2:00PM Water Cooler 4/11/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Aluminum, steel tariffs driving up raw material costs for trucks, trailers” [FreightWaves]. “Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles for [FTR Transportation Intelligence], tells FreightWaves that the tariffs could add up to 5% to the cost of a new trailer and probably less than that for a truck, but that is speculative.”

“IMF chief Lagarde warns trade system is at risk of being ‘torn apart'” [MarketWatch]. “‘The multilateral trade system has transformed our world over the past generation. But that system of rules and shared responsibility is now in danger of being torn apart. This would be an inexcusable, collective policy failure,’ Lagarde said…. Any imbalance in trade is driven by the fact that a country spends above its income, she said. That means the best way to rebalance is to introduce structural reforms or revamp fiscal policy.” Elite Brand Snake Oil™.

“The ‘olive twig’ that Xi extended: Chinese President Xi Jinping raised eyebrows and garnered some praise when he pledged Tuesday to lower tariffs on automobiles and further open up his country’s market — but the promises, at least for now, don’t seem to be enough to head off a tit-for-tat tariff war” [Politico]. “Business leaders and analysts alike are warning that what was branded a major speech from Xi on Tuesday amounted to little more than a few recycled and incremental promises that have yet to be fulfilled. And while it nibbled around the edges of key issues, it largely ignored the U.S.’s core concerns with China surrounding massive subsidization and state support of Chinese industry.” That doesn’t seem like something we can readily effect.

“The highly contentious steel supply chain between China and the U.S. increasingly runs through Vietnam. On the coast near Ho Chi Minh City, dozens of factories have been following a simple and lucrative business model by importing import steel from China, galvanizing it and then exporting it—often to the U.S.” [Wall Street Journal]. “[T]he companies have used the blueprint to make Vietnam one of the fastest-growing suppliers of steel to the U.S.”


2018 Midterms

WI-01: “Exit Paul Ryan” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “The political world was rocked Wednesday morning by House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R, WI-1) decision to not seek reelection to his southeastern Wisconsin House seat. That said, this really should not have come as that much of a surprise. Rumors had been swirling for months that Ryan was not long for the House, and we flagged this strong possibility for Crystal Ball readers more than a month ago when we first listed Ryan’s district on our list of competitive House seats, moving it from Safe Republican to Likely Republican. This plus the retirement of Rep. Dennis Ross (R, FL-15), which also came out Wednesday morning, pushes the number of open House seats to 59, adding to a total that is already the second-highest of the post-World War II era. Of these, 39 are held by Republicans to only 20 by Democrats…. Paul Nehlen (R), a despicable white supremacist who Ryan defeated in a landslide in the 2016 primary, has already been running for the GOP nomination…. On the Democratic side, ironworker Randy Bryce (D) has gotten a considerable amount of publicity, although he’s unproven as a candidate. Cathy Myers (D), a member of the Janesville School board, is another possibility, and one wonders if the field of Democrats may grow now that the seat is open.” Ryan was lauded as a policy wonk for years by all factions in our famously free press, and then when he had to step up to the plate and deliver an ObamaCare replacement, he whiffed. He didn’t have legislation, and he didn’t have the voters. (To be fair, ObamaCare is a Republican plan to begin with, so Ryan’s was no easy task.) And that was the end of Paul Ryan, empty suit. (A ham sandwich could have delivered on tax cuts, because Republicans love them some tax cuts.)

WI-01: “Ryan Retirement Puts WI-01 at Risk and Throws House GOP Into Deeper Turmoil” [Cook Political Report]. “Nearly two years after Ryan initially refused to endorse Trump as the nominee, Trump’s takeover of the GOP base is nearly complete. Ryan and Trump forged passage of a signature legislative initiative—tax cuts—but overall, Trump’s populist vision for the party has supplanted Ryan’s supply-side conservatism. Last week’s YouGov poll found Trump’s favorability with GOP voters at 80 percent; Ryan’s was just 52 percent…. Wisconsin’s 1st CD is a traditionally Republican seat: it voted for Trump 52 percent to 42 percent in 2016 and for the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan ticket 52 percent to 47 percent in 2012. Last Tuesday, a GOP-backed state supreme court nominee carried the 1st CD by five points despite losing statewide. But now, Republicans will have to start from scratch without Ryan’s $9.6 million campaign account against a Democrat armed with millions and a blue-collar profile.”

WI-01: “Ratings Change: Ryan Exit Moves Wisconsin 1 from Solid R to Lean R” [Inside Elections]. “While Ryan’s decision is huge news because of his position, it’s not as electorally alarming to his party compared to the retirements by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida’s 27th District or Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington’s 8th District. Both of them leave behind Democratic-leaning districts that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. Wisconsin’s 1st is not a toss-up district, but could still host a very competitive race under the circumstances… Republicans have until the June 1 filing deadline to figure out their field.”

WI-01: “Paul Ryan won’t run for re-election” [Axios]. “This decision was foreshadowed when Politico’s Tim Alberta and Rachel Bade wrote in December that he saw his “wild Washington journey coming to an end,” but his final deliberations were held extremely closely.”

UPDATE WI-01 “Fiduciary duty” [Reuters]. “[A]s this imaginary letter from a potential corporate recruiter suggests, assembling a portfolio of board directorships would be a cinch for the man who cut company taxes down to a slim 21 percent.” Yes indeed!

MN: “The tragedy and farce that is Tim Pawlenty” [Minnesota Post]. “Tragedy – in terms of a fallen bridge – is a lasting image of his governorship, and was also how Pawlenty got elected twice and what defined his governorship. In 2002 he was in second place behind Tim Penny in the race for governor when Paul Wellstone’s plane crashed and the senator died. That event, plus then the Wellstone memorial service, transformed state politics, resulting in Pawlenty winning the governorship with 44.4 percent of the vote…. Pawlenty never won a majority of the popular vote, and were it not for tragedies or missteps by others – or the help of others – he would not have been governor. Couple these events with his miserable run for president and one can really ask how good or formidable a candidate he was. Given the tragedy of his governorship, it is a farce for him to run again. Watching his video declaring the run, one wonders what is his narrative or rationale for running?”

MO: “McCaskill continues on record fundraising pace for a Missouri Senate race” [St Louis Post-Dispatch]. “Sen. Claire McCaskill had $11.5 million in her campaign bank account entering April after a record first-quarter fundraising haul of $3.9 million, her campaign announced Monday…. McCaskill depends, in part, on fundraising through a Democratic conduit called ACTBlue, a website that allows donors throughout the country to designate small donations, sometimes in multiple iterations, to a candidate they may want to support in another state. The donations are possible through a few computer mouse clicks, and such internet sites have opened the spigot for Senate campaigns with national significance…. But third-party groups — which support candidates but don’t directly coordinate with them — also are expected to spend heavily in Missouri’s Senate race and could dwarf the individual candidates’ spending. McCaskill told donors last year she expected the race could attract $200 million in total spending when it’s all over and that she could end up spending $30 million on her own.”

“Voters’ Motives Shift, and Allegiances Harden” [Cook Political Base]. ” In meetings since the first of this year with farmers and others in agribusiness in California, central Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and North Dakota, I came out convinced that in small-town and rural America, despite their serious concerns about some of Trump’s specific policies and statements on immigration (availability of farmworkers) and trade (tariffs, trade wars, and crop prices), there seems to be little he can say or do that would alienate many of them. Today’s political divisions are very different from what they were 30 or 40 years ago. Today race, religion (specifically church attendance), geography (rural and small-town versus suburban and urban), and attitudes on social and cultural issues (e.g. abortion, guns, the environment, and women’s issues) drive voters’ attitudes about party and Trump far more than class and economic self-interest. This dynamic—some would call it identity politics, for which conservatives often criticize Democrats—is alive and well on both sides of the partisan fence. … What’s more relevant than approval numbers is who shows up on Election Day. We know that Trump benefited from a greater intensity of support in the closing weeks of the 2016 campaign, particularly among white, working-class, small-town, and rural voters, most specifically across industrial, Rust Belt states, while Hillary Clinton’s side was handicapped by ambivalence. That intensity does appear to be greater on the other side of the political ledger today.” One might give consideration to the idea that the least risky course for Democrats would be to expand their base, rather than depending on voter enthusiasm. But no.

