2:00PM Water Cooler 5/10/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.



“Here’s why I don’t worry about healthcare getting lost in Democrats’ campaign” [Josh Barro, Business Insider]. “‘Trump scandal’ is probably a better issue for Democrats than they realize. No, incremental developments in scandals don’t seem to be hurting the president’s numbers at the margin. But the president’s baseline position, having such low poll numbers even though the public is pretty satisfied with the economy, is a testament to the electoral penalty he and his party pay for all of his … stuff. So, it’s good and important to have all that stuff stay in the conversation — and healthcare can be added, through ads, as necessary.” Hell yeah, why should the Democrat Party ever take a stand on an issue? [guffaw]

“Playbook: Oh, to be a House Republican” [Politico]. “There was nothing definitive to take away from last night, vis a vis the internal party dynamics. Some establishment folks won, others who aligned themselves with the Freedom Caucus triumphed…. The biggest winner of the evening wasn’t on the ballot. Mitch McConnell and establishment Republicans beat back insurgent Don Blankenship, who had made the West Virginia primary a referendum on the Kentucky Republican in sharp — and often racist — tones.”

“Cooperating With Trump on Immigration Takes Political Toll on Sheriffs” [Governing]. “The question of local cooperation with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement was central to the outcome of three races for sheriff in North Carolina on Tuesday. Many voters objected to the program known as 287(g), under which local law enforcement agencies contract with the feds on immigration enforcement…. Issues surrounding race and immigration clearly helped motivate local activist groups to get involved — something that is often not the case when it comes to elections for sheriff. Given the extremely low turnout often involved in these races, local groups that can motivate even a small percentage of voters to cast a ballot can have an outsized impact.”

“Why spending on this year’s midterm elections should shatter records” [MarketWatch]. “One slice of data suggests the 2018 spending increase could be particularly dramatic. [Sarah Bryner, research director at the Center for Responsive Politics] took a look at what candidates have spent for the 2018 cycle to date, compared to the past couple of election cycles. The difference is major: through early May, House and Senate candidates have spent north of $745 million. Through May 28, 2014, by comparison, they’d shelled out close to $578 million. In other words, spending to date by candidates is up 29% over the last time midterms were held. That’s just one kind of spending that goes into elections; it doesn’t include what super PACs or parties shell out.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Ohio Voters Approve New Process for Drawing Congressional Districts” [Governing]. “The passage of Issue 1 does not guarantee that all gerrymandering will end. If the legislature, and/or a seven-member commission consisting of three statewide officeholders and four lawmakers, cannot reach a bipartisan agreement on a map, then the majority party can draw a map on its own. However, that map would last only four years, instead of the normal 10, and it would be subject to tighter restrictions. Supporters of Issue 1 say a key to the proposal is that it puts in place new restrictions on how maps can be drawn, such as limiting how many counties can be split, and how often.”

Stats Watch

Consumer Price Index, April 2018: “There may be new attention to inflationary overshooting but there’s no indication of any building risk in the April consumer price report” [Econoday]. “It was the giant 3 tenth jump in the March core PCE year-on-year rate to 1.9 percent that triggered new emphasis from the Federal Reserve against the risk of rising inflation. But today’s results don’t point to any new threat, instead they reawaken concern, despite gasoline and housing, that inflation isn’t up to speed.” And: “Using these measures, inflation increased year-over-year in April. Overall, these measures are close to the Fed’s 2% target” [Calculated Risk]. And: “Even though the prices for oil decreased this month, they were the main driver for iyear-over-year inflation. Core inflation is now above 2.0 % year-over-year” [Econintersect]. “As a generalization – inflation accelerates as the economy heats up, while inflation rate falling could be an indicator that the economy is cooling. However, inflation does not correlate well to the economy – and cannot be used as a economic indicator.” But: “Over the past year, the CPI was boosted largely by rising prices for essentials” [MarketWatch]. “Here’s the list of the items that pushed the CPI higher”:

• Shelter: prices up 3.4%, contributing 1.12 percentage points, almost half of the total 2.5% rise in the CPI.
• Gasoline: prices up 13.4%, contributing 0.5 percentage point.
• Car insurance: prices up 9%, contributing 0.22 percentage point.
• Food away from home: prices up 2.5%, contributing 0.15 percentage point.
• Hospital services: prices up 4.5%, contributing 0.1 percentage point.
• Tuition and child care: prices up 1.9%, contributing 0.06 percentage point.
• Food at home: prices up 0.5%, contributing 0.04 percentage point.
• Prescription drugs: prices up 2.7%, contributing 0.04 percentage point.
• Water and sewer: prices up 3.1%, contributing 0.04 percentage point.
• Electricity: prices up 1.2%, contributing 0.03 percentage point.

Those 10 items (out of some 300) contributed 2.3 percentage points of the 2.5% increase. In other words, those 10 necessities were responsible for almost all the increase in the CPI. If you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, which of those items can you forgo or cut back on? Not many.

Jobless Claims, week of May 5, 2018: “Initial jobless claims beat expectations” [Econoday]. “Readings throughout this report are at or near historic lows which means that employers are holding very tightly to their employees in further evidence that the labor market is at, or very near, full employment.”

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of May 6, 2018: “The consumer comfort index continues to slide back from expansion highs” [Econoday]. “Still, the latest reading is nevertheless very strong, reflecting the strength of the jobs market and this year’s tax cut.”

Shipping: “[P]rices for making and moving goods have been growing faster than consumer price increases, with some pipeline costs rising at two or three times the rate of consumer inflation. Food-service distributor Sysco Corp. says high demand for trucks has pressured every part of the supply chain, straining profits in the thin-margin perishables trade. Costs for some refrigerated trucks have hit 40-year highs” [Wall Street Journal].

