2:00PM Water Cooler 3/8/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Industrial supply chains in the U.S. are starting to heat up in anticipation of new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. United States Steel Corp. says it will fire up a blast furnace in Granite City, Ill., and call back 500 workers, while Century Aluminum Co. is preparing to restart lines at a smelter in Kentucky that have been curtailed since 2015” [Wall Street Journal]. “The impact on metal markets is already forming, with American producers firing up more furnaces so they don’t lose out to foreign competitors if they can’t make enough metal to meet demand, even at higher prices.” We’ll see if this is reflected in the data…



“In her first major national political move amid widespread assumption that she’s preparing a run for president, Elizabeth Warren announced Wednesday that she’s donated $5,000 to every state Democratic Party in the country” [Politico]. “Warren also wrote a $15,000 check to the Democratic National Committee, which in November she had accused of being ‘rigged’ for Hillary Clinton in 2016. The DNC has been struggling with fundraising, banking half as much as the Republican National Committee in 2017, and scrambling to invest in state parties to meet the promises made by DNC chair Tom Perez.”

“Our Opinion: Warren must resolve debate on heritage” [Editorial Board, Berkshire Eagle]. “[T]hose who wish her ill will never allow the Native American question to recede; Sen. Warren’s potential appeal as a national candidate constitutes too much of a threat. Therefore, we offer a simple suggestion that could not even have been contemplated when Warren first listed her heritage on an employment form. The same technology that can match a perpetrator to a crime with virtually 100 percent certainty could settle the question of her heritage for all time.”

“Are we seeing signs of a Democratic wave in the primaries?” [Jill Abramson, Guardian]. “[M]y Democratic sources say that there are already 20 credible presidential challengers giving serious thought to opposing Donald Trump in 2020. The list, unsurprisingly, includes a raft of Democratic senators, and, perhaps surprisingly, at least three strong women, New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar and Massachusetts’s Elizabeth Warren. Other credible potential candidates include New Jersey’s Cory Booker, an African American, Connecticut’s Chris Murphy, a passionate promoter of stiffer gun laws, and Virginia’s Tim Kaine, who was not stellar as Hillary Clinton’s running mate but recently brought donors in Boston to tears with a performance of This Land is Your Land, played on his harmonica. Bernie Sanders is almost certain to run again. What is striking about this batch of senators is that all of them are strikingly liberal. New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, and Los Angeles’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, also left of center, are thought to be regional presidential contenders from the two coasts.” That’s odd. I would have thought Kaine brought his donors to tears by gutting Dodd-Frank.


“About That Blue Wave …” [New York Times]. “[In Texas,] Democrats had near-record turnout, with more than one million voters over all taking part in their primaries. Sounds impressive, right? But Republicans had actual record-breaking turnout, exceeding their previous midterm high-water mark, which was set in 2010. All told, with more than 1.5 million votes cast, Republicans had nearly 50 percent more voters take part in their primary than the Democrats in theirs. There does not seem to be an enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans…. [N]ot only can the blue wave narrative distract us from what is happening on the ground, it can also help drive Republican enthusiasm and undermine Democratic turnout — not quite the double whammy Democratic strategists are looking for.” Thinking abotu the wave, and putting a little cotton in my ears to silence the yammering and the beating drums: Historically, the party of a sitting President loses seats in the midterms. Again historically, the generic ballot correlates to seats lost, as does, historically, Presidential popularity. But these are all aspects, as it were, of the zeitgeist. They cannot be shown to cause anything. Seats are won or lost in concrete elections, in the districts. So remember: Nobody knows anything.

“The Primaries Project: What to expect in the 2018 Midterms” [Brookings Institution]. A new project. “So what will we be looking for this year? On the Republican side, we’ll be looking at the degree to which “Trumpism”—that is, sharing the president’s issue positions and attitudes toward government—has trickled down to the congressional primary level. We’ll be identifying and counting the number of “mini-Trumps” running in this year’s primaries and we’ll be seeing how they do, especially in races against more mainstream Republicans. On the Democratic side, we’ll be looking for the progressive resurgence that has often been trumpeted as an outcome of Bernie Sanders’ run for president in 2016. We’ll see whether or not there are more self-identified progressives running, and whether they are explicitly identifying with Sanders and the organizations his candidacy has produced.” So I’m not the only one with a project…

“Bernie Sanders tells Democrats to back off primary attacks” [AP]. “The Vermont senator said it’s ‘appalling’ that the party’s congressional campaign arm targeted Laura Moser ahead of Tuesday’s primary election. Moser, an activist, is endorsed by Sanders’ Our Revolution group. Sanders told The Associated Press on Wednesday that such attacks are ‘not acceptable.’ Sanders, whose Our Revolution is backing candidates nationwide, is headed to Texas this week for rallies in San Antonio and Lubbock.”

* * *

TX: “Now Democrats in the seventh district, a longtime Republican stronghold that swung harder to Hillary Clinton than any other district in the country in 2016, will be faced with an unusual choice: a progressive candidate denounced by the official campaign organ of the House Democratic caucus [Moser], or a more moderate candidate rejected by the AFL-CIO [Fletcher]” [Mother Jones]. So Emily’s list endorsed a candidate rejected by the AFL-CIO….

TX: “Democratic turnout could signal blue wave in November — but not in Texas” [Harry Enten, CNN]. “Democratic turnout did top one million in a midterm primary for the first time since 2002, but it still lagged well behind the over 1.5 million votes cast in the Republican primary. Put another way, 60% of all votes cast in Tuesday night’s primary went to Republican candidates. That’s 20 points more than the 40% that went to Democratic candidates.The margin has shrunk significantly from 2010 and 2014, when the margin between votes cast in the Republican and Democratic primaries ran closer to 40 percentage points. The margin, however, is not any better and is actually slightly worse for them than it was in 2006, another year when Democrats turned out exceptionally well.”

TX: “Kirsten Gillibrand, the junior senator from New York, had a great night Tuesday — in Texas” [Politico]. “The Democrat went out on a limb in a state far from home — she endorsed or contributed to seven female candidates in contested congressional primaries from El Paso to Houston — and came out with an unblemished record.”

PA: “A black Democratic candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania is accusing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee of undermining his campaign and trying to nudge him out of the race in favor of white candidates” [WaPo]. “Across the country, tensions are boiling over between party activists and the Washington-based committees that usually shape midterm campaigns — with insurgent candidates seeing advantages in attacking the so-called “establishment,” and anticipating little harm when the party comes after them.” Maybe… There aren’t all that many examples in the article.

FL: “‘Angry’ Shalala says Trump motivated her run for Congress” [McClatchy]. “On Wednesday, the former University of Miami president officially rolled out her campaign to succeed the retiring Ileana Ros-Lehtinen… Shalala, 77, says the ruling party in America has frustrated her by undercutting education, the working class, the environment, civil rights for women, immigrants and the LGBTQ community. Shalala has never run for office before, and most recently served as head of the Clinton Foundation…” Alrighty then…

OH: “[Sherrod] Brown is running for re-election this year in Ohio, which Trump won by eight percentage points. But his support for the president’s tariff plan has less to do with that and more to do with seeing an issue he has long championed finally elevated and acted upon. ‘This has been really one of the causes of Sherrod’s career, working to fix the trade dynamic that has really sold out a ton of Ohio workers across the state,’ said his campaign manager, Justin Barasky. ‘When Trump says he wants to do something about it, Sherrod is unsurprisingly going to be supportive of doing something'” [RealClearPolitics].

