2:00PM Water Cooler 4/4/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Readers, I accidentally published the following cryptic list at the end of Water Cooler, twice:


One reader thought it was a cry for help; another proposed that it was a haiku. In fact, it was a do-list for me, some bite-size essays that weren’t post-worthy, but that I wanted to say. So, as partial penance for publishing an open thread on Monday, I’ve written them up. Each starts with the reminder word, in italic, like “Foreigners:


“China is firing back at the Trump administration’s latest trade penalties by setting far bigger targets for U.S. goods. Beijing says it will place 25% tariffs on some $50 billion worth of critical American exports, including soybeans, airplanes and autos” [Wall Street Journal]. “…[T]he tariff rate and the sum of goods match an earlier White House proposal that would hit a broader range of goods, including dishwashers, medical equipment and machine tools. The new volleys sharply ramp up the severity of the trans-Pacific trade skirmish and heighten the stakes for both countries. The high-profile targets also raise the pressure on Beijing, leaving China few further options in a trade fight. The U.S. could take months to trigger its tariffs while China didn’t set timing on its retaliatory measures.”

Handy chart of our imports from China [MarketWatch]:

They’re selling us opium, aren’t they?

“The Hidden Economic Rationale Of China-Europe Rail” [Forbes]. “If we look at the where the highest frequencies of trans-Eurasian trains depart from in both China and Europe we often find massive high-tech (or other) industrial zones. These trains are linking cities such as Chongqing, Chengdu and Zhengzhou — the new arteries of China’s manufacturing empire — with Duisburg, Hamburg and Warsaw — Europe’s industrial giants. These are the places where the ideal cargo for these trains is manufactured: high value, heavy weight electronics and machinery. These are products which the clients often want to get to their destinations as soon as possible and are valuable enough to make the extra $1,000 per container that they cost over ocean shipping more or less inconsequential — an additional thousand bucks means little when the value of the container is measured in seven figures.”



“Sorting Through the 2020 Democratic Primary Already (Quietly) Underway” [Cook Political Report]. “Finally, there is the matter of ideology. On a scale of moderately liberal to very liberal, is the Democratic Party’s center of gravity closer to the left of center, like Biden and Hillary Clinton, or much further to the left like Sanders and Warren? Right now, the midpoint of the party would seem to be closer to the latter.” I disagree, vehemently, and I think my worksheets (here, here, here) show that Cook is wrong. I think the center of gravity is shifting left, that the liberal Democrat nomenklatura is doing everything it can to prevent that (Blue Dogs), and that they will lose (see the mini-essay on “River.”)

2018 Midterms

TX: “In Texas, Ted Cruz Is Facing an Unusual Challenge: A Formidably Financed Democrat” [New York Times]. “‘It’s kind of Ann Richards-level enthusiasm, in the crowds he gathers,’ said Harold Cook, a Democratic strategist in Austin and former executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, referring to the outspoken Democrat who served as Texas’ governor from 1991 to 1995 before losing to George W. Bush. ‘I haven’t seen a response like Beto O’Rourke is getting in a very long time. Beto has got that thing, that star-power deal that you can’t predict in advance.'” Really? Beto and Ann Richards in the same league? Can Texas readers comment?

WI: “Walker warns of Dem wave in Wisconsin after liberal wins state judicial race” [The Hill]. “‘Tonight’s results show we are at risk of a #BlueWave in WI. The Far Left is driven by anger & hatred — we must counter it with optimism & organization,’ Walker tweeted. “‘Let’s share our positive story with voters & win in November.'” Whatever the #BlueWave may be, it’s not “far left.”

WI-08: “How to make it as a maverick from Trump country” [McClatchy]. “Gallagher, of Wisconsin, has cemented his image as a rising star — one with an unusually independent reputation in today’s Republican Party. In an era of intense political tribalism, Gallagher is the rare House member from a strongly pro-Trump district who has broken sharply with the White House over a range of issues, including the firing of ex-FBI Director James Comey and the Russia-related investigations. Even more rare: he has done it—so far—without sparking crippling conservative backlash.”

FL-27: “Donna Shalala Won’t Discuss Working for Lennar During Housing Bust, Profiting Off Health-Care Work” [Miami New Times]. I’m shocked.

New Cold War

Foreigners: For a long time, inspired by memories of psychologists who related the rise of the Nazis to German methods of toilet training, I mocked conservatives by placing their concerns about borders under the heading of “sphincter control.” Now, however, I find liberal hysteria over “Russians” or even “foreigners” just as disconcerting, just as worthy of being mocked, and by placing it under the same heading. What a time to be alive.

Pyramid: Over the last couple of years, we’ve run through several warmongering and fearmongering narratives, and it has occurred to me that they all have the same shape: An inverted pyramid. At the top of the narrative, widening out, there’s a vast construct of speculation and hysteria and “connecting the dots,” with a lot of people busily working away, building the next “story.” But the origin of the narrative, what would be the apex were not the entire pyramid uneasily balanced upon it, is very, very small: A few putative facts that we cannot verify, supplied by access journalists working with the intelligence community. This is true of the Skripal story; the apex is the nature of the poison, which we were unable to examine, and which the OPCW ought to be able to examine, with the UK government is not letting it do. This is also true of the Russian collusion story; the apex there is the report from the 17 [sic] intelligence agencies, where again access journalists working with the intelligence community supplied the facts, if facts they were. In each case, although the base of the enormous inverted pyramid has grown to enormous size, the apex remains the same size, as small and fragile as ever. The Iraq WMD stories had the same shape. Perhaps there is a heuristic here.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Google Workers Urge C.E.O. to Pull Out of Pentagon A.I. Project” [New York Times]. “Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses artificial intelligence to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes…. ‘We believe that Google should not be in the business of war,’ says the letter, addressed to Sundar Pichai, the company’s chief executive. It asks that Google pull out of Project Maven, a Pentagon pilot program, and announce a policy that it will not ‘ever build warfare technology.'” Democrats are really behind the curve on militarism, aren’t they?

“Hax Philes: Talking politics in a bipartisan relationship” [WaPo]. Interesting comments from readers.

Stats Watch

ADP Employment Report, March 2018: “ADP sees no let up for strength in the monthly employment report” [Econoday]. “The employment report has proven strong to robust over the last five reports, and if March makes for a sixth straight strong result then ADP may start getting new believers in its accuracy.” And but: “This month the rate of ADPs private employment year-over-year growth remained in the tight range seen over the last year” [Econintersect]. “ADP employment has not been a good predictor of BLS non-farm private job growth.”

Purchasing Managers’ Services Index, March 2018: “New orders remain strong but did ease in March, pulling down the services PMI” [Econoday]. “Prices, as in other anecdotal surveys, are accelerating with higher input costs increasingly being passed through to customers.”

Factory Orders, February 2018: “The book on February’s factory sector, the month before tariffs on metals hit, is now closed” [Econoday]. “Excluding aircraft as well as other transportation equipment, orders managed only a 0.1 percent increase vs January’s 0.4 percent rise…. Yet there is definitive strength in the February report as orders for core capital goods (nondefense ex-aircraft) surged 1.4 percent with shipments for this reading also up 1.4 percent. The latter is a direct input into GDP and will help the first-quarter showing for business investment…” And but: “The data in this series is noisy so I would rely on the unadjusted 3 month rolling averages which declined but remains in a long term improvement trend” [Econintersect].

Institute For Supply Management Non-Manufacturing Index, March 2018: “Unusual strength eased a bit in March for ISM’s non-manufacturing sample as the index came in near expectations” [Econoday]. “The employment result is strong as is once again the breadth of this report, underscored by the industry score which shows 15 reporting monthly growth and only 2 reporting contraction.” And: “This suggests slightly slower expansion in March than in February” [Calculated Risk]. And but: “Both services surveys [ISM and Markit Services] are in expansion – but their intensity of growth were different” [Econintersect].

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of March 30, 2018: “Purchase applications for home mortgages fell a seasonally adjusted 2 percent in the March 30 week, shrinking the year-on-year gain” [Econoday].

Consumer Spending: “Why Consumer Spending Growth Is Slowing” [Wall Street Journal]. “Weak consumer spending in recent months has puzzled Wall Street. The answer may lie with cautious Main Street lenders [a story Mosler would agree with. –lambert]. “[I]n a recent note, Cantor Fitzgerald strategists pointed to another possible cause, saying that tightened lending standards by credit card, auto and other lenders may be squeezing consumer finances. Since 2011, the Federal Reserve’s quarterly senior loan officer survey had consistently found a net loosening of credit standards on consumer loans and credit cards. That began to shift at the end of 2016, though. More respondents said they tightened standards than not in four of the past five quarterly surveys.”