2016 Post Mortem

“Team Hillary: Comey Should ‘Beg Forgiveness,’ Not Hawk Book” [Daily Beast]. Ya know, there are times when I think Team Hillary just has no sense of self-awareness or irony whatever.

New Cold War

“Russia and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election: Laying Out the Publicly Available Evidence” [Russia Matters]. An enormous compilation, reasonably clear about sourcing, useful for research, though based only on the mainstream.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Centrist World (1):

Centrist World (2):

How “Unity” works in the great state of Florida:

“How A Twitter Fight Over Bernie Sanders Revealed A Network Of Fake Accounts” [HuffPo]. “The writers at Shareblue, a pro-Democratic Party news site that supported Clinton in the primary and general elections, were also frequently retweeted by the network of fake accounts, particularly when the Shareblue folks had something negative to say about Sanders. A spokeswoman for Shareblue told HuffPost that the company does not create sock-puppet accounts and has never worked with [sock puppeteer Sally] Albright.” Of course they did. Worth reading again, after experiening the outrage machine go to work over the standing ovation Sanders got in Jackson, MI.

“Missing hyphens will make it hard for some people to vote in U.S. election” [Reuters]. “A law passed by the Republican-controlled Georgia state legislature last year requires that all of the letters and numbers of the applicant’s name, date of birth, driver’s license number and last four digits of their Social Security number exactly match the same letters and numbers in the motor vehicle department or Social Security databases.” Only they know, and they’re asking you… .

Stats Watch

Consumer Price Index, March 2018: “A drop in gas prices pulled down consumer prices in March which came in at Econoday’s low estimate for a 0.1 percent decline. But the core rate, which excludes energy, did hit expectations” [Econoday]. “But the gain in the yearly rate shouldn’t raise any eyebrows since it reflects an easy comparison with March last year when wireless service prices started to plunge. The balance of core items in today’s report is showing only limited pressure with downward pull coming from apparel, at minus 0.6 percent, and education & communications, at minus 0.2 percent…. This report is roughly in line with the Federal Reserve’s expectations: modest pressure that is slowly building.” And: “Key Measures Show Inflation increased in March” [Econintersect]. “On a monthly basis, median CPI was at 3.0% annualized, trimmed-mean CPI was at 1.7% annualized, and core CPI was at 2.1% annualized. Using these measures, inflation increased in March. Overall, these measures are close to the Fed’s 2% target.” And: “Even though the prices for oil decreased this month, they were the main driver for year-over-year nflation. Core inflation is now above 2.0 % year-over-year” [Econintersect].

Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations, April 2018: “Yesterday’s producer price report showed the initial effects of tariffs on steel prices and today’s unusual jump in business inflation expectations, up 2 tenths to a year-on-year 2.3 percent, may very well also reflect the tariff impact” [Econoday]. “Watch on Friday for an update on consumer expectations for inflation which have, like actual consumer prices as evidenced by today’s CPI report, been moving higher though very slowly.”

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of April 6, 2018: “Purchase applications for home mortgages fell a seasonally adjusted 2 percent in the April 6 week, pushing the unadjusted Purchase Index down into negative territory for the first time this year” [Econoday]. “Purchase applications in the red versus last year is a signal of perhaps only temporary weakness for the housing market.” And: “According to the MBA, purchase activity is DOWN 0.5% year-over-year” [Calculated Risk].

Commodities: “Copper supply crunch earlier than predicted — experts” [Mining.com]. “Copper demand will surpass supply earlier than expected, with the first clear signs coming as early as next year, experts attending the 17th World’s Copper Conference being held this week in Santiago, Chile, said. According to Arnaud Soirat, chef executive for copper and diamonds at Rio Tinto, increased consumption from new technologies, including electric vehicles, will drive demand for the metal and its by-products, he said. ‘We anticipate global market supply and demand will keep close to balance in 2019 and 2020,’ he said, noting that after that the deficit will become increasingly evident. The outlook is widely shared by other experts, including CRU analyst Hamish Sampson. According to him, unless new investments arise, existing mine production will drop from 20 million tonnes to below 12 million tonnes by 2034, leading to a supply shortfall of more than 15 million tonnes.”

Real Estate: “Warehouse developers appear to be catching up to e-commerce-fueled demand. The supply of new industrial real estate in the U.S. edged closer to total demand in first quarter, according to brokerage CBRE Group Inc.” [Wall Street Journal] “[D]evelopers completed more than 216 million square feet of new warehouse space in the quarter, a growth pace that brings the overall market closer to equilibrium. There hasn’t been much sign of prices leveling off from rapid growth trends, however, although the real estate group noted sharp increases in availability in some big markets from the fourth quarter to the first, including Atlanta and Dallas.”

Apparel: “New technology may start creating different patterns for inventories in apparel supply chains. Some factories in southern China are working with software that’s aimed at making the very fastest of fast fashion, offering custom-made clothing and shoes” [Wall Street Journal]. “[T]he business model is being called ‘click, buy and make,’ and aims to sharply curtail the time from purchase to shipping in a field that’s both notoriously inefficient and extremely sensitive to rapidly-changing tastes.”

Shipping: “A deeper dive on railroad service issues” [Logistics Management]. “[Larry Gross, president of Gross Transportation Consulting,] explained that the railroads have generally demonstrated that they are not really good at flexing upward quickly and they don’t have that capability anymore. ‘So they were caught off guard and now they have been digging out,’ he explained. ‘When they say ‘we had terrible weather,’ well, winter comes every year, especially in Canada, and I think one of the problems is that these massive trains they are running now i.e. these very long 12,000 foot monster trains have been very efficient, but in the winter that creates some issues and makes them perhaps a little more vulnerable to the cold weather operating conditions and then they have to shorten the trains up and flex up more resources…but that is all pretty predictable.” And then there’s intermodal. Sounds like a tightly-coupled system that’s been over-optimized by MBAs.

The Bezzle: “Tesla’s Musk, NTSB Chief Talk After Spat Over Fatal Crash Probe” [Industry Week]. “Tesla Inc.’s Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk and a top U.S. transportation safety investigator spoke over the weekend to patch things up after testy exchanges related to the investigation of a fatal crash.” Yes, it’s important for regulators to show a proper deference.

The Bezzle: “‘I keep getting the same phone case over and over’: How Amazon’s review system is ripe for abuse” [Business Insider]. “According to conversations Business Insider had with 29 different Amazon shoppers and sellers, a subculture geared towards driving sales through reviews has arisen on the site, and some are using underhanded tactics — including sharing discount codes and sending shoppers free products in exchange for reviews — to do so.” I don’t think analysts doing valuation on Facebook understand how important the reviews — created for free, naturally, by users — are to Amazon. When I use Amazon (and I do try not to) the most important feature by far is not the one-click checkout, or even tracking the package, but the reviews. Amazon, in other words, is an enormous content creator.

Mr. Market: “Are Short Sellers Signaling Optimism in the Major Banks?” [MarketWatch]. “[W]hen short sellers make a play against these major banks, they are effectively betting for a downturn. Conversely, when they back off they might be expecting a surge. Granted, some plays are directly against individual companies, like we saw with Wells Fargo early in 2017. The March 29 short interest data have been compared with the previous figures, and short interest in most of these selected bank stocks decreased.”

Five Horsemen: “Facebook rebounds to nearly a market performer as Zuck wows Congress critters” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood]. (Haygood writes, Thursday evening: “Can’t update tomorrow, but here are Five Horsemen as of 7 pm tonight, along with the regular Mania-panic index based on today’s closing values”)

Five Horsemen Apr 11 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “Mania-panic index rises to 39 (worry) on yesterday’s stock market rally” [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 Apr 10 2018

Facebook Fracas

“Facebook’s Zuckerberg deflects congressional questions, and gets $3 billion for the effort” [MarketWatch]. “After the first two hours of questions were nearing an end and there was a call for a potential break, Zuckerberg took a sip of water and said he could keep going for a bit longer. That break came just after trading ended, with Facebook stock noticeably jumping as the hearing went on and gaining 4.5% to its highest closing price since March 21, adding more than $20 billion back to its damaged market cap and increasing Zuckerberg’s net worth by about $3 billion.”

Impressive advance work for Zuckerberg (1):

Impressive advance work for Zuckerberg (2):

Though I’ve gotta wonder what’s going to happen to the staffer who let that happen.

