2:00PM Water Cooler 5/2/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the U.S. and China are in the early stages of ‘developing how we deal with each other over a period of time’ as he downplayed the chance of any major breakthroughs in meetings this week” [Politico]. “”I’m always hoping but not always hopeful,’ Lighthizer said at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. ‘It’s a big, big challenge. There’s a very different system over there and a system that, in all honesty, has worked very well for the Chinese.’ The trade chief said the list of issues the U.S. finds troubling in its economic relationship with China is “very long,” but that his goal is not to change the Chinese system. ‘If they want to do it, that’s fine, but I have to be in a position where the United States can deal with it, where the United States isn’t a victim of it,’ he said.”

“Job-killing Trade Deficits Surge Under FTAs: U.S. Trade Deficits Grow 568% With FTA Countries, but Decline 15% With Non-FTA Countries” (PDF) [Public Citizen]. “The aggregate U.S. goods trade deficit with Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners is more than six times as high as before the deals went into effect, while the aggregate trade deficit with non-FTA countries has actually fallen. The key differences are soaring imports into the United States from FTA partners and lower growth in U.S. exports to those nations than to non-FTA nations. Growth of U.S. exports to FTA partners has been 34 percent lower than U.S. export growth to the rest of the world since 2005 (the year before the median entry date of existing FTAs).”



“Already, a jobs-guarantee idea polls pretty well” [MarketWatch]. “In a new Rasmussen Reports poll, 46% said they favored such a program. Sanders, according to the Washington Post, backs a version that would see local and state governments offer proposals for public works projects. Workers would be hired for at least $15 an hour with paid family and medical leave.”


“Nancy Pelosi doesn’t plan on going anywhere” [Boston Globe]. “[Republicans are] featuring Pelosi in at least one-third of their House campaign advertising, according to a USA Today analysis…. Pelosi said the GOP strategy shows the ‘bankruptcy’ of the opposition’s ideas and the negative ads only help her cause. ‘The more they do it, the more money I raise, Pelosi said. ‘Because I have a following.'” Well, if that’s your metric…

“May brings key primaries across nation” [The Hill]. “Voters in twelve states will choose party nominees in closely watched primary election contests around the country this month, as Democrats and Republicans jockey ahead of November’s midterms. The battles include costly and competitive Senate contests in states like Indiana and West Virginia, closely watched House seats in Texas and Pennsylvania and gubernatorial races that pit competing visions of both the Republican and Democratic Parties against each other in states like Ohio and Georgia.”

“GOP’s Midterm Mission: Triage the Seats That Can Be Saved” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “Republican concern over House losses begin with open seats—they have 38 members not standing for reelection, either retiring or running for other offices, to only 18 for Democrats. Obviously open seats in safe districts don’t matter much, but in more hostile terrain, they are key. Cook Political Report House Editor David Wasserman points out that ‘since 1990, in cases where a House member of the president’s party has not sought reelection two years after the president lost his/her district, the party has batted 0 for 23 attempting to defend the seat.’… Given that there are eight open Republican seats in districts carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, that means that if this pattern holds, Republicans could lose a third of their narrow advantage without a single incumbent losing. These seats are Arizona’s 2nd District, California’s 39th and 49th Districts, the 27th District of Florida, Pennsylvania’s 5th, 6th and 7th Districts, and the 8th District of Washington state. There are another eight open GOP districts where Trump took 55 percent or less of the vote.” All those districts are on our worksheet. Readers? Cook concludes: “With just over six months to go before the election, many things can still happen that could push the tide either way. For Republicans that means hoping and praying for the best, but preparing for the worst. For Democrats it means not thinking small, looking beyond the obvious possible pick up seats to spot secondary and tertiary targets if things were to get even better. This is quite a year.” Yep!

“Are Democrats Winning The Race For Congress?” [FIveThirtyEight]. Chart of the generic ballot. And “Democrats’ Horrible 2018 Senate Map Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time” [FiveThirtyEight]. “Democrats have regularly faced unfavorable Senate maps (albeit none as bad as 2018’s), and they have regularly overperformed anyway, winning an average of 2.4 more seats per cycle than they are entitled to based on partisan lean alone. Much of this is likely because of the advantage of incumbency, but on three occasions (1992, 2006 and 2012), Democrats have actually gained Senate seats despite being at a partisan-lean disadvantage. Only in three famously strong GOP wave years (1994, 2010 and 2014) have Republicans overperformed the partisan baseline.”

TX-07: “A Texas Democrat’s campaign just unionized. Here’s why so few campaigns do that.” [Texas Tribune]. “In late March, the campaign staff for Democrat Laura Moser, who secured a spot last month in a primary runoff to take on Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson of Houston, announced they had unionized. Though the workers initiated this, Moser’s support of the move aligned with her campaign’s message.” Readers, I looked at the Texas Monthly, Texas Observer, and Texas Tribune for Moser v. Fletcher coverage. It’s pretty thin. Suggestions?

TX-07: “Lizzie Fletcher is trying to run a normal campaign in a race tainted by DCCC interference” [Vox]. “the local race Fletcher has tried to run has nevertheless become the flashpoint for a larger drama between the party’s establishment institutions and its progressive wing. A few months ago, in the middle of a crowded Democratic primary, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) released an opposition memo slamming Fletcher’s opponent Moser for past articles she’d written seemingly denigrating parts of Texas. The unusual move to try to knock Moser out of the race elevated the congressional district’s national profile and helped Moser raise thousands of dollars in the process, making it into the runoff along with Fletcher. It’s worth noting that the DCCC has not yet added Fletcher to its Red to Blue list of top candidates (a recent email snafu saw her name added to the list, but was corrected minutes later).” Oh. A snafu. DCCC delenda est

TX-07: “Only Democrats Could F*ck This Up, Volume Infinity” [Charles Pierce, Esquire]. “Democrats In Disarray is on afterburners because there is a noisy claque of “progressives” that not only is willing to contribute to the construction of the narrative, but also seems to greet its appearance with conspicuous glee. The failure to recognize the power of that narrative, and to acknowledge the changes that have occurred in it over the past two years, almost guarantees that the DCCC will stumble into situations like the one in Texas over and over again. It should just let people run and keep its thousand-pound thumbs as far from the scale as it can.” No. DCCC delenda est.


Back in February, I agree. Nevertheless.

2016 Post Mortem


“Hillary Clinton’s High Profile Is Hurting the Democrats” [The Atlantic], “[W]hen it comes to the national political landscape, [Clinton] has not yet reached the point where she can sound off in a way that doesn’t reek of self-pity and bitterness and rationalization. Until that changes, she should recognize the yuge favor she is doing the GOP—and, by extension, Donald Trump. With that in mind, she really does need to stop. Just. Stop.” Sharks gotta swim, bats gotta fly…

Realignment and Legitimacy

“There’s a new Democratic agenda taking shape. It’s more and more progressive. Can it survive success?” [CNN]. “Still, there remains considerable [emphasis in original] worry within liberal circles about the prospect of ceding too much influence to the progressive left [so liberal != left. Good]. The behind-the-scenes jockeying to clear contested midterm primary fields is one contentious battleground. Others will pop up when — and if — Democrats actually win a congressional majority this fall. While the House is very clearly in touching distance, the Senate will be a much tougher nut to crack. How Democratic officials would interpret their mandate, should their resistance be so empowered, is an open question. Being shut out of power so completely, as the Democrats are now, can be liberating. It’s in the party’s DNA to regard the responsibility of governing as a most serious task [no, it isn’t], and certainly not one to be trifled with by a person or organization adjudged to be insufficiently savvy or pragmatic.” I disagree with the headline. The Democrats are not there — note the careful equivocation between “progressive” and “left” — for the simple reason that not only does the left have little institutional power, the liberals have systematically ejected them from the positions they have held (see, e.g., the RBC fiasco at the DNC).