Commodities: “Bahrain discovers offshore oilfield ‘containing 80bn barrels'” [BBC]. “By comparison, neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, has 266bn barrels of proven reserves.”

Commodities: “Miners, commodities hit as US-China trade war heats up” [Mining.com]. “Copper, which is seen as a barometer of global economic conditions due to its multiple uses in manufacturing, transportation, construction and power sector, fell 2% on the London Metal Exchange to $6,668.5 a tonne.”

Shipping: “FMCSA moves to exempt mirrorless truck from federal regulations” [Freight Waves]. “Stoneridge believes the [MirrorEye] system meets the requirements under National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s standards which are cross-referenced by the [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs)] and ‘would maintain a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety achieved without the exemption because CMS meets or exceeds the performance requirements for traditional mirrors.’ Indeed, the cameras give more coverage. What happens when they fail?

Shipping: “With unemployment at a nearly two-decade low, the grueling downsides of life behind the wheel make recruitment tough, casting a grim demographic cloud over the business. The average age of a for-hire long-haul trucker rose from 42 years old in 2002 to 49 in 2014, according to the American Trucking Associations. Training schools can end up being costly for recruits, and that may have to change if companies want to build a pipeline of drivers that meets shipping demand” [Wall Street Journal].

Capital Spending: “[C]ombined U.S. and Canadian planned capital spending declined 36 percent in March compared to February. March spending for the two nations totaled $32.28 billion compared to February’s $50.65 billion. The research organization reported 254 planned U.S. and Canadian projects in March” [Industrial Reports] .”Planned U.S. project spending dropped by 41 percent in March with $27.76 billion in planned investment compared to the February total of $42.44 billion. Canadian planned investment fell to $4.52 billion in March compared to $8.21 billion in February. Projects in both nations ranged in value from $1 million to $2 billion.”

Tech: “Fifty (or Sixty) Years of Processor Development…for This?” [Electronic Engineering Journal]. “‘Dennard Scaling and Moore’s Law are dead, Now what?’– a 4-act play by Dr. David Patterson.” With this chart:

I don’t see the death of Moore’s Law as having entered conventional wisdom. Has nobody sent flowers?

The Bezzle: “Tesla produced 2,020 Model 3 cars in the past seven days, missing its goal of making 2,500 vehicles a week by the end of March” [Wall Street Journal]. “Delaying that milestone adds more pressure for Tesla to meet its already-delayed target of building Model 3s at a rate of 5,000 a week by the end of June. The efforts have become a kind of test bed for whether an automotive supply chain can be built beyond the long-established factory networks of big car manufacturers. That leaves Tesla in a make-or-break period where it must prove it can handle mass production or face severe financial consequences.”

The Bezzle: “It’s Wheelmageddon”: San Francisco Is Being Overrun by Tech’s New Favorite Toy” [Vanity Fair]. No, it’s not “Tech’s New Favorite Toy.” It’s another squillionaire’s bright idea: “The sudden epidemic is primarily the work of former Lyft and Uber executive [of course it is] Travis VanderZanden, who founded Bird, the dockless electric-scooter start-up that’s taken over the sidewalks and streets of Los Angeles, and more recently San Francisco and Washington. VanderZanden, who has raised $100 million in a bid to create the Uber of electric scooters, is facing stiff competition from Jump, an electric-bike brand, and LimeBike scooters. But Bird, in a potentially flawed strategy to win venture-capitalist hearts and minds, seems to be focusing most intently on the Silicon Valley crowd.” Externalities: “Just witnessed someone on a Bird scooter slam into a group of pedestrians at high speed on a sidewalk. Terrifying!! How is this safe @BirdRide ?? Do we have to treat our sidewalks like roads now?”

Mr. Market: “Stock Rotation Comes to Emerging Markets” [Bloomberg]. “It isn’t just a technology selloff in emerging markets. It’s a full-fledged rotation away from cyclical stocks and into defensive ones. Let’s bust that jargon: Companies whose fortunes are closely tied to economic growth, such as those making car parts, have fallen out of favor in the past month. Firms whose products are in demand regardless of economic cycles (no matter what, people will shave) are rallying in their stead.”

Mr. Market: “A Fascinating Way To See Bubbles Within The Stock Market” [Business Insider]. A new charting method: “It shows the sector composition of the S&P 500 by market cap since 1974. As you can see, sector bubbles manifest when they suddenly explode as a percentage of the S&P 500. The dotcom bubble is very prominent, represented by the ballooning info tech sector stocks. The credit bubble appeared much more gradually as seen in the rise of financial sector stocks.”

Five Horsemen: “Amazon, the market’s Great White Hope, sinks lower as trade war bites” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Apr 4 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “The mania-panic index improved to 23 (worry) on yesterday’s Amazon-led rebound.” [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 3 2018

Facebook Fracas

“Exclusive: Facebook CEO stops short of extending European privacy globally” [Reuters]. “Zuckerberg told Reuters in a phone interview that Facebook was working on a version of the law that would work globally, bringing some European privacy guarantees worldwide, but the 33-year-old billionaire demurred when asked what parts of the law he would not extend worldwide. ‘We’re still nailing down details on this, but it should directionally be, in spirit, the whole thing,’ Zuckerberg said. He did not elaborate.” So we can take that as a “No”?

“Can We Be Saved From Facebook?” [Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone]. “It’s our collective misfortune that this perhaps silliest-in-history supercorporation – a tossed-off hookup site turned international cat-video vault turned Orwellian surveillance megavillain – has dragged us all to the very cliff edge of modern technological capitalism. We’ve reached a moment in history where many companies are more powerful than even major industrialized nations, and in some cases have essentially replaced governments as de facto regulators and overseers. But some of those companies suck just a little too badly at the governing part, leaving us staring into a paradox. The Russians call this situation a sobaka na sene, a dog on the hay. Asleep in the manger, the dog itself won’t eat the hay. But it won’t let you eat it either.”

“Facebook Scans What You Send Other People on Messenger App” [Bloomberg]. “The Messenger scanning systems ‘are very similar to those that other internet companies use today,’ the company said.”

Health Care

“OPINION | Is a for-profit health system our best choice?” [Citizen Times]. “As a retired physician whose practice was 97 percent supported by Medicare, I was able to experience directly the joy of practicing under a nonprofit single-payer insurer. I was able to focus on the needs of my patients without concern for their ability to pay. I now refer to myself as “The Last Happy Doctor” to demonstrate the demoralizing effect of for-profit insurance on the practice of medicine.” From Asheville, NC, by a PNHP member. PNHP has been really good at getting local doctors to publish editorials and letter like this, not that the national media ever notices.

“Medicaid Expansion Uncertain as Maine’s Deadline to Fund It Passes” [Governing]. “Attorney General Janet Mills said Tuesday she has found a funding source for expanding Medicaid in Maine, which could snuff some arguments against expansion but is sure to cause ongoing controversy about her authority to spend the money.” With tobacco settlement money. LePage, bless his heart, is correct that this is a “gimmick.” OTOH, if people get care because of it…


“For millions of Americans, lack of access to water isn’t just a drought problem” [Los Angeles Times]. “Water poverty affects nearly 1.6 million people in the United States, but it remains a stubbornly invisible crisis. Before widespread solutions can be rolled out, however, we need to know who exactly is getting by without the taps and the toilets the rest of us take for granted. But such granular data simply doesn’t exist.”

“State OKs permit letting Nestle draw more water in west Michigan” [Detroit News]. “State officials on Monday cleared Nestle Waters North America for a permit to increase groundwater withdrawals 60 percent from a west Michigan aquifer, a move denounced by environmentalists.” Life in in the colonies! And:

The state department acknowledged most of the more than 80,000 public comments opposed the permit, “but most of them related to issues of public policy which are not, and should not be, part of an administrative permit decision,” [DEQ Director C. Heidi Grether] said. “We cannot base our decisions on public opinion because our department is required to follow the rule of law when making determinations.”

We ran into the same issue with permitting on the landfill. I’m not sure what the resolution is, particularly when the permitting tends to be locked in before opposition builds.

Class Warfare

“Interview: Reviving the Poor People’s Campaign” [Labor Notes]. “Leaders of today’s Poor People’s Campaign have spent the last year traveling and building local coalitions in cities around the country. Led by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Liz Theoharis, the Campaign’s aim is to launch a new movement with 40 days of mass actions, including civil disobedience, at 30 state capitols, beginning May 13. Information on getting involved locally is at poorpeoplescampaign.org.” This:

[Rev. Nelson Johnson] I envision a movement as streams flowing toward each other. A river doesn’t have to ask permission to get to the ocean, it develops the power to carve a new highway through the landscape. That is a movement, you can’t manage that.