Realignment and Legitimacy

He’s asking a good question:

The estimate may be a little on the high side:

But not that much.

“Are ‘Progressives’ Becoming the Debasers of National Conversations?” [Medium]. “It’s one thing to reject PAC money, this indeed is a noble sentiment and a practice that seems to be catching on as more and more Democrats have pledged not to take money from these institutions. But to reject PAC money, on the one hand, and accept donations from powerful interests on the other is not necessarily righteous. Bryce and O’Rourke have both been bankrolled by corporate donations from 1% corporations including Amazon, Apple, Time Warner, Google and Raymond James. Accepting corporate cash is profoundly antithetical to the platform of the Justice Democrats PAC, who endorsed Bryce while appealing for, ‘a strong Democratic Party that doesn’t cater to corporate donors.'”

“This Is How American Democracy Could End” [Vice]. Interviiew with political scientist Yascha Mounk (The People Vs. Democracy).

Stats Watch

Chain Store Sales, February 2018: “Retail sales proved weak in both December and January and today’s chain-store results, which are no better than mixed, point to another soft month for February” [Econintersect].

Consumer Credit, January 2018: “The consumer pulled in during January, evident not only in the month’s very soft results for consumer spending but also in credit outstanding which rose a lower-than-expected $13.9 billion and included an undersized $0.7 billion rise for revolving credit” [Econoday]. “Non-revolving credit rose an intrend $13.2 billion reflecting increases in both vehicle loans and also student loans.” And: “Consumer credit growth was low in 2017 until the what now looks to have been a one time ‘dip into savings’ at year end, with a pronounced flattening most recently” [Mosler Economics].

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of March 4, 2018: Volatility in the stock market isn’t holding down the consumer comfort index which rose 6 tenths…. only 2 tenths shy of a new expansion high” [Econoday].

Challenger Job-Cut Report, February 2018: “Another low level of layoff announcements offers confirmation that demand for labor is strong” [Econintersect]. Given the givens on labor force participation…

Jobless Claims, week of March 3, 2018: “Jobless claims popped higher from the prior week’s 49-year low” [Econoday]. And: “This was higher than the consensus forecast. The low level of claims suggest relatively few layoffs” [Calculated Risk]. And: “Meanwhile, retailers led in hiring announcements, as Lowe’s and The Home Depot announced the addition of 133,000 seasonal jobs for Spring. The 139,000 hiring announcements are the most announced in February since Challenger began tracking hiring in 2006” [Econintersect],

Quarterly Services Survey, Q4 2017: “Information sector revenue for the fourth quarter of 2017 was $405.6 billion, down from an advance estimate of $424.1 billion for an increase of 1.3 percent compared to the third quarter and a 6.5 percent increase from fourth-quarter 2016” [Econoday].

Real Estate: “Leading Index for Commercial Real Estate Increases Slightly in February” [Calculated Risk]. “According to Dodge, this index leads “construction spending for nonresidential buildings by a full year”. This suggests further growth in 2018.”

Commodities: “The rebound in global metals markets is starting to show some cracks. A rally that had helped boost troubled the commodities business has partly reversed this year, signaling that investor conviction in a rosy economic outlook is giving way to concern over slowing demand and unease that metals have turned into risky assets” [Wall Street Journal]. “[C]opper futures have slipped 4.3% this year after reaching a near four-year high in December and that prices for zinc and lead are falling. Global steel and aluminum prices are down, even as U.S. prices for the metals have risen on the back of President Donald Trump’s pledge for new tariffs on imports. The unease could undermine a fragile recovery for bulk carriers that began last year.”

Commodities: “Cobalt consumers main victims of Congo’s new mining code — analysts” [Mining.com]. “The Democratic Republic of Congo imminent law that more than double the tax miners operating in the country pay on exports of cobalt, will severely affect buyers of the metal, a key component in the lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars and mobile phones…. The new mining code qualifies cobalt as a “strategic commodity” and so increases royalty on exports of that metal to 5% from 2%. Taxes on base metals, in turn, will rise to 3.5%.”

Retail: “Amazon Targets Medicaid Recipients as It Widens War for Low-Income Shoppers” [Wall Street Journal]. “The online retail giant said Wednesday that it will extend its $5.99 monthly Prime membership to the roughly 20% of the U.S. population that is signed up for Medicaid. Last year, the company introduced the discount—Prime membership ordinarily costs $12.99 a month or $99 a year—by offering it to people who obtain government assistance with cards typically used for the food-stamp program, formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program…. Amazon’s pursuit of more low-income shoppers comes as analysts estimate Prime membership has reached more than half of all U.S. households with internet and largely saturated the wealthier segment. Even as shopping increasingly shifts online, many low-income customers continue to frequent brick-and-mortar stores, where they can pay with cash or a SNAP card.” Maybe I’m being stupid, here, but how on earth did Amazon get hold of Medicaid and SNAP lists? If it didn’t buy the lists, how are accounts verified?

Retail: “America’s junk epidemic” [The Week]. “‘This is why we can’t have nice things’ is a cliché that has lost its meaning. The reason we can’t have nice things in America in 2018 is that we don’t want them…. Most Americans would rather have junk, though. Given a choice between purchasing a handful of moderately expensive items and buying replaceable crap whenever they want — and probably having it shipped rather than entering a store — people will choose the latter unless they are very rich…. What is the solution to the cheap stuff crisis? The first step is to hasten the end of an arrangement in which it’s possible for our companies to rely upon cheap foreign labor…. Finally, it’s absolutely necessary to prosecute out of existence corporations like Apple whose business models depend upon a strategy of planned obsolescence. There is no reason that a telephone should not be made to last 15 or 20 years.”

Shipping: “Earlier this week, the Federal Maritime Commission said it voted to kick off an investigation that will focus on the practices of vessel operating common carriers and marine terminal operators related to detention, demurrage, and per diem charges” [Logistics Management]. “‘The [Coalition for Fair Port Practices] raised substantive issues in both their petition and their testimony at our January hearing investigating carrier and terminal detention and demurrage practices,’ said FMC Acting Chairman Michael A. Khouri in A statement. ;Various alleged practices were described that—without countervailing or explanatory testimony and evidence—would be troubling from my perspective. However; without any filed complaints by cargo stakeholders, where the crucible of adversary proceedings can bring light and transparency to such practices, I supported this investigatory fact finding so as to more fully develop a tested factual record.'”

Shipping: “Container shipping rates could plunge after Asia-Latin America capacity hike” [The Loadstar]. “Container lines on the Asia-west coast South America tradelane are preparing for a fight for market share, as capacity is set to spike by 18%, year on year.”

The Bezzle: “Japan punishes seven cryptocurrency exchanges over regulatory lapses” [Reuters]. “Japan punished seven cryptocurrency exchanges, ordering two of them to suspend business, in an effort to shore up consumer protection after a $530 million theft of digital money from Tokyo-based Coincheck Inc earlier this year.”