“After the violence” [Nature]. “When she first began studying the people who had terrorized her country, Natalia Trujillo prepared herself to come face to face with monsters…. Trujillo, now a neuroscientist at the University of Antioquia in Medellín, was interested in studying the psychological roots of violence by looking at fighters who had laid down their weapons and were trying to re-enter civilian society…. She and her research team entered the enclave with a battery of cognitive tests, panic buttons — in case something went wrong — and some preconceived ideas. “I thought people who can kill their neighbours, that can destroy their communities, that can have the heart to force other people to abandon their farms — they have to be really bad,” Trujillo says. She found a few who met her expectations. With chains around their necks and boastful swaggers, some tried to intimidate the researchers. But more often, the scientists found ordinary people, strolling in the garden and eating ice cream with their children.”

“Red State: Does Socialism Have a Future in Texas?” [Texas Observer]. “‘Even a year ago, most us of weren’t where we are now politically,’ said Kristian Hernandez, the 29-year-old co-chair of the 400-member North Texas DSA. ‘People have the potential to grow and be radicalized,’ she said. ‘And it’s the only chance we have — because we need all of us.’ With about 37,000 dues-paying members spread across 200 local groups, DSA now dwarfs all other far-left organizations in America. There are at least 11 chapters in Texas, including in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and El Paso. Nationwide, DSA claimed only 6,500 members in May 2016, but it grew rapidly alongside the Bernie Sanders campaign and exploded after Trump’s election. DSA tends to support proposals on the left edge of the Democratic Party, like a $15 minimum wage and single-payer health care — issues that once seemed radical but, after Sanders’ campaign, are on the lips of many Democratic presidential hopefuls. In many ways, the tide is with DSA, and there’s reason to think it could be more durable than other far-left movements. The group engages in electoral politics and is open to organizational structure in a way the high-octane but short-lived Occupy movement wasn’t, and while DSA doesn’t shy from critiquing the Democratic Party as beholden to corporate interests, it generally shuns the pure, winless road of Green Party activism.”

“Climate group raises money to carve Trump’s face into glacier” [The Hill]. Probably the same overexcitable crew who raised money for millionaire McCabe’s retirement.

Stats Watch

ADP Employment Report, April 2018: “ADP sees less strength for April employment, at 204,000 for private payroll growth vs a revised 228,000 in March” [Econoday]. “ADP had been on a hot run until March employment came in much weaker than expected.” And: “Above the consensus forecast” [Calculated Risk]. 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.”

GDP: “As previously discussed, something has to give to bring the savings rate inline, and the low reported personal consumption expenditures are a step in that direction, and housing has also been soft, as were prices. Also, while inventory building adds to GDP, combined with slower sales growth it doesn’t bode well for the future” [Mosler Economics].

Automotive: “Annual Vehicle Sales: On Pace to be unchanged in 2018” [Calculated Risk]. “The BEA released their estimate of April vehicle sales this morning. The BEA estimated sales of 17.07 million SAAR in April 2018 (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate), down 1.7% from the March sales rate, and up slightly from April 2017. Through April, light vehicle sales are on pace to be unchanged in 2018 compared to 2017. This would still make 2018 tied with 2017 for the fourth best year on record after 2016, 2015, and 2000….. As I noted last year, this means the economic boost from increasing auto sales is over (from the bottom in 2009, auto sales boosted growth every year through 2016).”

Banks: “Australia’s Largest Bank Lost The Personal Financial Histories Of 12 Million Customers” [Buzzfeed]. “The Commonwealth Bank lost the personal financial histories of 12 million customers, and chose not to reveal the breach to consumers, in one of the largest financial services privacy breaches ever to occur in Australia. BuzzFeed News can reveal that the nation’s largest bank lost the banking statements for customers from 2004 to 2014 after a subcontractor lost several tape drives containing the financial information in 2016.” Oopsie.

Shipping: “Spear, ATA president, tears into OOIDA over its agenda, tactics” [DC Velocity]. In an extraordinary series of comments, Spear said that he and his family have received death threats from OOIDA interests, that persons affiliated with OOIDA interests have threatened to bomb ATA’s headquarters in Arlington, Va., and that OOIDA interests have labeled an ATA executive vice president—who Spear did not identify–a child molester. OOIDA officials did not respond at press time to an e-mail request for comment…. Most of OOIDA’s enmity towards ATA, and by extension towards Spear, stems from the sharp break over the federal government’s requirement that electronic logging devices (ELDs) be installed in virtually all trucks built after the year 2000 to ensure drivers comply with federal regulations governing their hours of service. Spear joined ATA less than two years ago from carmaker Hyundai Motor Co. He added that many of the hot-button ELD-related issues had been well vetted long before he got to ATA. ATA, many of whose members had installed ELDs in their fleets long before it became compulsory, has long supported the mandate. OOIDA has adamantly opposed it, calling it unconstitutional, a waste of money, and a failure in boosting highway safety. ”

Shipping: “Most warehouses rely largely on human labor, but automation beckons as companies face surging e-commerce volumes and a tight hiring market. Mobile robots now zoom down warehouse aisles to help assemble orders, but training machines to handle goods of varying sizes has proven challenging” [Wall Street Journal].

Shipping: “Tide of digitalisation caught up in auto-pilot mode” [Splash 247]. “The first requirement of successful digitalisation is the availability of complete digital data set of each supply chain participant. The industry has not created a clear and convincing incentive for all players to update their operations to the digital age in all aspects related to cargo shipments. The second problem is a lack of standard for generation, usage and transmission of cargo and trip-related data between all external parties participating in each shipping contract. The third problem is the lack of proper understanding of the concept of digitalisation within the shipping companies themselves.”

Supply Chain: “Fast Fashion Goes Green With Mushrooms, Lumber Scraps, and Algae” [Bloomberg]. “The $3 trillion fashion industry consumes vast amounts of cotton, water, and power to make 100 billion accessories and garments annually—three-fifths of which are thrown away within a year, according to McKinsey & Co. And less than 1 percent of that is recycled into new clothes, says Rob Opsomer, a researcher at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an environmental research group in England. ‘The equivalent of a dump truck filled with textiles gets landfilled or incinerated every single second,’ he says.”

Tech: “The surprise in Apple earnings: Big growth in China” [MarketWatch]. “Apple says sales in China grew 21% in first three months of 2018, and iPhone X was biggest selling smartphone in the country.”

Tech: “Apple Inc.’s revenue is growing despite slowing demand for its marquee product. Revenue from the iPhone rose 14% in the company’s fiscal second quarter…. even though shipments of the phone only grew 3%. Apple suppliers like Broadcom Inc. have been warning of sputtering global smartphone sales, as consumers hold on to phones longer or switch to cheaper models sold by Chinese rivals. Analysts say the $1,000-pricetag for the company’s iPhone X put a further brake on demand” [Wall Street Journal]. “Apple’s more interested in profits than shipping volumes, however, and reported in a 25% gain in earnings, to $13.82 billion, and plans to spend an additional $100 billion on stock buybacks.”