River: This is the metaphor I’ve been using and I’m glad I’m not the only one. I wrote:

I am with Sanders that “elections come and go.” Last night, a friend said to me things now remind them of flooding on the Missisippi or the Ohio, which were a regular news story in my childhood in the midwest; nightly reports of the height the water reached, the river “cresting,” having reached “flood stage,” and the volunteers with sandbags, and the decision about which towns to save, and which to abandon to the water. There is an enormous mass of water upstream now, and it’s heading downstream, toward us, and it is not in our power to stop it. That flood will overwhelm whatever went on in both convention halls. I’ve seen three headlines about the Clinton speech, and they each used the phrase “Moment of Reckoning.” I think that’s true, but not necessarily in the way Clinton thinks. Until the power imbalance between capital and labor is addressed, I’m long sandbags.

I may sound pessimistic in the worksheets I’ve been doing, but I’m really not; nothing either major party is doing — including what the Democrat leadership is doing to squander its “wave” — affects the “mass of water upstream” to the slightest degree.

“Do Weak Labor Laws Actually Spur More Teacher Strikes?” [Governing]. “In the states currently striking, strikes are technically illegal and can cost a teacher his or her job. But, [Agustina Paglayan, a fellow at the Center for Global Development] says, ‘teachers know that will never happen. They can’t fire every teacher in the state.’ ‘The teachers unions [in the striking states] are not especially strong, compared to most other states on the coast, for example. And it’s very interesting that we’re getting these sort of wildcat, organized, Facebook-facilitated strikes in a way we’ve never seen before,’ says Nat Malkus, director of education policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. ‘What does it say about this situation that we’re seeing workers get a ton of traction without, or even in spite of, the unions?'” That’s a good question!

“Short staffing leads to long waits for Social Security disability hearing decisions” [WaPo]. “Staffing and service issues have plagued Social Security for years, and President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal 2019 would make things worse. The disability hearing process can be particularly vexing because there are too few administrative law judges, who hear appeals, and they have too few support staff members.” Neoliberal sabotage with privatization the goal; the same old playbook.

News of The Wired

Words fail me:

That Hayden and his ilk are styling themselves as enabling brave truthtellers… I’m gobsmacked. These people have lost their minds.

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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 (Bob):

Bob challenges: “Guess that tree… from the roots!” Cf. Matt 7:16.

* * *

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Jim Haygood

    Collateral-damage victims of president Donald J Hoover:

    In the brewing trade war between the U.S. and China, the list of losers already outweighs the winners.

    Chinese tariffs are a huge blow to American growers, especially those in Midwestern states that Trump needs to win re-election in 2020. China is the biggest buyer of U.S. soybeans, picking up about a third of the entire U.S. crop. The trade is worth about $14 billion. Soybean prices dropped as much as 5.3 percent in Chicago, the most since July 2016.

    U.S. tariffs target the high-end technology products made in China. That could mean that companies like Apple and Lenovo that operate significant Chinese production bases face higher costs or supply-chain disruption. The biggest blow by far is to almost $4 billion worth flat-panel TV screens, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

    China plans to slap tariffs on most vehicles including electric cars. Tesla is at particular risk as it relies on American-made vehicles for all its Chinese sales.

    China’s tariffs could hurt sales of some of Boeing’s best-selling planes, such as the 737 family of passenger jets and put the company at a disadvantage to Airbus. China is a crucial market for Boeing.


    One-term Trump won’t have to worry about re-election in 2020, as this headline from May 5, 1930 reminds us:


    Two and a half miserable years later, Frank Roosevelt crushed Hoover by 42 states to six. Trade war is the fastest known means to pauperize a population. “We tariffed some folks.

    Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow
    This land fed a nation, this land made me proud
    And son I’m just sorry there’s no legacy for you now
    Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow

    — John Mellencamp

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It’s not immediately transparent how the usual ‘Trump profiting himself or his family’ narrative will play out here.

      Perhaps time to investigate any family links to Brazilian soybean farms.

    2. L

      Oddly enough Paul Krugman of all people has come out with a missive (ht The Guardian) on the trade war which contains this little gem:

      The irony is that an anti-China shock would do exactly the same thing. And I, at least, care more about the impact on workers than the impact on capital.

      Apparently despite his decades long cheerleading for unlimited globalization and his own self-declared disinterest in understanding inequality he actually cares more about the workers. I guess President Donald Trump really has moved the goalposts.

      1. Jim Haygood

        [affecting Kurgman voice] I, too, care about the workers. And the farmers:

        America’s most influential farm organization pleaded publicly with the Trump administration and China on Wednesday to put an end to an escalating trade dispute after China targeted U.S. soybeans and other agricultural products for retaliation.

        ‘China’s threatened retaliation against last night’s U.S. tariff proposal is testing both the patience and optimism of families who are facing the worst agricultural economy in 16 years. We have bills to pay and debts we must settle, and cannot afford to lose any market, much less one as important as China’s. This has to stop.’ — Zippy Duvall, president of American Farm Bureau Federation

        Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said the administration knew that if it imposed tariffs on Chinese goods, Beijing would retaliate against U.S. agriculture and that he had warned Trump of that danger in February.

        “Today shows that’s exactly what happened. If the federal government takes action on trade that directly results in economic hardship for certain Americans, it has a responsibility to help those Americans and mitigate the damage it caused,” Grassley said.


        Kurgman’s calculation of minimal economic impact relies on a ceteris paribus assumption — all else remaining the same. But a highly leveraged asset bubble economy will sharply overreact to any shock to confidence. Economic surprises have turned suddenly and viciously negative. Asset values must adjust — downward.

        Meanwhile the heartland is finding out the hard way that white-shoe city slicker Trump is no friend of the sodbuster. I see convoys of tractors chugging down Pennsylvania Avenue this summer … blocking, one hopes, the parade of gold-plated military hardware which squandered our prosperity on macho toys for under-endowed men.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I pledge to consume more soy milk.

          In fact I am going to buy some on my way home today. I want to support our soybean growers.

        2. Andrew Watts

          “Today shows that’s exactly what happened. If the federal government takes action on trade that directly results in economic hardship for certain Americans, it has a responsibility to help those Americans and mitigate the damage it caused,” Grassley said.

          Grassley should be driven out of the Republican Party for advocating socialism.

          1. djrichard

            Grassley said “certain Americans”. I’m betting he’d make sure big Ag is covered. After that, I’d bet it’s everyone for themselves.

            On that point, aside from big Ag, who else is exposed? Are there still family-owned farms in the agricultural products that are impacted? Given how much family-owned farms have been displaced by big Ag, it would be useful to see an assessment.

        3. Jean

          The good side of this is the price for almonds and pistachios should drop so that more Americans can afford them.

          Consumers win when they don’t have to compete with Asia.

          1. UserFriendly

            There has been stories of them having to dump milk because they have too much. Price of milk and cheese hasn’t gone down. Supply and demand only goes so far.

    3. Summer

      I think Trump’s measurement for success is that he’s wealthier after leaving office, whether that’s in 2, 4, or 8 years.

    4. David

      According to the USDA, China imports 97 million metric tons (MMT) of soybeans (2017/18). That 64% of the worlds total soybean imports. The next largest importer is the EU at 14 MMT. China produces 14.2 MMT of soybeans.

      The U.S. supplies 56.2 MMT. That’s 37% of the total global soybean exports. This is about a quarter of the U.S. production of 120 MMT of soybeans.

      Brazil exports 70.5 MMT of soybeans, 46% of world exports. This is 62% of Brazil’s total production of soybeans.

      China is dependent upon soybean imports. They cannot avoid buying U.S soybeans to satisfy their demand.

      Also, this from World Atlas,

      Unlike other soybean producing countries, prices in the US are more significantly determined by increased bio-diesel demand, where the soy oil is used to fuel combustion engines.

      Another own goal by the Chinese?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        We should support workers on strike.

        They do what they deem right, even if they suffer and even if they make no money in the short term.

        Here, we have to decide whether what we do is what we want as a nation.

        1. David

          Who’s on strike?

          The farmers will be okay. They have price protection provided by the 2014 Farm Bill. From Grist,

          …these insurance plans largely help guarantee that farmers can sell their crop above a certain price (Price Loss Coverage) or make a certain amount of revenue (Agricultural Risk Coverage), and do little to encourage, say, better drought-planning measures or a more diverse spread of crops.

          Who gets these subsidies? From Corn and Soybean Digest,

          Since 1991, taxpayer subsidies for crop insurance have greatly increased from $300 million to $6.1 billion. While total acreage in the program has increased significantly, the number of policyholders has stayed relatively steady meaning more acres covered by the same number of farms, also indicative of consolidation.