Shipping: “Why LNG represents a bridge of pragmatism on shipping’s road to decarbonisation” [Splash 247]. “There are no viable alternatives to LNG in the forseeable future if the maritime industry is to continue to contribute significantly to air quality while moving forward in a positive way on CO2. SOx, NOx and PM reductions need to happen now – we must continue our decades-long drive to improve air quality. We need to finish this initiative while also taking a major step forward in terms of GHG reductions. In this context, LNG is unrivalled. It is available now, commercially viable, and scalable to meet the industry’s needs…. The current reality is that major ports around the world are embracing LNG with actual investments or funded plans and studies to close the so called ‘last mile’ of bunkering.”

Shipping: “Kion reiterates growth forecast for 2018” [DC Velocity]. “German material handling giant Kion Group AG today reiterated its positive forecast for earnings growth in 2018 and said it plans to step up its use of digital technologies at customers’ warehouses and in its corporate procedures.”

Shipping: “Freight Forwarding: Keeping shippers top of mind” [Logistics Management]. Well worth a read on digitalization in the freight forwarding industry, but goodness, what a lot of jargon (“Freight digitalization winners will be the providers who fully implement a customer-facing strategy through a comprehensive strategic transformation”). I can think of any number of ongoing IT debacles that should serve as cautionary tales, but the possibility of failure doesn’t seem to be part of the pitch.

Supply Chain: “Shortages in some medical supply chains may be approaching epidemic proportions. The EpiPen emergency allergy device is the latest healthcare product to end up in short supply…, after production problems at a Pfizer Inc. plant in Missouri reduced distribution” [Wall Street Journal]. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expects the shortage to sort out fairly soon, but for the medical world it marks the latest hurdle in getting needed quantities of pharmaceuticals and equipment in place. Shortages of drugs have plagued the U.S. health-care system for years, caused by a winnowing of suppliers for certain products and failures by companies to build enough production capacity or meet manufacturing-quality standards. The problem has grown since factories in Puerto Rico were damaged in a hurricane last year, leading to shortages of basic medical supplies like saline bags.” So where’s the capital go? Stock buybacks?

Tech: “Apple will reportedly launch a credit card with Goldman Sachs” [The Verge]. “The new credit card — which marks the end of Apple’s credit card partnership with Barclays — would use the Apple Pay branding, and it’s expected to be released early next year. Goldman Sachs will also offer in-store loans to Apple customers, according to the report.”

The Bezzle: “Who’s Winning the Self-Driving Car Race?” [Industry Week]. “[T]he perceived stakes are so enormous, with the promise of transport businesses needing little in labor costs, that many players are racing to master the technology and put it to work. Without drivers, operating margins could be … more than twice what carmakers generate right now.” Without protein, operating margins on dogfood could be twice what dogfoodmakers generate right now. But will the dogs eat the dogfood?

The Bezzle: “Tesla: Unsafe at Every Speed?” [Industry Week]. “[T]he National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) recently tagged Tesla as one of the “Dirty Dozen” companies who are the worst at putting their workers and communities at risk with unsafe practices. So a company whose reputation was built on having cool cars that were the safest thing on the road is now having to defend itself against killer robot cars built in dangerous factories.” Of course, to a certain mentality, that is cool.

Mr. Market: “Volatility Strikes Back” [IMF Blog]. “The bouts of volatility in early February and late March that spooked investors were confined to equity markets. Nevertheless, they illustrate the potential for sudden market moves to expose fragilities in the financial system more broadly. With central banks in advanced economies set to normalize their monetary policies just as trade and geopolitical tensions flare up, economic and policy uncertainty may rise and financial conditions may tighten abruptly. All this could lead to a period of renewed volatility.”

Mr. Market: “Wall Street’s ‘fear index’ drops to levels not seen since before stocks fell in to correction” [MarketWatch]. “Based on one popular metric for volatility in the equity market, investor anxieties seem to have dropped precipitously of late, helped by a continuing recovery in stock prices…. Historically, the VIX’s average value is between 19 and 20, meaning that the current level [13] is extremely low by historical standards.”

Honey for the Bears: “Economic policies for tectonic change” [Financial Times]. “[T]here are deep transformations under way in the economy that are far from finished. That is so even if restructuring of manufacturing may have largely played itself out — and our current political turmoil reflects how poorly we designed policy to deal with that first phase. We must do better this time round, and forestall the economic dangers posed by the structural transformation still under way. What are these dangers? First, an increased concentration of wealth. Second, a shift in the balance of power between different individuals and groups in the economy. And third, more and greater risks that are likely to hit those least equipped to bear them if policy does not provide a remedy.”

The Fed: “Forecasts of the Lost Recovery” [Liberty Street Economics]. “The years following the Great Recession were challenging for forecasters for a variety of reasons, including an unprecedented policy environment. This post, based on our recently released working paper, documents the real-time forecasting performance of the New York Fed dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) model in the wake of the Great Recession. We show that the model’s predictive accuracy was on par with that of private forecasters and proved to be quite a bit better, at least in terms of GDP growth, than that of the median forecasts from the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) Summary of Economic Projections (SEP)…. The fact that New York Fed DSGE forecasts were more accurate than those of the SEP, at least for output growth, during the recovery is interesting in light of the pushback that DSGE models suffered after the Great Recession. DSGE models were criticized for their inadequacy during the financial crisis (there was even a congressional hearing about it!). While that criticism was in many ways warranted in that most (if not all) DSGEs developed before the crisis were useless in terms of understanding many aspects of the crisis, this exercise shows that some later models, including the New York Fed DSGE model, got one thing right: the transmission of the financial shock to the macroeconomy.”