The Bezzle: “I’m Sorry I Criticized You, Apple. You Win [Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg]. “‘m no longer knocking Apple for any of this. In fact, I’m sorry I ever did. Why the change of heart? Because this is a time when Amazon is pushing innovations that don’t solve any real-world problems but may create some: like smart speakers, with their threat of big brother-style surveillance in exchange for a minimal increase in convenience, or complex and expensive cashierless stores that won’t deliver much of an improvement to our shopping experience but may cost underprivileged people their jobs. This is a time when an entire driverless car industry is trying to convince the world that its products are safe before it can even come up with convincing stats — or prevent deadly accidents like the one in Tempe, Arizona, earlier this year. This is a time when Google is trying to subvert new privacy regulations to turn them against content producers. A time when Facebook, blasted by media and regulators for ignoring people’s privacy concerns, starts a dating service which will collect people’s most intimate data. This is a time when companies whose innovations are more intrusive than useful, more gimmicky than problem-solving, operate with business models that either burn investors’ cash or turn the users into products. At a time like this, Apple is a rock of common sense, sobriety, dignified engineering supremacy, prudent financial and supply chain management, effective marketing, and customer-oriented retailing.”

The Bezzle: “Tesla is an easy fix — if Elon Musk’s ego allows it” [MarketWatch]. A COO. “Selling vision is plainly what Musk likes to do. It’s why the “production hell” of the Model 3’s stumbling launch has been interrupted by launching a Roadster into space on a rocket, or by the boss traipsing off to the SXSW conference 1,700 miles from headquarters to muse about life on Mars. His heart isn’t in making cars, even though he took over responsibility for production in March, and he’s not fooling anyone. At his SpaceX rocket company he has a COO, and he had a chief operations office at SolarCity before it merged with Tesla. It’s not a new or novel idea, even for this micromanaging boss. So do it.”

The Bezzle: ” Musk learns Munro & Associates has done a teardown on the Tesla Model 3″ [YouTube]. You knew this was coming:

“Munro had no reservation! Who sold him the car?” (Not sure the build cost is $36,000 though.)

The Bezzle: “Martin Kenney: Who, then, detects the fraud?” [The FCPA Blog]. “So in [2018 Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE)] report [link], what catches the eye? How about the overall losses of $7 billion plus? An incredible 22 percent of frauds accounting for losses in excess of $1 million. In the context of detection, only 15 percent originates from the work of internal auditors, a mere 13 percent from management scrutiny, and a significant 40 percent coming from tip-offs. Why is only 15 percent being picked up by auditors? Surely this figure should be higher?”

Capital Investment: Handy chart [Mosler Economics]. Capital investment is obviously sporty, but the decreasing amplitude…. Well, a capitalist society needs to invest capital, no?

Startups: “An average of 7.99 percent of job seekers started a business in the first quarter, the highest quarterly average since the fourth quarter of 2013, when 8.6 percent of job seekers started a business. This was up from 5.01 percent of job seekers who started new businesses in the last quarter of 2017” [Econintersect]. “Would-be entrepreneurs also find themselves in a period of high approvals for small business loans. According to the Small Business Administration, as of the week ending April 13, 2018, lenders have approved $8,023,745,900 in loans to new businesses, 77 percent more than the $4,534,996,900 lent through the same period last year. Money for new businesses has remained below $5,000,000,000 for this time period for the last five years.”

Facebook Fracas

“Facebook says it really cares about your privacy this time, honest” [Columbia Journalism Review]. “The Facebook CEO also announced a new feature that will enable users to block Facebook from tracking their behavior on the Web and through apps with Facebook access. It’s called “Clear History,” and operates much like a similar feature in most Web browsers: When clicked, it removes all of the data related to that user that is normally stored—data that is used by Facebook to help its algorithms figure out what you might be interested in, and which ads to show you (Zuckerberg pointed out that if you do enable this feature, “Facebook won’t be as good” until it gets to know you again).” Why do I believe the data will actually be deleted? And “as good” is rich.

“Mark Zuckerberg Doesn’t Understand Journalism” [The Atlantic]. “Facebook wants its users to see less news on its platform these days, and most publishers are feeling the pain. The latest algorithm tweaks were meant to prioritize information posted by users’ friends and family—community! common ground!—rather than by professional news outlets. The average decline in Facebook-referred traffic to top publishers in recent months, Zuckerberg said, is something like 20 percent.” If your business depends on a platform, you don’t have a business…

I think this diagram needs to be revised, now that Facebook MR SUBLIMINAL Are you [family blogging] kidding me? has introduced a dating app:


“California, 16 Other States Sue US EPA Over Proposed Rollback of Auto Emissions Rules” [MarketWatch]. “There are two central issues. First, under the 2012 deal agreed to by the Obama administration and automakers who sell vehicles in the United States, the fleet average fuel efficiency rating will increase to a range of 40.3 to 41.0 mpg by model year 2021, on its way to 54.5 mpg by 2025. The Obama EPA issued a final determination upholding the standard just days before leaving office in 2017. The Trump EPA wants to freeze fuel-economy and emissions standards at levels already agreed to for 2020. The second issue is California’s waiver allowing the state to set stricter standards for emissions than those set by the federal government. The EPA is threatening to revoke that waiver and the state of California has vowed to fight that revocation.”

“EPA Head Pruitt Gives Wisconsin’s Walker, Foxconn a Big Break on Smog” [Governing]. “The Trump administration on Tuesday exempted most of southeast Wisconsin from the latest federal limits on lung-damaging smog pollution, delivering a political victory to Gov. Scott Walker as he makes a new Foxconn Technology Group factory the centerpiece of his re-election campaign. By dramatically reducing the size of the areas required to crack down on smog, Trump EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt overruled the agency’s career staff, a move that will save Foxconn from having to make expensive improvements as it builds a sprawling new electronics plant in Racine County, just north of the Illinois border in an area with some of the state’s dirtiest air.”

Health Care

“Expanding Medicare Advantage Benefits to Address Social Determinants of Health” [The Incidental Economist]. “McCullough and Leider argued in Health Affairs for more aggressive action to address social determinants. Their Exhibit 3…. demonstrates the degree to which spending in some non-health areas is associated with improvements in county health rankings. Some non-health investments are associated with bigger improvements than those more directly related to health. Investments in education, for example, are associated with bigger returns than those in public hospitals or community health care… Such supplemental [Medicare Advantage] benefits could include things that are not normally thought of as ‘health care,’ like, for example, groceries, air conditioners for beneficiaries with asthma, and even provider organized Lyft and Uber rides to and from and medical appointments” [raised eyebrow at Uber and Lyft worming their way in]. Why on earth is this being implemented in Medicare Advantage, as opposed to Medicaid?!

Neoliberal Epidemics

“Loneliness May Be a Bigger Public Health Threat Than Smoking or Obesity” [Governing]. “Today, an emerging consensus on loneliness suggests that it isn’t just bad for communities, it’s a legitimate public health threat. A groundbreaking 2010 study from Brigham Young University found that weak social connections can shorten a person’s life by 15 years — roughly the same impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Research presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention last year showed that greater social connection corresponds with a 50 percent decrease in the risk of early death. A related report, which analyzed 70 other studies representing some 3.4 million individuals in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, found that social isolation or living alone can be more harmful to a person’s health than obesity. Loneliness isn’t just an undesirable way to live. It can kill you.”

Class Warfare

“Here’s How Arizona Teachers Organized the First Statewide Teacher Strike in Arizona’s History” [Labor Notes]. “How did teachers build their co-workers’ support to demand more school funding, culminating in the first statewide teacher strike in Arizona’s history? What they did is a great example of a classic organizing strategy: the escalating campaign… If the first action doesn’t win your demand, you can try something a little harder that pushes the boss a bit more. Gradually increase the intensity of actions, making sure not to leave people behind by escalating too quickly.”

“Is Marx Still Relevant?” [Peter Singer, Project Syndicate]. “The most important takeaway from Marx’s view of history is negative: the evolution of ideas, religions, and political institutions is not independent of the tools we use to satisfy our needs, nor of the economic structures we organize around those tools, and the financial interests they create. If this seems too obvious to need stating, it is because we have internalized this view. In that sense, we are all Marxists now.”