          This is all overlaid on the fact that during this same period the number of farms in America fell by around 70,000 and the percent of land owned by actual farmers declined, with nearly 40 percent of land now being rented or leased and 80 percent of rented or leased land being owned by non-farmers.

          This raises the question: is the crop insurance program, under its current subsidy structure, doing a good job keeping people in farming, or is it contributing to the consolidation of farms and pushing people out of farming?

          The discussions have already started regarding the 2018 Farm Bill. The soygrowers want more, and they want to write the bill.

          While the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC), Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and crop insurance programs have provided some protection, they must be strengthened. Writing sound farm programs will require more resources than will be available in the Congressional Budget Office baseline. We look forward to working with the Congressional Agriculture Committees as they begin to write the 2018 Farm Bill.

    5. djrichard

      More fighting the good fight for imbalanced trade https://finance.yahoo.com/news/trumps-big-mistake-trade-183849840.html

      When you buy something at a store, you hand over money and get a product in return. You end up with fewer dollars, but it doesn’t matter, because you voluntarily paid for something you wanted. The transaction works for both sides.

      The same thing happens in international trade. Americans bought $506 billion worth of goods and services from China in 2017, and China bought $130 billion worth of goods and services from the United States. They got stuff they wanted. We got stuff we wanted. Buyers and sellers made transactions on terms they all agreed to.

      See, it’s no different than trade imbalances between labor and corporations. And that’s good right? Because after all, if corporations can’t collect the profit, why would they even be in business?

      Ignoring the fact that most of the world had balanced trade before Nixon took us off the gold-inter-exchange standard. “Say what? Other countries weren’t collecting a surplus? Why even bother then?”

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        It’s like when 5 people read Yahoo Finance, and 5 million read Yahoo Finance.

        Yahoo gets a certain amount of money and a certain number of people read their articles. Both sides get what they want, in each case.

        It’s all good, until you ask, what happen to the workers producing whatever that gets transacted.

  2. kees_popinga

    “Pyramid… river… foreigners…”
    “He’s coming out of it.”
    “Give him 10 more ccs.”
    “Has he been talking?”
    “This is my patient. Ask your questions later.”

  3. Carolinian

    Re Pyramid–would that be like “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin”? A lot of that going around. Maybe it’s something about intellectuals. Hypotheticals are catnip.

      1. John k

        River is good.
        I’ve been thinking of a razor sharp pendulum that swung right for 40 years, so long that both parties can’t imagine it swinging in any other direction. But it’s begun swinging left, and bloody hard to stop… or you cut off bits you wanted to keep if you try. Like in 1930.

  4. Lee

    The Bezzle: “It’s Wheelmageddon”: San Francisco Is Being Overrun by Tech’s New Favorite Toy” [Vanity Fair].

    We’ve got laws against wheeled thingamajigs on our city’s business district sidewalks, with exceptions for the disabled. Absent a police officer, the citizens engage in vigilante enforcement. Just one more reason to like this town.

    I’m guessing most techies are from suburban environs and, being perceptually challenged when it comes to the nuances of the physical world, they have failed to account for the greater population density of urban landscapes. And what do they have against having your feet on the ground or your hands on the wheel? How disengaged from physical effort and attention do they wish to become?

    1. Lemmy Caution

      I hear there’s an even newer start-up coming out with a special fitness tracker that can convert scooter miles back into steps.

      1. Lee

        A lot of didactic Zen anecdotes involve the the master whacking the student with a stick as a response to the latter engaging in silly metaphysical speculation. I’m guessing the bursting of tech bubbles is reality whacking those who devise silly answers. Not every physically or emotionally challenged nerd is going find satisfaction in abreaction or revenged upon the world for being bullied or alienated when young.

  5. allan

    Survey: Partisan divide in US on views of sexual harassment [AP]

    Democrats and Republicans, on the whole, have markedly different views about sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a new, large-scale survey by the Pew Research Center conducted against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement.

    According to Pew, about six in 10 Democrats say the United States has a major problem on its hands in terms of men getting away with sexual harassment and women not being believed when they allege they were victimized. By contrast, about one in three Republicans identifies these as major problems.

    Have the #MeToo movement’s repercussions made it harder for men to navigate workplace interactions with women? Among Republicans, 64 percent said yes; only 42 percent of Democrats agreed.

    Shocking but not surprising.

  6. Jim Haygood

    Very interesting sector weight chart under the ‘Mr Market’ heading; thanks. It shows the classic ETF (Energy Tech Finance) bubbles of 1980, 2000 and 2007, when these sectors reached 26%, 32% and 22% of S&P 500 market cap, respectively.

    Strangely, though, the chart ends in 2014, leaving out an important development since then. Namely, Info Tech once again has enlarged to 26.7% of the S&P 500, triggering our bubble warning ah-oo-gah horns. You can verify current sector weights by clicking on the multi-colored pie chart in this link:


    As a footnote, the Technology sector fund includes Telecoms, a separate sector that’s so small (three crappy little telcos: Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink) it’s being reconstituted as the Communications Services sector this September, with added heft from [former] tech stocks such as Facebook and Google and [former] consumer discretionary stocks such as Comcast and Disney.

    These coming deletions from the bloated Info Tech sector will shrink it back under the 20 percent danger zone. But meanwhile, it might just shrink itself. ;-)

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I thought mainstream economists were of the view that bubbles cannot be known to be bubbles until after they have burst. This chart would seem to refute that.

      1. Jim Haygood

        True — doing arithmetic is beneath the dignity of mainstream economists, since it don’t require any greek letters. But a mere practitioner, Jeremy Grantham, offered a rigorous definition of a bubble: a two-sigma deviation above an historical trend.

        In one of his quarterly letters, Grantham listed all of the bubbles since 1620 based on his definition — several dozen of them, if I recall. He said in Nov 2016 (with the S&P around 2,100) that surpassing 2,300 would constitute a US stock bubble. And that’s what happened.

        Likewise one could define a sector exceeding a 20% weight in the S&P as a sector bubble. But S&P is about to rejigger the sectors, making historical comparisons difficult unless one backs out the original tech sector members — a tedious job indeed, which I did to backcast the sectors from 1984 to Sep 1989, when S&P sector data begins.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          if I recall. He said in Nov 2016 (with the S&P around 2,100) that surpassing 2,300 would constitute a US stock bubble. And that’s what happened.

          Exceeding 2,300 at what point on the historical trend-line?

          In 2018? In 2025?

      2. Oregoncharles

        Dean Baker provided a fairly obvious formula back in 2008. Basically, when valuations persistently and dramatically leave the long-term trend line. He was one of the few that called the RE bubble and the Great Financial Collapse.

        Wrote this before I read Jim’s rely.

  7. bob

    Dissident Oligarchs, driven into frenzied M&A orgy by DJ D-Sol, lay waste to the Four Seasons conference room on the orders of Supreme Leader Putin-

    “I try to be selective at when I sound the alarm. But this Trump war on Jeff Bezos is some “Putin eliminating dissident oligarchs” level scary stuff.”


    “Goldman Sachs’ COO reportedly used his side gig as an EDM DJ to help win Spotify’s business”


    Run away, if you still have that option….

  8. Huey Long

    NYC Building Trades unions will be rallying in 45 minutes at 40th and 7th.

    All NCers are cordially invited.


  9. toshiro_mifune

    Best quote from the Taibbi article;

    For Facebook to be both the cause of and the solution to so many informational ills, the design mechanism built into our democracy to prevent such problems – a free press – had to have been severely disabled well before we got here.

    1. Summer

      “For years, Google had a rule that gave greater visibility to media companies that offered at least some free content. Outlets complained about the rule, which they claimed shaped the industry early in the online age, forcing firms away from subscription-based models. Under pressure, Google finally scrapped the rule in October 2017, but the damage was already done.

      About those subscription-based models: There are people out there who believe the media’s only hope is to organize, as a union would, and collectively enforce a giant paywall, denying Facebook and its hacker ethos the oceans of free content that are its lifeblood.

      But one would be hard-pressed to find a media executive who believes such a strategy has a chance of working.

      “You don’t call that play under normal circumstances, but it’s 4th and 30 for all of us,” says McChesney. “There is no commercial solution. There is no magical business model that will save the news business. It’s time we all faced reality.”

      Media archives apart from Facebook and Google are a must.
      It could be monetized and the importance of that should be self-evident.

      Verification and trust…to even have a chance at getting at either, monopolies on news should not be tolerated.