Five Horsemen: “Apple has gone off with a bang since news of Buffett’s buying emerged several days ago, pulling its Silicon Valley sisters Alphabet and Facebook up with it” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen May 10 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “The mania-panic index strengthened to 62 (complacency) as the S&P 500 index continues rising versus its own moving average and outperforming Treasuries by a larger margin” [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 May 9 2018


“As Predators Rebound, You’re More Likely to See Alligators at the Beach” [National Geographic]. “The encounter got [Brian Silliman of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment] thinking about other large animals cropping up in unlikely habitats. By combing through data from scientific studies and government reports, he found that large predators were being spotted in other ecosystems where they weren’t seen previously…. The reason for these unusual sightings, he found, is not because these predators are expanding their ranges in search of food, which was the previous consensus. Instead, the animals are recolonizing ecosystems they once inhabited before humans came along and stripped them of resources. In addition to alligators, Silliman and his team found that sea otters, river otters, gray whales, gray wolves, mountain lions, orangutans, and bald eagles, among other predators, were being spotted more often in habitats outside of their traditional ones. Archaeological evidence says alligators and sea otters are returning to places that are now populated by humans, but were once the predators’ typical habitat. Larger predators top the food chain and can adapt more easily to environmental changes. They’re often the smartest animals, Silliman adds, and their larger bodies can handle bigger swings in temperature. With these resilient characteristics, it makes sense that the animals can handle habitats other than the ones they’re commonly found in today.”

“Can Rivers Be People Too?” [The New Republic]. “In 1972, Christopher Stone, a law professor at the University of Southern California, wrote a law review article that’s become seminal to the subject, “Should Trees Have Standing?” The extension of rights always sounds crazy, Stone argues. “Throughout legal history, such successive extension of rights to some new entity has been, theretofore, a bit unthinkable.” But the rights have been extended nonetheless. Stone walks so methodically through these historical unfoldings that it starts to seem downright inevitable for red hawks and giant Sequoia to be showing up on courthouse steps.”

“7 Tips for a Successful Monarch Butterfly Pollinator Garden” [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service]. This is much more about making a garden friendly to all beneficial insects. In the end, they only got six monarch caterpillars late in the season, but I don’t think that’s a useful metric: More important is “the augmentation of the complexity and intensity of the field of intelligent life” (which doesn’t only include humans, obviously).

“Dutch rewilding experiment sparks backlash as thousands of animals starve” [Guardian]. “According to Olff, the biodiversity of Oostvaardersplassen is still burgeoning. Bird declines are not because of “overgrazing” by the large herbivores but due to a loss of reedbed because it’s grazed by geese. And while bird species such as reed warbler have disappeared from the heavily grazed areas, they are still present in the marshes, and new species – lapwing, avocet, shellduck – have arrived because the grass is tightly grazed. The trees that have died are species that can’t adapt to grazing but those that can, such as blackthorn, are very slowly replacing them.”

Big Brother IS Watching You

“Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t.” [New York Times]. “Over the past two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio. A group of students from University of California, Berkeley and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website. This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list.” Holy [family blog].

Book Nook


This looks like summer reading material for me.

Class Warfare

Since it was the Old Mole’s birthday recently:

“Marx’s ecology: recovered legacy” [Monthly Review]. “In volume 3 of Capital, [Marx] opposes to the capitalist logic in agriculture, based on brutal exploitation and exhaustion of the soil, a different logic, a socialist one grounded on ‘the conscious and rational treatment of the land as permanent communal property’—a treatment that considers the soil not as the source for short-sighted profit, but as “the inalienable condition for the existence and reproduction of the chain of human generations.”

“It’s time to normalize Karl Marx” [Ryan Cooper, The Week]. “Today, as against the neoclassicals who view the capitalist economy as a perfect self-regulating machine, Marx reminds us that capitalism has an inherent tendency towards crisis — and the purer the capitalist institutions, the worse these crises are. His historical grounding is refreshing in an economics profession that is far too often obsessed with arid mathematical theories bearing little or no relationship to reality…. To be sure, the brutal tyrannies of Stalinist Russia and Maoist China did have some recognizable Marx-derived characteristics. For anyone studying Marx, it’s important to identify and isolate those things to understand where they came from, and why those countries turned out so badly — just as it would be for anyone studying the works of classical liberal economists like John Stuart Mill to investigate their connection with trade-fueled disasters like the Irish Famine or the Congo Free State.” Or the Indian famine.

“Marxism without revolution: repost” [Crooked Timber]. From one of the three links, Class (2011): “An effective political movement would mobilise the direct interests of the 80 per cent or so of the population who are losing ground in relative terms (and in the US in absolute terms) combined with the broader interest of those in the top 20 per cent of the population in a juster and more stable social order – unlike the top 1 per cent, this group can’t easily insulate themselves from society as a whole or count on passing on their own social position to their children. There is no obvious political vehicle for such a movement.” I recently turned eagerly to the final chapter — “Classes” — of Capital, Volume III. It’s a single page, famously ending “[Here the manuscript breaks off.]” The ending paragraphs:

The first question to he answered is this: What constitutes a class? – and the reply to this follows naturally from the reply to another question, namely: What makes wage-labourers, capitalists and landlords constitute the three great social classes?

At first glance – the identity of revenues and sources of revenue. There are three great social groups whose members, the individuals forming them, live on wages, profit and ground-rent respectively, on the realisation of their labour-power, their capital, and their landed property.

However, from this standpoint, physicians and officials, e.g., would also constitute two classes, for they belong to two distinct social groups, the members of each of these groups receiving their revenue from one and the same source. The same would also be true of the infinite fragmentation of interest and rank into which the division of social labour splits labourers as well as capitalists and landlords-the latter, e.g., into owners of vineyards, farm owners, owners of forests, mine owners and owners of fisheries.