News of The Wired

“Jupyter receives the ACM Software System Award” [Jupyter Blog]. Impressive.

“What’s in those mysterious cabinets?” [The Universe of Discourse]. This is an old-school blog (tech) from Philly. It’s good to know that this kind of writing is still going on. I had a lot of fun poking around!

Owwww! My eyes!

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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: “Azaleas as part of the landscaping at the Wayfarer’s Chapel in Rancho 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. xformbykr

    But more often, the scientists found ordinary people, strolling in the garden and eating ice cream with their children.

    Reminds me of Hannah Arendt writing about Eichmann during his trial. “The Banality of Evil”

    1. Tim

      Violence isn’t a big deal unless it’s happening to you.

      Some kind of freak cognitive bias to ensure we are willing to do whatever it takes against our fellow man for survival.

    2. Roxan

      I used to work with serial killers and murderers, and often thought of Hannah Arendt’s ‘Banality of Evil.’ They were mostly very bland, nondescript fellows and I would not have guessed their history if other staff hadn’t informed me. One old guy would always smile and stutter, ‘You l-look like C-cathy!” Finally, someone told me “Cathy” was probably the name of the wife he carved up with a chain saw. Ugh! Now and then, I questioned a few as to how they found their victims. They all agreed they mostly just looked for unlocked doors, or hitched a ride i.e. pure opportunism. They were always on the lookout for a chance to commit mayhem…..

      1. Arizona Slim

        True story: A local acquaintance used to be a social worker for Los Angeles County. During the late 1960s, her job required that she interview a certain Charles Manson.

        Yes, that Charles Manson.

        My acquaintance recalls it as one of the easiest interviews she ever did.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      All life is precious.

      I have vegetarians, perceiving the interconnectedness of the universe, tell me that we humans go about killing animals and plants routinely.

      Nothing special or extraordinary that some pig die so you have that bacon.

      Flying from one place to another place, polluting the environment, killing the planet (for one example of how the world is connected and the butterfly effect can come from just one small act), is just ordinary for us humans.

      A little banality here, and a little banality there and we soon realize it’s everywhere…by almost every human (some are perhaps exceptional, we can’t rule that out).

      Even now, when I walk out to the parking lot and drive my car away, (I have no idea, but I believe likely), I will step over and kill many ants and other small creatures.

      1. bassmule

        If we didn’t raise pigs to kill them and eat them, they’d be zoo animals. My objection is to pork loins put on trays and wrapped in plastic, which causes us to lose the true benefit of slaughtering a pig, which is recognition of mortality. Forget where I saw it, but a short video of Portuguese farmers, after killing one, singing “The swine died today. Tomorrow, maybe us.”

        As always, Your Mileage May Vary.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          It does seem…ordinary….normal…routine.

          Polar ice melting…ordinary.

          Crowded skies full of planes….ordinary.

          More forest clearing to plant corn…ordinary.

          Killing Gaia…just routine everyday acts.

        2. c_heale

          Not sure pigs would be zoo animals if they weren’t farmed…

          Wild and feral pigs (boar) seem to be able to survive when humans don’t want them around easily enough, look at the razorbacks in the South of the USA for one example…

  2. roadrider

    Re: “Loneliness May Be a Bigger Public Health Threat Than Smoking or Obesity”

    social isolation or living alone can be more harmful to a person’s health than obesity. Loneliness isn’t just an undesirable way to live. It can kill you.

    Yet another BS, pseudo-scientific slur against those who choose not to couple or reproduce. There are those of us who choose to live alone and are getting along just fine and plenty of coupled people who are in ill-health in no small part due to their toxic relationships.

    1. nippersmom

      Solitude =/= loneliness (and vice versa). A lot of people don’t seem to realize that. One can be content by oneself, or lonely in a crowd.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Recalling the story about the 104 year old scientist, I wonder if the two (solitude and loneliness) become more alike as we grow older.

        When one’s very old, being alone can be challenging in many ways.

        On top of that, I am constantly surprised, when I look back to my younger years and look forward to the future, at how much the world has changed and will change, and that with the felling that ‘the world that one grew up in is disappearing, or has disappeared, experience a profound sense of the present and future alienation.

        For example, my mother doesn’t use the internet nor use a smartphone. What devices or gadgets will we ourselves not use in another 20 years or 10 years? How far out of place, and alone (they don’t make more people of the same age as you anymore – the number can only decrease, or stay the same at best, short term)…alone, because many newcomers have no problem being tracked the Big Brother (they were born into that).

        That’s when one can feel very lonely…having lost the world one used to one and the many people in it (if you outlive many of them).

        1. WobblyTelomeres

          Huh. My Mom is 83, uses a computer, a smartphone, and still has her IFR license (although she rarely flies anymore after selling her share of a 182).

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Not the doctor who lost his (her?) license last year though.

            Will one day those who don’t own a self-driving car have no way to get around?

            “I miss the world of my early golden years, when one could get in a car and drive it oneself. I’m the only one today who doesn’t own a self-driving car. No one shares my view. It’s a lonely world, very alien to me. All the people who used to share my view on that have moved on.” – some old guy in 2058.

            1. Ook

              One has to keep moving. My mother (96 next month) keeps physically fit by gardening, keeps in touch with her scattered brood by WhatsApp and Skype (with a better smartphone than I have), and spends some hours every day answering emails, on the phone, and with visitors as a form of mentoring (being a local history expert and talented administrator).
              She figures if she loses the ability to drive in the next few years, that’s what Uber is for.
              This is not an easy pace to maintain. She determined about 20 years ago, that when she went, she would go raging against the dying of the light.

    2. Tim

      Everybody is wired a bit differently across a spectrum.

      The majority of people benefit from not being isolated. The more people you know on a personal level the healthier you will be.

      Having been single relocated away from family for an unwilling long time prior to my marriage, I crafted a phrase:

      “Loneliness is the most underrated (in a bad way) thing in the universe.”

      And I’m not even Type A.

      1. roadrider

        The more people you know on a personal level the healthier you will be.

        Do you have any actual evidence for this assertion? I really doubt that you do. It sounds just like your own personal bias and acculturation. Personally, I don’t feel the need to increase the number of people I know because the process of weeding out the ones that aren’t worth knowing (the vast majority) is just too much work and aggravation.

        Being single is the last lifestyle that people feel comfortable crapping on. That’s a result of the cult of marriage and couple-dom which is not for everyone but that most people feel pressured into. Its the social pressure rather than the “isolation” that most likely makes people feel bad about themselves.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          In a more progressive society, this career will not be looked down upon, and since I have no personal experience, I can only ask.

          Does being, say, a male gigolo allow one to know more people on a personal level? Does it make one healthier?

        2. Procopius

          Acculturation. One of the instances of “culture shock” I had to come to terms with when I was teaching at a Thai school — Thai students never, ever go to the bathroom alone, and rarely go anywhere alone.

        3. drumlin woodchuckles

          We may be discussing two different things. “Being single” is one thing whereas “being lonely” is a different and unrelated thing. “Being lonely” means no friends/relatives/aquaintances/ anything. No social networks, etc.

          The spouse-free are not necessarily friend-aquaintance-social contact deprived.

    3. Code Name D

      If you are going to cry pseudo-science, you need to demonstrate the flaws in the reports finding, ot it back down with the rest of the armchair scientists.

      Not getting maried is not the same thing as social isolation. My work situation is incresingly making me isolated. I am on 2nd shift, I work alone in a factory. And opertunties to socilize areoften expensive, dangerus, and unfufilling (dating aps, cubs, bars, extera).

      I speculate social isolation is a product o neo-liberlism, dismantling public infrastructure needed for braouder social structures, and systematicly replacing them with on-line services, dating aps, and bars.

