorker:

    The button-down collars of Mueller’s shirts—so soft and nonchalant when compared with the spread collars underlining the smirk of Jared Kushner—are the mark of an unreconstructed preppy. A fellow needn’t have developed his sartorial manners at fancy schools to earn distinction as a prep dresser, but it happens that Mueller did, graduating from St. Paul’s School, in 1962, and from Princeton, in 1966—during the heyday of the Ivy League Look. Under the ascent of this style, with its compromise of poise and ease, all sorts of mid-century men educated themselves in the virtues of flannel trousers, madras jackets, and cordovan penny loafers. Mueller learned a way of looking smart without seeming excessively smooth.

    The credentialed class just loves a look, don’t they? You have to wonder if part of the suspicion of Bernie is that the expensive parka was a gift and that he otherwise doesn’t focus on his fashion. This part, though, had me practically howling with laughter:

    Within the community of men passionate about preppy clothing, there’s a lively conversation around Mueller’s preference for starch in his oxford-cloth shirt, a choice evident in the unusual curvature of the roll of his collar, which bulges where you’d expect it to arc gently. It takes a certain sort of prep to starch his oxford cloth. There is a school of thought that holds that this material looks appealing when wrinkled and creased, and Mueller pointedly does not attend it. In his emphasis on telegraphing rectitude, it is tempting to see the influence of Mueller’s tenure in the Marines. The military influence on Mueller’s dress sense is further apparent in his habit of wearing his hideous Casio turned so that the face is on the inside of his wrist, the way an infantryman would, and perhaps even in his inclination toward tailoring that is, by the boxy terms of Washington cuts, relatively trim.

    He starches his collar! He wears his cheap, practical, and ugly watch, faced inward on his wrist! Marines! My god, this is a man you can take seriously! The clothing truly makes the man!


    1. nippersdad

      I really don’t know what is worse, that he is a war criminal catapulting the new Russian cold war propaganda or that he doesn’t know how to dress himself. Starching an OCBD! Really?

      Will the horrors that are Mueller never cease?

      1. CalypsoFacto

        I think what I find most offensive is justification of a person’s qualifications based on their choice of clothing. The fawning courtier description and analysis of his clothing and indirectly tying it back to his kayfabe-ish role as a foil to Trump based on the fact that he starches his oxford collar and fug watch is just too much. Maybe he’s the type of guy who finds a look and sticks with it eternally, like Steve Jobs. Yet here we have useful idiots like Gary Shteyngart calling it ‘one of the best profiles of Mueller yet’

        I should go digging for style/fashion coverage of politicians during the Bush II years. (on second thought, not sure I’m up for that hell anytime soon)

  16. Amfortas the Hippie

    the tom cotton thing (if russia says the sky is blue, true amurkins always know it’s really green”) as well as the washington monthly thing(“beat the gop by becoming better mccarthyists”) are worrying.
    just in the last week, I’ve noticed more CTR Type trolls in both my sole remaining lib/prog social medium(one I actually post to), and sevral others I lurk in periodically(to take the temp)…and all of them were slinging the russian bearcrap.
    some threads are impossible…there’s just no point(so much for standards and moderation and such).
    that cotton(scary, dead eyes) is on board, from the other end(as it were), just shows how poisonous this mess can get.
    don’t like wall street? “Russia!”
    like organic ag? “Russia!”
    it’s all purpose.
    I was even called “Sergey”, today, for being upset(but civil, with links) about heitkamp and friends in the bankster cuddlepuddle.
    It has the potential to shut all discourse down, outside of a narrow, approved rut.
    I haven’t noticed it in the real world, yet…but there’s few out of the closet dems around here.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        I reckon we need a whole bunch of new words.
        where I grew up, “liberal” meant essentially the same thing as “socialist” and “communist”. Now, Hillary is regarded by many as “liberal” and “progressive”…so I feel the need to qualify every self-reference,lol. It’s cumbersome.
        and “neoliberal”, given the European usage of “liberal”, is all but useless outside of smart places like NC.
        I’ve attempted referring to myself as “Libertarian Socialist”, which fits well enough with my own understanding of things…but it just causes a confusion of tongues with the hoi polloi on soc/med.
        To make things worse, I’ve arrived at the considered opinion that this widespread arglebargle is intentional…a key feature of the 40 year Mind#%ck.
        “Raphèl mai amècche zabì almi”.

  17. Mike Mc

    Would love to know more about the economics of college town apartment owners. Living in the home of the Husker Nation (University of Nebraska Huskers who were once the Cornhuskers), we have seen an explosion of these… to the point where my oldest who graduated from high school here in 2007 barely recognizes big chunks of his home town.

    His NEW hometown of Minneapolis has seen the same rapid buildup of multi-story apartment/condo units in and around Dinkytown, home of the U of Minnesota Golden Gophers. Very curious about where the money is coming from to build these – and whose pockets the rent money from them is lining. Any links anecdotes etc. appreciated.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Same thing happened to Tucson. And I can’t figure out where all the rich college students are coming from.