    2. Carolinian

      I’d say Taibbi’s view that Facebook killed the news business is a rather skewed history. In fact some of us turned to the Internet in the early noughts precisely because the traditional news media had so greatly deteriorated. You can’t blame Facebook for Monica-gate, OJ, the Iraq war, the “on bended knee” journalism of the Reagan period, the chaotic 2000 election where TV newsers said voters should just get over it and accept Bush. And concerns about “infotainment” go back at least to the 1970s with the advent of USAToday, the lacerating take on TV news in the movie Network, Lou Grant giving Mary stern lectures about how news organizations are supposed to behave. It was really television that killed the news business both by giving it great power (Watergate, Vietnam as the “living room war”) and the profit incentive to turn news into filler programming for 24/7 networks.

      So cry us a river WaPo, NYT, CNN, NPR, the network broadcasts and all the rest. You basically did it to yourselves.

      1. Summer

        Yes, they all jumped on the ways it would help them cut costs.
        They all went to the same schools and listened to the same people, arriving at the same conclusions that kept the highest up well-paid (funny how that works) and now complain about how the populace is in their own bubbles – and won’t listen to all the “truth” they know.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Remember when CNN was talking about the Clinton emails and a newsie said direct on camera to his audience: “Also interesting is, remember, it’s illegal to possess these stolen documents. It’s different for the media. So everything you learn about this, you’re learning from us.”
          How insulting to people’s intelligence is that! How far off into ga-ga land do you have to be to think that this is a good thing to tell audiences and expecting them to believe you?

      2. Kilgore Trout

        How much of the decline in quality and quantity of investigative journalism–at the networks anyway– is due to the Reagan era FCC decision to put an end to the Fairness Doctrine?

    3. Dita

      In my memory journalism was already well in to crapification before the rise of FB – tv news was already infotainment in the 90s, and print not far behind. I recall the rending of garments and clutching of pearls over blogs and vlogs drawing away readership with free content. Also the concern with what was then called PR news. Ha! Now it’s like NYT and co are just projections of the pentagon and Hill & Knowlton. So I don’t agree with about the first half of Taibbi’s article.

    4. Summer

      True, Facebook or Google didn’t invent informational ills…or journalism, music, tv, film, radio, book publishing, retail stores, advertising, marketing, manufacturing, financial credit, etc.
      At the end of the day, their main invention is a way to collect and distribute massive amounts of data on individuals and companies.

  10. Jim Haygood

    Wells Fargo mocks the world’s richest man, “Three comma club” Bezos:

    “Whether the Washington Post purchase by Jeff Bezos for $250 million in 2013 cost Amazon ~$75 billion in market value five years later, we may never know,” Wells Fargo analysts led by Ken Sena wrote in a note.


    What started as a tech lord’s harmless vanity project took a toxic turn when the WaPo ran off the rails with its Russia Russia Russia fetish, which included a nasty swipe at Naked Capitalism in an article that claimed it’s a Russian front. [Show me the Natashas!]

    Now Potus has taken grave offense at the failed, fake-news WaPo. His twitter barrages have knocked billions off Amazon’s market cap, probably topping out its eye-popping rally for good.

    At this point, Bezos would have to pay somebody to take the ridiculous political-fiction broadsheet off his hands. Don’t look at me, bro.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      He could have made more money, till now anyway, investing in Chinese corrugated and cardboard box companies.

      What usually costs Nature one paper or plastic shopping bag now consumes more than a few boxes that travel all the way cross the Pacific to the most remote corners of Eastern United States.

      “My silk handkerchief, direct from its Suzhou factory, nicely cushioned in bubble wrap and all safely boxed.”

      1. Jim Haygood

        Deluded old biddy rabbits on about Russia Russia Russia:

        “Every day that goes by there’s more evidence and more proof of Russia and fake news and Cambridge Analytica and misogyny and sexism,” Hillary said Tuesday. “I mean it’s hard, it’s very hard.”

        She said the “lock her up” chants that Trump led during the election and other protests around her were signs of misogyny.

        “But for the letter [Comey] wrote on October 28th I would have won,” she said.

        “You had the Russians stealing the DNC emails and then stealing emails from my campaign,” she said. “And on October 7th the CIA director said for the first time that the Russians were interfering in our election.”

        “You know the NRA has spent more money on me than any other candidate,” she said. “We’ll find out if any of that was Russian money.”


        Lock her up — in Bellevue psychiatric ward. And send Wayne LaPierre back to Russia. /sarc

  11. Summer

    “Can We Be Saved From Facebook?” [Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone].

    “No matter what the intent behind the invention, it seems that little thought was given to how the Internet would impact the existing commercial news business.”

    It was given lots of “little thoughts” from greedy minds. It was key to cost cutting and layoffs – which the stock market thrives on as much as bubbles. The tech world and the finance world are two peas in a pod, especially since so many depend on valuations divorced from actual profit making or physical production.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The White House statement said the military mission “to eradicate ISIS in Syria is coming to a rapid end,” but offered no timetable for U.S. withdrawal. It also didn’t suggest Trump has yielded in his opposition to staying in Syria to stabilize the country and counter the influence of Russia and Iran, allies of President Bashar al-Assad who has all but sealed victory in his war against rebel forces.

      Peaceniks have to unite. You can’t call for ending US involvement in Yemen and not voice support for Trump on this.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          It takes time to build 12 massive towers or altars.

          Don’t know if they will be lit though.

        2. steelhead

          The light at the end of the tunnel is a BNSF or UPRR moving 100-200 rail cars of oil in one long train….

    2. Andrew Watts

      The whole point of cutting aid to Northern Syria was to get other countries to fill that financial role. Saudi Arabia has already indicated it’s willing to pay for it. Meanwhile he sends the message to Russia he’s willing to negotiate an American withdrawal under certain circumstances that probably involve a generous reconciliation deal between government in Damascus and the Federation of Northern Syria.

      In either case Trump gets to pat himself on the back for being a great dealmaker and striking another yuuuuge deal. I’m not criticizing Trump by the way. I’m hoping the both Kim and Moon can seize the moment and provide Trump an opportunity to take credit for forging a peace agreement, denuclearize the peninsula, and plan for the gradual reunification of Korea.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Yeah, about Saudi Arabia. They also offered to help Germany with all those refugees by building 200 mosques – Wahhabi mosques. Germany politely told them to shove it.
        I would expect that any help from Saudi Arabia for Syria would have similar strings attached to it. Snatching victory from defeat so to say. Wouldn’t help to know that all those weapons and financing from the Jihadists came from Saudi Arabia, their Wahhabi brethren.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          The Saudi Family is a major member/backer of the Global Axis of Jihad. They supported many of the Cannibal Liver Eating Jihadi groups and persons in Syria. Any aid going into Syria from Saudi Arabia will be to keep the Cannibal Liver Eating Jihadi groups alive, organized and functioning in hopes of resuming the fight to Jihadify Syria again at some future point.

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    “The Hidden Economic Rationale Of China-Europe Rail” [Forbes]. “If we look at the where the highest frequencies of trans-Eurasian trains depart from in both China and Europe we often find massive high-tech (or other) industrial zones. These trains are linking cities such as Chongqing, Chengdu and Zhengzhou — the new arteries of China’s manufacturing empire — with Duisburg, Hamburg and Warsaw — Europe’s industrial giants. These are the places where the ideal cargo for these trains is manufactured: high value, heavy weight electronics and machinery. These are products which the clients often want to get to their destinations as soon as possible and are valuable enough to make the extra $1,000 per container that they cost over ocean shipping more or less inconsequential — an additional thousand bucks means little when the value of the container is measured in seven figures.”

    But they all have to go through…Putin’s Russia?

  13. Rates

    It’s possible I am blind i.e. I work in SF FiDi, and I haven’t noticed these Bird stuff.

    What I have been witnessing the last 2 weeks though is more concerning. People in SF might be getting ruder and the barrier is high in the first place. I’ve encountered quite a few people walking as if they own the street. When it comes to narrow places (places impacted by construction), instead of giving way or navigating the space so that multiple people can pass, these people were shoving people out of the way with their shoulders. It’s like they are looking for confrontation. And I am not talking about homeless people, these are professionals.

    This tech bubble can’t burst soon enough … and I work in tech.

    1. Conrad

      That’s an interesting observation. Personally I suspect such bullying behaviour is more a sign of insecurity than confidence – they’re barging through the crowd because things aren’t going well and they’re stressed.

      1. RUKidding

        Hard to say whether they’re rude, arrogant bullies or stressed out.

        I had that happen to me in Chicago recently. Walking down a sidewalk narrowed by construction stuff with a stream of people going in both directions. I tried my best to be “small” and walked somewhat sideways, yet some quite large,younger guy deliberately shoved me quite hard with his shoulder. Believe me, it was no accident.

