2:00PM Water Cooler 4/18/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

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“Huge Break for Auto Companies as China Removes Ownership Caps” [Industry Week]. “China will let foreign automakers from Volkswagen AG to Ford Motor Co. own more than 50% of local ventures, removing a two-decade restriction and giving a boost to global companies seeking to capture a greater share of the world’s largest car market. The move may help diffuse tensions between China and the U.S. after President Donald Trump’s intensified rhetoric risked an all-out trade war… China’s announcement comes on the heels of a similar move for the financial industry last week.”

“‘While Japan and South Korea would like us to go back into TPP, I don’t like the deal for the United States. Too many contingencies and no way to get out if it doesn’t work. Bilateral deals are far more efficient, profitable and better for OUR workers. Look how bad WTO is to U.S.,’ Trump wrote” [Politico]. “It’s unclear why Trump mentioned South Korea since the country was not a participant in TPP negotiations and is not a member of the agreement among the 11 remaining participating countries. It’s also unclear what Trump meant when he said there was no way to get out of the deal as Article 30.6 of the final agreement established a withdrawal process similar to what is in NAFTA.” By “wrote” we mean “tweeted”….

“The souring U.S.-China trade relations are reaching deeper into technology supply chains. New orders from the U.S. and the U.K. barring companies in those countries from dealing with ZTE Corp. will affect a wide range of buyers and suppliers…, while escalating a broader battle about trade and economic policy playing out on the international stage” [Wall Street Journal].



“Bernie Sanders introduces bill to impose jail time for execs behind opioid crisis” [STAT]. “The legislation would impose a 10-year minimum prison sentence and fines equal to an executive’s compensation package if the individual’s company is found to have illegally contributed to the opioid crisis. It would also impose an additional fine on those companies of $7.8 billion — one-tenth the annual cost of the crisis, per a 2016 estimate…. The bill outlined a number of mechanisms by which the Department of Health and Human Services could demonstrate such liability, including by mandating written justifications for pill orders that seem medically unreasonable.”

Cardi B:

More on Cardi B at NC here.

2018 Midterms

MN-08: “Former ICE agent Leah Phifer fought former state Rep. Joe Radinovich, a former campaign manager for outgoing Rep. Rick Nolan, to a draw for the DFL endorsement after a 10-hour battle at the party convention on Saturday, even though Radinovich had Nolan’s support and is the favored candidate of Democrats in Washington” [Inside Elections]. How the handicappers summarized it; see alert reader UserFriendly here. NOTE: If readers will stick to e.g,, “MN-08”, and not “MN-8,” it will be easier for me find their comments. I used two digits for all the district numbers to get them to align nicely, hence the leading zero. Thank you!

“The newest FEC filings spell danger for Republicans. In the most recent fundraising period, Democrats outraised Republicans in at least 60 GOP-held seats, more than twice the 23 seats Democrats need for a majority. Meanwhile, the reverse is true in just five Democratic-held seats. That’s going to force the NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund to bail out a lot of cash-strapped GOP candidates come the fall” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. Somehow, I don’t think money will be a problem for the Republicans…

2016 Post Morterm

“Clinton allies seethe with rage at Comey” [The Hill]. Why? Because he’s going on a book tour?

New Cold War

“Q&A: Lawyer behind Hannity revelation at Cohen hearing speaks” (interview) [Columbia Journalism Review]. This is quite dramatic: “Rob Balin, a media lawyer at Davis Wright Tremaine, is the reason we know that Sean Hannity was Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s secret client. Balin attended the Monday hearing in Southern District Court in Manhattan… When it seemed the judge would keep the client’s identity under seal, Balin stood up in the second row of the gallery, apologized for interrupting, introduced himself, and informed the court of a ‘public access issue.’ Then, with the court’s permission, he approached the podium and argued that the client’s identity should be disclosed publicly… Cohen’s attorneys failed to offer a persuasive counterargument, and ultimately Judge Kimba Wood ordered them to disclose publicly the secret client’s identity. And when they did, Hannity’s name drew a chorus of gasps from the gallery.” Hmm.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Automatic Voter Registration Goes Beyond the DMV” [Governing]. “Automatic voter registration typically happens when people apply for or renew a driver’s license. But four of the last five laws of this kind either require or open the door for people to be automatically registered to vote when they interact with government in other ways…. While the expansion of automatic voter registration to reach disenfranchised groups is new, federal law already required a broad range of agencies to help register people to vote for much the same reason. In 1993, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act, commonly referred to as the “Motor Voter” law because it requires motor vehicle offices to offer voter registration services. Congress also included a provision to ensure that low-income people who were less likely to get driver’s licenses still had voter registration opportunities. In recent years, voting rights groups have sometimes sued states on the grounds that public assistance agencies were not informing citizens about their voter registration rights. The other states that have either implemented or are in the process of implementing automatic voter registration are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Georgia, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.”

“#MeToo, Social Media, and Keeping an Eye on the Big Picture” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “[Republican consultant Bruce Mehlman’s] use of the #MeToo movement as an example of technology increasing the velocity and power of a timely message brought to mind a question: Why did the #MeToo movement occur in 2017, with Donald Trump part of the story, and not, say, in 1997 with President Clinton? No question the Bill Cosby allegations played a large role in driving this story, and Harvey Weinstein built it up as well; the field was fertile for this outgrowth of anger over a major societal problem. But it is hard to deny that there is a bit of selective outrage taking place. Inappropriate behavior is inappropriate behavior no matter which political party or ideology the offender belongs to; technology just spreads the outrage much faster than it used to. Women’s groups, Democrats, and liberals who have been so outraged by some of the behavior that Trump has been accused of (pre-presidency, it should be noted), were mostly silent when Bill Clinton’s alleged actions—and I am not just talking about Monica Lewinsky—were called into question…. But it isn’t fair to chalk this up entirely to hypocrisy, even though that’s part of it. It’s been suggested that 20 years ago, mass communications were far more controlled by the mainstream media, Hollywood, and political parties than today—all institutions that turned out to have long had real #MeToo issues. Now, as Mehlman points out, anyone can be a witness, a publisher, and an activist, so things are far more small-‘d’ democratic than they were then. Lids don’t stay clamped down and victims don’t remain as silent as they used to.” Cook seems to be assuming that hashtag activism is opposed to the mainstream media, as opposed to being part of it. That seems odd.


“Rest in power” tends to be used on Black Twitter for black activists or leaders who have died, or young black men who have been shot. So appropriating it is pretty crass. And I’m already tired of the Barbara Bush hagiography.

Stats Watch

Architectural Billings: “The American Institute of Architects (AIA) today reported that architecture firm billings rose for the sixth consecutive month in March, although the pace of growth slowed modestly from February” [American Institute of Architects]. “Overall, the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) score for March was 51.0 (any score over 50 indicates billings growth), which still reflects a healthy business environment. While business conditions softened somewhat at firms located in the Northeast region, billings remained strong at firms located in the South and West regions…. The Architecture Billings Index (ABI), produced by the AIA Economics & Market Research Group, is a leading economic indicator that provides an approximately nine to twelve month glimpse into the future of nonresidential construction spending activity.