The Bezzle: “Switzerland’s Crypto Crush Marred by $1 Billion Spat” [Bloomberg]. “One of the highest profile digital-currency projects in Switzerland, a country that’s been among the most enthusiastic advocates for cryptocurrencies, is under fire from both outsiders and insiders over allegations of false marketing and mismanagement, prompting its president to resign. Now the Tezos Foundation, which raised $232 million in an initial coin offering, is engaged in the most American of pursuits: a round of lawsuits…. A group of investors are claiming in a California court that the entrepreneurs behind the offering misleadingly marketed the purchase of “Tezzie” tokens as part of a charitable contribution, which would leave investors with nothing if the project collapses.”

The Bezzle: “Uber Spent $10.7 Billion in Nine Years. Does It Have Enough to Show for It?” [Bloomberg] Betteridge’s Law… “An analysis of Uber’s financial position, based on Bloomberg reporting and voluntary disclosures by the privately held company, shows that Uber is a corporate anomaly. Few companies in history have grown so fast or lost so much money in such a short period of time. Uber has developed what may be considered a Peter Pan syndrome. After reaching a stage of maturity most companies never realize, it has yet to turn a profit and remains deeply in the red… Uber traditionally prefers a loss calculation that doesn’t include interest, tax, stock-based compensation and other expenses…. Back in the dot-com days of the late 1990s, a similar measure was favored by analysts trying to persuade investors to put money in untried companies. It was mostly abandoned after many of them failed to make the difficult journey to profitability, and investors started demanding concrete results and a clearer picture of the bottom line. Uber is well-advised to follow suit before selling shares to the public as early as next year.”

The Bezzle: “Tesla’s $2.6 billion payday for Elon Musk faces opposition” [MarketWatch]. “Tesla’s proposal ‘is peculiar in that it provides increasingly outsized compensation for levels of success ranging from noteworthy to unparalleled,’ while at the same time allowing Musk to keep his distance from the company, proxy service Glass Lewis said in a report Monday.”

The Bezzle: “Why Your Autonomous Car Might Come With Its Own Drone” [Fast Company]. “The studio imagines creating a new layer of public infrastructure in the form of security drones that can warn self-driving cars of things they can’t see.” If there’s a need for this, robot car algos don’t work; this is an alternative approach to the detailed maps advocated by the FT.

The Bezzle: “Raging human drivers slap, body slam innocent self-driving cars” [Ars Technica]. “Since the beginning of the year, six collision reports involving autonomous vehicles have been officially filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Of those, two involve humans mildly attacking the car in question.” “Mildly attacking.”

Infrastructure: “Before anyone gets too excited about what these respective plans promise, let’s remember it comes down to money. It always does, right? And, as usual, there does not appear to be a revenue source that anyone can agree on…another familiar Congressional theme to be sure” [Logistics Management]. “Things like a repatriation of funds, tolling, raising the gas tax (please), and others have been floated but nothing seems to stick or at least gain widespread approval. Until that happens, nothing else really does either.”

The Fed: “The Fed and the red-hot, overheating US economy” [Credit Writedowns]. Good post. The bottom line: “In my view, the US economy is not red-hot. I don’t fear overheating. But I believe the Fed does. And it will act accordingly.The regime shift is happening now. We’ll just have to see how the economy responds.”

Five Horsemen: “Juggernaut Amazon’s rise gives the world’s richest man a few more billion in pocket change” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Mar 8 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “The mania-panic index rose to 41 (worry), driven by stocks’ strong 21-day gain from the Feb 9th dip — a base-period effect that will fade by mid-March” [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 7 2018

Our Famously Free Press

Maybe The World’s Greatest Newspaper shouldn’t have axed all those copy editors?


“Degrowth’s Light Touch” [Society for U.S. Intellectual History]. “Constant metamorphosis, driven by insatiability, is to be ‘more alive.’ In [Marshall Berman’s All that is Solid Melts into Air], and in our dominant modern imaginary, the dynamic of modernization is justified by perceiving it as but an expression of the dynamic of the life process itself. ‘To say that our society is falling apart is only to say that it is alive and well.’ This is the modernist insight. There is no endpoint to growing, and there is no endpoint to knowing, and so the modern search for meaning becomes an endless quest. Valorized in this way, human insatiability reaches the level of tragedy. The ‘deepest horrors’ of modernization spring from our ‘most honorable aims’ and our ‘most authentic achievements.’ Yet they lead to a condition, both material and spiritual, in which all that is solid melts into air. Melt may not be the right verb, however. As the economic reinforces the semiotic, and the semiotic reinforces the economic in turn, burn or combust may be more fitting.”

From above, far up:

From above, close in:

Neoliberal Epidemics

“No hugging: are we living through a crisis of touch?” [Guardian]. “In countless ways social touch is being nudged from our lives. In the UK, doctors were warned last month to avoid comforting patients with hugs lest they provoke legal action, and a government report found that foster carers were frightened to hug children in their care for the same reason. In the US the girl scouts caused a furore last December when it admonished parents for telling their daughters to hug relatives because “she doesn’t owe anyone a hug”. Teachers hesitate to touch pupils. And in the UK, in a loneliness epidemic, half a million older people go at least five days a week without seeing or touching a soul. Sensing this deficit, a touch industry is burgeoning in Europe, Australia and the US, where professional cuddlers operate workshops, parties and one-to-one sessions to soothe the touch-deprived. At Cuddle Up To Me, a cuddle “retail centre” in Portland, Oregon, clients browse a 72-cuddle menu. Poses includes the Alligator, the Mamma Bear and, less appealingly, the Tarantino. In Japan, a “Tranquility chair” has been developed, its soft arms wrapping the sitter in a floppy embrace.” Idea: Replace the professional cuddlers with robots!

Class Warfare

“Your Data Is Crucial to a Robotic Age. Shouldn’t You Be Paid for It?” [Eduardo Porter, New York Times]. “How about paying people for the data they produced to train the robots? If A.I. accounted for 10 percent of the economy and the big-data companies paid two-thirds of their income for data — the same as labor’s share of income across the economy — the share of income going to “workers” would rise drastically. By Mr. Weyl and Mr. Posner’s reckoning, the median household of four would gain $20,000 a year.”

News of The Wired

“Unexpected challenges of making money on the internet” [Kapwing]. Helpful tips…

“For Old-School Film Projectionists, the Pictures Never Got Small” [Vanity Fair]. “Katz also knows that many contemporary film buffs don’t share his aesthetic preferences. He compares the rarefied nature of watching and enjoying new films on 35mm and 70mm to collecting and listening to new music on vinyl records: “I think it sounds better, but there’s a whole generation that doesn’t see it that way.” That generation also probably doesn’t know about all the little things projectionists like Katz do to make their experiences more memorable, like raising the volume in theaters during winter screenings—because heavy coats tend to absorb so much sound that audiences often can’t hear dialogue clearly.”

“‘The Big Lebowski’ is 20. We reached out to the critics who panned it to see what they think now.” [WaPo]. “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

When sheet metal ruled the Earth:

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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 (CC):

CC writes from Colorado: “This fungus developed on a stump of one of the several spruce trees that had to be removed due to Ips beetle infestation.”

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Jim Haygood


    President Donald Trump will sign proclamations on steel and aluminum imports at 3:30 p.m. Eastern, the White House said. Trump said at a cabinet meeting he’s planning on tariffs of 10% for aluminum and 25% for steel, “initially.” But he added, “I’ll have a right to go up or down, depending on the country.”

    Thinks he’s FDR, who used to dictate the POG [Price of Gold] from his bedside in 1934.