“What You Don’t Know About How Facebook Uses Your Data” [New York Times]. “[Facebook] also collects so-called biometric facial data without users’ explicit “opt-in” consent… The sifting of users gets into personal — even confidential — matters. The company has allowed marketers to target users who may have an interest in various health issues, like the 110,000 Facebook users who were listed under the category ‘diagnosis with HIV or AIDS,’ the 51,000 people listed under erectile dysfunction, and 460,000 users listed under ‘binge-eating disorder awareness,’ according to 2015 data submitted as an exhibit in a lawsuit. Facebook says it has since removed those ‘targeting options’ and does not create targeted ad audiences involving users’ medical conditions.” I’ll believe that if the relevant code is audited. And as I read this, they hang on to the data.

“Facebook Shadow Profiles: A Profile of You That You Never Created” [SpiderOak]. “A shadow profile is a collection of data that Facebook has collected about you that you didn’t provide yourself. In other words, let’s say you’re a cautious social media user, and you limit what information you put online. While you may not have listed your cell phone number, if one of your connections used the “Find My Friends” feature and allowed Facebook to scan their contacts, Facebook collected all the other information about you associated with that contact. Even if you never provided them, Facebook very likely has your alternate email addresses, your phone numbers, and your home address – all helpfully supplied by friends who are trying to find you and connect….. Even if you’ve never signed up for Facebook, you may have a profile that contains your contact info and a mathematical template of what you look like nonetheless.”

“The Case for a Zuck-free Facebook” [Felix Salmon, Wired]. The headline proposal is actually less interesting than this idea: “[R]egardless of what governments request, Facebook should turn off not only its insidious Lookalike product but all narrowly targeted advertising altogether, with advertisers being forced to appeal broadly to large geographies.” In other words, turn Facebook’s greatest asset, the social graph (see today’s Links) into slag. Personally, I think that’s a great idea!


“Why does it take so long?” [Incidental Economist]. “Welcome to the U.S. health system. Here are the sources of delay, with time=0 the moment the doctor had a diagnosis and called me.”

We get letters:

You mentioned this a few days back. My dentist, who is a friend and relative of mine, has been on a tear about this. People have stopped making dental appointments with him once they turn 65. And bad teeth are implicated in heart disease. Also, as he has pointed out many times, if you look at pictures of these super-old people, they have all retained at least some of their own teeth.

So: Medicare for All with Teeth

Or else, it may be even time to change the slogan to: Everyone’s Medicare + Dental / Mental

Don’t even get me going on how bad the care is in the U S of A for mental illness. And the United States has an unusually high rate, too (not even mentioning the rising rate of suicides).


“Medicare with Teeth.” I like that!

The 420

“John Boehner is joining a marijuana company” [MarketWatch]. Boehner: “I’m convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities.” Presumably this implies that Boehner supports amnesty for the jailed entrepreneurs who actually built the industry, lol no.

Our Famously Free Press

“That Politico article on ‘news deserts’ doesn’t really show what it claims to show” [Nieman Labs]. “It is just ahistorical to say Trump’s campaign “succeeded in avoiding mainstream outlets.” Candidate Trump gave tons of interviews throughout the primaries! And when he scaled those back in the general, one of his strategic shifts was shifting from national to local media! Whatever perfectly legitimate criticisms you want to make about how the media covered Trump, to say Trump ‘avoided’ coverage in mainstream outlets is just…wrong.” The Politico article got some play, because who wants a “news desert,” so this article is an important corrective.


“Colorado seeing earthquakes where they’ve never happened before” [KDVR]. Scientists at the University of Colorado have been closely studying a rash of earthquakes in Colorado and northern New Mexico over the past decade. They say most have been caused by fluids pumped deep underground during oil and gas wastewater disposal. When oil is removed from the ground so is water. After drilling, the wastewater is injected back into the ground. The problem is that it can seep into existing faults and that pressure can pry the rock apart and cause a fault to slide. ‘There are many case studies so it’s very clear it’s happening,’ said William Yeck, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden. Injection-induced earthquakes in Colorado are primarily occurring in two parts of the state: In Weld County near Greeley and in the Raton Basin along the Colorado-New Mexico border.”

Class Warfare

“Burgerville Workers May Form America’s First Recognized Fast Food Union” [Shadowproof]. “Burgerville, a fast food chain based in Vancouver, Washington, with 42 locations throughout Oregon and Washington, announced last week they would support employees at a Portland store who plan to vote on whether to establish a nationally recognized union. If employees vote in favor of forming a union, it would establish the first nationally recognized fast food union in United States history. But union members are skeptical about management, and multiple members say they have faced retaliation.”

News of The Wired

“I am failing” [The Reformed Broker]. “If you know a female advisor who might want to talk to us about her career, I want to hear to about it. You can send an email to info at ritholtzwealth dot com. I am personally overseeing this initiative and I will not give up until I fix this issue. Please spread the word, your assistance is much appreciated.”

“Visually Mapping Gopherspace in 2018” [Jaruzel]. “The Gopher Protocol is a simple client-server network system built around a system of menus and files. Launched in 1991, it was proposed as an alternative to the HTTP system that underpins the current World Wide Web…. If you want to learn more about Gopher, then Cameron Kaiser’s Floodgap.com is the place to start, as it’s generally considered to be the home of Gopher in the 21st Century… I have also written a Gopher Browser for Windows, which works on all current versions of Windows from 7 through to 10. Why not download it, and try it out?” Hmm.

“Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship” [NBER]. “Our primary finding is that successful entrepreneurs are middle-aged, not young. The mean founder age for the 1 in 1,000 fastest growing new ventures is 45.0. The findings are broadly similar when considering high-technology sectors, entrepreneurial hubs, and successful firm exits. Prior experience in the specific industry predicts much greater rates of entrepreneurial success. These findings strongly reject common hypotheses that emphasize youth as a key trait of successful entrepreneurs.”

“Money-saving hack: Living ‘off-peak’ for a week was the best thing ever” [BBC(Clive)]. “Off-peaking means doing things when other people are not. Instead of shopping on a Saturday afternoon, for example, hit the supermarkets at closing time on a weeknight and bag the cut-price bargains. Instead of commuting at rush hour, save money and escape the crowds by travelling earlier or later.” Clive: “There’s probably a case for a new category I For One Welcome Our New Serfdom Existence So Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

“Bite the dust at Bangkok’s ‘death awareness’ cafe” [France24]. “[The cafe’s owner, a] professor and social researcher, Veeranut Rojanaprapa conceived of the cafe as a way to teach Thai people — some 90 percent of whom identify as Buddhist — about the benefits of ‘death awareness’. ‘We found that having an awareness of death decreases greed and anger,’ explained Veeranut, whose giggly demeanour belies his fascination with more morbid matters…. The cafe has also spread out to a public walkway, which is now posted with signs asking questions like: ‘What is the purpose of your life?'” To anyone who knows Bangkok, a cafe spreading out onto the sidewalk is unremarkable (and a sign of exuberant life).

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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 (GP):

GP writes: “Portola Redwood State Park, California. It’s good!!!” A bit of fog… .

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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. Edward E

      The goal is to collapse Russia through tangled up expensive conflict, but if Russ will get on knees be a vassal they will throw a little help their way.

    2. Rates

      It’s part of the Art of the Deal. When you have nothing, resort to confusion and hope that your enemy will spend valuable CPU cycles while you come up with the next BS.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        See on the OODA loop. Perhaps — by which I mean almost certainly — a member of the commentariat will be able to come up with something better than WikiPedia, but nevertheless:

        The OODA loop is the decision cycle of observe, orient, decide, and act, developed by military strategist and United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd.

        As one of Boyd’s colleagues, Harry Hillaker, put it in “John Boyd, USAF Retired, Father of the F16”:

        The key is to obscure your intentions and make them unpredictable to your opponent while you simultaneously clarify his intentions. That is, operate at a faster tempo to generate rapidly changing conditions that inhibit your opponent from adapting or reacting to those changes and that suppress or destroy his awareness. Thus, a hodgepodge of confusion and disorder occur to cause him to over- or under-react to conditions or activities that appear to be uncertain, ambiguous, or incomprehensible.

        I’m not saying Trump is doing this, mind you; but a tactic of throwing out enormous quantities of bullshit to gain a few degrees of freedom or a little time is surely not unknown.