      1. Oregoncharles

        I think it’s industrial capitalism. Our society has become ever more alienating for at least 50 years, probably longer.

        1. Left in Wisconsin

          One other thing now lost to history is how unions and socialist organizations were a major social outlet for non-church goers. Socialist papers had entertainment and sports sections, socialist clubs had beer gardens and sports teams (Milwaukee was full of them), union halls used to be full-service family entertainment facilities, many with restaurants, socialist summer camps for kids were a big deal, etc.

          The joint success of business + economists is conceptualizing unions as only (bad) economic actors (and socialists were even worse!) destroyed much of this. To be fair, suburbanization at roughly the same time didn’t help, as it made it much more difficult for dis-embedded working class communities to re-embed elsewhere.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Were the socialist clubs of that time and place heavily German and East European?

            Might a part of the motivation for Woodrow Wilson’s culture-racist anti-Germanitic persecution during WWI be as much to break up and destroy the culture-group supporting so much socialism as from any other motive?

      2. Summer

        “replacing them with on-line services, dating aps, and bars…”

        Which will then stress one out enough to buy all the assorted courtship products, up to an including plastic surgery – and plenty of mind numbing prescriptions to make you think it’s all good.

      3. polecat

        Do ‘likes’ and being ‘friended’ count towards un-loneliness ??
        Mark seems to feign Those important ….

      4. roadrider

        And opertunties to socilize areoften expensive, dangerus, and unfufilling (dating aps, cubs, bars, extera).

        As are opportunities to proof read it would seem …

      5. Huey Long

        I’ve never had a true day job and have spent the entirety of my career either in the armed forces or on 2nd or 3rd shift and I will without hesitation say that 2nd shift is the most isolating. You have to be in by 3 or 4 pm (before your family gets off of work/school), get off at 11 or 12 pm, and when you get home your family is asleep.

        As far as social activities go, you miss all the after-work stuff and are limited to late night bar action or stuff for young kids/moms/old people in the AM.

        Hopefully you at least have your weekends off but I’ve had jobs where my regular shift had me working 2nd shift all weekend with two weekday days off, which takes 2nd shift isolation to a whole new level.

    4. ChiGal in Carolina

      you may be alone, but not lonely. you may be with others, and still lonely. varies with constitution and interests and the circumstances, whether by choice or not.

    5. Lupemax

      I interact with many people in my small (unfortunately very rich) town, mainly volunteering for the public library that I care about (because it is one of the few remaining public institutions that ALL people can use) and various political actions and people running for office locally and state wide (always hopeless these days) that I also care about and support. To be honest I would much rather be alone (with my rescue dogs and cat) most of the time than with these people in their ignorance, arrogance, and indifference to all that is going on around them that they are incredibly ignorant about and haven’t a clue. These local people make me feel more isolated and hopeless about this country, the world, all living beings, including the human race than being alone.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Human nature?

        When our survival depended on everyone in the village working together, it was more likely your welfare was my welfare as well. And you can still see that in remote areas, where everyone in the village get together to build your new home today. Next year, everyone will get together to build another person’s new house.

        But if you have ‘education,’ and you get a job as, say, an anesthesiologist, your income and survival depends on showing up for work and not messing up at work. You’re less susceptible to corruption or abuses from your boss. And maybe you could even care less about, say your parents, who put you through medical school. But in today’s world, you will not be less disadvantaged for that. Your chances of survival, and your children’s as well, are still very solid.

        I see human nature like that.

    6. Steve from CT

      Keep in mind this study was done at BYU, the premier Mormon University. I grow up as one. If it is biased against single people it would not be surprising since Mormon doctrine puts huge emphasis on marriage. Divorce is not part of the approved doctrine.

    7. The Rev Kev

      I think that I might add something here and that I find that loneliness is often associated with introvertism. In fact, we live in a society that places a premium on extroverts as all this social mixing and teamwork are supposed to be the keys to a healthy individual. Look at the popular sites like Facebook, tinder and all the rest and it is all about social inter-reaction and we now have a generation that is uncomfortable being by itself in solitude.
      Is loneliness bad? Of course it can be – if it is not by choice. But you can only help those that are lonely if they want to be helped. It is a maxim of mine that you can only help those that are prepared to help themselves. I have doubts about social engineering trying to do-good by ending loneliness as I really think that solitude is also necessary for a healthy life from time to time – more so for introverts. Is it worth it?


      1. Oregoncharles

        While there are certainly people who isolate themselves, I think there is a very real social problem, at least in the US. It’s been observed for decades now that most of the institutions that bring people together have been withering. Sometimes that’s for good reason – for instance, the fading power of churches; but it’s still isolating. That’s why there are now “churches” for atheists, to say nothing of the Unitarian/Universalists – who in my experience are very universal indeed.

        Beyond the plague of loneliness, de-socialization is also disempowering, and we might suspect it’s being encouraged for that reason.

      2. Waking Up

        “Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.”

        ― Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

  3. Kokuanani

    What in the H*** is in that Californian jello ring? I see prunes on top. Is that liquid smog inside?

    I spent much of my childhood in CA, and I don’t remember anything like that!!

    1. Mel

      It’s a Jello ring. It’s how they sold “California” to homemakers in Minnesota. Garrison Keillor could explain it all, if he still existed.

    2. Oregoncharles

      I think it’s prunes inside, too, but I can’t figure out what the white stuff is – whipped cream, maybe? Cottage cheese?

      Lambert’s right: it’s bizarrely ugly.

      But prunes (mostly fresh ones) in cake cobbler are really good.

      1. sleepy

        If it’s a midwestern jello mold, it’s essential that the white stuff be Kraft salad dressing not under any circumstances to be confused with mayonnaise.

      1. Oregoncharles

        LOL. You don’t see a dog respond that way very often. Makes me wonder what it was.

    3. polecat

      Chipotles ? .. Shrooms ?? …… reconstituted Spade-foot Toads ???

      hellifIknow ! good thing I didn’t step in it, or lick it.

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          the only Mormons I’ve ever met are those that come to the door, sometimes…what leapt out at me in those images(aside from ugly food) was the utterly boring interior architecture. Definitely seen that,lol. Most of Texas…except South Texas, but definitely East…is Protestant country, and all the largeish halls and meeting places look just like that.
          No windows, glaring white above unattractive/artificial brown, nondescript and scuffed parquet floors.
          why do we create such spaces?
          at least the Catholics put a few pictures or sculptures on the walls.
          One is reminded of old soviet block apartments, given the homogeneity and banality.
          What is it about Americans that they pay so little mind to their built environment(at least things built in the last 50 or so years)?

      1. Utah

        Ha! It reminds me more of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner! My family wasn’t a big jello mold family, but I’m pretty sure I could make seven-up (jello) salad from memory. However, I think my father-in-law would be thrilled with the California Jello. It isn’t a family gathering without jello, even if those are prunes. The obsession with jello in this state is not for the faint of heart.
        I was sad to see that there were no funeral potatoes in this mash-up. Not just for funerals, obviously. Also missing from the google list: farr’s sherbet in the bucket size and lemon-lime shasta- to make what I have dubbed “mormon punch.” :-)

  4. Anon

    Re: Atlantic Hillary Article

    As much as people want her to go away, to take a quote from Dune, because she has the capability of destroying the party, she owns the party and thus, cannot go away short of dying. A decent article, but outside of NC, why does no one talk about how the price of healthcare premiums was going to increase the week before the election? Torn between having to spend more money on a crap product vs. saving that money, most people would elect to save money, no?

    It’s also interesting that the article makes no mention as to how Clinton walked them into that massacre, but us in the commentariat know how.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      “why does no one talk about how the price of healthcare premiums was going to increase the week before the election?”