    L’état, c’est moi.

  2. roxy

    “Tim Kaine…brought donors in Boston to tears with a performance of This Land is Your Land, played on his harmonica.” *sniffle* “Okay, okay I’ll write a check just please make him stop!”

    1. Wukchumni

      …just be thankful there weren’t others so inclined to play @ the harmonica convergence

    2. Scott

      Did anyone attending think it was ironic that the song was written by a Communist in response to the blandly Patriotic God Bless America?

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        FWIW, when I was an escort at north Alabama’s only abortion clinic, the pro-life protesters would often sing, “God Bless America”. Every time they did, I’d race to the boombox I carried to the clinic and play, “This Land is Your Land”, Woody singing. Had a CD burned for just the occasion. The other escorts kept wondering what I was up to.

        1. Mark Level

          Back in the 80s I used to defend the local Planned Parenthood in New Orleans with my fellow punk rock lefties and Anarchists. Sometimes we were opposed by Nuns who we’d been on the same side with at Central American Solidarity protests against Reagan’s endless Central America Wars a few days or weeks before . . . At the Central America protests, our Catholic brethren would sing “We are Peaceful, Angry People.” We didn’t like that sort of soft, folksy BS, so we’d sing along “We Are Pissed off, Angry Anarchists, and we are Fighting, Fighting with our Loooove . . .”

      2. hunkerdown

        Donors know quite well whose land it is, and the Democrat Party and its bourgeois liberals know quite well whose democracy it is.

        1. wilroncanada

          Wow, Tim Kaine on harmonica!
          Was he channeling Sonny Terry, or Richard Newell (King Biscuit Boy)?

  3. Wukchumni

    “‘The Big Lebowski’ is 20. We reached out to the critics who panned it to see what they think now.” [WaPo]
    I never wavered in my appreciation of the ultimate L.A. slacker film, everybody knew a dude type in their life, growing up in the City of Angles.

    And then following it up with O Brother Where Art Thou?…

    …a double dose of it doesn’t get any better than this

      1. lyman alpha blob

        That one’s really under appreciated. I can hardly ever remember what happens in movies I’ve seen after a few months, but for some reason the little detail where Hudsucker squeaks his shoes on the polished boardroom table to get a cartoon style head start before charging down the table and through the plate glass window on his way to the pavement has always stuck in my mind. The squeak was a really nice touch.

        And come to think of it, the world would be a lot better place if we had more CEOs follow Hudsucker’s example.

        1. Aleric

          Agreed, Hudsucker Proxy is underappreciated. Both Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tim Robbins performances among the strangest and bravest in major motion pictures.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      In today’s world it’s more than a little surprising that the WaPo is giving press to a movie whose protagonist was so fond of white Russians.

      I hear Bezos has edited the Amazon prime version to have Bridges call them Ukrainians.

  4. Adam1

    “Most Americans would rather have junk, though”
    I’d beg to differ. Much of it falls into the same phenomena where poor people buy $2.69 quart of milk instead of a $2.99 gallon of milk. If you don’t have $2.99, buying a gallon which is way cheaper at the unit level is just not an option. People are so financially strapped that they do not feel financially comfortable paying up for quality. If it breaks in 5 years they’ll deal with it then. They just need to acquire the item now with the limited resources they have. They would like nice things; it’s just truly or perceptually outside of their financial ability.

    1. Scott

      The other problem is that just because you’re spending more doesn’t mean you’re getting better quality. I honestly don’t know how long my socks, to use an example from the article, will last. It doesn’t matter where I get them or how much I pay; it’s a real shot in the dark as to if I’ll need to replace them in five weeks or five years.

      The problem becomes worse once I start looking at more expensive items like cars and appliances, I really don’t know if I’m buying durable, maintainable products.

      1. Jason Boxman


        I read the reviews and often buy the cheapest thing because the more expensive versions get enough negative reviews that I’d rather spend the least amount possible. I spent more for quality weight lifting equipment because I don’t want to kill myself, so there are exceptions, but the equipment has gotten fantastic reviews as well.

        1. none

          I spent more for quality weight lifting equipment

          I myself only buy weightlifting equipment made of the latest space age carbon fiber materials. It’s so much lighter!

        2. Daryl

          I’m personally very confident that my iron plates will last forever.

          I did manage to destroy a cheap chinese barbell, but I am an overachiever.

      2. Altandmain

        Often you end up paying more for features rather than durability – bells and whistles so to speak. Those are often less reliable.

        I see the same thing happening in cars.

        It’s one of the reasons why Toyota became so popular in my opinion. The last thing most folks need is an expensive car repair.

  5. Musicismath

    I clicked the wrong link on the Big Lebowski story, and thought for about 5 minutes there that the WaPo had rickrolled its readers with a bunch of Big Lebowski quotes. Which I was totally fine with.

    Having read the article, I’m with Daphne Merkin (though I’ve never really liked her writing). “Intense laidbackness” is a good phrase, and a good descriptor for the movie. The Big Lebowski and The Descendants are probably my two favourite “go with the flow and get lost in the beguiling universe up on screen” movies.

  6. Jim Haygood

    The brief hopeful “Hussman spring” is over:

    With our measures of market internals constructive, we had maintained a rather neutral near-term outlook for months. [But] on Feb 2nd, our measures of market internals clearly deteriorated, shifting market conditions to unfavorable.

    At present, I view the market as a “broken parabola” – much the same as we observed for the Nikkei in 1990, the Nasdaq in 2000, or for those wishing a more recent example, Bitcoin since January.

    [My] Margin-Adjusted CAPE reached a level of 45 at the recent January high [vs 35 for Robert Shiller’s non-margin-adjusted original — JH]. This implies expected 5-year S&P 500 total returns averaging -12.2% annually, with 10-year total returns averaging -2.4% annually.


    Lose 12.2% annually for five years running, and you end up down 48%.

    After a Rip van Winkle-like lapse, the universe’s long clock is finally sweeping round to the magical hour when long-suffering Dr H will be finally and gloriously right at long last.

    1. ambrit

      Comrade Haygood;
      You forgot to compound the losses. 12.2% the first thousand, then 12.2% the next eight seventyeight, and so on. You’ll end up being more than 48% down overall. But, this requires one to plan ahead for longer than a business quarter. Are the younger business people still able to do this? Has that skill been relegated to the dustbin of economics history? I dunno. Let’s get back to it after the next time that History ends.
      ambrit the lich

    1. The Rev Kev

      Oh man, I love this sort of stuff. That Roman military commander must have thought that the Empire would last forever. You wonder what else is buried out there undiscovered.

  7. Olga

    On “This Is How American Democracy Could End” [Vice]. Interview with political scientist Yascha Mounk (The People Vs. Democracy) – maybe I am too jaded, but this strikes me as a bit too optimistic (read: naive). First, anyone who starts his or her criticism of the system with Trump has either been asleep for the last 40 years (at least) or is deliberately diverting attention. Have we really all forgotten about the deceits of the previous presidents? As Yves says, it’s the feature, not a bug (particularly, not one invented by DT)… I do like the last paragraph (below), although that strikes me as the better option – the author does not mention the possibility of a coup d’etat (soft or hard) or an outright war… So let’s hope we’re just lucky, as described here:

    “And so I think the most likely scenario is what I call the Roman scenario. We might resemble the Roman Republic, where a populist by the name of Tiberius Gracchus won power late in the second century BC riding on a wave of discontent about economic stagnation and a rigged political system. He was eventually removed from office, violently as it happened, and for a few years things returned to normal. But then somebody else used the fact that the underlying problems hadn’t been resolved to gain office on a similar message. And conflict broke out again. There was a cycle of this, from high moments of political tension and drama to moments of relative normality for some 50, 100 years. And over time, the Roman Republic withered away. I could imagine that we are now at the beginning of a cycle, and 50 years from now we might be at any point of it, including the terminal one.”