        It’s not as if those in power are behaving with any sort of, uh, professionalism, courtesy or kindness, and I think that’s the root of issues like these. It’s all Eff you, get outta my way. JMHO, of course.

        1. Conrad

          Perhaps, but I’d argue the percentage of bullies is a constant* so any observed increase in bullying behaviour must be a function of non-bullies acting in an bullying way.

          *Personally I believe it to be around 15%, but estimates of the percentage of irredeemable bullies vary.

        2. Ed Miller

          Being a retired tech engineer, though amazingly I never worked in Silly Valley, my money is on arrogant bullies. Typical management pushing their way through/over serf/workers. Up to my last working year (2015) the contempt was progressively worse for over 20 years. These types see themselves like Peter Thiel.

      2. Rates

        I’ve been stressed out and I know how I look when that happens. I’d like to think most people would have the same dogged expression in their face when they are stressed.

        These people had that smug/entitled expression one can only associate with elevated levels of testosterone. Either they were all on drugs or they were thinking “I am the Bros King of the World”.

  14. Adam1

    “The teachers unions [in the striking states] are not especially strong, compared to most other states on the coast, for example.”

    Although I have no evidence or personal experience, I have long suspected that one part of the labor movement problem in the US is that far too many bigger unions are so corporatized that they’ve become as morally bankrupt as the Democratic elite establishment and incapable of helping those they profess to represent. They are as self-serving as the elite CEO’s they mirror.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      From what I’ve heard and read, there are many in their rank-and-file who would concur. A decent source of information on the relationship of the big legacy unions and those they pretend to represent is the World Socialist Web Site. They don’t conflate “the union” with “the workers.”

      1. Fiery Hunt

        Yep. Known quite a few union guys…in the trades, it’s all nepotism and corruption. Especially when it comes to downturns or labor squeezes.

        Unions are the answer.
        But they HAVE to be worker/teacher/nurse led.

        1. JBird

          Is there Any area in our society that has not either become corrupt or trimmed to bone fragments? Even nonprofits and NGOs are becoming corrupt and dysfunctional.

  15. Swamp Yankee

    Re: tree

    The roots look like a white pine, but the bark seems somehow wrong. Looks like it’s from not too far away from my neck of the woods, whatever species it may be.

      1. Oregoncharles

        I’d say oak, from the bark, not the roots.

        Considerable erosion, there. However, that spectacle is common in the woods here, especially at the coast where it’s really damp, because trees start on logs or stumps that then rot away, leaving an arch perched in the air – sometimes quite high.

        1. Kilgore Trout

          Maybe American Larch (Tamarack) or possibly Norway Spruce, in what appears to be an eroded site.

    1. Edward E

      Oh for the peaceful shade of the sycamore tree when you and your better half get out of the swimming hole?

    2. Edward E

      I believe that it’s a sycamore tree.

      Posted a comment that disappeared and now reappeared. Kinda like a faulty camera.

      I like to see that the driver I’m starting to pass sees me in his or her mirrors. Not having mirrors takes that confidence away.

      1. Swamp Yankee

        I think you’re right, that does look more like sycamore bark. I like the way sycamores become so pale in their upper branches as they get older and bigger — the reason, or so I’ve been told, that one of its common names is the “ghost tree.”

      1. Swamp Yankee

        D’oh! Should have stuck with my instincts!

        Nice tree, both species and as an individual. Thanks for the photo, bob!

      2. Edward E

        Good job Swamp Yankee…

        Yeah, I was totally wrong. Was thinking that after I wrote it, quickly just looking at the roots and trying to remember a tree we sit in the roots. Getting thumphammered with various spam problems quite a lot

  16. jaxbeau


    I’m interested in the spread sheet you’re working on. Is there a link I’ve missed?

    Thank you, and Yves, and everyone at Naked Capitalism for the important work you do day after day. NC has become my primary information source and, while I don’t comment often, I remain grateful.

  17. clarky90

    Putin cements powerful new alliance with Iran and Turkey in challenge to Trump and the West as the three leaders vow to bring a ‘lasting ceasefire’ to Syria at summit in Ankara


    IMO, Putin is too competent to be involved in the Skripal poisoning

    Whoever poisoned the Skipals was/were;

    1. Incompetent (they are both still ALIVE)
    2. Brazen
    3. Powerful (20+ governments expel Russian diplomats on the basis of “say so”)
    4. Unhinged (WW3 is not a trifle)

  18. Stephen Gardner

    “Beto and Ann Richards in the same league? Can Texas readers comment?”

    My youngest daughter lives in El Paso where Beto hangs his hat and she loves him–she loved Ann Richards too. My stepdaughter lives in Dallas but has seen him talk–she loves Beto too. My own take on him (I live in Dallas) is that he has that “Kennedy thing” going for him. Having grown up in an Irish/French Canadian family I am used to seeing Kennedy’s picture up there on the wall with Jesus ;-) so I know Cruz has a problem. Cruz has all the charisma and warmth of a Gestapo colonel so, like I said, Cruz has a problem.
    Now, having said this, I fully expect Beto will turn out to be just like all the other Democratic Party main streamers–he will know whom he serves and it is not us.

    1. Ancient1

      Beto has visited every country in Texas and has a deep grass roots organization. His campaign is financed by small amount dollars by a lot of Texans. I do not believe yet from what I hear him saying at these meetings that he is a DNC candidate, but whatever he may be politically, he is a generational Texan and not a Cruz. He is not an Ann Richardson – no one can be that Lady. He is his own man and a new breed of people’s politician. Gives me hope that all is not bad.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        I, too, am hopeful.
        way out here, there have been Beto signs (3 of them) for months…and I’ve seen zero Cruz signs.
        This is anomalous for this area(NW Texas Hill country)
        OTH, if he came to my county, I missed it…but I only read the local paper sporadically(it’s more of a COC Brochure), and the local demparty has apparently removed me from their list.
        I saw somewhere a couple of months ago that Beto appeared on a stage in Austin with one Chuck Shumer…which was unsettling…but aside from that, the Texas coverage has been positive, imho.
        Texas Monthly has had good things to say about him…but balanced with a couple of cruz stories which attempted(somewhat successfully) to humanise that creature(carrying wet carpet out of Houston homes, etc)
        Turnout in Primaries was up a little, here, and there are indications that there’s movement under the carpet, but it takes some rather vigorous parsing of the available data to get there: the number of dem primary voters was up, after having been boringly stable for 20 years, for instance…while the number of gops remained about the same.
        On the other hand, it’s been a month since I last did an eavesdropping tour of feedstore/produce aisle…been busy with trees and manure.

    2. JohnnyGL

      I’m of the opinion that we need to cut off all the heads of all the snakes in congress. If we get more snakes….well, we’ve got more chopping to do. :)

      In my more optimistic moments, I dream of an incumbent massacre with Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Diane Feinstein, Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill, and a whole host of other blue dogs headed right to the unemployment office after the midterms this fall.

      1. polecat

        Yea .. ‘unemployed’ … and rich beyond the avarice of kings ! The BASTARDS* !!

        *I include DiFi & Claire in that sorted crew of misreants who’ve broken through the crystal glass ceiling, while attempting to kill us all with the falling shards !

  19. Fraibert

    Regarding the Nestle water permit issue.

    Administrative agencies act under delegation of authority from the legislature, and generally speaking may only consider factors permitted or required by the relevant legislation in authorizing permits, licenses, etc. (If the legislation is unconstitutional at the federal or state level in a relevant manner they also should consider this fact.)

    There is often, but not always, some discretion in the legislatively granted authority in licensing as the laws are can be written using standards (e.g., “unfair methods of competition” under the FTC Act) and not specific rules. But, when there’s no administrative discretion authorized, an agency is legally required to act in the manner directed by the legislature.

    A a result, if people oppose a certain permitting process where the party seeking the permit has satisfied all relevant requirements specifically laid out by the legislature and the agency has no discretion under law, the people are stuck. The solution, if any, is legislative.

    To be honest, this is one reason I dislike the “left” as it currently operates. There appears to be a willful misunderstanding that statutes (laws) matter, and that advocacy for the exercise of administrative discretion and lawsuits are no substitute for the hard work of winning legislative power and passing laws.

    Nope. Based on the Obama Administration’s behavior, the Democrats seem to think that administrative “guidance” is the new way to make legal rules because they cannot get laws passed in the legislature and probably figure that even notice and comment rulemaking is too much of a burden.

    1. Randy

      On the bright side Michigan is going to save water by giving Nestle that permit. After drinking that water out of plastic bottles with plastic particles included (free of charge) shit will come out wrapped in plastic, thus no odor that requires a two gallon courtesy flush. Two 12 ounce bottles of water per day will keep the courtesy flush away..