      What would this say about the smart technocrats in the Democratic Party? The mantra of give ACA time was used as a bludgeon against the left.

    2. Geo

      At that same time Obama was doing his public/media push for the TPP criticizing people like Liz Warren for speaking out against it.

      The Dem leadership was shooting itself in the foot over and over again during that time. But, fortunately for them, they can blame it all in Comey and Russia. Ignoring the reality that premiums were increasing and a new trade deal looked imminent may have impacted voters decisions more than some email investigation is why the Dems will continue being the Washington Generals the the GOP Globetrotters.

    3. Waking Up

      Hillary Clinton grew up in a Republican family. She was a Republican “Goldwater Girl”. She apparently had high political / career ambitions from early on. Is it difficult to imagine that she realized her political ambitions were more likely to be met as a “Democrat” vs a “Republican” early on? Now she is a member of the Democratic Party, but the most important policies she backs have always been of the neoliberal or neoconservative persuasion (welfare reform, “we came, we saw, he died”, Iraq war, bank deregulation, TPP, etc. etc).

  5. dcblogger

    Anyone here live in NC, Ohio, WV, or any other state holding a primary next Tuewday? Because I would LUV to hear about what you are seeing on the ground.

  6. cm

    Democratic Party priorities

    The donation: $8,200

    Who gave it? The Senate Democratic Leadership Fund, the campaign arm of the Senate Democrats.

    Who got it? State Sen. Rod Monroe (D-East Portland), who is running in a hotly contested Democratic primary.

    Why is it interesting? Monroe, a landlord who has taken heavy fire for his lack of support for tenant protections, faces two strong challengers: former state Rep. Shemia Fagan (D-Clackamas) and Unite Oregon executive director Kayse Jama. Monroe has raised $243,000 so far, more than his opponents combined. Democratic interest groups, including the three largest public employee unions and the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, however, have endorsed Fagan. Those groups are also major supporters of the Senate Democrats—which makes the SDLF giving money to Monroe awkward, especially if either Fagan or Jama unseats him.

    What do the Senate Democrats say? SDLF spokesman Tom Powers says contested primaries are rare but his group always backs incumbents. “At SDLF, we’re part of Team Rod Monroe,” Powers says. “In 2010, Rod had a primary and SDLF had his back then. There have not been any contested primaries against an incumbent since.”

  7. DJG

    Lambert, Lambert, Lambert: You have broken new ground as it were, posting a Hitler Rant. I recall wasting an afternoon or two on them, laughing hysterically.

    Are we allowed to counter? The “Hitler Discovers That There Is No Santa Claus” is a classic.

    Not that *I* don’t believe in Santa Claus. It’s the kind of lapse that Hitler and the DCCC would have, though.

    1. Arizona Slim

      The juxtaposition of the subtitles against the German dialog makes them even funnier.

      Of course, we all know what was going on. The Russians were closing in on Berlin, and they were prepared to pay any price in order to capture that city.

      And they did. ISTR reading that the Russian army lost 100,000 men while taking Berlin.

      1. Conrad

        By that stage 100,000 casualties was basically a rounding error for the Red Army.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            The PLA fought the same way in Korea.

            Is it a case of the Chinese (who made many first-inventions) imitating the Russians, or have the Chinese always fought like that?

            From the Battle of Changping, Wikipedia:

            Bai Qi ordered the captured soldiers to be executed, presumably by being buried alive;[1] the local population was hostile to Qin rule, and he was afraid the captured soldiers would revolt. He released 240 of the youngest soldiers to spread terror in Zhao. Sima Qian claimed over 450,000 Zhao soldiers were killed during and after the battle. Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (685-762) later built a temple over a collection of some of the human remains, and bones continue to be discovered on the site.[2]

  8. David Carl Grimes

    I heard a teacher over the radio say that she had 15 years of experience, two masters degrees, and she doesn’t even make $40K a year. That’s less compensation than a new college grad from a decent school. A new college grad from UVA can make $60K a year fresh off school. A five percent pay increase for the teachers won’t solve anything. They need a 50% to 100% pay increase to give them a decent living.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      From census.gov, the median household income in Virginia is $66,149 (from 2012-2016).

      From Wikipedia,

      Virginia has the sixth highest per capita income of any state in the United States of America, at $23,975 (2000). Its personal per capita income is $33,671 (2003).

      It’s a little confusing to me, the two different numbers. But roughly speaking, it would seem that there are two earners per family (though one set of numbers is from 2012-2016, and the other from 2000 or 2003).

      With these numbers, it would seem $40K a year would be typical for that state (I am only looking at this from a very expensive state – California, where $40K a year will not go far for even paying for a nice apartment near the beach…that’s one of many reasons I live far inland).

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks. This from the first Chronicle article makes my head hurt:

      Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, whose miracle win over a Trump-backed Roy Moore in December also electrified Democrats,

      So if beating a candidate who seems overly familiar with young girls, even for a right-wing Christian, electrifies Democrats….

      And the second Chronicle article on Moser and “Revolution Messaging” is also very interesting (not in a good way). DCCC delenda est, but nevertheless. I always wondered how organic Moser’s anti-Trump messaging campaign was, and I guess now I know. I’ve updated Moser’s worksheet entry to “DP” accordingly, thank you.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        political news coverage in Texas is hard to find, unless you shell out for subscriptions to the papers(Fort Worth Star Telegram is prolly my favorite, next is the Houston Chronicle, then the Statesman), and even those are so “conventional” and bland and subtly biased towards status quo that they must be heavily salted.
        The Texas Observer used to be my fave online outlet, but they…as well as Burnt Orange Report…have been very quiet since Nov 2016; the latter so much that I wonder if they’re still a going concern.
        Texas Tribune has the best available political coverage, I guess…but the local TV News? cat videos are more informative.
        I’ve wondered at the lack of state and local comprehensiveness in politics news for years.
        even when the Lege is in session(every 2 years), it’s difficult to find out what’s going on until it’s a done deal.
        A caveat is that I’m broke and rely on free news(save for Texas Monthly and the Austin American Statesman, which some secret admirer gets me a subscription for every year(!? it’s a weird world,lol))

        Combined with the terrible Government websites(like the Lege), it’s like “they” don’t want you to know,lol.
        My state rep and sen both didn’t even have working emails until after the last Session was over, let alone a functional and relevant website.
        I wonder if this is a general problem with state and local, or is it a Texas Thing?

  9. Summer

    Re: Facebook Doesn’t Understand Journalism

    I don’t think too many journalists understand “journalism” or it wouldn’t be up for debate that Mark Zuckerberg fix it.
    Looks like news outlets have a choice: the Facebook icon controlling their sites or they take back control.

  10. clarky90

    Kanye West FULL TMZ Interview;

    Slavery “Sounds Like a Choice”

    “We are mentally in prison.”


    This is important. IMO, the Democratic Party is in Trouble. We have been watching the fissures appearing on the surface of this monolithic “unsinkable” Party.

    The MSM are editing this interview for maximum outrage. Here is the entire episode. The repercussions will continue long into the future. Young people are talking about this A LOT.


    Chance the Rapper on twitter

    “Black people don’t have to be Democrats”.


    1. clarky90

      I sense the beginnings of “the conversation” that the liberals have been yammering on about the for last few years, but never, ever wanted to actually have. They love to dish it up (lecture), but NEVER to intently listen….

      We will be entertained, as the crocodile tears flow profusely. “Oh, the horror and indignity, and, and, and, great sorrow…”

      “We have sacrificed so much for you! and now THIS?”