    1. Musicismath

      This is essentially the same point Spengler and Arnold Toynbee made after the First World War, in their complementary studies of the inevitable downfall of civilisations. I think the term in favour was “universal Caesarism,” and the Gracci feature heavily in the narrative as signposts along the way.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        Tiberius had a little brother, too. His mistake was pushing for citizenship for non-romans(rhymes with…)

        If I could wave my hand, I’d rather we were entering a period similar to the Conflict of the Orders.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_of_the_Orders
        (my favorite part of Livy)
        although I doubt that could come to pass, given where we’re at.(ontological, epistimal, teleological and existential crises occurring at the same time)
        I would quibble with Mr Mounk about his definition of “populism”…especially the parts about why Lefty populisms fail–he left out the CIA, et alia; a grievous oversight, imo.
        Nevertheless, I’d like to read his book…if I had a book budget..or a functioning public library(thanks, Rick Perry)

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          According to that Wikipedia article, Gaius wanted to extend rights to non-roman Italians.

          But not to non-Roman Spaniards or non-Roman North Africans?

          A similar question for today would be, what about those in the imperial monetary or military zone?

          1. Amfortas the Hippie

            The Gracchi were well before the Empire phase…second century bc. so spaniards, etc weren’t at issue, yet.They were just Spaniards, etc(I understand it’s more complicated than that. Rome had a growing sphere of influence, hence the Punic Wars.But her allies weren’t “Romans” by any measure)
            later, varying degrees of citizenship were afforded to allies and conquered peoples as a tool of conquest/policy(a quid pro quo: we conquer you, and you benefit from it).
            It wasn’t until Caracalla(2nd century ad) that Roman citizenship was afforded to everyone in the Empire(except slaves, I suppose).again–complicated,lol.:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_Rights#Under_the_Empire
            I’ve always thought of the Gracchi as analogous to Huey Long.
            The Patrician Classes have always been ruthless in suppressing wild eyed upstarts and the movements they led.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It’s a small village now, and so, we can look for other, non-European cases.

      The Qing dynasty of China, for example.

      Their economic stagnation and losing to foreigners like Russia, France, America, etc, and foreign imports, including cultural ones, like Christianity, that were pouring in from abroad led to the Taiping Rebellion.

      It was eventually put down at a huge cost, after some 14 years, by loyal, traditional Confucian-scholar-warriors like Zeng, Zuo and Li, and the foreign Manchu conquerors stayed in power for a few more decades.

    3. Andrew Watts

      Several rounds of civil war that end with autocratic rule isn’t what I would consider the lucky scenario. On the other hand, that kinda seems like how neo-liberalism will end given America’s political climate. By the way, we already resemble the Roman Republic before it’s fall.

      1) Staggering Increase in the Cost of Elections, with Dubious Campaign Funding Sources
      2) Politics as the Road to Personal Wealth
      3) Continuous War
      4) Foreign Powers Lavish Money/Attention on the Republic’s Leaders
      5) Profits Made Overseas Shape the Republic’s Internal Policies
      6) Collapse of the Middle Class
      7) Gerrymandering
      8) Loss of the Spirit of Compromise

      I don’t have time for half-bright intellectuals who blame Trump to either promote their work or serve as serious analysis of our domestic issues. Hard pass on that book.

    4. lyman alpha blob

      He wasn’t just removed from office, violently. He was brutally slaughtered along with a few thousand of his supporters and their bodies were thrown into the river.

      Much like ours, the Roman aristocracy wasn’t real big on sharing.

  8. Joel

    In re the US Steel plant in Granite City, IL: in 2014 I was driving a flatbed rig and one day picked up a load there. While waiting inside one of the cavernous complexes for my load to arrive by overhead crane from far away, I recorded this soundscape: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es9zlfcPyWY It was a melancholy experience.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Thats for that – old industrial buildings have quite a unique aural environment, always strangely enough a melancholy one.

  9. David

    Well now, this is interesting. I’m sure we’ll be talking about it more tomorrow, but the EU (Tusk, rather than Barnier) has said that the question of Northern Ireland’s status must be addressed before the rest of the Brexit discussions. And he said it in Dublin. I have long thought the EU might decide it was useful to provoke a crisis in British politics sooner rather than later. This could well be it.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Yeah, it is an interesting thing to say. I assume the message is ‘if you think the Irish border is a weak link in our resolve, you are wrong’. I assume that as it was said in Dublin, he was well briefed that this is an absolute red rag to the DUP and the hard Brexiters. I think there is also another agenda here, in that Varadkar is the new neo-lib darling for the centre-right in Europe and they want to give him personal support. It was reported before Christmas here that Varadkar made a number of promises to Macron in exchange for his help with another unrelated issue.

      Tusk also put Hammond firmly in his place on the issue of financial services. It really was unwise of Hammond to raise that, its never going to fly, he just embarrassed himself.

      I suspect you may be right that the EU has decided to stop humouring the UK and have decided that if there is going to be a crunch, better it be sooner than later. And perhaps they also want a bit of a distraction from Italy.

      1. c_heale

        When I read Hammond had said this, I couldn’t believe it. The EU made its position on financial services quite clear a while back. It’s hard to overstate how incompetent the current UK government is.

  10. allan

    An ontological argument in the form of a SurveyMonkey poll:

    Big warning signs for Senate Democrats

    Five Senate Democrats would lose to Republican candidates if the elections were held today and three have approval ratings under 50%, according to new Axios/SurveyMonkey polls. …

    Tester, Manchin, McCaskill, Donnelly and Heitkamp, all of whom support of the bank deregulation bill.
    Thank you, dog.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If every Blue Dog can be defeated in every single election every single time, eventually the firm Real Democrats can purify and declintaminate and disinfect the Democratic Party in enough states to make a coherent region. They can then consolidate control over that region enough to send political strike forces beyond its borders to establish Real Democrat beachheads in other regions.

      If the DemParty is determined to be a Blue Dog party in the various “conservative” states, then exterminating the DemParty from existence utterly and comprehensively from those “conservative” states is a good first step towards exterminating the Blue Dog presence from the DemParty in every state. Then the DemParty will have no Blue Dog contaminants within the party demanding to be catered to on policy.

      But that can only happen if every Bitter Berner votes Republican in these several Blue Dog Senators’s elections in order to MAKE them lose. Voting for some third party only hurts these Senators half as badly as voting FOR their Republican opponent hurts them.

      I wanted to HURT Clinton. That is why I voted FOR Trump. My vote FOR Trump not only lowered Clinton’s vote total by 1, it also raised Trump’s vote total by 1 at the very same time, with the very same vote. A symbolic vote for some third party alternative would have hurt Clinton only half as badly as I was able to hurt Clinton by voting FOR Trump.