Housing Starts: “Must be some tax thing driving multifamily last month” [Mosler Economics]. “Must be.” Nobody knows anything…

Shipping: “Russia agrees to extend rights of US carriers to use its airspace” [The Loadstar]. “Russia’s ministry of transport has agreed on an extension to overflight rights for US carriers, after cancelling a meeting last week with the US State Department. The approval was given just hours before US carriers would have had to re-route flights.”

The Bezzle: “Supreme Court Not Sold on Ending Online Sales Tax Ban” [Governing]. “South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley came to the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, backed by the attorneys general in 42 other states, on a mission to overturn a 26-year-old decision that prevents states from collecting taxes on online sales. But the court’s nine justices quickly made clear that it would not be an easy sell. Jackley had barely begun explaining that states were losing massive amounts of money and small businesses were being harmed by the 1992 case Quill Corp. v. North Dakota before Justice Sonia Sotomayor interrupted. ‘I’m concerned about the many unanswered questions that overturning precedents will create a massive amount of lawsuits about,’ she said.”

The Bezzle: “Sweeping aside more than two decades of sales tax law may not be so easy. Several U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared reluctant to overturn pre-internet precedent exempting many online merchants from collecting sales taxes… despite broad agreement the explosive growth of e-commerce has made the rule ‘obsolete'” [Wall Street Journal]. “Chief Justice John Roberts says the problem is fading as more online retailers set up physical shops, suggesting the court may not have to take any action at all.” Which the online retailers are doing, of course, with the capital they accumulated by evading state sales taxes! Balzac wrote: “The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly executed” (paraphrased as “behind every fortune there is a great crime.” But it looks Roberts wants to update the paraphrased Balzac: “Behind every great fortune is regulatory arbitrage, retroactively legalized.”

The Bezzle: “Tesla Switching To 24/7 Shifts To Push For 6,000 Model 3s Per Week By June, Elon Musk Says” [Jalopnik]. From Musk’s email: “A major source of issues is poor communication between depts. The way to solve this is allow free flow of information between all levels. If, in order to get something done between depts, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen. It must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen.” Worth reading in full. I guess we’ll see on the numbers.

Infrastructure: “Trump’s highly touted infrastructure dream nixed for this year” [Logistics Management]. “If promises were concrete and asphalt, this country would have the world class infrastructure that President Donald Trump keeps talking about. Unfortunately, it takes careful planning, political will and, most importantly, billions of dollars. All those characteristics are in short supply in the Trump administration. Infrastructure is an early casualty of Washington’s fixation on the November mid-term elections. Retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and others are signaling that Trump’s $200 billion federal infrastructure plan is all but dead for this year. Even Trump admits infrastructure is dead until 2019—or maybe forever. He has been talking about infrastructure improvements for at least three years since the early days of his candidacy, often calling U.S. roads and bridges akin to ‘a Third World country.’ ‘I don’t think you’re going to get Democrat support very much,’ Trump said in Ohio recently, before adding: ‘And you’ll probably have to wait until after the election, which isn’t so long down the road. But we’re going to get this infrastructure going.'” Well… U.S. infrastructure is Third World. That’s a problem. But Trump’s Public-Private Partnership solution is horrid. Fortunately, liberal Democrats have stepped up and…. Oh, why do I even bother?

Fodder for the Bulls: “Freight demand remains strong as manufacturing and construction activity picks up” [Freight Waves]. “Overall, the results from this month fall in line with much of what we’ve been seeing in the 1st throughout the 1st quarter. Quarterly industrial production growth was slower in the 1st quarter compared to the 4th quarter, but still healthy in a broader sense. The past couple of quarters yielded the strongest consecutive quarters of growth since the early stages of the recovery from recession even with the slowing in the 1st quarter, and most of the fundamentals for strong manufacturing are in place for strong growth going forward. Similarly for housing starts, growth in the 1st quarter wasn’t as strong as the 4th quarter of 2017, but was still above average compared to post-recession history. After factoring in the odd weather patterns, there doesn’t seem to be too much cause for alarm in terms of the outlook for construction.”

Fodder for the Bulls: “World Economic Outlook, April 2018: Cyclical Upswing, Structural Change” [International Monetary Fund] (full report). Via 247 Wall Street: “In the United States, financial conditions could tighten faster than expected …. Tighter financial conditions in the United States would have spillovers to other economies, including through a reduction in capital flows to emerging markets. Very expansionary fiscal policy in the United States, at a time when the current account deficit is already larger than justified by fundamentals, combined with persistent excess current account surpluses in other countries, is projected to widen global imbalances. … Similarly, changes in US tax policies are expected to exacerbate income polarization, which could affect the political climate for policy choices in the future.”

Fodder for the Bulls: “Supporting Strong, Steady, and Sustainable Growth” [John C. Williams, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco]. “Recessions don’t happen because a timer goes off. Research shows that the odds of going into a recession are the same whether you’re in the seventh, eighth, or ninth year of the expansion (Rudebusch 2016). Instead, recessions generally happen because of some big event: the housing crash of a decade ago or the bursting of the dot-com bubble in the early 2000s. These kinds of events are notoriously hard to predict, and the recessions that often follow don’t happen because the business cycle has a time limit on it. Given that the current pace of growth is above trend, my view is that we need to continue on the path of raising interest rates. This will keep things on an even footing and reduce the risk of us getting to a point where the economy could overheat, and create problems that could end badly.” And then there’s this:

despite the rampant innovations we’re seeing around us, especially in the Bay Area—robots delivering take-out, driverless cars, and Alexa in every living room—these aren’t yet translating into rapid gains in productivity growth. To give some context, in the 1990s and early 2000s, annual productivity gains in the United States averaged 2 to 3 percent. By contrast, productivity gains over the past decade have averaged only about 1 percent per year.

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, remember. Williams just throws out this observation, and says nothing more about it. Why?

Five Horsemen: “Facebook remains the runt of the Fab Five litter, unable to catch up with the S&P 500 index” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Apr 18 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “The mania-panic index advances to 53 (complacency) after yesterday’s stock market gain” [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 17 2018

Facebook Fracas

Lambert here: Why is there no Google Mishegoss? I don’t see a dime’s worth of difference between the two companies in terms of behavior. Just spitballilng here, but It’s almost like Google is politically wired in a way that Facebook is not.


“Flying insects tell tales of long-distance migrations” [Science Daily (DG)] “Insects rule the migratory world by virtue of their sheer numbers. Compared with birds, mammals and other migratory animals, insects are by far the most numerous. Roughly 3.5 trillion migrate each year over just the southern United Kingdom, a 2016 radar study suggested (SN: 2/4/17, p. 12). That means that the majority of land migrations are made by insects.” Fascinating article. How little we know! Another example, also on insects–

“In Conversation: Isabella Rossellini” [Vulture]. Rossellini: “[Menno Schilthuizen,] who I’ll be with in discussion tonight at the New York Public Library, he talks about mosquitoes in the subways of London. The ones that live underground are their own species, and they have created different populations from station to station. They don’t travel on the trains; they remain at their own stations. And the ones that live in stations that are outside reproduce during the spring like most animals, but because they are in the dark, the ones that live in the underground stations reproduce all the time. They’ve lost their reproductive cycles. This evolution is interesting, isn’t it?” (That link to Schilthuizen is interesting, too, especially if you’re a New Yorker.)