        1. David

          Speaking from memory, the OODA loop (Observation/Orientation/Decision/Action) came out of analysis of air combat in the Korean War between American F86s and Chinese MiG15s. The F86s won a disproportionate number of air-to-air combats, although technically the two aircraft were well matched. It eventually turned out that the F86 could turn very slightly faster than the MiG15, and so, in an age when you could only really hope to destroy an enemy aircraft from behind, it had a cumulatively very large advantage. The OODA loop idea was developed from this – in other words, if you get to Action before your opponent, who’s still at the Decision phase, he has to start all over again and will never catch you up. This applies in politics just as much as warfare. Note that it’s not speed alone that counts, but having gone through each stage correctly, but faster.

        2. Altandmain

          One of John Boyd’s great regrets was that he did not have his life work presented in anything like a book, although there have been quite a few thesis written on his work.

          By far the most important part in the OODA loop is orientation.

          Here is a fast version.

          Boyd’s associates such as Chet Richards might have more.

        3. unna

          Isn’t that what Britian did during the July Crisis of 1914, created confusion in the minds of the Germans about what they might do if France were attacked? And that uncertainty was enough, along with other factors, that allowed Germany to believe that if they did attack France, perhaps Britain just might not intervene. At least many historians have so argued and have said that in many cases clarity about one’s intentions can prevent misunderstandings, and so prevent wars based on miscalculation.

          Personally, I think Britain was always going to intervene if France were attacked and that the Germans were fools for thinking otherwise, but that’s a different issue.

      2. FriarTuck

        From what I can tell, through observation and watching Adam Curtis documentaries, this has been Putin’s modus operendi for the last few decades.

        I think either through incompetence or the sheer familiarity with the cable news cycle, Trump has stumbled on to something that traditional orgs, be it government, private, or foreign opposition, aren’t used to handling.

    3. clarky90

      I believe that Donald Trump is facing off against the “massed, mercenary, leadership” of both major Parties.

      Therefore, he is playing Improvisational Theater with them. The gullible, SELF IMPORTANT neo-cons/libs are, thus, driven to dribbling insanity,whirling round and round!. (Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger)


      When a participant performs Improv Theatre (no scripts, everything is made up in the moment), every “offer” is responded to by “yes, and”. (Never “yes but, or no”) This, IMO, is what DT is doing. He is playing Impro with them, and it is fun to watch.

      If anybody wants to know more about Improv Theatre, here is the pdf of one of my favorite, favorite books.

      “Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre”
      by Keith Johnstone


    4. The Rev Kev

      I wonder if he thought up that second tweet or whether it was “suggested” to him. That tweet would rile up the Russians with the memory of when the US gave them such help in the 90s and millions of Russians died prematurely as a result.

  1. Altandmain

    I think that in a twist of irony, there is a large chance that neoliberalism might collapse in a way similar to the Warsaw and their brand of Communism.

    I was talking to someone I met from Germany. Many years ago, I met someone much older who came from East Germany after reunification in 1989 of Germany.

    He noted that his grandparents had fought in WW2. Eventually even the propaganda of Joseph Geobbels was not enough to hide the real grim situation that Nazi Germany faced, and certainly not for him. They had reached the limits of propaganda. Certainly not in cities like Dresden, which was completely flattened by bombers in WW2.

    I wonder if neoliberalism has reached that point in time. Certainly the rise of out of mainstream politicians would suggest that the neoliberal propaganda machine has reached its limits. They can say how much the economy is recovering, but unless that translates into real material benefits for the common citizen, it really means that only the rich have recovered and the common citizen has just the crumbs. Trust of the media, which is ultimately controlled by the very rich, is at an all time low.

    The old Soviet joke of “you pretend to pay us, we pretend to work” applies as much to the neoliberal economy where jobs have been crapified. People know they are being lied to. I think that a 1989 moment could happen. Precisely when and how nobody knows. It might even be called solidarity in opposition to capitalist wage theft.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I wish I knew more about the Solidarity movement in Poland and how that was achieved (heavily union-based, as I recall, and ultimately took a rightward turn).

      1. Altandmain

        Yes it did.

        Solidarity was also secretly backed by the CIA. Any left wing movement would not have any foreign backers.

        We must also ensure that a real left wing movement does not get co-opted someday the way the Democratic Party has been.

        1. sierra7

          If I am remembering correctly Solidarity turned to the “right” when their leader became leader of Poland. I predicted to my circle of friends/coworkers/co-conspirators that it would happen and it did. He could not maintain a “radical labor position” and lead Poland. Classic. And also true about the CIA being involved….all politics and dirty stuff at that.

    2. Big River Bandido

      I think neoliberalism reached that point already. The Democrats’ craptacular political failures in the last decade — a thousand state legislative seats, statehouses, Congress, and the Presidency — are symptoms. Clinton’s loss in 2016 was not a “shot over the bow” or a “leading indicator” by any means, but the opposite: a lagging indicator of the failure of the ideology which she so clearly represents.

    3. dcblogger

      I have been thinking the same thing for quite a while. I was in Russia in 1989, and I think the current atmosphere is similar in the sense of the explosive combination of hope and anger. One key difference is that Russians always knew their press was lying, they just did not think that they could do anything about it. If you are old enough to remember the glory days of Watergate it is difficult to grasp that the same institutions which served us so well in 1974 have become wholly corrupted.

      As for events in Poland, the were numerous uprisings before Solidarity Summer of 1980. But either the students would rise up or the workers, and they did not like each other nor support one another, until a group of intellectuals got together and formed the Committee in Support of Workers, KOR to use its Polish acronym. Only then was there a resistance movement that was built on All Walks of Life to use lambert’s phrase.

      1. Sid Finster

        If you had told anyone in 1983 that the Soviet Union would not last another ten years, they would have laughed you off. I recall that when Andrei Amalrik wrote “Will the Soviet Union Last Until 1984” in 1968, he was regarded as a nutcase, even in the West. As it turned out, he was off only by a few years.

        I know that Reagan is a folk devil around here, but as a kid at around that time, I recall that Responsible Respectable Intellectual Opinion was that the Soviet Union was here to stay, and while we did not have to like it, we would have to learn to live with it.

        I was not in the Soviet Union in 1989, but to me, the mood in America seems to me like the Soviet Union in 1983. The feeling that something has got to give.

        This is what gives me hope.

        1. Jim Haygood

          What’s missing in the US compared to the former USSR is widespread impoverishment. Currently unemployment (excluding ‘discouraged workers’) is a low 4.1%. ‘Now hiring’ signs are common. House prices have returned to and even exceeded their 2006 level. Those who aren’t homeless or jobless can rationalize that things are okay.

          All that will change when the next recession arrives around 2020. Take away Bubble III (which, until further notice, is assumed to have ended on Jan 26th) and the illusion of prosperity evaporates like a morning mist. State pension plans will begin failing, with no possibility of raising taxes on a prostrate economy enough to bail them out.

          Frederick Allen’s Only Yesterday (1931) provides a vivid illustration of how quickly the popular mood can flip. It’s not just that it was published less than two years after the crash of 1929. Rather, it’s Allen’s elegiac tone in describing the prosperity of two years before as if it were a distant, bygone era. After they saw bubble prosperity collapse before their eyes in a matter of weeks, everyone knew that everything had changed.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            It’s like a puzzle-wrapped-in-a-mystery-inside-an-enigma matryoshka doll, why instead of workers pretending to work and the government pretending to pay, the USSR didn’t let the workers pretend to work, but let the government using MMT really pay them, with really genuine soviet fiat money?

            Could MMT have saved the government’s pretending, if not the entire system?

          2. kurtismayfield

            Don’t forget that during the next recession, no one is going to accept bailouts for the financial industry. No one is just going to swallow it again without serious changes.

          3. OIFVet

            Come on Jim, it is rather inane to associate low unemployment figures in the US with lack of “widespread impoverishment.” In case you have forgotten, everybody in the USSR and the Eastern Block was gainfully employed. By your reasoning impoverishment simply did not exist, much less be a “widespread” phenomenon.

            Anywho, just ask those gainfully employed earning minimum wage how well that’s working out for them. Particularly since healthcare ain’t universal, unlike in the former Eastern Block.