    1. Yves Smith

      Oddly, I have yet to see anyone mention that she was monetizing her videos (one quote from her did make that clear) and she might have been making a living from it, or enough that the revenue loss put her underwater financially. In other words, the media has gelled on the story “crazy person with a minority view who went out and shot people up when she was deservedly throttled back” as opposed to “emotionally unstable, economically barely making it person pushed over edge by prospect of having to live in her car.”

      1. Summer

        It made me think about that “whole monetizing your YouTube videos” (gig economy) work.
        If a change to the algorithm held back payments from this particular content creator, it must work like a charm to change the algorithm (for whatever reason given) every few years once payments are due to maybe millions creators who have built up a following.

  20. Oregoncharles

    “We ran into the same issue with permitting on the landfill. I’m not sure what the resolution is, particularly when the permitting tends to be locked in before opposition builds.”

    The nearest thing to an answer is to jump and down on the Legislature, which ultimately sets the legal terms. Something to check: in Oregon, a number of departments, like State and the Attorney General, even Labor, have elected heads. They can be pressured, too. Unfortunately, our little waste-prevention disaster comes from the Dept. of Ag., not elected. So it stops at the Governor’s desk. She’s intermittently good, but this is a reason to run against her.

    I assume Lambert already jumped through these hoops for Maine, during the dump controversy he references. I’m trying to sketch out the places to look, whichever state you’re in. Administrative power is much more centralized in some states.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The nearest thing to an answer is to jump and down on the Legislature

      That’s in essence what we did. And you know who gave us our first hearing, where the landfill operator was forced to be put under oath for the very first time? As I’m sure you’ve guessed, Paul LePage, bete noire of good liberal Democrats everywhere. And because of that, the expansion of the existing landfill was at least limited, and the next one they tried was stopped.* I’m not sure why LePage did it; possibly because the guys with beards and guns in the woods hate the landfills, and they’re a conservative constituency; possibly because the landfill trash was largely from out-of-state; possibly to do the right thing, who knows?

      1. Lee

        They’re selling quicksand futures like hotcakes in my town. An island in SF Bay, we are being coerced into increasing our population density in response to the housing shortage. Unfortunately, or not depending on one’s viewpoint, the new buildings are being built on landfill that will not fare well during an earthquake and will be inundated by a few feet of sea level rise. The major developer lives in a big house with grounds on a hill over in Marin, where population density is 1/20th of ours and is not likely to increase much.

      2. perpetualWAR

        What I am amazed at is that your legislature requires testimony under oath. I’ve requested that testimony to the legislature be issued under oath for the last 8 years. Nada. Nothing. Zilch.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          It’s a private corporation, they claim, and if the magic show they put on was too transparent, if the rabbit was seen before being pulled from the hat, I don’t know if it was meddling, less meddling in US elections, but more like an amateurish production.

  21. Kokuanani

    Regarding the “Truth Tellers in the Bunker” get-together: aside from the total knee-slapping humor at the ridiculousness of such an event, it’s being held at the Cosmos Club in DC — probably the snootiest, most out-of-touch place in the whole snooty, out-of-touch region. More laughs.

    I’ll have to check to see if they allow women in yet.

    Apparently many DC clubs are having a bit of trouble finding members. https://www.washingtonian.com/2015/04/29/private-social-clubs-are-doomed/

  22. DJG

    pyramid river foreigners
    [I am reminded of Constantine Cavafy and his poem Ithaka, so I will riff]

    And you will watch that last pyramid recede
    into the distance
    that last pyramid and its Egyptian certainties
    as you ride the river, the great river
    out to sea
    you, one more foreigner among foreigners
    who have learned so much
    headed back by sail past timeless Crete
    back to Attica to eat fresh bread
    with sesame seeds
    no longer a foreigner
    among the cordial Greeks

  23. Wukchumni

    So, let it not be said that my Congressman doesn’t get stuff done…

    “Please join me on Friday, April 6th for the dedication ceremony of the Merle Haggard Post Office Building at 1730 18th Street in Bakersfield. This event will start at 9:30AM and is open to the public.

    Parking will be available at the 18th and Eye Public Garage in downtown Bakersfield.

    Last April, I introduced legislation to designate the Postal Service facility on 18th Street as the “Merle Haggard Post Office Building” and this past March President Donald Trump signed this bill into law.”

    As far as I can tell, this post office renaming and a few others, including a Buck Owens one, are the paramount accomplishments of Kevin McCarthy’s decade in Congress. And as I was looking through his record, he wasn’t the only one pimping new names for post offices, it’s the one thing that gets done, by everyone in both parties.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Bet they don’t have no swinging doors on that post office:

      I’ve got swinging doors, a jukebox and a bar stool
      And my new home has a flashing neon sign
      Stop by and see me any time you want to
      ‘Cause I’m always here at home till closing time

      — Merle Haggard, Swinging Doors

  24. JohnnyGL

    I’ll let the NC community wrestle with the geopolitical implications of this…

    Erdogan: ‘Israel has carried out a massacre in Gaza & Netanyahu is a terrorist’

    Also note that Putin and Erdogan held a joint press conference in Ankara yesterday. Time to start spit-balling around DC think-tanks about ‘who lost Turkey’.

  25. Tim

    “Fifty (or Sixty) Years of Processor Development…for This?”

    This is significant for software development. Software bloat relies on ever increasing computer speeds to mask the increased software inefficiency. Every computer made in the last 20 years is no faster than the computer it replaced in an office environment.

    Can you imagine a world where every new version of Windows and Office gets slower and slower?

    This could be the death of the x86 architecture and WIndows.

    It’s also a problem for AI development,

    1. Jim Haygood

      This could be the death of the x86 architecture and Windows.

      Technology advances one funeral at a time, as Max Planck almost said.

      1. Ed Miller

        Planck did say “Science advances one funeral at a time”. Technology is a blend of large doses of hype with some science. Reminds me of change you can believe in. ;^)

    2. hunkerdown

      Link missing: Fifty or Sixty Years of Processor Development… For This?
      As much as I hope daily for the death of the x86 instruction set architecture and Windows, I agree with the article that the end of faster general-purpose CPUs is not a problem for AI development at all. Just as we have GPUs on video cards these days, executing the sorts of algorithms they are designed to execute much faster than a general-purpose CPU could, there are now coming neural-network coprocessors in systems-on-chip and add-in cards whose architectures are tuned to the specific algorithms they are designed to perform. As much as ever, hardware vendors will still build coprocessors and machines incorporating them; software vendors will still design OSes, driver models, and applications to run on them; and clever hobbyists will find ways of pushing the new hardware and software beyond its stated purpose.

  26. Daryl

    > Really? Beto and Ann Richards in the same league? Can Texas readers comment?

    It is worth noting that Democrats controlled (and heavily gerrymandered) Texas state government into the early aughts, when they famously fled to Oklahoma in an attempt to avoid the Republicans re-gerrymandering, I mean redistricting. Even well-liked as she was, Ann Richards lost to George W. Bush as an incumbent. This was not a “solid R” state until fairly recently.

    As to comparing the two, I have no real comment as I don’t know all that much about either.

    I was amused by a recent headline that was something to the effect of “Ted Cruz Relies on Brand Against Challenger Beto O’Rourke.” Ted Cruz is a chucklehead who is relying on the R next to his name to win the election. He will probably win it handily on that alone absent some kind of Roy Moore level scandal coming out about him.

    Checking the ballot it looks like the Democrats are actually challenging most house districts in Texas, which has not been the case over the last few elections.

    1. Daryl

      Also making this post rattled some memory loose. There was definitely plenty of enthusiasm for Wendy Davis as a gubernatorial candidate, but she lost by 20 percent. Houston, Austin and Dallas will all happily turn up large crowds for these sorts of candidates, but it won’t translate to electoral wins.

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        The Democrats ran Wendy Davis because they thought name recognition would be enough for her to win. It wasn’t all that dissimilar to the way the Clinton campaign ran—it was all about personality and very little about policy. So, she isn’t really anything to compare Beto O’Rourke to.

        Beto’s basic theme is that during his term in the house he was shocked at the fawning over Big Money Donors and decided that wasn’t how he wanted to operate. So, he stopped accepting Big Money. Is he a hardcore Sanders progressive? I doubt it, but when you consider what he’d be replacing…

        Frankly, I’m hoping Cruz does campaign on the assumption that R after his name is enough while spouting the standard Libertarian, er, GOP talking points people are slowly being awakened to see for what they are. Including a good many real Republicans, and the irony of that is something I really enjoy watching. The Dems have been screwing over their base trying to win “moderate Republicans,” and the people who are actually doing it are working with a progressive agenda.