Class Warfare

“Contracted Hospital Workers Win Job Security” [Labor Notes]. “For the first time in 15 years, 4,000 subcontracted hospital housekeepers and dietary workers in British Columbia have job security. They won that peace of mind by pulling off a series of escalating actions on the job…. Five hundred members participated in these marches, at the 25 largest hospital worksites. For many, it was their first time participating in a collective action on the job. ‘I spent the week before talking to my co-workers one on one,’ said Clarissa Hicap, a housekeeper at Vancouver General Hospital and a bargainer with Compass. Still, she was nervous on the march to the Compass office. “I beat the hand drum I’d brought from home with every step we took,” she recalled. ‘When I looked behind me, I saw at least 70 of my co-workers had joined in the march!’ Workers say these marches changed the dynamics on the job.” Funny how marches in [genuflects] “the streets” are well-known and don’t work, but marches in the workplace are unheard of, and do work. I also heard of drums being used with success when I was at our London Meetup last year, amazingly enough.

“We Know How Poverty Hurts Children. It’s Time to Intervene.” [The Incidental Economist]. “Though the impact of tax credits and parenting programs for disadvantaged moms are well known, there is a major gap in understanding the short and long-term impacts of interventions that fuse financial support with parenting supports. This is why I find a program like Room to Grow so compelling. Mothers in the Room to Grow program form a relationship with a clinician—a social worker who meets with them every three months and stays in contact over the course of three years. During in-person visits, mothers like Cara work with their clinician to set goals, work through obstacles, and learn about their child’s needs and developmental milestones. At each visit, mothers also receive concrete material goods that help meet their needs for the particular phase of their baby’s development—over the course of 3 years, she receives $10,000 worth of in-kind support.” “Concrete material.” Ha.

“The Decline in Manufacturing Jobs: Not Necessarily a Cause for Concern” [IMF Blog]. “The decline in manufacturing jobs is often met with anxiety. People are concerned that a smaller manufacturing sector implies slower economic growth and a scarcity of well-paying jobs for low- and middle-skilled workers—contributing to worsening inequality. In Chapter 3 of the April 2018 World Economic Outlook, we revisit the evidence supporting those beliefs and find that the declining share of manufacturing jobs need not hurt growth or raise inequality, provided the right policies are in place.” Assume a right policy… More: “Barriers to international trade in services—which are much higher than for goods—should be reduced so that the expansion of highly-productive service sectors is not constrained by the growth of domestic demand.” Wait, what? From the article, it seems like protectionism is working! More: ” Policies should also ensure that workers’ skills are aligned with those needed in the more tradable service subsectors—such as financial and business services. And in many emerging market and developing countries where productivity remains anemic in all sectors, a comprehensive approach is needed to unlock productivity growth across the board, including by strengthening human capital and physical infrastructure, as well as improving the business and investment climate.” “A comprehensive approach…” I know! Austerity!

“Socioeconomic group classification based on user features” (PDF) [Pub No: US 2018/0032881 A1, USPTO]. A three-tier classification: “Upper”, “Middle,” ‘Working.”

News of The Wired

“Decades-Old Graph Problem Yields to Amateur Mathematician” [Quanta]. “It is unusual, but not unheard of, for an amateur mathematician to make significant progress on a long-standing open problem. In the 1970s, Marjorie Rice, a homemaker with no mathematical background, ran across a Scientific American column about pentagons that tile the plane. She eventually added four new pentagons to the list.” Personally, I think human creativity is vast and untapped. I can’t find the link, but I seem to recall somebody who discovered a new species of amphibian (??) while living in a trailer.

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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 (AM):

AM writes: “Spring is springing in Rehoboth, Massachusetts!” It’s nice to realize that a reader has gone through the seasonal cycle in photographs.

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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. Anon

    In the #MeToo quote you have there, you have a part of it repeating twice. I’ve quoted the part that needs to be removed for you:

    question the Bill Cosby allegations played a large role in driving this story, and Harvey Weinstein built it up as well; the field was fertile for this outgrowth of anger over a major societal problem. But it is hard to deny that there is a bit of selective outrage taking place. Inappropriate behavior is inappropriate behavior no matter which political party or ideology the offender belongs to; technology just spreads the outrage much faster than it used to. Women’s groups, Democrats, and liberals who have been so outraged by some of the behavior that Trump has been accused of (pre-presidency, it should be noted), were mostly silent when Bill Clinton’s alleged actions—and I am not just talking about Monica Lewinsky—were called into question.

  2. Jim Haygood

    Aaron Brown applies a sharp pencil to the collapse of public pensions in the 2020s:

    New Jersey has $78 billion in its state pension fund, which is supposed to cover future payments with a present value of $280 billion. But that $78 billion represents less than seven years of required cash payments.

    Current employees plus the state will contribute about $25 billion over those seven years, but will also add around $60 billion of future liabilities.

    The system probably breaks down before the pension fund gets to zero; for example if assets were to fall below $30 billion while projected future liabilities exceeded $300 billion. This could happen in three years in a bad stock market, or perhaps ten with good stock returns. But fund assets are so low relative to payouts that good returns aren’t that helpful.

    A stock market decline creates the real possibility of at least one state fund running out of cash within a couple of years. State constitutions will be amended if necessary and big legal battles will be fought. I cannot see any plausible scenario in which full promised benefits are paid.


    Me neither, Aaron. The situation looks quite PROMESA-ing. So to speak.

    1. allan

      Not that it’s entirely to blame, but a decade of ZIRP was an economics experiment which, like globalization,
      chose winners and losers and can never be undone.

      1. Jim Haygood

        ERISA-regulated [private] pensions automatically adjusted to ZIRP via their required use of a 10-year corporate bond yield published by the Treasury, which fell from 7.53% in March 2009 to 3.89% last month.


        Thanks to GASB accounting “standards” which allow state pension plans to “just make up” assumed returns (currently averaging over 7 percent), states spent the last decade drastically underfunding their pensions.

        Pensions in New Jersey and several other states can accurately be described as Ponzi schemes. That is, current workers’ contributions are being used to fund retiree payouts, as assets shrink to a fraction of liabilities. Incredibly, NJ Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio just hiked the plan’s assumed rate of return from 7.0 to 7.5%, so contributions can be even lower.

        This is flat-out criminal. But neither federal nor state courts will intervene. Were I a state pensioner, I would personally sue all seven of these GASB Ponzi schemers, just to harass them:


        1. Scott

          Hasn’t it been going on for fair longer than that? My understanding is that during the internet bubble, state pension funds (along with many private ones) became “overfunded” because they continued to assume a high rate of growth even during the bubble. This allowed governors to cut taxes/increase spending on new programs, making the individuals very popular. When the bubble burst, did taxes return to their previous levels or were new programs cancelled? New Jersey has been especially bad in this regard, but most states and municipalities have followed this pattern to some extent.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          What about Social Security?