      1. Altandmain

        Then you will have to get rid of the Rahm Emanuel and Goldman Sachs types that also infect the party. Not all of them can be dealt with via primary.

  11. marym

    Re: Realignment and Legitimacy – “corporate donations” to Dems – Medium

    Corporations can only contribute to PACs. If a campaign doesn’t accept contributions from PACs that accept corporate contributions, those contributions from “1% corporations” are individual contributions from employees.


    1. Darthbobber

      Indeed. I’ll toss in for emphasis this few paras from open secrets blurb on methodology for corporate listings:

      “Under federal law, all contributions over $200 must be itemized and the donor’s occupation and employer must be requested and disclosed, if provided. The Center uses that employer/occupation information to identify the donor’s economic interest. We do this in two ways:”

      “First, we apply a code to the contribution, identifying the industry. Totals for industries (and larger economic sectors) can be seen in each candidate and race profile, and in the Industry Profile section of the OpenSecrets website.”
      “Second, we standardize the name of the donor’s employer. If enough contributions came in from people connected with that same employer, the organization’s name winds up on the Top Contributor list.”

      “Of course, it is impossible to know either the economic interest that made each individual contribution possible or the motivation for each individual giver. However, the patterns of contributions provide critical information for voters, researchers and others. That is why Congress mandated that candidates and political parties request employer information from contributors and publicly report it when the contributor provides it.”

      By this method, of course, a thousand GM assembly line workers giving 200 apiece to Bernie Sanders would lead to GM being listed as a major corporate donor on Open Secrets. Given the size and number of workers the companies making the lists used for the Medium article have, it would really be necessary to go BEYOND the summaries to know what was really going on. I’m fairly sure, for example, that the total for University of Texas-el Paso doesn’t reflect formal support for O’Rourke from that institution.

      (For what its worth, the Medium authors also seem to have an unrealistically rosy view of how public debate in American (or any) politics functioned in the past. Their description of how it ideally works fits no historically existing society that I know of. Jurgen Habermas spent the last thirty years or so of his philosophical career trying to construct a theoretical system which COULD (at least in his view) work that way, but the practical effect of this has been nil. The revolution is more likely to be televised than Habermasian.)

  12. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thanks for the link to IPM’s tweets. Looks like while our attention has been channeled toward focusing on this administration’s policies to further open up the nation’s coasts and national monuments like Bear’s Ears to oil drilling and mining interests, incredible amounts of methane are being released into the atmosphere from fracking, not to mention contamination of major aquifers and headwaters of major river systems for private profit. Too bad Dante didn’t discuss the next level down. There must be a special place.

  13. Lee

    The Bezzle: “Why Your Autonomous Car Might Come With Its Own Drone” [Fast Company]. “The studio imagines creating a new layer of public infrastructure in the form of security drones that can warn self-driving cars of things they can’t see.” If there’s a need for this, robot car algos don’t work; this is an alternative approach to the detailed maps advocated by the FT.

    Reinventing the periscope. How clever. Rube Goldberg, courtesy phone please.

      1. Lee

        Don’t spook the horses!

        We have so many bad driver here in the sf bay area that getting them out from behind the wheel might be an improvement. As for me, they are going to have to pry the steering wheel and/or motorcycle handlebars out of my cold dead hands. OTOH, some atavistically aggressive impulse smolders within me awaiting my first encounter with a driver-less car. Rather like those raptors that attack drones. At least with a human behind the wheel there’s somebody at whom I can yell “Learn how to drive!!!”

  14. Jim Haygood

    Health care horror:

    Many Venezuelan migrants are arriving by foot in Colombia and landing in emergency rooms with urgent medical conditions that Venezuelan hospitals can no longer treat.

    An 18-year-old woman rubbed her swollen belly after fleeing with her infant daughter when the wounds from her C-section began to ooze pus. A young man whose femur had torn through his skin in a motorcycle crash needed antibiotics for an infection.

    An elderly retiree with a swollen foot arrived after taking a 20-hour bus ride from Caracas because doctors there told his family the only treatment they could offer was amputation — without anesthesia or antibiotics.

    “I said to myself, ‘I have nowhere else to go,'” recalled Grecia Sabala, a 32-year-old mother who journeyed to Colombia seeking treatment for cervical cancer after doctors in Venezuela were unable to provide chemotherapy and her city’s only radiation machine broke.

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has refused to allow humanitarian aid to enter the struggling nation, denying there is a crisis.


    Venezuela’s gone feral.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      And the Maduro government says that humanitarian aid comes with strings attached they can’t accept, just as it accused manufacturers and/or distributors of important goods like toilet paper and diapers of deliberately withholding the merchandise. It’s how the imperial state handles recalcitrant politicians in other countries, because the media are complicit in carefully avoiding providing all the facts—starve and kill innocents then, when the innocents flee the country, use that as a bludgeon.

      The bottom line is the US wants to replace Maduro with more neoliberal corporate shills, and the people keep refusing to elect them. So, of course, the elections are fraudulent, the reports of monitors notwithstanding.

      I don’t pretend to know the facts about Venezuela, but given this country’s history, and a series of on-site reports last year from Amy Goldman, I refuse to take that ABC report at face value.

      1. Jim Haygood

        Here is a different, non-MSM source from last May:

        The [humanitarian aid] ban extends to the Roman Catholic Church’s charity arm.

        Donations pour in from around the globe, but especially from South Florida, home to the largest U.S. concentration of Venezuelans. But getting goods into the country requires some sleight of hand.

        Most shipments are transported by dubious Venezuelan-run courier services that pay off customs officials to look the other way. To draw as little attention as possible, the mostly air shipments are kept small and information on the merchandise, some of which has a high resale value on Venezuela’s black market, is omitted from delivery forms.

        Many items don’t get through. One major U.S. relief organization, which requested anonymity to prevent jeopardizing its under-the-radar work in Venezuela, said it has resorted to bringing in items through the diplomatic pouch of a Caribbean government aligned with Maduro after half of its shipments were confiscated the past year.

        Leaders for the same group said Venezuela’s refusal to allow foreign aid is not seen even in conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa where governments oppose the U.S.


        Venezuela is a total outlier, both in the scope of its collapse and its refusal to allow humanitarian aid.

      2. lyman alpha blob

        For a different viewpoint than the US media – https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/13533

        Alfred De Zayas, an independent expert on International Democratic and Equitable Order at the United Nations (UN), visited Venezuela in late November to assess its social and economic progress.

        On arriving back in Geneva Tuesday, the UN official told press that he did not think the country’s current economic problems had given way to a humanitarian crisis.

        “I agree with the FAO [UN Food and Agriculture Organization] and CEPAL [Economic Commission for Latin America & the Caribbean] that the so-called humanitarian crisis does not exist in Venezuela, although there are shortages, scarcity, and distribution delays, etc.” he said.

        “What is important is to get to know the causes and take measures against contraband, monopolies, hoarding, corruption, manipulation of the currency and the distortions in the economy caused by an economic and financial war which includes [the effects of international] sanctions and pressure,” he added.

    2. Synoia

      Caused by humane sanctions. And the sanctionor is?

      (Of course we all know its all Russia’s fault!).

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    One of the most surreal things I’ve seen for a while – a patch of pebble-patterned floor vinyl (with seaweed attached) washed up on the shingle of #southsea beach the other da

    I prefer hardwood flooring.