            1. polecat

              And, if I may add … Soviet citizens had, for the most part, abodes/shelter courtesy of the State, reliable heat, and numerous kitchen gardens to enable them to grow enough food to compensate (and/or suppliment) for whatever was lacking in the State-run ‘stores’… whereas here in the States people are often left without the means to weather privation, as the neoliberal sharks circle the chum(ps).

          4. drumlin woodchuckles

            The unemployment figure is conceptually bogus. It carefully avoids counting the discouraged job-nonseekers. It also counts underemployment as employment. It also counts sh*t McCrapJobs as being “jobs”.

            Poverty is widespread and getting wider-spreader.

            America also features a deep fear of day-to-day survival which the old USSR didn’t feature. The “state” owned all the housing, and when nearly everything stopped, the “state” didn’t through millions of people out of their crummy housing. So fear of homelessness was not the fear there which it is here. That fear can be used to terrorise millions of not-yet-homeless people into obedience.

            Now . . . if 50 million people go homeless all at once and someone gives them all 50 million AR-15 rifles and a thousand rounds of ammo for each rifle, then something different will happen. Otherwise, just more and worse of the same.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              Of course . . . if 150 million not-yet-homeless began a massive consumer slowdown and also a consumption re-direct, things will also change. And maybe in a nicer and peacefuller way.

              1. sierra7

                The old adage that the people do not realize how much power they have…..don’t drive for one day; don’t “shop” for one weekend and so on. It would eventually bring the business world to it’s knees. The problem is then what will happen. That is always historically unpredictable.

                1. drumlin woodchuckles

                  What do we call a working class income person with middle class lifestyle aspirations . . . ? “Bourgeoistariat”? Petty Bourgeoiswannabe? Well . . . I am a Petty Bourgeoiswannabe liberadical reformationist.

                  I would rather see a broadbased broadscale consumption redirect which could be semi-predictable in the sense that we could predict that the people and pathways we spend “more” with would grow and the people and pathways we spend “less” with would shrink. And different TAGs ( Theory Action Groups) of people could redirect their own semi-mass consumption in line with their very own theories and desired results as to who they wish to grow and whom they wish to shrink. I would be afraid of the unpredictable chaos resulting if a hundred and fifty million people all stopped spending at once and stayed stopped until various systems crash and stop unstartably.

                  That said, why don’t people realize their power? Perhaps because man remains a pack animal and the kind of power being discussed is the power of vast herds of the kind man never evolved to be a member of. So people are not used to thinking of vast accretions of tiny bits of power. From whence comes the saying: aww . . . its just a drop in the bucket.

                  Perhaps we can use language to illustrate the scale at which enough drops in enough buckets comes to mean something more than nothing at all. In pharmacy, a drop is defined as being 1/20th of a milliliter. That is to say, 20 pharmacy-standard drops in a milliliter of liquid. And there are a thousand milliliters in a liter. And a liter is sort of like a quart. So there are basically 4 liters in a gallon. That means that at 20,000 drops per liter, there are 80,000 drops in a gallon. That means there are 400,000 thousand drops in a 5 gallon bucket. And there are 8 5-gallon buckets in a 40 gallon bathtub. That means there are 3,200,000 drops in a 40 gallon bathtub.

                  So 3 million two hundred thousand people could fill a fourty gallon bathtub at one drop per person if each one of them threw a drop in the buckets going into the bathtub.

                  And 32 million such people could fill ten 40-gallon bathtubs. If they all guided their tiny personal drop-flinging efforts towards the same general cultural-economic goal.

                  Supposedly the Czarist Army had a saying: ” Quantity possesses a quality all its own.”

                  1. Oregoncharles

                    ” Perhaps because man remains a pack animal and the kind of power being discussed is the power of vast herds of the kind man never evolved to be a member of. ”

                    That’s a remarkable insight, something I’ve never heard of before, and quite plausible. We seem to require leadership and structure to act on such a mass scale. Depending on leadership creates a vulnerability; of course, doing without it does, too, as Occupy discovered.

                    1. drumlin woodchuckles

                      The story of civilization is the history of man’s effort to live like the social insects.

                      I read recently in an article, perhaps here, that someone wants to call the process of getting huge masses of people to live together in civilizations by the name of hyper-socialization. It occurs to me that a better word for the process of adjusting the human animal to civilization is . . . insectification. Species man is somewhat resistant to insectification and will never be entirely happy in a state of civilinsectization. But there are too many of us to be able to live like packs of free and equal man-wolves. The best we can do is preserve some functional wolverpackish freedom in small wieldy social groups.

                      How to spread information around slowly and at the speed of voluntary uptake by the people being informed that we can eventually have insectile numbers of people practicing economic combat in the market-battlespace but in a spirit of wolfly freedom?

          5. Lambert Strether Post author

            > All that will change when the next recession arrives around 2020. Take away Bubble III (which, until further notice, is assumed to have ended on Jan 26th)

            Calling the top? If that’s the phrase I want?

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > If you had told anyone in 1983 that the Soviet Union would not last another ten years, they would have laughed you off.

          It’s the same with Abolition. If you had told an Abolitionist in 1855 that slavery would be gone by 1865, they would have thought you were crazy. Things move fast when they move…

    4. kurtismayfield

      Think about it.. what are people told when they complain about economic conditions?

      Work harder at low wages (boot straps!)
      Education (Go into more debt!)
      Entrepreneur more (Gambling for success!)

      All of these are empty solutions. And everyone knows it.

    5. VietnamVet

      Yes, I think the USA is at an inflection point. I called my Congressional Offices today and spoke to the young staffers and said that I expect the Congressmen are working to stop a world war with Russia from starting tomorrow. They said the would pass the message on. This was a first for me.

      The basic problem is the New World Order has superseded the democratic nation states and is hell-bent on re-subjugating Russia, Iran and China. This cannot be done without a world war. Tomorrow we will find out if it goes nuclear. If the human species survives, the Western Alliance will splinter apart for no other reason than this episode documents the total insanity of the ruling oligarchs and the death of representative government.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I’m just guessing here, but I think Trump finds a way out. (Should have bet, sorry, traded accordingly earlier today).

        Maybe there still is another chance later, if he pre-discloses the targets (so they have time to get away), and we merely gets a nice show of sound and fury (or shock and awe) for nothing.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > if he pre-discloses the targets (so they have time to get away)

          That’s what he did. “Smart” bombs, in the next few days, and it looks like only after one of our poodles like May or Macron gets on board. Plenty of time for the Russians to move their stuff.

          What worries me is that The Blob sees this, I think, as a tit for tat game — surely they can’t be serious about any humanitarian motives — in which the U.S. must always have the last word (“credibility” we called that in the Vietnam Era). Which works until it doesn’t. Suppose the Russians have had enough, and decided (See Links today on some scenario.)

          In retrospect, it would have been smarter to arrange for both Saddam and Qaddafi to retire to quiet lives in mansions on the Riviera, because now Saddam (and Kim (and, for that matter, Putin)) “have no place to go. “

          1. johnnygl

            I think there’s a political angle here and i think it’s worth thinking about what trump’s best political talent is: getting his enemies to make absolute fools of themselves!

            If/when he launches his cruise missiles and it’s tolerably kayfabe-ish for the russians that they limit their response, he then turns to the public and says, “look at our crazy media always asking for war. I’ve attacked assad twice and these establishment types want MORE”

            For background, think of how trump got rubio to make a fool of himself, jebbie, too. Clinton has become almost cartoonishly bad.

            Trump is a real master at getting his opponents to make idiots of themselves.

            1. G Moore

              Finally. An analysis of Trump not shaded in partisan pap. I’m an angry independent. But I give Trump credit for the gifts he has.

              I lurk and say little – sort of a Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan style centrist – disgusted with both parties and the blind partisans who think Rachel Maddow and Alex Jones are honest brokers.

              Trump is nobody’s fool. Cheap shots on this board, are soooo 11/16 – don’t advance genuine debate, and have more than a whiff of yesterdays fish course.

              For all his faults, DJT is the gift that keeps on giving, especially when he drives his enemies [and sometimes ours] to hysterical over reach.

              His very being caused self immolation at the FBI, CIA and DOJ – by entrenched hacks, desperate to unseat an outsider before he discovers all the buttons, knobs and levers of governance.

              BLM screams about FBI abuse, planted guns, evidence, and Mueller style shady practices. So, now 63 million Trump supporters yell the same thing – and where is Al Sharpton? Out for the season.