          Is it underfunded?

          Should the Treasury department/The Fed put more money in?

          1. Wukchumni

            Don’t worry about it, i’ve heard many in Club Millennial are working 2 to 3 jobs, in order to assure that Boomers will get their SS money.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              If Federal taxes funded Federal funding, your joke would contain an element of truth. They do not, so it does not.

              Personally, I think sowing intergenerational hatred is a Bad Thing, but many thought leaders continue to do it, for some reason.

          2. drumlin woodchuckles

            Social Security has been pre-overfunded every since the Great Reagan Rescue of 1983. The agitprop meme-vomit of the day was that when all the Baby Boomers started retiring, they would bankrupt the Social Security system. So the FICA tax was doubled on every wage-and-salary-paid worker on the theory that all that prepaid money would go into a “Trust Fund” for the pre-paying Boomers which would then be spent back down to zero paying back all those same Boomers who had pre-paid double into the Trust Fund to begin with.

            Actually, the architects of that plan . . . Greenspan and others . . . had precisely zero intent of ever permitting the double-prepayment-makers to ever recieve their own benefits back upon retirement. General Budget embezzling of that money was always the Upper Class Government’s intention right from the start. That is why the current meme-vomit talks about how paying the upcoming beneficiaries will “destroy the Trust Fund” and insolventize Social Security. The meme-vomiters behind this particular meme-vomit know with exact totality that the whole purpose of the Trust Fund was to be paid out back down to zero as the people who had pre-payed for it turned around and aged into depleting it.

            Just because the meme-vomiteers will try to destroy Social Security based on that reasoning does not mean that many tens of millions of people, including combat-trained and possibly personally armed Veterans will necessarily have to accept these Overclass plans for their Social Security.

            1. ambrit

              Don’t forget the Citizen Militias. There are a lot of them around too. Indeed, if Trump were to play his cards right, to which eventuality I put loooong odds on happening, he could become President For Life by acclamation.
              As has been said ‘ad nauseam,’ the power is lying there in the Street, waiting to be picked up.

          3. Jim Haygood

            Social Security is about 19% funded. Its Trust Fund has $2.9 trillion in assets, versus $15.4 trillion of liabilities. (2.9/15.4) = 18.8%

            The Trustees state in their annual report that the Trust Fund will be exhausted in 2035 (0% funded).

            If Congress doesn’t act, benefits would be cut about 25% to a level that can be funded by incoming FICA tax receipts.

            In practice, Congress will act to supply the missing cash flow from general funds. But the Trust Fund will be gone forever, making Social Security purely a budgeted political handout rather than a funded pension plan as originally conceived.

            Ironically the meltdown of the Trust Fund will happen on Social Security’s 100th birthday. From shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in four generations. :-(

            1. Wukchumni

              It’s only about 1999 days, 14 hours, 27 minutes and 14 seconds away from me cashing my first SS check, but i’m not anxious or anything.

            2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              It only takes one Platinum Coin, and you too, yes, comrade Jim, you too can have $80,000 per month, when you retire.

              And to make it to communicate in the future, the slogan will be “Platinumize Social Security!!!”

                1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                  So, a precedent had been set.

                  Let’s do it. Circulate it into the fund.

                  $80,000 a month for every retiree.

                  “Finally, I am looking to retire, right now.”

                2. Pespi

                  Don’t know if you’re being droll, but primebeef is referring to the trillion dollar platinum coin idea that’s been circulating since 2011. One bullion coin is pressed, worth a trillion dollars, and sent to the government, paying off all debt. This then happens again whenever necessary.

                  Here’s a blog post about how it could be used to eliminate debt worries in regard to socialized medicine. http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2015/03/the-peterson-foundation-sings-the-same-old-song.html#more-9224

                  There are proponents and detractors, just wanted to clue you in in guess you thought primebeef was just talking about some new coins.

                3. Lambert Strether Post author

                  As usual with (stupid) anti-Platinum Coin jokes, the metal of the coin becomes the point of the joke, handily erasing the power of the currency issuer. (Hooking the metal up to Russia is really a two-fer of brain dead-ness, given the current zeitgeist.)

                  Does the United States have the real resources to ensure dignity for every citizen? Of course we do. So what’s the issue? Nothing to do with whether the coin is platinum or not. (The metal of the coin is relevant only because that provides the legal avenue for minting it, and for no other reason.)

                  1. Wukchumni

                    Pt (Spanish for ‘little silver’) is a goofy metal whose main attribute for quite a long time was that it’s specific gravity was close enough to Au, so as to be able to make decent counterfeits of real money, and yes, it’s only legal wrangling that brought about the idea of a trillion dollar coin made out of it.

                    The fact that only Russia minted coins for circulation out of it, gives you an idea of how little it was wanted/desired, back in the day.

                    Not so dissimilar to the trillion dollar coin concept.

              1. Jim Haygood

                What’s missing is a fiduciary obligation on the part of trustees (several of which are ex officio members) to beneficiaries.

                This is a formula for abuse. True to form, the trustees annually publish their milquetoast objections as Congress blows through what’s left of the evaporating trust fund.

                No Social Security trustee has ever resigned in protest over the calculated looting of the beneficiaries.

            3. allan

              “If Congress doesn’t act, benefits would be cut about 25% to a level that can be funded by incoming FICA tax receipts.”

              Let me fix that for you, Jim.

              “If Congress acts to lift the cap on wages subject to Social Security, benefits can be fully funded by incoming FICA tax receipts.”

              Oddly, or not, raising the cap is not mentioned as a possibility in the 2017 Trustees’ Report executive summary. Who are were the trustees? Thank you for asking:

              Steven T. Mnuchin,
              Secretary of the Treasury,
              and Managing Trustee
              of the Trust Funds.

              Thomas E. Price, M.D,
              Secretary of Health
              and Human Services,
              and Trustee.

              R. Alexander Acosta,
              Secretary of Labor,
              and Trustee.

              Nancy A.Berryhill,
              Acting Commissioner of
              Social Security,
              and Trustee.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                Like Medicare For All funding, money is not a problem for the government.

                Just put money in it, and pay more to recipients.

                There is no need to say we have to cut military spending to fund this.

            4. drumlin woodchuckles

              The Trust Fund assets are in official legal-accounting terms said to exist right now.

              What time-horizon is this 15.4 trillion-dollars comittment of liabilities due over? How many dollars will the taxable economy be said to produce over that exact same time-span covered by the 15.4 trillion-dollar liability?

              The Trust Fund will be gone forever just when the last Boomers are dead forever. The Trust Fund’s paying itself back down to zero as its Boomers die off to zero will occur at the same time exactly as engineered and intended to begin with in the first place.

    2. FluffytheObeseCat

      From the Bloomberg article:

      There is no serious chance of retirees being impoverished. What’s in doubt is whether states will pay promised benefits to retirees with large pensions or significant outside income or assets.