So, follow the money. That makes sense. But how much forrader are we, really?

News of The Wired

“History of reading: The beginning of silent reading changed humans’ interior life” [Quartz]. “People think of reading as the introvert’s hobby: A quiet activity for a person who likes quiet, save for the voices in their head. But in the 5,000 or so years humans have been writing, reading as we conceive it, an asocial solo activity with a book, is a relatively new form of leisure.”

“Varieties Of Argumentative Experience” [Slate Star Codex]. With handy chart. “Most people are either meta-debating – debating whether some parties in the debate are violating norms – or they’re just shaming, trying to push one side of the debate outside the bounds of respectability. If you can get past that level, you end up discussing facts… and/or philosophizing about how the argument has to fit together before one side is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’…. Either of these can be anywhere from throwing out a one-line claim and adding “Checkmate, atheists” at the end of it, to cooperating with the other person to try to figure out exactly what considerations are relevant and which sources best resolve them. If you can get past that level, you run into really high-level disagreements about overall moral systems, or which goods are more valuable than others, or what ‘freedom’ means, or stuff like that. These are basically unresolvable with anything less than a lifetime of philosophical work, but they usually allow mutual understanding and respect.”

“Apple, Influence, and Ive” [Hodinkee Magazine]. A splendid example of corporate hagigraphy. Fortunately, the Twitter has read it so you don’t have to:

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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 (TH):

TH writes: “It’s hard to be sure without the flowers, but I think, although they are taller than I’m used to seeing, that these are Nasturtium leaves along a horse trail in Palos Verdes, California.”

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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

    Ed Yardeni’s fundamental economic indicator strengthened this week to exceed its March 1st level by a fraction. Chart:


    Boosting the indicator was another drop in the four-week average of initial unemployment claims. These totaled 216,000 this week, one of the lowest levels ever.

    Both other components fell. Bloomberg Consumer Comfort continued sliding as rising gasoline prices start to bite, while industrial raw materials prices also eased.

    In short, it’s a mixed picture, with employment (often a lagging indicator) remaining strong as consumer comfort erodes from its recent peak.

  2. Wukchumni

    “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.”


    1. Ed Miller

      Wukchumni fooled me this time.

      Silly me. I wasn’t thinking Groucho Marx! From the Wikipedia page on Ernest Benn


      “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.”[5]

      This quote is often misattributed to Groucho Marx, with slightly different wording (“Politics is the art of looking for trouble; finding it everywhere, diagnosing it wrongly, and applying unsuitable remedies”).[6]

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      Really interesting skim; saved for more in-depth perusal.

      But I wonder if for the purposes of advocacy it is actually desirable to function at a lower level–can anybody weigh in?

      It lately has been bothering me that a lot of single-payer articles, studies, etc.–and the informational flyers including those my own group generates based on them–overstate the case. As if it’s a fact 95% of people will pay less in increased payroll taxes than what their current premiums, copays, deductible, etc. costs. This is a projection based on a Friedman (who may be nonpartisan technically, being a member of the DSA, but surely is not exactly impartial) study from 2013, fer chrissakes.

      We just put on a fabulous event with Ed Weisbart, MD, chair of the MO PNHP, at which he presented a new talk aimed beyond the choir, appealing to the efficiency argument.

      Amazingly, we succeeded in getting a wider range of people and then did break-out sessions where each of 7 tables was to arrive at consensus at either the most compelling pro or con for Medicare For All.

      I cautioned the rest of the group not to use the word “greedy” during the event, but unfortunately we didn’t have the foresight to publicly announce this was to be a safe space for people of all political persuasions, and indeed some conservatives were rightly offended by the sotto voce “they’d rather let people die” stuff. Generally though there was some decent exchange of ideas so I consider it a success.

      Then there is a slide we put in our “road show” that I read a debunking analysis of, so I requested we not use it. (It came from PNHP. You have probably all seen it, the increase since before 1973 in docs vs admins.) On closer examination, footnotes reveal they use averages cuz they don’t actually have numbers that far back AND they didn’t separate out docs in dual roles or explain what category they put them in.

      Only because we have a PhD in research medicine in our group did others agree not to use it after he looked into it and explained the flaws in methodology.

      Then someone came up with something more recent, citing 10 admins for every doc. Turns out, they were not counting RNs, PAs, NPs, CNAs, various techs, etc. so the actual ratio of service providers to admins was 10 to 7.

      My thought is if we misrepresent stuff it comes back to bite us and in the long run better to be honest about what we do and don’t know. I don’t want to fight propaganda with propaganda! But it is exhausting cuz basically most people don’t want to do the research, they just claim “facts” are on our side, and continue preaching to the choir.

      Is that in fact the best strategy to get M4A? Is enthusiasm better than sound argument? I have never done grassroots advocacy before and would appreciate all y’all’s thoughts on the matter!

      1. Darius

        I’ve spent my whole life in a half-blind search for insight. I’m not a nimble enough thinker or a committed enough ideologue to make reality fit into a preconceived framework. I come here here to be educated, not indoctrinated. I’d say to not repeat what you know to be false. If you have to rework the message, so be it.

        Lying works for our opponents because they don’t care about the truth. But that’s a big reason I will always oppose them. Don’t overthink this. Tell the truth.

      2. Mo's Bike Shop

        There are loads of countries with loads of boring statistics about how their single payer systems are performing. Might be worth a look.

        Re: worrying about gotchas, for the American Cargo Cult, any indication that you’ve actually studied the problem just means you have an axe to grind.