      1. audrey jr

        Last time I visited my dad in Raleigh I, too, saw epic apt. towers being erected all over near the UNC campus. Huge, huge buildings.
        So, to hell with those old beautiful historic buildings and landmarks in the state capitol. Right?

        1. david

          Same thing happening in downtown Durham, NC. Untold number of $1-2k/month apartments being built the last few years.

          It’s gotta be parent money or student loan money.

        1. Rory

          I too have assumed that the explanation for this remarkable development of upscale apartment builidings in campus neighborhoods is Federally guaranteed student loans. Loans, for a society that enjoys feasting on its young, that are nondischargeable in bankruptcy. Whatever happened to shabby grad student apartments with empty Mateus bottles as candleholders?

    2. nippersmom

      Some of them may be apartment-style dormitories, in which case they could be public/private partnerships between the universities and either private enterprises or foundations. Others may be completely private developments that cater to students. For some students, renting an apartment with roommates and having unlimited cooking privileges actually works out to be less expensive than living in a dorm and being on a meal plan.

  18. The Rev Kev

    “If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets”

    By coincidence, an article came up on RT today that has an interactive which map breaks down the US wealth gap. The page also shows the breakdown for the cities of Los Angeles, New York city and Detroit. I am willing to bet that there is a correlation with voting patterns going on here as well. For those who want to check it out, the page is at https://www.rt.com/usa/420748-america-income-inequality-map/

    1. Craig H.

      RT’s source material at esri is impressive.

      Mapping Incomes

      It is a divisive political topic but it’s one where I definitely want to see more data. They only show NY, LA, Chicago, Houston, Detroit, Philadelphia. The national map wasn’t so informative for me but I would like to see more cities; if anybody finds them please post.

  19. djrichard

    Re: trade. A couple of days ago, Yves made an observation that while our trading partners may be using their trade surplus to purchase bonds and stocks in the US, that that money is “dead money”. Because if they try to unwind it, to rotate out of US assets into their home country, it would have a negative impact on the exchange rate with their home currency, especially if they did it en masse. Which made me wonder, why are they even doing this then? What’s the point of having those assets?

    So puzzling through this, I’m starting to wonder if they’re treating stocks and bonds like they treated gold, especially when everyone was on the gold-interexchange standard. Basically, in those days, to settle accounts between governments, gold would be moved from one vault to another in the NY Fed Reserve (or wherever it was housed).

    So what I’m guessing at is that instead of using gold to settle up between governments, they can use the stockpiles of stock and bonds that they’ve accumulated from their trade surpluses.

    So let’s say China wants to buy assets in Africa. Instead of dealing with Yuan or a currency in Africa, China simply moves some of the stocks and bonds they’ve stockpiled in the US to appropriate accounts in the US that are owned by the appropriate parties from Africa. And then those parties in Africa turn over the keys to whatever China was interested in pursuing. And this doesn’t have to be limited to governments either. This medium of exchange is open to anybody who has stockpiled stocks or bonds in the US.

    Is this off target?

    In a way, this is what the cryptocurrency guys are trying to do, to provide a medium of exchange than spans borders. It’s just a little bit more wild west (and small potatoes) compared to staid transactions involving movements of bonds and stocks.

    Anyways, if this isn’t too far off the mark, I think this can be generalized. That this is how business is done to some degree even amongst our own oligarchs and institutions, even before our trading partners became players in this context. If our oligarchs and institutions want to do business with each other, they don’t transact in US dollars per se. They just move assets around.

    And if this isn’t too far off the mark, then capitalism is just a giant asset generating machine, to “mine” this new gold needed in this medium of exchange. Capitalism mines it out of our labor in the form of stocks (and stock dividends). And capitalism mines it out of income streams that are pledged to debt (bonds), whether it be corporate income or personal income. [And the US just happens to be where this “bank” of assets is housed. In which case, you can imagine their reaction to anything that disrupts how that bank operates, say like tariffs or any moves towards balanced trade.]

    Am I just late to the party in realizing this? I can be dense that way.

    1. johnnygl

      You can use treasury bonds for repos, swaps and other contracts between central banks. Stocks are too iffy to act as collateral for loans or to settle transactions. Bitcoin is to volatile, too.

      But your point about the USD being the world reserve currency is accurate. It’s why the current arrangement is often called Bretton Woods 2. Much like Bretton Woods 1, without the fixed exchange rates or fixed gold price. But everything is still built around the USD.

      1. djrichard

        Hi Johnny, thanks for the followup.