              The DOJ has been no friend to the working men and women of this country under Bush/Clinton/Bush/or the Obomination. Yet when they try to railroad Trump, the left cheers extra constitutional tactics – hey, whatever works, no?

              Mueller was always damaged goods – the Anthrax investigation – botched. There was another case in Boston where men were exonerated after they died in prison at the hand of Rabid Mueller.

              Yet Trey Gowdy tells us all what a wonderful fellow he is. I say Trump buries him and his “reputation”.

              As to Russia, China and N Korea – 2 for 3 folded on Trumps opening bid. I think “rabid orange man” serves a useful purpose when dealing with tyrants.

              This board is divided between grudging acceptance and cartoon caricature – so neither gets him.

              His first batch of aides were party operatives or bad fits. Sessions signed on early for positioning to protect DC business as usual. Wee Jeff is on a short leash because nothing beats a Control File for proper Swamp maintenance.

              I think Trump is a better friend to left and center than Schumer, Pelosi or the little O.

              We shall see.

      2. Summer

        War. Then more people will see the other side of that “oh-golly- gee-we’re-just connecting-with-friends” data collection.

    6. unna

      Joey G. has a great quote that I think was mentioned here recently:

      “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

      Josef Goebbels

      The effectiveness of Goebbel’s propaganda diminished over time for the reasons he himself gave above. Compare his two famous speeches: the Total War speech made in 1943 to what was an emotionally enthusiastic audience of Nazi Germany’s “10%”. And the speech he made in Berlin in 1945 to newly drafted middle aged workers and boys. Both speeches are on YouTube and you don’t need to understand German to understand the looks in the faces of both audiences.

  2. Summer

    Why are they asking Zuck if it’s okay to regulate?
    Nobody elected Zuck.

    That’s tells you he was slipped a note: “Leave your donations at the door.”

    1. perpetualWAR

      Your post begs the question: Why did the financial industry achieve significant deregulation only one decade outside the largest global financial crash in history?

      It’s a feature, not a bug.

    2. perpetualWAR

      Speaking of “Nobody elected Zuck”

      Does anyone wonder if Facebook has been targeted BECAUSE Zuck was acting like a potential candidate?

      1. Summer

        I did the other day.
        But the targeting is not over what’s being done to pleebs, not really.
        It’s the swamp they want to protect.

        And, no I’m not surprised the banks were not reformable. The history of banking reforms is littered with light, paper reforms all followed by repeals.

        These are the failures of over 200 years of oligarchy/plutocracy…not Democracy.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Donations, donations.

      “No one elected you, Zuck.”

      “But I helped to get many of you elected.”

    4. bob

      They’re asking who should write the regulations, so the money keeps flowing.

      I’d bet one of their lobby groups, like EFF, gets anointed.

      1. bob

        The EFF seems to share Facebook’s ethics with regard to transparency-


        All those ‘donations’ and no names. Starting on page 22 of the pdf. Not small donations either.


        Even bigger ‘donations’ in 2015, still with no names.

        1 nameless person 3.2 million

        another 1.5 million

        I’d bet these unnamed persons didn’t forget to claim these ‘donations’ on their taxes

        1. bob

          Names! you’ll never guess what names. Yes you will-


          “In fact, Google (GOOG) did transfer $1 million to the EFF last year, but the money did not have to be, and wasn’t, reported as a corporate donation. And if, as currently planned, the EFF receives another $1 million this year from Facebook (FB), it won’t have to report that as a donation either. That’s because both transfers are formally court-ordered outlays being paid by those companies to settle class-action suits.

          “Well, of course those aren’t donations!” the reader might interject. “They’re the diametric opposite: involuntary, judicially mandated payments forced upon them by an adversary!” That’s not the whole story either. These payments to the EFF are being made in suits the EFF played no role in bringing, and the defendants themselves — Google and Facebook, in these instances — helped select EFF to be their beneficiary.”

          Add in another anoymous million or so from, say, Wendy, and you get the lobbing POWERUP multiplier, plus good PR

  3. Summer

    “Even if you’ve never signed up for Facebook, you may have a profile that contains your contact info and a mathematical template of what you look like nonetheless.”

    That’s not social medial nor is it only for advertising and they’re lying if they say it is

    1. perpetualWAR

      Oh wow. So, even if you never have signed up, they have designated a profile for you???


      1. Summer

        From above:
        Facebook Shadow Profiles: A Profile of You That You Never Created” [SpiderO

        So if Fakebook has nothing to hide, people who aren’t signed up should be alerted that their data has been stolen…just like they did with Cambridge Analytica.

        Screw the playing dumb sh–.

      1. Summer

        So much was made in China, why wouldn’t they have anything the tech companies have?

        Anyway, our problems started here…nit China or Russia.
        The boogeymen are here.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          The comment is related here, in that we can ask if the geniuses are not being wasted here, and if they could have a lot more room to really show their stuff elsewhere.

  4. allan

    Giant genitals were the downfall of some ancient crustaceans [Nature]

    … The researchers found that ostracod species whose males evolved particularly large sex organs were much more likely to have become extinct than those with more-modest genitalia. Expending energy on physical flourishes for the sake of sexual selection could limit species’ ability to respond to change, making them more vulnerable to extinction …

    On a day when little men are waving long pointy weapons at each other, a lesson for us all.

      1. Synoia

        Yes. It seems too large to miss. Luckily our President is not impacted because of his small hands.

        1. none

          The Pentagon gave Trump such a big nuclear button BECAUSE they wanted to make sure he couldn’t press it with his tiny hands.

      2. begob

        How did I miss that one!?!?

        You should examine the relevant area regularly. And vigorously.

    1. ewmayer

      In the Ahhhnold-starring (but also genuinely cool from the creature-effects perspective – thank you, Stan Winston) testosterone-fest film Predator, beefcake wrestler and future governator of MN Jesse Ventura describes himself as a “sexual Tyrannosaurus Rex.” Only the hung die young?

  5. Synoia

    IMF chief Lagarde warns trade system is at risk of being ‘torn apart’” [MarketWatch]. “‘The multilateral trade system has transformed our world over the past generation. But that system of rules and shared responsibility is now in danger of being torn apart.

    Shared Responsibility between whom? Are the working classes included?

    The ever recurring “Lack of Agency?”

    1. polecat

      Oh come on, you know how this game works .. “shared responsibility” is only applied to the plebs ..ei. “You pay the shared losses, while We receive all the gains”…

  6. a different chris

    So I was skimming the local newspaper website and saw “Pelosi praises Ryan, hopes he’ll work with Dems”. I didn’t have the stomach to click on it. She & Schumer and a lot of others just have to go.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The ‘our strategy is working’ Democrats will point to Ryan not returning as proof.

      From a quote in one of Haywood’s comments this morning:

      “This is a Titanic, tectonic shift. … This is going to make every Republican donor believe the House can’t be held.” The announcement will help Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his fundraising because “the Senate becomes the last bastion,” the Republican said.

      More Russia investigation, and no need to talk about universal health care.

    1. voteforno6

      Yeah, I hear you…it’s unfortunate that he’s not interested in a Led Zeppelin reunion, but they just can’t do it without him.

        1. Lemmy Caution

          Zeppelin fans may be interested in hearing a young band that is picking up the rock and roll torch. Here’s Greta Van Fleet performing Highway Tune.

          1. RiverBoatGrambler

            As a Zeppelin fan Greta Van Fleet is so identical to Zeppelin’s sound that I find myself turned off by it. There’s “obviously inspired by” and then there’s “the drums, the guitars, the singing, and the song structures are all exactly the same as Zeppelin”. It’s just shameless.

            That said, it’s good that a contemporary group is putting the spotlight on that style of music for a new generation, plus Zeppelin ripped off enough music in their career that I can’t bring myself to be feel too bad for them. Someone put on Greta Van Fleet’s album at work and I enjoyed a couple of the B-sides alot more than their radio hit, so whatever.

  7. Matthew G. Saroff

    I thought that Gopher had been shut down by the University of Minnesota, which maintained the root, over a decade ago.

  8. Field Marshall McLuhan

    “There’s probably a case for a new category I For One Welcome Our New Serfdom Existence So Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

    Adaptations to Crapification?