        1. ChiGal in Carolina

          Yeah, we regularly read the articles on the comparative studies that come out but I don’t think we really dig into the stats beneath them.

          Sorry, didn’t catch your meaning in the second paragraph?

      3. Grebo

        I agree you should have your facts straight. The reality is bad enough, no need to exaggerate. As I once said to a landlady I was suing: I only have to catch you in one lie to destroy your credibility with the judge. (She settled.)

        But many people do not respond to fact-based arguments, so I would stick to a few of the most emotionally impactful rather than trying to bury people with them.

        1. ChiGal in Carolina

          Totally the reality is bad enough–it is a travesty. The issue for me is whether we paper over the complexity of how we get there from here. After all, who the heck knows for sure what comes out once the sausage is made?

          I am feeling we are selling an oversimplification: just get rid of insurance companies and everything will be dandy. What about the increasing hospital and other provider monopolies? It is outrageous that we deny necessary care based on $ not need, but what of the culture of using unnecessary care just cuz Medicare will pay for it? (Barbara Ehrenreich has a pretty scathing new book out on that.) As far as I can tell there will HAVE to be cost controls: docs WILL make less (though as in Yves’ recent post may be happier), and no one ever wants to mention that.

          Are you saying these concerns are too granular for activism? Keep it simple and appeal to the emotions without outright falsehoods?

          1. Grebo

            If people are coming to your event they are already prepared to be convinced. They just need their questions answered and their concerns soothed.

            Your basic story is simple:
            1) Healthcare is broken. Emphasize ‘broken’, conservatives love to say ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. Give a few choice facts and anecdotes to remind people.
            2) No other decent country has these problems. Show a chart of their costs v. the US.
            3) The solution is simple, tried and tested. Extend Medicare to all. Maybe explain how Medicare works for those who don’t know.

            Where you need to have lots of facts is in answer to questions. Make a list of FAQs and research the answers.
            Also look into all the other ‘solutions’ being touted and have arguments against them. Show how they are funded by the insurance industry.

            Good luck!

      4. ChiGal in Carolina

        And damn even in my little comment I mixed up the stats: the claim was 10 admins for 1 doc, but it ended up to be 10 admins for 7 service providers.
        Thought it behooved me to correct the error given the circumstances!

  3. Jim Haygood

    Historically, the VIX’s average value is between 19 and 20, meaning that the current level is extremely low by historical standards.

    VIX tends to go through multi-year periods of high and low levels. As this chart shows, VIX was under 15 much of the time for several years in the mid-1990s, several years in the mid-2000s, and again for much of the time (excluding the Aug 2015 and Feb 2016 flare-ups) since 2012.


    Interestingly, historical volatility — calculated from the S&P 500 index’s actual daily changes, as opposed to the implied volatility derived from options prices and used in the VIX — runs around 15 to 16.

    The consistent volatility premium embedded in the VIX is sold by inverse VIX funds to earn a steady, lucrative profit. That is, until volatility erupts in one of its periodic explosions, illustrating that there’s no free lunch on Wall Street.

    Inverse VIX fund XIV was liquidated on Feb 21st after losing most of its value in Volmaggeddon. Another inverse VIX fund, SVXY, soldiers on. But it features one of the most horrific “Niagara Falls barrel plunge” charts that you’ll ever see [viewer discretion advised]:


    Where are the customers’ yachts?

    1. ambrit

      “Where are the customers yachts?”
      Obviously, they went over the ‘edge of the world,’ and now swan about in the nether regions below Great A’Tuin.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Oops! Sorry. I didn’t mean to post this twice.

      Lambert, could you aim the Duplicate Post Terminator this-a-way?

  4. Tim

    “So where’s the capital go? Stock buybacks?”

    No Kidding! The EpiPen of all things, the most overpriced screw your allergenic kid who might die, 100%s of percents price increases, and they can’t afford capital or quantity to overcome the high rejection rate?

    Shareholders first, executives second, everybody and everything else – “get to the back of the line”

  5. Wukchumni

    “Poverty makes people sub-human. Excess of wealth makes people inhuman.”


  6. nippersdad

    Ray McGovern arrested at Gina Haspel’s Senate nomination hearings: https://consortiumnews.com/2018/05/10/haspel-says-cia-wont-torture-again-as-ray-mcgovern-is-dragged-out-of-hearing/

    Every time one hears a pol say that someone is “the most qualified/prepared nominee in history”….., “has acted morally, ethically and legally….”, it is time to just run away as fast as you can. Or, in McGovern’s case, get thrown to the floor and arrested.

    Them’s your choices in our Brave New World. Yay.

    1. pretzelattack

      4 cops wrestle a 78 year old guy with an injured shoulder to the ground, for asking questions the senators don’t ask, while the torturer gets promoted.

      1. nippersdad

        I honestly believe that we could pick better representatives at random in a mall. These people are just utterly repulsive.

        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          Democracy by lottery is an appealing idea. But on the other hand, forcing someone to be a politician seems like an ethical crime. I’d flee before doing anything above dog catcher. (And I’d be trying to talk the dogs down all the time.)

          On the other hand, it would shake me out of my jadedness to see a poor person elected President.

          1. Amfortas the Hippie

            my favorite treatment of Randomocracy is Arthur C Clarke’s “Songs of Distant Earth”.
            Looking back over politics in my lifetime(I’ll soon be 49), could it be much worse?
            Only disqualifyer for president is if you actually WANT the job,lol.

      2. sierra7

        And, in the background a loud voice: “Stop Resisting”! repeated over and over….what a disgrace we are as a nation!!

        1. The Rev Kev

          Oh, I thought they they were shouting “Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!”