    And this shows it’s more than plastic straws. More an more components can be found in vehicles (gas mileage), homes/buildings, smartphones, clothing (including shoes), bullet-proof windows (with polycarbonate), etc.

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    my general suspicion is that on close investigation 99.7 percent of the top elite crust (national politicians, business executives, etc) will be found to be crooks

    And most of the remaining 0.3 percent call the 99.7 percent, ‘my colleagues.’

    Very few of the 0.3 percent would say ‘crooks’ to many of the 99.7 percent, except on a very selective basis.

    In this small, but not insignificant, way, they, the 0.3 percent tolerate crookedness, because we have to be realistic, to get things done.

    1. Synoia

      Behind every great fortune, lies a great crime – Many, attributed to an original by Balzac:

      Le secret des grandes fortunes sans cause apparente est un crime oublié, parce qu’il a été proprement fait. – Balzac

      With a counterpart, with which I suspect the Indigenous Peoples of the US, and may others probably disagree:

      At the base of great American fortunes to-day there is boldness, the genius of concentrating economic fortunes, a vigorous mentality in calculating and combining, but never a trace of crime.

    2. Kilgore Trout

      Recalls the quip that “It’s 90% of lawyers that give the rest of us a bad name”.

  17. Summer

    “Degrowth’s Light Touch” [Society for U.S. Intellectual History]

    Everybody can understand the concept, but they wonder “degrowth” exactly for which people?
    All things being “unequal.”

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The problem is: how to target the degrowth against the top of the money-class ladder, and work our way down the ladder until we have de-grown the economy down to a sustainable size.

  18. lyman alpha blob

    “Are we seeing signs of a Democratic wave in the primaries?” [Jill Abramson, Guardian].

    Well I suppose if you consider all the ex-spooks and right wingers that the DCCC is recruiting to be Democrats, then yes!

    1. Aumua

      Sounds like Russian propaganda to me. “Inequality”, sure. Even Sanders himself as much as admits that his own campaign rode on waves of Russian influence. Why should the American people listen to him now? I’ll bet all this stuff he’s pushing is straight from the mouth of Putin.

  19. Darthbobber

    Texas 7th. Like a dozen other articles on the subject, the mojones piece fails to provide any substantive discussion of WHY Moser is a progressive or Fletcher a moderate. What are the differences on the issues, given that both are fond of glittering generalities? Fletcher is anti-labor, but that hardly translates into moderate, or at least democratic leadership doesn’t admit that it does.

    Other than the labor issue, which is entirely driven by Fletcher and what her law firm does, I have trouble finding massive differences in anything except tone and presentation. Any Houstonians able to help out here?

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      There is no substantive difference, and good luck getting any information on either candidate’s position on issues. Moser’s website instead offers a list of her “values,” one of which is “entrepreneurship.” Which, as most here know, is one of those buzzwords that bodes no one any good.

      There is discussion among those of us who are aware of what any progressive candidate can expect from the establishment that that DCCC “attack” was particularly well-timed, and served to give Ms. Moser a considerable amount of media attention right when early voting was set to begin. It thus drowned out the true progressive candidate, Jason Westin. Also, if you study the entire “smear campaign,” at no time in her response did Ms. Moser deny any of the content. Instead, she responded in perfect lawyer-speak while playing the victim to a fare-thee-well.

      Frankly, I think the voters in TX-07 were well-played to ensure that (a) the NIMA-supporting progressive never had a prayer and (b) they can now choose between two candidates who are essentially the same, thus keeping corporate Democrats comfortable. It may well be GOP-lite is the only kind of Dem who has a chance at unseating the incumbent, but I think it’s wise of us not to hang too many expectations on Ms. Moser to effect significant change in the status quo.

      I will also note, as an aside, that we are also clearly being trained to attribute stupidity to the DCCC/DSCC/DNC triumvirate rather than simple ideological stubbornness. This is a dangerous mindset. Just because they are too buried in their elitist mindset doesn’t make them fools. Yet, already people are defending Moser against any criticism because she was “victimized” by the DCCC, on the grounds the above scenario is beyond the DCCC’s intellectual capacity.

      1. grayslady

        Actually, if you comb through Moser’s website (which, for someone whose husband is supposed to be in digital marketing, is truly a terrible website), she does support universal healthcare, while Fletcher makes it clear she supports Obamacare. I didn’t bother to go through the rest of either individual’s website because, for me, Medicare for All is an accurate litmus test for the time being.

        1. ChiGal in Carolina

          this is what she says, in the Family section under Values: Assuring all families have access to health care by fighting for a single-payer system that covers all Americans

          good that it says single-payer system but she uses that weasel word “access”…and there are no more details.

          1. grayslady

            I agree that it isn’t as strong as I would like to see, but the language throughout her website is squishy. She is endorsed by Our Revolution, which claims she supports Medicare for All and $15 minimum wage. However, I have no idea how OR makes endorsement decisions. Do they send out a survey? Do they interview the candidate? I’d be interested to know.

            1. Darthbobber

              Yes, it seems to be all about the tone and the optics. The labor issue would be enough for me to oppose Fletcher if I lived there, but I have a sneaking suspicion that DCCC opposition to Moser (sort of a #resistance poster child they would otherwise have no problem with) was driven by nothing more substantive than the Our Revolution endorsement of Moser and her husband’s Sanders campaign connection. (Of course its possible that the Our Revolution endorsement was driven purely by her husband’s Sanders campaign connection.)

              Westin’s healthcare proposal was the most detailed, but open to many a slip up over the couple of decades implementation by his preferred method would take. Beginning with shoring up Obamacare, followed by dropping the Medicare age to 55 vat some point, followed by further incremental drops, and the maintenance of an (unspecified) hybrid healthcare insurance system along with that. I’m trying to think of a major positive change in anything that was successfully phased in by such a methodology, and I come up empty.

            2. UserFriendly

              How OR makes endorsements:
              If there is a local on the ground OR affiliate they need to endorse the candidate first and submit that to national. National then contacts the candidate and does research on them to make sure they meet basic requirements like $15 and Medicare for all (I couldn’t say how comprehensive or exhaustive this process is, or if it is race specific e.g. does dog catcher need to be for Medicare for all?) and then also looks at the chance of winning to decide on a national endorsement.

      2. Darthbobber

        Well, she didn’t deny any of it because none of it was particularly damaging. It just seemed to some Washingtonians that it should be.

        BTW, if the DCCC now doubles down by tossing in a little more mud on Moser and making large donations to Fletcher will that affect your analysis of what a brilliant 11ty dimensional game they’re playing?

        I have difficulty annointing Westin as the “true” progressive any more than Moser, as far as that goes.

  20. Mike Mc

    Living in a Midwest college town – a survival skill I subconsciously learned during the Nixon era when I first went to school – has kept me and mine employed, housed and fed in a decent middle class/petite bourgeoisie lifestyle ever since. (Guessing right about a little beige computer called the Macintosh some years later was my other stroke of luck.)

    What these anecdotes and stories remind me of most is this book:


    An edifying and engrossing history of the Great Depression and in particular, the Dust Bowl days in the Midwest. Lessons we have forgotten but that we will soon be relearning as climate change rearranges our daily lives in ways we – and our descendants – can’t begin to imagine.

    Frankly these posts should be collated, PDFed and emailed to every elected representative in the country. Most of them won’t care, but enough might (particularly in this important election year) that we might be able to reduce the misery of our brothers and sisters a little.