      This is an utter falsehood. In our depraved political culture it is never the powerful and their closest servants who pay when times get tough. Powerful late boomers and early Gen-Xers with multi-tens of thousands a month ‘coming to them’ will not be squeezed when the money runs short. It is the least powerful retirees who will be impoverished. Our former teachers and ‘meter maids’ will be living on cat food, while former police chiefs, attorneys general, and provosts of state universities draw their >$20,000 per month unscathed by fiscal realities.

      1. Jim Haygood

        Case in point:

        A public university president in Oregon gives new meaning to the idea of a pensioner.

        Joseph Robertson, an eye surgeon who retired as head of the Oregon Health & Science University last fall, receives the state’s largest government pension.

        It is $76,111.

        Per month.


        And did we tell you the name of the game, boy?
        We call it “Riding The Gravy Train”

        — Pink Floyd

        1. taunger


          Your always insightful comments have been sometimes irritating, sometimes enlightening me for a decade now.

          It has taken that much decline for me to care less of our differences and just love the [family blog] out of comments like above.

            1. ambrit

              Oooooh! That’s, wait for it, cutting edge humour! Said teen wouldn’t be betting on a ‘basket’ of tranches, would it? Any way you slice it, you come out a head.

          1. fresno dan

            John k
            April 18, 2018 at 7:49 pm

            Its amazing that a state called Oregon has a university called F*CKUALL

        2. Yves Smith

          That is way way in excess of what the IRS allows as payment out of a qualified pension plan. IIRC the max is in the $250,000-$260,000 range. This applies to government pensions too. It came up in litigation over a Jacksonville FL special pension.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Multi-tens of thousands coming to them per month? I find that hard to even comprehend. I am expecting just over $2,000 per month coming back to me from Social Security. And something similar but smaller coming back from my built-up-over-time TIAA.

        Unless, as you say, my benefits are evaporated in a power struggle between the powerful late-boomers and Gen-Xers versus the powerless late-boomers and Gen-Xers.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          I’m so [family blogging] sick of generational hatred. It’s so strong in the zeitgeist you’d almost think elites were pushing it (***cough*** privatization *** cough *** FEES *** cough ***).

          This comment is not in fact as bad as many others, working on the assumption that the assertion is not that all “late-boomers” are powerful (which would be absurd, right?)

          Let me try to rewrite this prose:

          a power struggle between the powerful late-boomers and Gen-Xers versus the powerless late-boomers and Gen-Xers.

          in arithmetical form (dangerous for me, readers please check). It’s an inequality:

          (P + Bl) + (P + Gl) > (p + Bl) + (p + Gl)

          where P is powerful, and p is powerless. However, Bl (late* Boomers) and Gl (late Gen-x) appear on both sides so we can throw them away. Simplifying:

          P + P > p + p


          P > p

          Now, I’m not doing this to be snarky, I’m really not. What I’m pointing out is that it is the power relations that matter and that generational analysis cannot give an account of them; in fact, adding the generational terms obscures the power relationships, which of course is exactly what the powerful people propagating them would like to have happen.

          * I pass over the fuzziness of “late.”

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > It is the least powerful retirees who will be impoverished

        Yes, by design of the Social Security privatizers.

        Can nobody see how the “pay for” discourse puts us all in the austerity box?

    3. Yves Smith

      It’s disingenuous to generalize from New Jersey, the most underfunded pension system (in absolute $) in the US. The system has been deliberately starved for 25 years, starting from when Christine Todd Whitman was governor.

  3. Ranger Rick

    Can you guess what else that well-intentioned automatic voter registration does? It makes a whole host of information about you publicly-available. For example, in Colorado: “the voter’s name, address, political party affiliation, date of affiliation, gender, year they were born and phone number are all public record. If the voter cast a ballot in a past election also is public record, although how the person voted is not.”

  4. Big River Bandido

    Lambert: a typo alert for you.

    In the paragraph “#MeToo, Social Media, and Keeping an Eye on the Big Picture”:

    After the first occurrence of this clause: …were mostly silent when Bill Clinton’s alleged actions—and I am not just talking about Monica Lewinsky—were called into question. — there are about 4 sentences that got doubled…probably just a copy/paste editing error.

  5. Robert Hahl

    NakedCap Mania-Panic Index is missing. It shows the five horseman chart a second time.

  6. UserFriendly

    Noted about the 0’s It’s just a bad habit cause I haven’t lived in a state with more than 8 CD’s since I was 12.

    1. UserFriendly

      Also Re MN-08:

      “Former ICE agent Leah Phifer fought former state Rep. Joe Radinovich, a former campaign manager for outgoing Rep. Rick Nolan, to a draw for the DFL endorsement after a 10-hour battle at the party convention on Saturday, even though Radinovich had Nolan’s support and is the favored candidate of Democrats in Washington”

      I haven’t been following the race super close but Nolan is the only other congress critter besides Ellison in the whole state that I wouldn’t object to them being called ‘left’. He took an early lead on Move to Amend, backed Bernie in the primary, and a handful of other things that you pick up when you listen to local news. I was VERY disappointed when he announced his retirement. He had held that district 1975-1981 and retired and only came back to boot out the tea party republican that won it in 2010. I’m guessing he saw the ‘blue wave’ as his best shot to exit the corrupt political process without losing the seat to the gop. I’m not a huge fan of his chosen successor, Joe Radinovich, because he just finished being the campaign manager for the right wing democrat who got elected mayor of Minneapolis while I spent hours and hours of my free time supporting the guy who came in 2nd (Ranked Choice Voting has successfully elected the most right wing democrat among the front runners in every ‘liberal’ city I’ve seen it used in). Which I would like to believe is why he is having a hard time but that is probably wishful thinking. But I’m less of a fan of the ICE agent. So I’ll just cross my fingers that Michelle Lee, who supports Medicare for all, can pull it off, though I doubt it because she didn’t fair too well in the caucus. But with no official party endorsement for anyone she might have a shot.

      My ex grew up in that district and I went up to visit his family a few times. I found this gem in a target up there to give you a feel for the district. The other thing to keep in mind is that it’s an open primary and there won’t be very much interesting on the GOP side so that might help buoy the ICE agent.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Ranked Choice Voting has successfully elected the most right wing democrat among the front runners in every ‘liberal’ city I’ve seen it used in

        Well, that’s depressing…

  7. Mark Alexander

    but I seem to recall somebody who discovered a new species of amphibian (??) while living in a trailer.

    Maybe this is what you were thinking of? It’s about a guy who USED to live in a trailer park, who later got a PhD in bio and discovered that lichen is formed from three types of organisms, not two, as had been previously thought for many years.

  8. Lee

    The Bezzle: “Tesla Switching To 24/7 Shifts To Push For 6,000 Model 3s Per Week By June, Elon Musk Says” [Jalopnik]. From Musk’s email: “A major source of issues is poor communication between depts. The way to solve this is allow free flow of information between all levels. If, in order to get something done between depts, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen. It must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen.” Worth reading in full. I guess we’ll see on the numbers.