        1. Jim Haygood

          Young Tom honed his abrasive edge at both Hahhhvid College and then Hahhhvid Law.

          He’s come a long way from Dardanelle, Yell County, Arkansas. And that’s a shame …

    1. Wukchumni

      There I was minding my own business when an apparition with a virtual shiv, points it at me and says:

      “Give me all your 0’s & 1’s, and no funny business.”

  7. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    “History of reading: The beginning of silent reading changed humans’ interior life” [Quartz]. “People think of reading as the introvert’s hobby: A quiet activity for a person who likes quiet, save for the voices in their head. But in the 5,000 or so years humans have been writing, reading as we conceive it, an asocial solo activity with a book, is a relatively new form of leisure.”

    When, say, Julius Caesar was fighting the Gauls, did he read his written intelligence reports out loud or silently?

    I would assume generals before him, over a few thousand years, preferred silent reading as well.

    If not, I think that would explain those ancient stories where the characters seemed to act too leisurely.

    1. ambrit

      Well then, there is the case of important people who were illiterate. Thus, scribes, who read written communications aloud to them.
      I don’t know how appropriate the example I suggested is but I do remember reading, oh lucky man am I, that until recently, literacy was not a common accomplishment.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        That’s what I mean, that when reading to myself silently about those ancient stories, the people in them seem, a bit, too casual.

        My usual reaction is to cry out loud, “Don’t say it!!!!!!!! Walls have ears.”

        In contrast, when I write ‘Ha ha’ online, I don’t actually laugh. That’s silent writing, as opposed to silent reading. (Laughing silently now).

        1. Darthbobber

          The ancients were better than the military caste of the feudal era, where an amazing number of campaigns hinge on loose lips, failure to bother with sentries, failure to scout, and a few times joining battle in unfavorable conditions because you were at the end of your ability to feed or pay the lesser soldiery.

        2. Mo's Bike Shop

          ‘[F]ew thousand years’, from you, makes me do the Doctor McCoy eyebrow thing. Anyone involved in the rather rigorous job of Kinging who had to make use of cuneiform or its contemporaries would have dictated and listened to readings. How much cuneiform could The Public read is a great puzzler, but my poor understanding is that people (other than scribes) weren’t writing and reading their own crap until phonetic alphabets came to the west.

          I see it like mainframe versus PCs in terms of personal enablement.

          And being alone seems to be a pretty recent affectation of those parts of the 99% who weren’t crazy monks.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            If not, as mentioned initially, that just means people in high places simply talked louder than it was prudent to do so, in some situations.

    2. Andrew Watts

      I imagine that Julius Caesar had somebody like his personal secretary read the letters he received or the reports addressed to him a la George W. Bush. It kinda begs the question if people spoke aloud while they wrote and if remaining silent while writing was an unusual act. I don’t think that reading is asocial or a form of leisure. Especially when the reader is critically examining the work they’re reading. It’s mental labor that is the underlying basis for an unspoken interaction with the mind of an author.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I wonder if people today speak loudly when they write ‘LOL’

        And you read that all the time.

        Would they be lying if they weren’t actually laughing out loud?

  8. fresno dan


    FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — In a recent study by a consumer website, Highway 99 was named the most dangerous roadway in the United States.

    The stretch of highway through Fresno was the deadliest section with 34 fatal accidents.

    Despite being a relatively short highway in comparison to others on the list, Highway 99 had the most fatal accidents per 100 miles of any other roadway in the nation.

    The central valley highway was also named the darkest highway in the U.S. when it came to available lighting and ranked second to worst in drunk driving accidents behind Interstate 45 in Texas.
    We’re number 1!!!! And I’m sure once we catch up with Texas, our lead will be insurmountable….
    I find the short merge lanes an endless source of irritation.

    1. Wukchumni

      I’ve always found Hwy 99 (“The Pearl Harbor Survivors Memorial Highway”, which is an odd memorial-ain’t it?) to be pretty safe, but then again you’d have to figure all those fatalities in Fresno happening on the outskirts of the drunkest city in the land, playing a hand, on the steering wheel, that is.

    2. Jim Haygood

      Easy fix — price Fresno drivers out of the personal mobility market:

      Gasoline prices in Fresno already increased beyond $4 per gallon this week at some places in town.

      And gas prices are projected to rise even more going into the summer in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

      The national average has jumped to $2.81 per gallon. Those in Fresno can probably add a dollar on top of the national price, with high state taxes and stringent standards for reformulating gasoline raising consumers’ costs in the Golden State.


      Sad! But wait, there’s more. Today oil traders were at it again, driving up West Texas Intermediate crude to a fresh 3-1/2 year high of $71.36/bbl.

      Flake-o-nomics, comrades — how’s that sh*t workin’ out for us?

    3. polecat

      Just add tule fog …

      I know of which I speak, having driven from Sacramento down into the San Joaquin portion of the Great Valley (I’m using the proper geographical terms here) many, many times over the years, visiting extended family …. and has often been a ‘whiteknuckle’ experiance … especially when passing, or being passed, by semi-trucks .. as they weave across lanes !

      1. Wukchumni

        One time when I was in my 20’s, I drove from Placerville to Bakersfield with heavy duty tule fog the whole way. I could barely see a couple car lengths ahead, and at one point the driver ahead of me passed a CHP, never saw the car, and the highway patrolman wasn’t about to pull the driver over, that’s how 99 car pile-ups on Hwy 99 happen.