    2. Amfortas the Hippie

      it’s hard to do textual analysis when there’s no transcript,lol.
      from what I gathered doing it on the fly, and knowing nothing at all about Mr West(he’s not in the multiverse venn diagram that i pay attention to), I think I agree with most of what he was on about.
      wife hears the soundbite version, and thinks he’s crazy and a full blown trumper.
      the disconnect between the two(what I hear, what she hears) is the point.
      orthodoxy=> lack of critical thought=> unconsciousness(orwell)
      The example I gave wife in an attempted exegesis: I’ve hated Nafta since Ross Perot explained it…but if I go into a “liberal/progressive” space and say “nafta sucks for ordinary folks”, I am automatically placed into the ” deplorable” category, and hammered for being a russian troll.
      it’s bad enough, as i alluded to above, that reality is mediated through a chaotic and largely untrustworthy media environment…but it’s worse that we don’t appear to have either the time, or the cognitive ability, or longer memories than my cat….or even the Language…to interpret that reality.
      Post-Post-Modernism smeared all over everything.
      ergo, it ain’t just an existential crisis,an epistemological crisis, or a teleological crisis, but an Ontological Crisis(Crises?) that encompasses them all.
      That’s a very worrying development.
      The seeds of it were there before the advent of the web, but I think the condition became acute on 9-11-2001, which is itself a worrying thought: a crack in the collective mind..then civilisational ptsd

  11. Chauncey Gardiner

    Regarding the graph showing the decline in capital expenditures at corporations:

    Besides contributing to decreased productivity as cash flows from operations and proceeds from corporate debt issues are instead diverted to fund corporate stock buybacks to maximize CEOs’ gains on their stock options and reduce the number of shares outstanding in order to increase reported earnings per share and stock prices, corporate funds have also been used to increase cash dividend payouts. These actions also contribute to increasing debt leverage at the corporations that renders them less able to absorb negative impacts from inevitable business downturns and has led to rising numbers of “zombie companies” that are unable to service their debts from their operations. All this despite the “Yuge reductions” in corporate tax rates and negative real interest rates over the past nine years courtesy of the FED and America’s elderly savers.

    Reminds of Tom Wolfe’s “The Bonfire of the Vanities”: …
    with the vultures closing in… “to devour at leisure the last plump white meat on the bones of capitalism.”

    Which in turn leads to the question of what “capitalism” is all about in America today? Of course, there are the future rounds of “asset restructuring” and “purchasing distressed assets” still ahead of us, “ceteris paribus”.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      Besides contributing to decreased productivity

      I don’t think this is the no-brainer that Mosler thinks it is. Capital spending is only pro-productivity if it is well spent. And only pro-U.S. productivity if it is well spent in this country. (Well, in manufacturing it gets complicated because capital spending abroad further down the production chain can result in increased measured productivity here as the savings from outsourcing are mathematically spread across a smaller U.S. workforce. But I don’t think that is the kind of productivity growth Mosler is talking about.) I see nothing in the current corporate class that suggests either of these is likely.

      This points out another of my pet peeves with economists (not Mosler): Back in the day, we trusted business to know what would increase their profits the most, and the job of the working class and its allies was to respond accordingly. Now, while they pretend that anything good government wants to do is really a bad because it distorts the market, at the same time we must do all we can to “incentivize” them to do what they should naturally be doing. Like cutting their taxes in half.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I quoted this the other day. I didn’t see any immediate replies, so sorry if it has already been discussed.

      QE for the people, Wikipedia:

      In response to concerns that QE is failing to create sufficient demand, particularly in the Eurozone, a number of economists have called for “QE for the people”. Instead of buying government bonds or other securities by creating bank reserves, as the Federal Reserve and Bank of England have done, some suggest that central banks could make payments directly to households (in a similar fashion as Milton Friedman’s helicopter money).[134] Economists Mark Blyth and Eric Lonergan argue in Foreign Affairs that this is the most effective solution for the Eurozone, particularly given the restrictions on fiscal policy.[135] They argue that based on the evidence from tax rebates in the United States, less than 5% of GDP transferred by the ECB to the household sector in the Eurozone would suffice to generate a recovery, a fraction of what it intends to be done under standard QE. Oxford economist, John Muellbauer, has suggested that this could be legally implemented using the electoral register.[136]

      Depending on how frequently is is done or whether it is scheduled regularly, and on the dollar amount, it can be seen as a form of UBI.

  12. hemeantwell

    Re: “Is Marx Still Relevant?” [Peter Singer, Project Syndicate] ““The most important takeaway from Marx’s view of history is negative: the evolution of ideas, religions, and political institutions is not independent of the tools we use to satisfy our needs, nor of the economic structures we organize around those tools, and the financial interests they create.”

    By going all in for Marx as something like a sociologist of knowledge, Singer should reflect and consider why he, writing 10 years after yet another capitalist crisis, ignores the fact that Marx insisted on the structural instability of capitalism. He was a crisis theorist, and many of his criticisms of bourgeois economics aimed at its refusal to acknowledge the system’s contradictions. I could see Singer holding this thesis back in the 50s and 60s, when even some Marxists were wondering if state capitalism would achieve a kind of Great Stabilization. But now?

    Also, the idea that Marx’s view is “negative” ignores the fact that Marx thought we might somehow see through ideology. Singer’s fatalism applies to himself, but not everyone.

  13. Left in Wisconsin

    Uh-oh, problems with the Democratic 2018 strategy (from WaPo):

    Research by the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA has consistently pointed to the limits of targeting the spectacle of Trump. “I don’t think Stormy Daniels is going to produce one additional vote in almost any race that we run in 2018,” says Guy Cecil, who is overseeing the digital spending for the outside House and Senate Democratic groups this year. “We need to put a whole new set of issues in front of people.”

    To highlight just how counterintuitive this can be for partisans, Cecil points to focus groups Priorities did with “Color of Change” in late 2017.

    “Overusing Donald Trump with black millennials is not only not effective, it actually decreases their likelihood to turnout and vote,” he says. “For 70 percent of our black millennials in ad testing and online panels, the fact that Donald Trump won, that he was the reaction to the first black president, is a sign that the whole system is rigged against them, that in fact their vote doesn’t actually contain power.”

    1. johnnygl

      “that in fact their vote doesn’t actually contain power.”

      Makes perfect sense when you give it a moment’s thought. Dems have been excusing their failure by pushing a kind of hopeless line of thinking where sexism and racism are too deep-rooted to overcome.

      That’s why posts like the one earlier on how capitalism creates racism are so illuminating and important. People need to see their predicament though a different lens…not the lens of those who created and profit from that predicament.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > “We need to put a whole new set of issues in front of people.”

      A little late for that.

      “Dance with the one that brung ya,” and in the liberal Democrats’ case that’s “Russia! Russia! Russia!” and moral panic about Trump. I can’t see the Democrats successfully pivoting to any other message now. Not to say that they won’t try. (Did you read that ridiculous Pelosi interview in the Globe? She actually says — and heck, may even believe — that the Democrats have an economic message, which is, of course, Schumer’s “Better Deal,” which made a brief appearance before sinking beneath the waves of hyteria.

  14. Steely Glint

    Due to my schedule, I couldn’t comment on a comment yesterday which began with the phrase “with all due respect”. According to an update by the authors of Spinglish this can mean either “you idiot” or “family blog” you. Same with “bless your/him/her soul” is no blessing at all. Knowing Lambert’s & NC reader’s love of English:
    Be sure to watch the videos

    1. Oregoncharles

      From down the Great Falls Tribune article: “She noted that another person, Steve Kelly of Bozeman, also filed as a Green Party candidate for the Senate race. There will be a primary election to determine the party’s nominee, if both candidates stay in the race.

      “We will absolutely vet both of those candidates,” she said.” The same spokesperson said that the party does not control who files.