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          I am as prochoice as they come(ran an underground railroad to planned parenthood in high school), but running wendy on essentially that issue alone was a step in it moment for texdems.
          it would be just as smart to run for texasgovernor on gun confiscation.
          a sanders style new new deal would make large inroads into teabillyland, I’ve found…in my informal ad hoc eavesdropping/polling…but dems can’t go there, because the pritzsker set might get jumpy.
          i predict that Mark White’s kid is who we’ll end up running

    2. foghorn longhorn

      Jumping in the way back machine, clinton elected in 92, ending the elder bush the stupid reign after just one term. The last one termer since carter.
      Had a democratic house and senate, backward ass, redneck, mysoginistic, deplorable, Texas actually had a female, democratic governor.
      After just two years in office, goodbye house and senate, goodbye solid south democrat states. The house had been demo for 30 effin years.
      So yeah the clinton rot goes way back.

      1. foghorn longhorn

        Regarding beto v cruz
        Beto is definitely pushing a big old rock uphill. It amazes me that cruz could even be elected dog catcher in the most rural county, but there he is, a US senator.
        Beto does seem to be winning the funding race, but as mentioned above, cruz does carry the R behind his name.
        If I had to bet on it, would place the money on cruz.

  27. Tim

    Regarding the US-China Trade war:

    US position of strength is that we import way more from China than they do from us, a theoretical 100% embargo would hurt them more than us, so China wants to maintain as much cushion from that end game as possible.

    China’s position of strength is knowing precisely how to hit Trump’s political base along with the rest of the Republican party.

    As much better as Trump is than Obama when it comes to negotiating, it appears China has already outmaneuvered him from what should have been a position of weakness.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Another strength: voicing support for defeating American capitalists boosts one’s Social Credit score, and doing the opposite is just not nice.

    1. Wukchumni

      My mom took me to see it in a movie theater in NYC in the summer of ’69.

      Heady stuff for a 7 year old to take in, a sneak peak @ the future of machines being our overlords.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        we watched it on network TV(broadcast) some years later, when I was 7 or so….and it had a gigantic impact on my development: the theme song stuck in my head…so mom got the album. me:”what’s this zarathustra?”=> off to library to procure my first philosophy book.=> 40 years later, ecce homo: a feral philosopher in the texas hill country.
        I have been unable to monetise this in any fashion.

        1. Wukchumni

          I remember afterwards asking my mom all sorts of questions about the plot, as it was a big step forward from Lost In Space, my usual sci-fi fare say a few years earlier.

  28. ChrisPacific

    The same pyramid dynamic was evident in the original scaremongering story about Cambridge Analytica (the one NC debunked in the 2017 post that Yves likes to link to).

    When I actually clicked through to the sources, they turned out to be news stories that referenced sources that were other news stories and so on. When I eventually got to the study that was behind all of them, it was nothing like what had been presented in the original story. Most of the conclusions that had been drawn from it were not supported or even claimed by the original author.

    1. ChrisPacific

      Here is how I described it back then:

      The article also illustrates the danger of building air castles using daisy-chain citations. Links to sites like the Guardian along with quotes should be filed under the ‘Stuff Somebody Said To A Reporter’ category, and not confused with actual evidence. Frequently those articles reference other articles which reference others and so on, and when you reach the end of the chain you find the original source is either non-existent, has nothing to do with the topic at hand, or doesn’t support the conclusion.

    2. Elizabeth Burton

      There was something a couple years back that was generating the usual outrage, and when I did as you did and delved back to the original it was clear any resemblance between what actually happened and what the media said happened was purely coincidental. It was my moment of epiphany, of sorts, that we were being systematically lied to.

      1. c_heale

        A long time ago, a friend of mine was studying at Oxford University. One of the UK’s national newspapers decided to do an article about the students of today and chose my friend’s college. Several of the students quoted/interviewed were friends of my friend. The newspaper, although it had no real need to do so, made up several facts, which both reinforced stereotypes and were not even partially true. Since in this case, there was no pressure on the journalists from the government or monetary interests, it seems that since lying is ingrained in the “fourth estate” and everything they write should be take with a pinch of salt.

  29. bob

    National Dems subverting democracy-


    “”From people engaged for the very first time this year, to party and elected officials we stand united behind our designated nominee Dana Balter and against the DC meddling that has hampered far too many races thus far,” the statement reads.”

    “Perez Williams has made no public statements since news broke late Tuesday that she is circulating petitions to run for Congress. She has not officially announced she is running. She has not responded to calls Tuesday or Wednesday.”

  30. The Rev Kev

    “FMCSA moves to exempt mirrorless truck from federal regulations”

    Trucks without mirrors is not that big a deal – unless you don’t have any fail-safe system in place such as mirrors that can be either folded out in place or be sprung out by some mechanical mechanism. It cannot be digitally done as the same thing that caused the digital mirrors to fail may also cause any digital deployment systems to also fail. Ask NASA – they can tell you all about the need for redundant systems backups.
    An example from aviation. Supposed you are on an airliner when the engines go out – the same ones that provide all the power for all the aircraft systems. The reason that you do not quickly die is because a Ram Air Turbine is deployed that provides essential power to flight controls, linked hydraulics and also flight-critical instrumentation. What it actually is is a little fan that is stuck out the plane and becomes a wind turbine. These Silicon Valley types are inclined to be unfamiliar with such concepts as backup systems that aren’t digital.

  31. Alex morfesis

    Let them eat waves…brilliant governor dredd Scott signs genius legislation proclaiming beach front property in Florida is now privatized… Hope the guv and legislative klowns dont imagine they will be having the beaches replenished for their rich friends by tax dollars anymore without a lawsuit for conversion… Sov immunity does not cover conversion…

    The fine print sez the public can lay in the wet sand when the tide goes out…guessing the klowns that bee think that will allow them to let taxpayers keep shoveling cash to shovel sand…to replenish the constantly degrading beaches…

    Good luck with that…

  32. giantsquid

    Re that ‘newfound’ organ that the media were hyping last week: maybe not.

    “”The interstitial tissue is a part of every organ, just as blood vessels and lymphatic vessels are part of every organ,” said Melody Swartz, a professor at the Institute for Molecular Engineering and the Ben May Department for Cancer Research at the University of Chicago. “They have long been recognized to be fluid-filled and that fluid can move within the interstitial space.””

    “Helge Wiig, a professor of physiology at the University of Bergen in Norway, who has studied and published continuously on the interstitium for decades, said in an email that “much of what is presented in the actual paper as novel is old textbook knowledge and should not create a buzz.””

    To be fair, the authors had noted in their paper that the interstitial networks of fluid-filled space that they identified in a wide variety of organs had apparently been documented in the liver as early as 1906 (the space of Mall). They didn’t refer to these networks as a ‘new organ’, either. That was media hype.


    1. witters

      It is a lumpers and splitters thing. The lumpers see the interstitium as just a part of the same old same old, the splitters see something new.

  33. John k

    Somebody above said it too… this site is an invaluable source of what is happening in the world today. And, sadly, how the light from the city on the hill is dimning.
    Kudos and my appreciation to all of you spending your time to keep us informed.

  34. VietnamVet

    The world is falling apart. A deluge of rivers are flowing down the pyramid. No one cares what the little people think but the American Empire has a covert elite coup underway. The richest oligarch just lost over $30 billion thanks to another elected one who after shaking off his retainers is barking at China. The credentialed 10% are bullying through the crowd trying to find a way out.

    There are still enough people who lived through the First Cold War to point out how dangerous it is to make unsubstantiated accusations against nuclear armed Russia that could lead to a shooting war. I fear that we are witnessing a withered Great Britain play the role of Serbia in a slow-motion sequel to Guns of August, 1914.

    Life has become a waking thanks for one more day.

  35. meeps

    Recent contemplations on metaphor, poetry, and the river bring to mind a lyric that seems to fit the present moment well.

    The Humbling River

    Nature, nurture, heaven and home
    Sum of all, and by them, driven
    To conquer every mountain shown
    But I’ve never crossed the river
    Braved the forests, braved the stone
    Braved the icy winds and fire
    Braved and beat them on my own
    Yet I’m helpless by the river
    Angel, angel, what have I done?
    I’ve faced the quakes, the wind, the fire
    I’ve conquered country, crown, and throne
    Why can’t I cross this river?
    Pay no mind to the battles you’ve won
    It’ll take a lot more than rage and muscle
    Open your heart and hands, my son
    Or you’ll never make it over the river
    It’ll take a lot more than words and guns
    A whole lot more than riches and muscle
    The hands of the many must join as one
    And together we’ll cross the river


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