  9. ambrit

    I had a heretical thought when I read the ‘reason’ given in the squib for why employers are ‘holding on’ to employees.
    The quote: “Jobless Claims, week of May 5, 2018: “Initial jobless claims beat expectations” [Econoday]. “Readings throughout this report are at or near historic lows which means that employers are holding very tightly to their employees in further evidence that the labor market is at, or very near, full employment.”
    The heretical thought: Employers are holding on to current employees because they, the class of employers, have reached, or are reaching the lower bounds of workforce to workplace functionality values.
    In clear, if many employers cut any more workers, the businesses begin to suffer terminal effects. As an example, if there aren’t enough retail clerks to straighten up and restock the shelves, customers begin to frequent competing establishments that do maintain sufficient staffing levels and thus have actual merchandise available for purchase.
    So, my take from this is that we are not seeing the upper bound of employment, but the upper bound of greed.
    Eventually, the more perceptive managers will begin to realize that shooting oneself in the foot HURTS!

    1. Darius

      If he can make an appearance with Jay Z, like Obama, or have lunch with Anthony Bourdain, Preet has my support. If he has a photogenic family, all the better. Ofcourse, Wall Street support is in his corner, so check that box. The perfect NYAG. Only Mary Jo White could improve on him.

  10. sd


    I was stuck in traffic behind a white Tesla sedan. What stuck out was the badly designed horizontal seam that runs into the hood.

    The tail lights are placed high on the rear, so the seam is visible between the tail light and the bumper. The seam then dies into the trunk about 4″ above the bottom of the trunk. It leaves a small triangular gap like the parts do not fit together correctly.

    The only other vehicles on the road that do this are mini vans. Most cars out there, the seam is typically hidden along the bottom of the tail light or along the bottom of the trunk. Or both.

    Why point this out? This is a really lame design flaw that should have been caught in the prototype process. In other words, it never should have made it out into public. And while the small design flaw is on the outside, imagine what the inside has going on.

    1. Jim Haygood

      About 118,000 Ford Edsels were produced during 1958-60. A few are still around, though it’s an undistinguished vehicle with dorky styling — a sort of extinct dodo bird of the automotive world.

      Tesla has already produced over 212,000 Model S vehicles. So scarcity isn’t going to prop its value as a collectible after Tesla shuffles off this mortal coil as the canary in the coal mine confirming the death of Bubble III.

      Should you really be studying cars’ butts so closely? ;-)


    2. Arizona Slim

      During my bicycle rides around Tucson, I enjoy perusing the workmanship that goes into the four-wheeled vehicles on the road.

      As has been noted by others, I have noticed quite an improvement in the quality of American cars. I rarely see design flaws like the one that sd just noted. Ditto for assembly boo-boos. Not seeing very many of them.

      OTOH, when I have seen Teslas, I haven’t been blown away by their appearance. To me, they look like they could be Hondas or Toyotas.

  11. Rosario

    Re: “Can Rivers Be People Too?”

    Still not quite getting this one. Do we need to frame it as a “nature rights issue” to create ideal ecosystems for human and non-human life and, if we really want to get out into the weeds, some ideal chemical composition of water and atmosphere? Maybe I’m too much of a Kantian here but I think they are working in the wrong direction going from object to human in order to define a universal morality that is supposed to benefit our well being in the end. Cutting through all the BS, aren’t our needs the whole point for caring about anything, no matter how weird the needs are or how weirdly those needs are realized?

    When has anything other than actual humans had rights? I understand the river cannot speak for itself, which I assume is the point of some wanting to give it “rights”, but why create the intermediary of a river (forest, rocks, etc.) having rights to create better ecosystems. Rights, morality, etc. are always framed relative to the human mind, and I don’t think that is a bad thing, so why not just work to change our idea of rights for humans in such a way that improves the Earth ecosystem? So life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not enough for protecting ecosystems ideal to the human concept of a healthy ecosystem. Let’s add some more.

    I more like the human right to high biodiversity and sustainable ecosystems. That seems to be the whole point of it anyway. Nature doesn’t particularly care one way or another what kind of trash we dump into it. We add CO2 it decreases biodiversity and acidifies the ocean until it balances out. We are the ones framing that it is a problem because it ultimately makes our lives more difficult. Nature just works with what we give it. It is a system, really a beautiful machine, we frame (materially and morally) its viability to support our life and the life of other species.

    We like the world to be a certain way (whether for aesthetic or material reasons) so we want to fight for it to remain that way. We want to fight for the human right to a sustainable world for human life would probably resonate with people more than “the river has rights”, “the forest has rights”… In giving these objects rights one must inevitably ask, what group of trustees is determining those rights? How effective is their governance? Does it end up being a cushy part time job for a retiree that just so happens to love kayaking on that particular river? I’m not being snarky here, I have first hand experience with this kind of thing (regional/aesthetic environmental interest in environmental trustees/boards).

    Relying on trustees and board members to support universal values of sustainability seems a more difficult sell than convincing humans that they have a certain set of ecological rights. I must add that at times I think this hyper-legalistic and formalized approach to environmentalism ends up enabling the worst aspects of environmental degradation by regionalizing what and where is worthy of protection (hint: where rich people live). It betrays the system aspect of ecosystem.

    As far as how to approach human rights to healthy ecology why not make it scientific, CO2 (insert chemical molecule) should be under a certain level globally, water composition should not contain X, Y, Z elements or chemicals, etc. This is just one approach, but it should probably be included in conjunction with other elements taking into account aesthetics, etc.

  12. Mo's Bike Shop

    From magnesium fires to Epi Pens, to every other fubar reported just this week: What are the chances that the next recession will be caused by grinding systems failures induced by our “efficiency”, rather than any Fed/Presidential meddling?