  9. Jim Haygood

    Deja vu all over again:

    May West Texas Intermediate crude rose 2%, to settle at $66.82 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest settlement for the U.S. benchmark since Dec. 3, 2014.

    June Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, added 1.4% to $72.06 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures exchange, settling at its highest since Dec. 1, 2014.


    I’m not saying there won’t be a little pain,” Trump said.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      A last few decades have been a little too painful.

      Will it be a case of ‘a little more pain, and it will be gone?’

      Or will it be, ‘It’s too painful, I give in. You generals can have your war?”

      Apparently, the Swamp is a multi-national swamp. Notice how a call to arms is often answered instantly in many other places, often faster than this present American administration?

      “We just can’t take the pain anymore here in London.”

  10. Lee

    “The ‘olive twig’ that Xi extended: Chinese President Xi Jinping raised eyebrows and garnered some praise when he pledged Tuesday to lower tariffs on automobiles and further open up his country’s market — but the promises, at least for now, don’t seem to be enough to head off a tit-for-tat tariff war” [Politico].

    Aren’t most “American” cars bought in China, made in China? It’s a trick question:

  11. blennylips

    I’m a day or two late, but this should not pass without notice:

    Tom Lehrer At 90
    April 10, 2018

    It makes a fellow proud to be a nerd

    Tom Lehrer is Emeritus Lecturer in Mathematics at Cowell College of the University of Santa Cruz. He is listed not in the Mathematics Department but in Humanities, for which he also lectured on musical theater. He was my first witness that effective input to the social conversation could start from conversancy in mathematics.

    Tom Lehrer – The Masochism Tango

    1. David

      I still remember creasing up with hysterical laughter when Lehrer’s That was the Year that Was songs were broadcast on the BBC. Talk about satire with teeth: it would be unthinkable these days. Lehrer basically pushed satirical music to its limits in the 1960s, and then gave up since there was very little point in repeating himself. These days, most satire is just a pale reflection. I mean, after “the thing about a protest song is, it makes you feel good”, is there anything original to say about todays so-called Left? And he had spotted that in 1965.

      1. gepay

        I remember, vaguely, him mentioning something like satire became impossible when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize.

  12. allan

    Just in time for a shooting war.

    Pentagon stops accepting F-35 jets from Lockheed over repair cost dispute [Reuters]

    The U.S. Department of Defense has stopped accepting most deliveries of F-35 jets from Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) because of a dispute over who will cover costs for fixing a production error found last year on more than 200 of the stealthy jets, three people familiar with the matter said. …

    This is the latest of several production issues that have arisen in the 17-year history of the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program. …

    No big deal. Even Faberge eggs had production errors.

    1. ambrit

      Yeah, and the main customers for those items were a certain Romanoff Dynasty and surrounding aristos. Doesn’t look too encouraging, does it?

      1. Enquiring Mind

        Forbes bragged often about their collection of Fabergé eggs, and had to sell those as changing fortunes made their business weaker.

      2. polecat

        Did you know that if you throw a faberge egg in the air it’ll fly, whereas an F-35 Lardbucket …

      3. Wukchumni

        A squadron of F-35’s is based at Naval Air Station Lemoore-about 100 miles away from us in the CVBB, perhaps to be utilized in case the surrounding herds of milk cows in the vicinity of the air base, break out of their CAFO’s.

  13. sleepy

    From the Cook Political Base article:

    Today race, religion (specifically church attendance), geography (rural and small-town versus suburban and urban), and attitudes on social and cultural issues (e.g. abortion, guns, the environment, and women’s issues) drive voters’ attitudes about party and Trump far more than class and economic self-interest.

    Once again, the “white working class” is generalized and marginalized as anti-environment, anti-women, and racist, among other things. I live in a 95% white county in northern Iowa which is working class beyond dispute. That county voted dem for president for decades beginning in 1984 with Mondale (hey, we’re not even Reagan democrats!). It switched to the dems then because repubs were viewed as precipitating the farm crisis with their links to the financial system’s credit squeeze on farmers. It voted dem until 2016 when it voted for Trump.

    There was no local uproar about the legalization of gay marriage in 2009. People here are far more concerned about the economic decline of the area than any cultural issues. On that, most have a live and let live attitude–at least publicly. I doubt if rural Iowans are any more racist than the preferred dem demographic of wealthy suburbanites.

    This “white working class” the article refers to is huge and geographically and culturally diverse in its views, not something that fits neatly into a mindset that seeks to reduce it to a bunch of ignorant rednecks. That mindset imho only seeks to diminish its economic concerns.

    1. Sid Finster

      Well, I live in North Dakota, and the Cook Report analysis is correct in that there is nothing Trump could possibly do to turn away the people living here.

      Jesus Christ could return to earth and run for president as a democrat and at the same time, Mohammed and Bruno could endorse Trump and they’d still vote for the man.

      1. voteforno6

        That might have something to do with the candidates…that is the same state that kept sending Quentin Burdick and Byron Dorgan back to Congress.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      There was no local uproar about the legalization of gay marriage in 2009. People here are far more concerned about the economic decline of the area than any cultural issues.

      I wonder if that could be an intention strategy, by any side, to make the voters so distracted about the economy that they could be manipulated into going with whichever side the manipulators want on cultural issues?

      1. Duke of Prunes

        I think you’re suggesting the opposite of conventional wisdom (i.e. keep us fighting about “wedge” issues – abortion, gay marriage, etc. – so we take our eye off the ball of what really matters). I’m all for challenging conventional wisdom, but, in my experience as a former member, it really is all about the economy for the working class. When you are struggling to keep your head above water (or not sink too fast), there’s little energy for anything else.

        Now that I’m a wealthy white suburbanite, I find that unless you’ve experienced this type of living most have very little appreciation for its challenges. One mistake or a little bad luck can be the difference between eating well or being a little hungry through the week. A big mistake or a string of bad luck can cause cars and apartments to disappear. A reasonably robust economy is the preferred “safety net”. There is far more trust in an thriving local economy than “government handouts”. The MSM prefers the ignorant, racist, bible-thumping, gun toting redneck, and while these folks exist, they are by far the minority. I think it’s a trope perpetuated to make the rest of us feel OK about the s***-sandwich these folks deal with every day.

  14. Jim Haygood

    Well, there they go again — that mysterious cabal of sellers, I mean, who keep dumping stocks in the final hour so that they close lower than they opened.

    Today the S&P 500 index opened at 2,643.89 and closed at 2,642.24, losing 1.65 points. However, the Smart Money index which compares the first [amateur] hour to the final [heavy hitters] hour, did much worse.

    Amateurs bought with vigor, pushing the S&P up about 10 points in the first hour. But pros sold with equal enthusiasm, knocking the market down about 6 points in the final hour. Intraday chart:


    This is a typical bear market pattern, with worse implications that today’s modest loss would suggest at first glance. Energy was the best-performing sector today, up 1.0%. But that’s not a plus for the other sectors, which don’t benefit from rising input and transport costs.

  15. Lee


    GP writes: “Portola Redwood State Park, California. It’s good!!!” A bit of fog… .

    In Mediterranean climate regions like coastal California, however, water inputs are highly seasonal, with most rain falling in winter, followed by a long summer drought as stored soil moisture steadily declines. Year-round water availability is critical to both individual and population-level survival of many of the drought-sensitive evergreenspecies found in this region (Baguskas et al. 2014). The only significant summertime ecosystem water input is fog drip, and it can play
    a key role in maintaining some level of water availability through the summer (Carbone et al.

    From Fog drip maintains dry season ecological function in a
    California coastal pine forest

    Fischer et al

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I understand that fog is key to a good Pinot Noir, not just pine forests.

      I got that from the film, Sideways.

    2. polecat

      I would expect the range of Sequoia to gradually (or not) shift northward as the California coastal climate becomes drier, and the temps. further north become relatively warmer.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Sequoias do very well here; my street is lined with them, and the neighbor in front has a row behind his house, as well. Seedlings come up if you provide some drainage, like gravel. They won’t sprout successfully in our soggy clay. So they have a huge potential northward range.

  16. Lee

    Today on Fresh Air: How Globalized Capitalism Drives Worldwide Fear And Discontentment. Interview with Robert Kuttner, author of Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? Does Betteridge’s law apply to book titles?