        You can use treasury bonds for repos, swaps and other contracts between central banks. Yes, but the players who are buying assets in the US aren’t central banks so much anymore. E.g. I think it was the IMF that said that China’s central bank wasn’t manipulating it’s currency anymore. I think they still nudge it, but they don’t manipulate by printing yuan out the wazoo like they used to. Instead what’s going on is that other players in China are picking up the slack; there’s demand in China for US dollars imported by their exporters, but instead of repatriating those dollars for goods and services from the US (or I should say on top of that), they’re repatriating those dollars for assets: bonds and stocks.

        But your point about the USD being the world reserve currency is accurate. I always thought of the reserve currency as being something that undergirded the central banks. So that for instance, England’s central bank was on the US reserve system. And most western banks (at least pre-eurozone) were. But central banks in other countries were not. For instance, China’s central bank is not on the US reserve system. Same with BoJ’s I believe.

        That said, it is comparable in nature. But what I’m getting at is more about the assets that the US pumps out. That it’s those assets in particular that are the new alternative to gold for the elite buyers and sellers in the world. It’s this alternative that allowed China to wean itself off of currency manipulation, because now they had a real market for using all the surplus dollars they were hoovering up.

        And this should apply whereever there’s a trade deficit. So for instance England has a trade deficit with the rest of the world. That means their assets, denominated in pounds, are a gold substitute as well, there’s demand for those assets in other markets which consumes the trade surplus with England. Which makes me think England will have no problem with trade after Brexit, because there’s demand for England’s assets. So England can import as much goods and services as they need; the rest of the world will still be banging on their doors.

  20. Kim Kaufman

    West Virginia: Republicans Pull a Fast One, Introduce Bill to Lower Standards for Teachers, Eliminate State Education Department


    With the statewide teachers’ strike settled, and the strikers gone home, the GOP in the West Virginia Senate introduced a bill to eliminate the State Department of Education, to lower standards for new teachers, and a host of other mischievous revenge actions, including the possible elimination of a program to feed poor students.

  21. Darius

    Lambert is right that there are no incremental steps to Medicare for All. The only road is for Democrats to get back the White House and both houses of Congress and enact it through budget reconciliation, just as the Trump and the Republicans did to get the big tax cut grab.

    The obstacle, though, isn’t Republicans, it’s centrist Democrats who hide behind bipartisanship to thwart meaningful action. Budget reconciliation just isn’t in their toolbox. They act like they never heard of it. The sensible center abhors the Trumpists but says they also can work with them.

    1. Oregoncharles

      ” The only road is for Democrats to get back the White House and both houses of Congress and enact it through budget reconciliation,”
      If they were going to do that, they would have in 2009. In reality, the Dems are dead set against it, with some honorable individual exceptions – but not enough to matter.

  22. Kevin Carhart

    Dear Lambert & editors, FYI, I think some of the advertising is making the site load slow. For about the first 4 minutes I only see the masthead, solid white, and a “loading investingmediasolutions” message from the browser. It’s churning on that and blocking the stories. Eventually the stories come in, and then the sidebar. I have not observed any problems recurring over weeks or anything. I hope this report helps. Thanks!

    1. Yves Smith

      Sorry! Have sent this to our ad service.

      However I just had a horribly slow loading for Real News Network, which has no ads, and some other sites in Firefox. I wonder if some throttling has started :-(

      1. Carolinian

        I’ve also noticed very slow loading lately at wifi locations like the ones at McDonald’s (which are run by AT&T). They are not blocking your IP since the page starts to load and then hangs.

  23. allan

    Tepco’s ‘ice wall’ fails to freeze Fukushima’s toxic water buildup [Reuters]

    A costly “ice wall” is failing to keep groundwater from seeping into the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, data from operator Tokyo Electric Power Co shows, preventing it from removing radioactive melted fuel at the site seven years after the disaster.

    When the ice wall was announced in 2013, Tepco (9501.T) assured skeptics that it would limit the flow of groundwater into the plant’s basements, where it mixes with highly radioactive debris from the site’s reactors, to “nearly nothing.”

    However, since the ice wall became fully operational at the end of August, an average of 141 metric tonnes a day of water has seeped into the reactor and turbine areas, more than the average of 132 metric tonnes a day during the prior nine months, a Reuters analysis of the Tepco data showed. …

    I think Reuters in the headline misspelled “is making things worse”.

  24. XXYY

    We should have learned from Obama that ascriptive identity doesn’t map directly to political views.

    A thousand times this.

    I am extremely over “vote for me because I have a certain skin color, sexual identification, sex organs, racial identity, religious affiliation or whatever else.” In fact, I think these kinds of appeals now discredit the candidate, either because they are trying to force-team with their fellow whatevers and their sympathizers, or because they have no worthwhile policy positions (or both). Or because their political analysis is so naive that they honestly believe that “just by being a whatever” they will automatically do the job better.

    In the present era, women seem to be very prone to the latter. No offense to anyone, but let’s get over that.

    A serious personal track record on issues that matter should be the only consideration.


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