  13. Olga

    “It’s time to normalize Karl Marx” [Ryan Cooper, The Week]: “To be sure, the brutal tyrannies of Stalinist Russia and Maoist China did have some recognizable Marx-derived characteristics. For anyone studying Marx, it’s important to identify and isolate those things to understand where they came from, and why those countries turned out so badly…”
    Descriptions like this only reveal an author’s ignorance and intellectual laziness on the subject… nothing more. They certainly add nothing meaningful or illuminating to the debate (even though the author invites us to engage in one). Guess what? Upending a social/political/economic order that had been entrenched in a society for hundreds of years leads to violence… Hate to strip the rose glasses… Methinks the violence has little to do with what system one is fighting for, and more to do with us people not liking to give up our privileges. It is interesting that we celebrate the French Revolution, even though it, too, had its Rein of Terror. Revolutions are a tough business… and I am sure I’d not want to live through one… but be it as it may, sometimes, societal pressures make them inevitable (sort of like an avalanche).
    And folks who constantly harp about the excesses of USSR and China never stop to think what western countries were doing in that same time – brutal exploitation and oppression in their colonies, suppressing their working classes at home, sending young men to fight in world wars. How is that record any better?
    As for those two countries turning out badly… Just go compare India and China today…
    What a bunch of garbage (pardon my french!)…

    1. Matt

      Sounds like the author is saying it’s important to understand how the Soviet and modern Chinese political and economic systems emerged (“or anyone studying Marx, it’s important to identify and isolate those things to understand where they came from…”)? What’s so objectionable about that?

  14. Wukchumni

    I’ve been following the NZ real estate market for a long time now, nothing in the game-just a fun bubble to watch blow out any proportion to reality, and when you see wording such as these lines imploring would-be sellers not to bother for another 6 months, it’s telling that the worm has turned…
    “Auckland’s flat house sale market will not recover until towards the end of this year, with vendors reluctant to list places due to flat conditions and no improvement picked until spring, the Real Estate Institute says.

    Bindi Norwell, chief executive, expects few changes for many months until the weather warms up.

    “Auckland’s property market is always changing but it is likely that there won’t be any major changes to the current patterns until spring. Vendors are reticent to list unless they have a genuine need to sell as buyers are slow to make decisions,” she said.”


    1. Greg

      So happy we sold up when we did last year (not through prescience, other life stuff). The suburb we were in is now basically uninsurable due to earthquake and sea rise risk. Which is I think accelerating the slow down in the bubble.

      1. Wukchumni

        Good on ya, there’s never been a housing bubble in NZ, so nobody really knows what comes next, and here’s a taste…

        There was a rather terrific housing bubble in L.A. in the late 1980’s, nothing like yours, where homes went from NZ$ 100k to NZ$ 800k in 25 years, on about 1/2 of the income of people in Los Angeles.

        I have a friend that was a newly minted Realtor that got his license just as the market crashed in the early 90’s, and he went to work at a well known firm, and told me at the time that a husband-wife team that was always # 2 and #5 or thereabouts in top 10 sellers for the real estate firm, were now mostly doing either janitorial work in the building, or crossword puzzles.

  15. allan

    Trump will not call for negotiation on Medicare drug prices despite Democratic hopes [The Hill]

    President Trump’s drug pricing plan will not include a call for Medicare to negotiate drug prices, a leading Democratic idea that Trump previously supported, a senior administration official said Thursday.

    “We’re not calling for Medicare negotiation in the way that Democrats have called for,” the official said on a call with reporters previewing Trump’s speech on drug prices scheduled Friday.

    However, the official said there will be other proposals to increase competition in Medicare, likely using private sector players rather than Medicare directly negotiating prices. …

    Sounds like a plan that Third Way could have come up with.
    But why elect fake New Democrats when you can vote for the real thing?

  16. John k

    Italy 5 star and league might be about to form gov now that Berlusconi no longer obstructing.
    Would be populist, anti immigrant, anti E.U, pro spending.
    Can’t agree who gets pm, maybe from third party.
    Maybe by Monday if it happens.

  17. The Rev Kev

    “Apple will reportedly launch a credit card with Goldman Sachs”

    Well right there is two reasons why no-one should touch this thing with a ten-foot barge pole.

  18. Conrad

    I thought the tweeter was being a bit mean about the Jonny Ives article, until I saw this utterly unironic passage:

    As I did, I looked down at the small section of my life situated at that airport dining table: my new Nike Air Max sneakers, my cashmere swacket (that’s 50% jacket, 50% sweater, 100% cozy), my almost-too-soft-to-be-taken-outside leather duffel bag, and my iPhone. All of these objects were central to me – I felt like they defined me – and it was my iPhone that was at the core of it.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      What article!?! There was a link? I’ve clicked all over it. I never found the article. I’ve typed quotes into google. I’ve turned off ad-block!

      1. The Rev Kev

        The link is at https://www.hodinkee.com/magazine/jony-ive-apple and oh god, this is so bad. I start to read it and I have to stop. It sounds like something written by a courtier to the late Byzantine or French royal thrones. It’s almost embarrassing to read. I’ve bookmarked it for some other time to read. Maybe after a few strong drinks first.

  19. Wukchumni

    Was reading the EMP report by the EMP Commission that was defunded last year, and it’s warts and all and then some.

    It related that critical infrastructure in the USA could be hardened against an EMP solar storm or nuclear EMP attack for $2 billion.

    It also stated that pretty much no effort has been made by the Federal Government to take precautions, in the event of it happening.

  20. Michael C.

    On this item: “Ohio Voters Approve New Process for Drawing Congressional Districts”

    The Republicans only put this on the ballot when they saw, feared, and stopped a people’s referendum campaign that would have made it so a truly non-partisan method would have been passed and implemented by the voters. So, what was passed on May 8th is better than what was in place, but is not the answer to fair districts.

Comments are closed.