  17. Summer

    “Facebook rebounds to nearly a market performer as Zuck wows Congress critters”

    More like “Critter Wows Critters” – same slime different package

    1. Conrad

      Personally I’d view sitting on a little boy’s cushion is far more embarrassing than looking a little small at the hearing.

        1. Arizona Slim

          What would they have Robert Reich sit on? Or Ted Koppel?

          When it comes to being vertically challenged, Reich and Koppel have Zuck beat by a mile.

      1. Wukchumni

        Wasn’t Cap’n Ahablankfein sitting on a couple of phone books whilst testifying before Congress?

    2. fresno dan

      April 11, 2018 at 4:34 pm

      From the movie Sunset Boulevard:
      Joe Gillis: Wait a minute, haven’t I seen you before? I know your face.
      Norma Desmond: Get out! Or, shall I call my servant?
      Joe Gillis: You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.
      Norma Desmond: I *am* big. It’s the *pictures* that got small.

      With apologies to congress….er, make that the country
      US Senator: Wait a minute, haven’t I seen you before? I know your face.
      Marcus Suckerburg: Get out! Or, shall I call my servant, the entire US government?
      US Senator: You’re Marcus Suckerburg. You used have the number one valuation in the stock market. You used to be big!!!
      Markus Suckerburg: I AM big. It’s the Congress/Stock Market that got small.

  18. Jim Haygood

    As in the US — where 535 members of Congress aren’t even allowed the read the secret 7-page DOJ memo which justified last year’s US missile strikes on Syria — Britain don’t need no stinkin’ parliamentary assent either:

    Sources indicated to the Telegraph that Mrs May has now abandoned any intentions of seeking the backing of Parliament – which does not sit until Monday – for military action.

    Whitehall sources said any military action was expected to take place before Monday, and by gaining the backing of her Cabinet Mrs May will clear the last domestic obstacle standing in the way of British participation.


    Lovely. World War III is so much easier to stage when a handful of leaders, or even a sole very stable genius, can blow up the world on their own say-so.

    Remember the ‘rule of law’? Ha ha, what a crock that was. L’etat, c’est moi is the modern principle of statecraft.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Not surprising given the Swamp is multinational.

      Why take on their branch of the MIC when she could keep her powder dry for her domestic agenda?

        1. ambrit

          I’m pretty sure that there will be a “Night of the Long Knives.” What I’m not sure of is who will be Rohm this time. Somehow I’m sure that the ‘Moneyed Interests’ will be fooled yet again. This time though, we’ll strive for Lebenweltraum instead of Lebensraum.

  19. Kurtismayfield

    But now, Republicans will have to start from scratch without Ryan’s $9.6 million campaign account against a Democrat armed with millions and a blue-collar profile.

    That is some war chest! I figured he would just retire and cash in, But with that much money he will either be a kingmaker or save it for a Senatorial or Governor run. I love how he used the “Spend time with his family” Trope.. any over/under on when he accepts his K street job?

    1. neo-realist

      I suspect that Ryan is keeping his brand clean for a possible presidential run in 2024. Trump fatigue, aided by a possible recession near 2020, may enable a democratic president to win (even a flawed neoliberal one.) That President may go into deficit spending mode to get the country out of its economic doldrums. Ryan and other republicans will counter the Keynesian policies with the need for austerity and privatisation schemes, including cutting loose social security to the vagaries of the markets.

      Conservatives rarely retire. They lay low to prep their brand to win the next war.

  20. allan

    To go along with Yves’ post about the CalPERS CFO with the counterfactual resume,
    here’s a similar if less spectacular story from the groves of academe:

    Questions About Job Candidate’s Past [InsideHigherEd]

    A group of anonymous professors at North Carolina State University want to know why Terrell Strayhorn is a finalist for an education faculty position there even after he was fired from a center directorship at Ohio State University last year over financial misconduct.

    “Strayhorn used his faculty position at Ohio State to enrich himself by over $100,000 a year, using state employees to schedule and book his private business engagements,” reads a letter sent to the North Carolina Legislature, the the University of North Carolina System’s Board of Governors and news media Tuesday evening. The letter’s authors identify themselves only as “Faculty of the [North Carolina State] College of Education Opposed to Hiring Criminals and Sexual Harassers.” …

    In March, faculty members at North Carolina State and elsewhere began to agitate — quietly, denying immediate interview requests — at the news that Strayhorn was being considered for a professorship on that campus. …

    Strayhorn’s bio in the announcement email — reflecting those on his social media accounts and in his email signature — still identified him as a professor and founding CEO of Do Good Work Educational Consulting, the LLC he established while he was at Ohio State. …

    A professor of educational leadership at North Carolina State who did not want to be identified by name, citing fears of possible retaliation, said Tuesday that members of the department had noticed unusual secrecy regarding the search process, including unmet requests that Strayhorn’s CV be circulated. (Ohio State also raised concerns about an unfinished law degree appearing on Strayhorn’s CV as completed at various points, but Strayhorn attributed that to a computer error, saying he’d always been candid about his status.)

    “This is the first time we’ve ever had a faculty search where the faculty are not allowed to see a [CV],” the professor said. …

    Perhaps the good professor former professor considers his CV to be a trade secret.

    1. ambrit

      Be happy! Now you’ll know when you would have been late! (At least you didn’t get the boot.)

  21. jawbone

    Question about electronic warfare —

    A commenter yesterday (iirc, and I can’t remember where I read it)) said that back in 2014 the Russians had cut off the USS Cook’s electronics, causing the crew to be deeply demoralized and many left the US Navy after the experience.

    When looking for info about “electronic bombs” I came across this article, which states that investigation by the US found that the Russians had created a hoax.

    Is that a hoax that, well, worked? Or was the plane repainted or something? I mean, how could something like that be faked?


    My actual question was whether the US had hardened their ships electronics to withstand such “electronic bombs,” or something like that.

    Anyone know about such weapons? Seems like a great idea to subdue an enemy without lots of death and injury….

    1. bob


      That is supposed to deal with those threats, and others. In theory all military hardware is supposed to be shielded from attack, not just surveillance. In practice? who knows.

      I think there was another name for emf specific shielding/protection, but can’t remember it off the top of my head.

      Links to possibly related subjects and projects-




      1. blennylips

        Then there was that time in August 1945 when those damn Rooskies sent a group of 10 to 15 year old boys from the Young Pioneer Organization of the Soviet Union to the newly built US embassy in Moscow carrying a hand carved great seal of the United States of America. Hilarity ensued.

        Theremin’s Bug: How the Soviet Union Spied on the US Embassy for 7 Years

  22. pcraig

    Oliver Stone has some interesting things to say on The Jimmy Dore Show today. Especially when he talked about Putin’s remarks a few weeks ago on Russia’s new (alleged) military capabilities. As far as Ryan is concerned- he’ll probably make more dough in the next five years than he has up til now.

  23. WheresOurTeddy

    “Team Hillary: Comey Should ‘Beg Forgiveness,’ Not Hawk Book”

    said the pot to the kettle

  24. dk

    “Missing hyphens will make it hard for some people to vote in U.S. election” [Reuters]

    My own Social Security records and MDV records don’t match. For security reasons I’m not going to say what fields are off, but sometime around 1990, my SS record (was) changed. I have been to the SS offices three times since then, birth certificate in hand, to get it corrected; each time the data was changed… to different but still incorrect values.

  25. The Rev Kev

    Seems that a whole lot of sites are under some form of attack such as Russia Insider, Fort Russ, and Southfront. Makes me wonder about all those pop-ups interfering with NC pages that commentators like Arizona Slim have been reporting.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Hey, she stole that idea from Mohammad Bin Salman when he had those billionaires locked up at that hotel. He was supposed to have had a few strung up. And it shouldn’t be just sharks here – it should be sharks with frick’n lasers! Mwah, haw, haw!

  26. phemfrog

    Regarding Amazon reviews, i agree totally.

    My anecdotal evidence (from literally everyone i know who uses Amazon) is that the ratings are super important. I have noticed a decline in the quality of ratings for certain types of products, and you have to read carefully through the reviews to notice. There are signs that a review is fake, like terrible English and overly lavish praise. There is even a website where you can score the ratings to see if they seem legit or not:


    It works well in my few tests, and aligns with my intuition regarding fake, paid, or otherwise disingenuous reviews.

    A loss of genuine reviews on Amazon would make me shop elsewhere, to put it bluntly.

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