      I checked the party website first (gp.org). Their campaign to get on the ballot in Montana, depending on lawsuits, is on the home page, partway down. It’s almost always a battle, because, you know, democracy.

    2. Democrita

      I found out recently Democrats steal the Green Party’s ballot lines too. Same way.

  15. Darthbobber

    Texas 7th. I think Moser and Fletcher have chosen to go relatively high road, and the DCCC has apparently decided to shut up. I had expected the unions to formally back Moser due to their hostility to Fletcher, and they have indeed done that. The question in my mind was whether that would be pro forma or reasonably active, and the couple of Houstonians I talk to say it’s active.

    Otherwise, the candidates seem to be pursuing their respective gotv strategies and avoiding direct clashes. Which makes the reporters’ jobs rather dull, I’m sure

  16. Darius

    My family spent two days in Los Angeles when I was eight. Instead of going to Disneyland, we went to the Wayfarer’s Chapel. I asked when were we going to Disneyland. My dad said, “Oh. We don’t have time to do that now.” He said I should appreciate the scenery. Grr. With kids, it’s all about expectations. I can laugh about it now. The plexiglas roofed chapel of the Swedenborgian sect. A kids Mecca.

    1. Wukchumni

      Used to hike to the Wayfarer’s chapel, but I was all done grown up.

      My wife and I used to hike to this tree swing about 2/3rds of a mile for dinner, and swing out into the Pacific Ocean if only ever so briefly from a distance of a few miles away. The chapel was another mile and a half walk from the swing.

      We went to Disneyland every year when I was a kid, and it became ho hum after awhile. Knott’s Berry Farm was more my speed, with faux gunfights, stunts, and Indians in long headdresses of feathers traipsing about. There was a concert venue called “The Round Up” with a bunch of covered wagons around the perimeter and a recessed stage, where I saw Marty Robbins play when I was a lad.


  17. The Rev Kev

    In reading the article ‘Mark Zuckerberg Doesn’t Understand Journalism’ as well as the one about Elon Musk not making the changes that should be made to get his car production problems solved I think that I can see a common thread. Both Mark and Elon really don’t know what they are doing here. Mark wants to control journalism media but doesn’t understand it after getting into it and Elon got into cars for whatever reason but reckons that he knows better than industry professionals.
    Both are leaving a trail of chaos and disruption in their wake while burning cash by the billion. It won’t send either of them broke which is a shame as that might have served to concentrate their minds on the job at hand. Kudos, by the way, for Mark’s uncanny valley impression in front of that Senate Committee. What else can you say here?
    “They were careless people, (Mark) and (Elon)- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      From my own excuse-making experience, I can say that one good, strong excuse is always better than many, weak excuses.

    2. Geo

      “It’s hard to know, but I mean if you’re in the Iowa caucuses and 41 percent of Democrats are socialists or self-described socialists, and I’m asked ‘Are you a capitalist?’ and I say, ‘Yes, but with appropriate regulation and appropriate accountability.’ You know, that probably gets lost in the ‘Oh my gosh, she’s a capitalist!’ ” Clinton said.

      Deplorables! Everywhere I see deplorables!!!

      Curious if she has – even for a moment – pondered why so many would be against her form of Capitalism? Her claim to have told the people of Wall Street to “Cut it out” stands out as one prime example of why few took her claims about being for “appropriate accountability” to be a cruel joke.

      1. Lunker Walleye

        Today I walked by an “Andy McGuire for Governor” sign in the Iowa hood I live in and had to recall who that person is. Ahhh, then I remembered how poorly she treated Bernie Sanders supporters. It would be impossible to vote for her in the primary given her tilt towards H in 2016 caucus.

        1. Big River Bandido

          Gee, a “Democrat” former president of a managed-care company? What could possibly go wrong with her as nominee?

          Her poor outreach to Sanders supporters post-primary would by itself disqualify her as a credible leader, but top it off with the Democrats’ horrible performance in the 2016 elections and I fail to see how McGuire could even come close. Then again, I haven’t lived in Iowa since I left for college so I’m probably not close enough to have a clear perspective.

    3. Oregoncharles

      She;s right. I saw her quote to that effect mocked on left-wing sites – probably including this one.

    4. johnnygl

      She’s seriously getting funnier all the time. At this point she sounds like an angry guest on some random FOX news show…”the problem is that i’m an old-fashioned capitalist and america has gotten away from what made it great…look at the polls about how america is turning away from capitalism.”

    5. skippy

      Deplorables is just doublespeak for mental disorder.

      Reminiscent of an old Hannity episode where one panelist blurted out before the commercial – everyone – knows poverty is a mental disorder. Even Hannity looked like he’d been shot, you don’t speak plainly in public as one would in the clubs et al. Probably on par with the Super Criminals thingy.

  18. Swamp Yankee

    Re: carving Trump’s face in a glacier.

    I see that we’re at the purely magical level of thinking here. Next up — using the Malleus Malificarum to stop Trump!

    Also — wouldn’t carving his face on a glacier require a lot of, you know, energy and emissions? In addition to increasing its melt-rate? I’m no scientist, but….


    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I would also like to point out that to hyperventilate (and thus exhaling more CO2) at everything Trump will only warm the planet even faster.

      “Stay calm.”

  19. VietnamVet

    The Western Alliance is in a free-fall; but, corporate media says the new normal is normal;

    A cone of silence surrounds the fate of poisoned Russian father and daughter in Salisbury England. This only makes sense if there is a world war ongoing. Scapegoating Russia and Brexit both assure the cut off of flight capital that flows into the City of London – the one bright spot left in the British Isles. This is simply inexplicable.

    Likewise, Wall Street is bubbling as a war with Iran appears to be in the cards. The cutoff of Persian Gulf oil is a bubble popper. Good government has been flushed down the toilet. One explanation for the new normal is that we are witnessing the global oligarch mob bosses going to the mattresses. Chaos reigns.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Of course, if the Skripals had anything that would help the powers-that-be — especially anything that would turn the knobs of pro-war anti-Russia hysteria up past 12 or 13 — they’d be all over the airwaves.

      So the radio silence is pretty telling.

    1. johnnygl

      Crazy to think the party has been so dominated by consultants that they didn’t even run for seats because those are funds that could be spent on ad budgets for big ticket races.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      From Clinton’s email director?!?!

      At one point, I was very much a “Let 100 flowers blossom,” it’s good if everybody “runs for something,” and so on.

      Now, I don’t think it’s good in and of itself that individuals of any ascriptive identity run or not; as I keep saying, the “Lost Cause,” insanely damaging to black people, the Democrat Party (Hi, Woodrow Wilson! [waves]), and the country as a whole (ditto), was propagated by politically active and organized women: The Daughters of the Confederacy.

      I also think, in general, that it’s bad — not just less than perfect, actively bad — if the Clintonite faction controls more electeds. It just puts off the day of reckoning, which will be worse the more it’s put off.

    3. Big River Bandido

      That Twitt thread makes mention that the Democrats “have candidates running” in various districts they have not previously challenged. That, in and of itself, means nothing. If those candidates are just the same stale, warmed-over neoliberals (and the way the DCCC and DSCC rig the primary contests, it seems to be headed that way), then in the fall the Democrats will be facing the exact same problem that doomed Clinton’s presidential run. In a nutshell, the dogs won’t eat the dog food.

      The left (and I mean the true left, not what the party apparatchiks call “progressives” or “liberals”) simply will not come out and support phony candidates.

  20. Tooearly

    “Why on earth is this being implemented in Medicare Advantage, as opposed to Medicaid?!”

    Easier for the financial intermediaries who always take the cream off the top to extend their reach into previously unavailable domains, such as housing , transportation, education, food…

    Got UnitedHealth stock?

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