    Another case of a genius discovering the obvious. I guess these folks never played the game “Telephone” (aka Chinese Whispers) as children and learned the applicable lesson therefrom. If I were in middle management at Tesla, I’d be concerned about being done out of my job if those actually doing the work were to start communicating directly with each other.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I just thought the whole thing was bizarre; the email from the genius boss explaining every aspect of the company culture that already would have been done if the genius were doing their job. Oh well, it’s a paycheck…

  9. allan

    Underfunded IRS Continues to Audit Less [CBPP]

    Tax return audit rates, especially among high-income individuals and large corporations, continued a multi-year decline in 2017, IRS data show. That’s largely due to deep cuts in IRS funding and staffing since 2010, as former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen noted. At $4.9 billion, the IRS’s 2018 enforcement funding is $1.5 billion (23 percent) below its 2010 level in inflation-adjusted terms. That’s particularly concerning given that the agency needs to start implementing and enforcing the new tax law — which creates massive new opportunities for tax avoidance — this year, with essentially no new enforcement resources. The new data show:

    • Overall audit rates for both individuals and corporations continue to decline. …

    • Audit rates for high-income individuals and large corporations have fallen especially sharply in recent years. …

    2010 … who was president back then?

    Austerity at IRS -> lower Federal tax receipts -> the government needs to tighten its belt like
    a small business family making payroll while sitting around the kitchen table
    -> austerity at the IRS -> …(rinse and repeat) … -> ∞.

  10. John D.

    Re: Barbara Bush. I saw (who else?) Bill Clinton quoted on the news this morning: “I remember a woman who…” blah blah, cue typical speak-no-ill-of-the-dead ass-kissing. It’s funny, I remember a mean, nasty old piece of work who once snarled of Hurricane Katrina victims, “You people have done very well out of this, haven’t you?”

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I forgot that one. Democratic Underground (citing a Texas Observer article dead from link rot):

        [I]n the lobby of the Canal Street Hotel where the Texas delegation was housed for the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans, George W. was courting the Texas press corps. Easy and accessible, he locked on with those blue eyes, first-named reporters, and held forth in the hotel lobby for as long as anyone holding a tape recorder cared to stand and listen.

        The only time he showed any sign of anger was when he was asked about then-Governor Ann Richards’ comment about his father being “born with a silver foot in his mouth.” The blue eyes narrowed as he responded to the reporter who asked the question. “It was mean and uncalled-for,” he said. “It didn’t bother my dad. He’s lived with ‘Doonesbury,’ so he’s used to that. But it hurt my mother.” Governor Bush talks like his father, who was equally prone to malapropisms and non sequiturs, but he thinks like his mother, whom Nixon admired because, he reportedly said, “she knows how to hate.” Which is a way of saying that George W. believes grudges should be transgenerational and involve corruption of blood and children avenging the wrongs visited on their parents.

        Coming from Nixon, that’s quite a compliment.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I believe its important to not speak ill of the dead, but we should not pretend the vile were nice because they are dead and they might even have people who actually liked the. Who they were in life matters. The Reagan eulogies were so bizarre, no one batted an eyelash when Obama praised Ronnie. Maybe if we had more honest discussions about the dead, people would have noticed Obama’s praise of Reagan and demanded more out of him instead of just filing it under random bipartisan blather.

    1. DJG

      John D. And then there was Barbara Bush who described Geraldine Ferraro as a “word that rhymes with witch.” Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice-presidential candidate of a major party.

      I’m not so concerned about the “tone-deafness” of the tweet above. I don’t care for “rest in power,” no matter where is comes from and no matter what the intention. At death, we lose all earthly power. Isn’t that the point of death? (Which reminds me that some people are hanging on to their careers way too long. And not just the “resting in power” Emperor Tiberius.) What is left is not power. What is left is some influence, some respect that people have for our fleeting accomplishments, respect that may cross generations. But power? I wouldn’t want a vulgarity like that on my gravestone.

    2. cocomaan

      NPR said this morning that she was “wife and mother to two presidents of the United States”.

      That’s an even deeper dynasty than I thought!

          1. ambrit

            Her nickname couldn’t have been “Aggie.” She went to Smith college, but curtailed her studies to matriculate with a MRS degree with George H W Bush.
            Her family though is often associated with a shadowy organization that uses the Pyramid, with an Eye on top as its’ logo. So, the connexion with ancient and exoteric ‘wisdom’ is strong. If anything, a connexion with the University of Tejas: Cross Plains is more in order. As a former denizen of that place, Robert E Howard, has demonstrated, it is a place dry as the desert sands and demon haunted. Perfect for a modern Pharaonic Dynasty.
            May your heart be lighter than a feather.

            1. Wukchumni

              So I took out a dollar bill and studied the pyramid scheme on the back and am pretty convinced her tomb will be over to the left, elevated about halfway up in a hidden chamber.

              Somebody will uncover it in 3427, and wonder what that cauliflower was doing on her head?

              1. ambrit

                Is that why he disliked broccoli?
                “A cruciferous vegetable of Gold!” as Bryan cried out, in the wilderness.
                But then, a lot of people averred that Bryan was bi. Even a balanced bi was anathema back then. So, even the darkest cloud had to have a ‘silver’ lining, if only to get the Grange vote.
                Being a fiat politician, GHW Bush would naturally abhor the ‘sound’ vegetable position. No cruciferous gold for him!
                Poor Babs.

    3. freedeomny

      OK – well here is one good thing to say about B. Bush – she never got any plastic surgery. So from this women’s perspective – I think that’s great that she felt it was OK to age as one normally does. Which is pretty amazing since GW seemed to have his hand on women’s’ butts well into his 80’s and 90’s. fyi – I am not against plastic surgery…just against plastic :)

    4. The Rev Kev

      The Wall Street Journal has the headline “Heaven, Get Ready for Barbara Bush”.
      It’s always good to be optimistic, isn’t it?

    5. lyman alpha blob

      So she’s dead.

      It’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?

  11. Dave

    Lambert, (in my humble opinion), the Google Mishegoss will require a Cambridge Analytica-like catalyst to happen. Facebook’s privacy policy has not changed substantially in…well, ever, really, or at least not since they started selling targeted ads. The issue was out there, but it only really reached the point where the general public cared once the Russiagate/2016 election blaming stirred them into it. Had Hillary Clinton (or Jeb Bush, or Marco Rubio, for that matter) won the 2016 election, I believe that Cambridge Analytica’s use of personal information would have been Page 8 news for a couple days and faded away.

    Not that I think CA or FB swung the election – far from it, in my opinion. But I think the story that they did, just like Russiagate, just like Comey, etc., etc. allows the powers that be to continue to insist it had nothing to do with legitimate working class concerns. If Congress manages to force Facebook to behave better, it’ll be a more or less unintended side effect of the frantic effort to blame anything but political platforms for Trump’s election.

  12. Synoia

    If, in order to get something done between depts, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen.

    The job of resolving that is is Quality Assurance’s role, not management. Quality Control tests. Quality Assurance looks at process and issues.

    I’ve been there. The managers would meet, there would be some problem to be solved, and one would get a task. The description of the task filtered through management was generally incomprehensible.

    I learned that whatever my manager told me was not accurate, and the only way I’d discover the true problem was to go and talk directly to the foremen of the department who had the issue.