    1. Pat

      I suspect that you don’t consider a political ideology that Spiro Agnew would have thought conservative to be “center” unlike our current political and pundit class.

      Although I also suspect that Andy and Spiro have more in common than just that.

  21. Carolinian

    Film projection–all well and good except for the scratches, the dirt, the often minimum wage operators who don’t bother to keep the film in focus or loud enough. One might also point out that it’s an immensely wasteful and impractical form of presentation now that movies are released simultaneously to thousands of theaters. A feature film is at least two miles or so of 35 or 70mm film.

    That said digital projection, now almost universal, is either 2k or 4k pixels in width–really no sharper than modern home video. Movie theaters themselves may eventually be on the way out.

    1. Altandmain

      Considering IPS 4k monitors (granted its 3840×2160 versus 4096×2160 pixels) can be purchased for less than $500 USD and OLED ones for less than $1500 USD, I’d say there is little reason to go to the movies. Oh, and the image quality of OLED makes other monitors look like garbage.

      I imagine that OLED might get better in the coming years.

      That being said, I did love IMAX with the big 70mm film, which I think is quite special in many ways.

  22. Pat

    Just out of curiosity, what does your newer phone do on those 4G networks that works better than an older phone on the earlier network. Does it sound better? Is it more reliable? Does it really need that increased memory? I am really curious what you see that I am missing entirely.

    I will cede that once Blackberry made a phone with a keyboard, texting was easier. Otherwise everything else is relatively useless or worse. Every long term iPhone user I know has been complaining about the last few IOS updates. Android users who actually use their phones as communication devices either aren’t upgrading or doing so reluctantly, both phones and operating updates.

    The numbers of people who are figuring out there is no real reason to upgrade is growing. And while expense is a big reason , the lack of value in those upgrades is another and obviously unremarkable service “improvements” tied to those new phones isn’t helping.

    1. M.Aurelius

      4G is great for streaming videos! Also the cameras on newer phones are getting more amazing every generation. The best camera is the one you have with you!

    2. RMO

      All I cared about when I last went phone shopping (only my second smartphone, previous one was a lower end Samsung) was battery life and ruggedness. I almost never use any of the “smart” functions. Very occasionally I fire up the data to access the web when I’m out and about but that’s it. Bought an ugly rubber brick called a Sonim XP7. Waterproof, rubber armored and right now the battery is at 47% fifteen days after the last charge. The only thing that would make me change is if it died or was stolen. I’m not a smartphone addict though so my experience may not match most people’s. I accidentally left it in a practice room during a Monday jam and didn’t realize it was missing until Wednesday morning…

  23. Big River Bandido

    Wow. Tester, Manchin, McCaskill, Donnelly and Heitkamp. Can’t say I’m a bit surprised.

    Nor would I shed a tear for any of them. I gave a few dollars to Tester in his first Senate run (2006?) and came to regret it almost as soon as he was elected. As for McCaskill, I have long prayed for her defeat. She’s the perfect example of the worthless Democrat.

  24. Ed

    Two huzzahs and a “well done” to the Berkshire Eagle, paper in the city where the very first game of baseball was played and where, much later, George Scott won the triple crown in AA ball on the very last at-bat of the season in the park where they have to take a 20-minute break when the sun sets.

  25. Jim Haygood

    Reuters takes a look at two of the Five Horsemen, No. 1 Apple (market cap $893 billion) and No. 3 Amazon (market cap $752 billion). This chart, exaggerated by an arithmetic vertical scale which really should be logarithmic, shows how fast Amazon has been catching up to Apple:


    Not shown in Reuters’ chart is No. 2 Alphabet (market cap $783 billion).

    Historically the largest-cap stock (which was Exxon Mobil as recently as 2013) has not been able to retain its dominant position. A fundamental reason for this is running out of growth opportunities, even on a global scale.

    Apple’s iPhone propelled it into the megacap league. But finding another product that game-changing is no easy task. Usually it happens about once per generation (e.g. the PC in 1981, which drove Microsoft to No. 4 in capitalization today), and not at the incumbent market leader.

  26. ewmayer

    Re. “Your Data Is Crucial to a Robotic Age. Shouldn’t You Be Paid for It?” [Eduardo Porter, New York Times]. “How about paying people for the data they produced to train the robots?” — You mean like those autonomous-vehicle training-slidesets which NC’s Skynet inflicts on any would-be commenter who dares do something unspeakable like, say, include more than one link in a comment?

    [Sorry, couldn’t resist, I’ve spent many hours dumbing-down comments in order to avoid said “select all subsquares containing roadsigns, except maybe the ones where there’s just a teensy sliver of a sign at peeking out at the margin, or not, because our AI designed these to be similarly ambiguous as many of the questions on standardized IQ tests” aggravation.]

  27. allan

    About as good an example of the political, moral and ethical bankruptcy of identity politics as one can find:

    Rep. Sean Maloney says LGBTQ community should back Cuomo, not Cynthia Nixon
    [Albany Times-Union]

    U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Newburgh, released a statement Thursday in response to reports that actress and activist Cynthia Nixon is contemplating a Democratic primary challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Maloney is the first openly gay member of Congress from New York; if elected, Nixon would be its first openly gay governor. …

    Read Maloney’s full statement, which looks at the race through a single-issue prism yet ends with

    “We should all support Governor Cuomo.”

    and weep. Or gag, if you know Cuomo’s history of corrupt 11-dimensional centrist triangulation.

  28. The Rev Kev

    The comments on the reader sightings page has go to be some of the saddest reading that I have ever done on NC. Worse is that I recognize a lot of the names of commentators there from the many contributions that they have made which makes it more personal. You could almost make a documentary series based on it. Call it “Voices from the Hinterland”.

    1. allan

      x2. Someone should send the link to every member of the political and media elites,
      with the subject line, This is what you’ve done to America.

    2. ambrit

      Get Werner Herzog to do a ‘limited’ series on Netflix about it. Maybe Andrei Codrescu could do a follow up to his “Road Scholar” film.

    3. flora

      Or a write a revised edition of Studs Terkel’s best selling 1972 book “Working”. Call it “Not Working.”

  29. ambrit

    A personal observation about those Lowes and Home Depot job offers.
    The Lowes “Spring” jobs; I applied for one, and did a first interview. I found out that my group of people were ‘back ups’ for those already hired who failed the background or drug tests. “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” (My group numbered roughly thirty or forty individuals.)
    This ‘job’, it was pointed out, was temporary, of sixty to ninety days duration. Hours were floating, as in linked to daily sales volume. No benefits. Wage was never mentioned, a circumstance I have learned generally means that the ’employer’ fears that the worker will wander off in disgust when the actual hourly stipend is quantified.
    These ‘jobs’ are listed on the State Unemployment website. The Lowes jobs were still listed five days after the positions had been tentatively filled. The Unemployment case worker who I showed this deception to was visibly angry afterwards.
    So, to steal a phrase from someone else, these are McJobs.
    If I were a cynic, I would suspect that a primary part of the present unemployment ‘insurance’ system is to punish the recipients for being so un-Neoliberal as to be unlucky.
    Something from a few years ago of relevance:https://www.thestreet.com/story/12789143/1/fired-hired-and-fired-again-can-you-collect-unemployment.html

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