    Then one had to investigate to find the root cause, because what the forma would tell one was symptoms.

    Management: QA is having problems testing crystals (frequency generation devices).

    QA: The crystals are inaccurate. The people making them don’t know what they are doing. (Symptom).

    (Manufacturing) There is no problem. Look at the 9 digits on counters to which we make the crystals.

    Cause: No frequency standard in the factory. The crystals were precise to 9 digits, and accurate to 5.

    Before this I did not have a deep understanding of the difference between precision and accuracy.

    1. taunger

      Unfortunate symptom of education in this country. I was luckily well educated, and learned the difference between precision and accuracy in the college level chem course I took at 15.

      Almost 25 years later, regularly meet folks that have not have your enlightenment.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I still remember that – it might have been my very first lecture at the university – at prof. Pimentel’s Chemistry 101, as I sat among something like 500 freshmen/freshwomen.

    2. Jim Haygood

      Then there’s the safety department:

      Concerned about bone-crunching collisions and the lack of clearly marked pedestrian lanes at [Tesla’s] plant, the then-lead safety professional went to her boss, who she said told her, “Elon does not like the color yellow.”


      As ol’ Henry Ford used to quip, “You can buy a Model 3 in any color you like, as long as it’s not yellow.” :-)

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        In reply, Deng Xiaoping who did work at a Renault car factory, back in 1925, said ‘I don’t care you have black lanes or white lanes, as long as they are marked.”

  13. Marco

    RE Tax Credits and EITC. Here’s a job for some enterprising young economist wanting to study income inequality: What percentage of the EITC benefit gets stolen by high-interest loan sharks and predatory bank fees / penalties because low income folks have to scrape for pennies May thru March and have to WAIT until APRIL to get the money they deserve.

  14. Summer

    “Personally, I think human creativity is vast and untapped. I can’t find the link, but I seem to recall somebody who discovered a new species of amphibian (??) while living in a trailer.”

    But that human creativity and potential is less controllable than an algorithim…hence the coming and, and in many ways current, algorithim authoritarianism.

  15. allan

    Gaia anti-antidote: Great Barrier Reef saw huge losses from 2016 heatwave [Nature]

    Extreme heat in 2016 damaged Australia’s Great Barrier Reef much more substantially than initial surveys indicated, according to ongoing studies that have tracked the health of the coral treasure. The heatwave caused massive bleaching of the corals that captured worldwide attention.

    In a paper published on 18 April in Nature, researchers report1 that severe bleaching on an unprecedented scale triggered mass death of corals. This drastically changed the species composition of almost one-third of the 3,863 individual reefs that comprise the Great Barrier Reef. …

    An alarming feature of climate change is that the alarmist forecasts and studies
    routinely turn out to be not alarmist enough.

    1. DJG

      Mr. Haygood: Mae West is neither a Texan, an intermediate, nor crude. I question your percentages.

    2. Summer

      “Higher energy prices are not unlike interest rate hikes — they slow the economy by reducing corporate and personal discretionary income.”

      Rent seeking…when everything else about the economy is monopolized and outsourced that is what’s left.

  16. XXYY

    Clinton allies seethe with rage at Comey

    And on Monday morning, hours after the ABC interview aired, former Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill took to Twitter and ripped Comey for the July 2016 press conference where the FBI chief scolded Clinton for her “extremely careless” use of a private server.

    The national security people and the justice department, including Comey here, actually cut Clinton a huge break. She very clearly was sending classified material on an unsecured network and was storing it on an unsecured server at her personal home. She was also involved in removing security markings on classified documents before transmittal, and (reportedly) had uncleared employees (including her maid) retrieving classified material from a secure fax machine at her house. All of these things are serious offenses for anyone with a security clearance, as they know perfectly well from reading and signing documents explaining all this when they get their clearance and periodically thereafter. So charging Clinton with multiple felonies would have been no problem at all just based on information in the press. Interestingly, these charges don’t require that intent be proven; just the existence of reckless handling of classified material is sufficient for conviction.

    Clinton obviously decided that she couldn’t be bothered to follow the law. But she is apparently now the victim, since her manifest offenses were not (quite!) given a complete and utter pass as she wanted. Evidently her minions have swallowed this line as well.

    1. Jim Haygood

      On that subject, today eleven Republican members of Congress issued a letter to Sessions, purporting to be a criminal referral of Clinton, Comey, Lynch, McCabe, Strzok and Page.


      It’s doubtful whether this will have any effect. If the full House votes a criminal referral (e.g. for contempt of Congress) the attorney general is obliged to take action. But this is just eleven members (including my rep) indulging in lèse majesté of the queen and her loyal retainers. Shocked …

  17. Beniamino

    Even after reading the Columbia Journalism Review piece / interview, I’m having trouble processing why the Sean Hannity thing is supposed to be newsworthy. (The very characterization of somebody as a lawyer’s “secret” client seems disingenuously melodramatic to me – isn’t the existence of a lawyer-client relationship presumptively secret until the lawyer actually represents the client in a public setting, e.g., litigation, negotiation? That confidentiality is supposed to be a good thing, right?) The article linked to a background piece suggesting that the problem is that Hannity, acting in his “journalistic” capacity, had failed to disclose a “conflict of interest” in the course of criticizing the Cohen raids in his broadcasts, which doesn’t resonate with me, at least in part because Hannity is clearly not a journalist. In any event, that wouldn’t explain the theatrical court-room gasping when his name was revealed.

    1. HandiesPeak

      “Balin stood up in the second row of the gallery, apologized for interrupting, introduced himself, and informed the court of a ‘public access issue.’ Then, with the court’s permission, he approached the podium and argued that the client’s identity should be disclosed publicly… ”

      This sounds like theater. I have never seen anything like this. Somebody from “the gallery,” no matter who he claims to be, interrupting and announcing an “issue” for the court’s attention, would be shut down in a New York Minute as a general rule. Basic rule is that if you’re not a party, you have to ask the court for permission to intervene. And gallery-shouters, even if representing party, are disfavored. I’m not a civ pro expert, but this whole thing seems silly.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          That was my thought. I wondered if any readers had experience….

          It seems to me, though, that whoever did the pre-arrangment would have to wire it up with the judge. So that’s interesting.

    2. Procopius

      Given Hannity’s public and very vehement denial that he is Cohen’s client, that he has ever hired Cohen, and his vehement assertion that he has never paid Cohen, I don’t understand how Cohen’s lawyers can still assert he’s a client. He has no privilege to assert and so anything in Cohen’s documents referring to him is subject to use as evidence. Moving ritght along, what’s the next item to consider?

  18. g

    Lambert here: Why is there no Google Mishegoss? I don’t see a dime’s worth of difference between the two companies in terms of behavior. Just spitballilng here, but It’s almost like Google is politically wired in a way that Facebook is not.

    Google has always been better at PR than Facebook. I gonna take an informed guess here and conjecture it’s because Google is the more hierarchical organization, so product and strategy decisions are being made at the same level that messaging is created, so the whole thing is easier to package to journalists, lobbyists, politicians, etc. Decision making power in Facebook is diffused through more people, lots of them engineers or product managers that don’t report directly to the C-level, so it’s harder to coordinate company level things like messaging.

    I was an intern at Facebook when Google had their divorce from China, and a lot of people in the company were shocked at how much public goodwill that got them for very little cost. It’s likely that similar decisions have been made at Facebook, and simply no one in the room thought to write a press release about it.

  19. upstater

    More on NY-23, the DCCC’s hand-picked candidate:

    National Democrats double down on Juanita Perez Williams for Congress

    “But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it plans to add Perez Williams to its elite “Red to Blue” program, reserved for its top-tier candidates across the nation.”

    Don’t they mean Purple to Blue-dog?

    The DCCC is bankrolling a confirmed, proven loser that got totally skunked running for Syracuse Mayor last November versus an independent, in a city that is overwhelmingly Democratic.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Un-democratic (lower case d). Let the voters settle it.

        And technically, she submitted at least twice the required number of signatures, so it’s unlikely they’ll find enough invalid ones – unless there was massive and obvious cheating, which doesn’t seem to be th eissue.

    1. RUKidding

      I did repeat the “beautiful mind” quote to some friends of mine today as a reminder about exactly who & what Bar was. RIP but don’t expect me to venerate or praise her.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Get it out of one’s chest when the person is still alive to hear it.

      And let the next dynasty write about today – that was the traditional custom in Imperial China.

  20. Jim Haygood

    Neocon on the brink:

    The Trump administration and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton stepped up a campaign for Mike Pompeo’s nomination to head the State Department on Wednesday, as Pompeo runs into resistance in the Senate.

    The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to vote on Pompeo’s nomination as soon as next week, but it may fall short of a majority vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could still bring up the nomination on the Senate floor even if there’s a negative vote in the committee.

    Republicans control 51 seats in the Senate. With Senator Rand Paul a “no” vote and ailing GOP Sen. John McCain absent, Republicans would need one Democrat to vote for Pompeo on the Senate floor if each of the remaining 49 Republicans vote for him.


    Surely we can recruit one national security Democrat for thirty pieces of silver pork.

  21. dcblogger

    It is back, the Public Option Zombie Sparkle Pony
    Dem senators unveil expanded public option for health insurance

    I can’t thank lambert enough for writing this summation of the entire public option scam

    circulate it widely, people need to know the background of this scam.

      1. Oregoncharles

        “It would have to finance itself, with premiums from beneficiaries covering outlays, just like a private insurance plan would.”
        A scam, in other words. I’m disappointed in Merkley.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      As I keep saying, preventing #MedicareForAll is the #1 priority of the liberal Democrat leadership; they don’t want “the wave” misused for that purpose.

      It will be interesting to see how people like Kamala Harris end up on this.

  22. dcblogger

    David Hogg, school shooting survivor, calls for investment firm boycott
    MIAMI — A survivor of a mass shooting that killed 17 at a Florida high school in February is calling for a boycott of two of what he says are the biggest investors in gun manufacturers: BlackRock and The Vanguard Group. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior David Hogg used the hashtags #BoycottVanguard and #BoycottBlackrock in a Tuesday tweet. Both companies said in statements Wednesday that they offer clients opportunities to select funds that do not include gun manufacturers.

  23. Wukchumni

    I’m a little disappointed that only 5 of the 10 most polluted cities in the USA are in the CVBB. Of course it breaks down to having a long chain of mountains in the guise of the Sierra Nevada, not allowing the pollution from the bay area, farms, et al, to dissipate.

    Still, we could do better at being worse, just look at our politics here, why it would be a slam dunk to nail say 7 spots out of 10, if we only tried a little harder at not caring.

      1. ambrit

        A CVBB should be an aircraft carrier built on a battleship hull. Several were known. Mainly built between the wars.

      2. Wukchumni

        Central Valley Bible Belt, even more religious than the other belt back east, and perhaps as 2-faced?

        1. ambrit

          Interesting point. The Central Valley was where a lot of the Okies and assorted Prot Fundies from the Mid West and South ended up during the Dust Bowl days, right? So, it sounds right. Is Bakersfield considered part of the Central Valley demographic? If so, an accurate description since the Klan was politically active and influential there during the early days of the twentieth century.
          The California Central Valley Bible Belt. How droll.

  24. Pete

    Re: tesla
    There’s a lot in that email, but “just make the right thing happen” sounds like “skip the usual document control and approval processes”. Depending on how its interpreted, potentially a quality systems nightmare.

  25. Wukchumni

    Aside from high rises, what is architecture these days?

    Was watching a $2-3 million ski cabin right off the slopes @ Mammoth being erected last week from my vantage point on a chair going up, with wrap around particle board plywood sheathed in Tyvek as the most obvious feature, and I see a lot of that in new construction, which doesn’t inspire any confidence in the distant future of that building still being there.

    It gets even flimsier watching a new fast food place rise out of the dirt locally in the Big Smoke, there isn’t much there.

  26. Craig H.

    Mrs. Bush . . .

    The most interesting thing to me is there is nothing on Russ Baker’s whowhatwhy web page. He wrote the single most telling detail about the 20th century in the United States in Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put it in the White House & What Their Influence Means for America. Bush I is the only man alive in America in November 1963 who can’t recall where he was and what he was doing on the 22nd. Don’t remember if anybody asked her.

    1. nobody

      She didn’t need to be asked:

      Dearest Family,

      Wednesday I took Doris Ulmer out for lunch. They were here from England and they had been so nice to George in Greece. That night we went to … I am writing this at the Beauty Parlor and the radio says that the President has been shot. Oh Texas — my Texas — my God — let’s hope it’s not true. I am sick at heart as we all are. Yes, the story is true and the Governor also. How hateful some people are…. Since the Beauty Parlor the President has died. We are once again on a plane. This time a commercial plane. Poppy picked me up at the beauty parlor — we went right to the airport, flew to Ft. Worth and dropped Mr. Zeppo off (we were on his plane) and flew back to Dallas. We had to circle the field while the second presidential plane took off. Immediately Pop got tickets back to Houston and here we are flying home. We are sick at heart. The tales the radio reporters tell of Jackie Kennedy are the bravest I’ve ever heard. The rumors are flying about that horrid assassin. We are hoping that it is not some far right nut, but a “commie” nut. You understand that we know they are both nuts, but just hope that it is not a Texan and not an American at all.

      I am amazed at the rapid-fire thinking and planning that has already been done. L.B.J. has been the president for some time now — 2 hours at least and it is only 4.30.

      My dearest love to you all,


    1. cat's paw

      I know we say lol and don’t really mean it, but let me tell you I lol’ed hard at that Onion headline. Onion headlines are consistently the best satire. I remember one from 2008-9 when the recession was getting real deep and good that had my wife and I in convulsive tears. I can’t quote from memory, but the gist was: state of local TJ Maxx makes it difficult to tell whether recession getting better or worse.

  27. Summer

    Re: “Chapter 3 of the April 2018 World Economic Outlook”

    In other words, the same outlook they’ve had since the 18th/19th Century.

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