2:00PM Water Cooler 5/30/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Much-too-patient readers, I’ve got to finish the latest primaries worksheet, after which I’ll add more material. But there’s something to look at under “News of the Wired.” –lambert UPDATE 4:17PM All done.

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“Trump Plows Ahead on China Tariff Threats, Investment Curbs” [Industry Week]. “It’s the latest twist in a trade dispute between the U.S. and China that has roiled financial markets and prompted the International Monetary Fund to warn of a trade war that could undermine the broadest global upswing in years. The announcement raises the stakes for the third round of talks between the two economies. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is scheduled to meet with officials in Beijing on June 2-4 to continue negotiations.”

“Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ skills as a salesman will be on full display when he travels to Beijing in the coming days to try to clinch long-term contracts for U.S. agriculture and energy exports amid the pall of President Donald Trump’s decision to move forward with U.S. tariffs on $50 billion worth Chinese goods” [Politico]. “Further complicating the picture is that no single administration official, not even Trump, has emerged a reliable spokesman on the China issue, since the administration has changed course so many times in recent months, said Phil Levy, a former Treasury Department official who’s now a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The result of that confusion ‘is that if you’re trying to send signals, you’ve completely muddied this and nobody knows what signal you’re sending,’ he said.”



“Bernie Sanders ‘is considering another run for the presidency,’ former campaign manager says” [Yahoo News]. “[Weaver] has been keeping tabs on 2020 issues too. He has been a constant presence at a series of meetings of the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws committee this year, as it works through potential changes to the presidential primary, including a likely reduction in the number of superdelegates. Weaver was more than an observer at these meetings — he frequently huddled and conversed with members of the committee, a clear sign of interest on the part of Sanders’s top adviser in how the primary will be structured.”

“Tracking Trump’s Unusual Poll Patterns” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “To recap, Trump never got the honeymoon that most new Oval Office occupants get. After his first week in office, his first Gallup job-approval rating was 45 percent and the same share disapproved, a point lower than his share of the overall national popular vote…. But the lack of a honeymoon means that the inevitable downward slope that presidents usually see in their first two years in office, heading into the midterm election, might not happen the same way for Trump. He’s had a decline less steep than normal and more likely to fit into an ebb and flow dependent upon events (“Events, my dear boy. Events.”), rather than a relatively constant slide.”


“Realistically, the best possible scenario for House Republicans would be a net loss of 15-20 seats, hanging onto control by the barest of margins. The worst case would be a loss in the 40-50-seat range. Current district lines and natural population patterns would seem to make a loss on the level of the worst post-World War II midterm House defeats like 55 seats (1946), 54 seats (1994), and 63 seats (2010)—suffered by Democrats in all three cases—pretty unlikely. The worst post-World War II losses for Republicans were 30 seats (2006) and 48 seats (in both 1958 and 1974)” [Cook Political Report]. “Under that best-case scenario for House Republicans, they would certainly be even more impotent than they are today. Under the best case for Democrats, it’s hard to see how they could move much legislation with a small majority, especially if they decide to pursue an agenda of investigations and impeachment.”

“Democrats Are Running a Smart, Populist Campaign” [David Leonhard, New York Times]. “Yes, there are some tensions on the political left. But these tensions — over Obama-style incrementalism vs. Bernie-style purism, over the wisdom of talking about impeachment, over whether to woo or write off the white working class — are most intense among people who write and tweet about politics. Among Democrats running for office, the tensions are somewhere between mild and nonexistent.” Purism.

“Spurning left, centrist Dems tout bank law for midterms” [The Hill]. “Three vulnerable Senate Democrats hailing from states President Trump won in the 2016 election are touting their work on a new bipartisan banking law, portraying it as proof of their independence in Washington. Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) co-authored the bipartisan legislation, signed by Trump on Thursday, that eases the regulatory oversight imposed on banks and credit unions by the Dodd-Frank Act.” I don’t know what the Democrats are. But I’m increasingly coming to doubt that they’re a political party at all. d

“”Medicare for All” is a winner in Democratic primaries” [Axios]. “Candidates who support a single-payer health care system — or at least some expansion of government health coverage — are winning important Democratic primaries. And there are plenty more still competing in California and New York districts that are key to Democrats’ push to win the House.” I think the key question is whether Pelosi can install enough Blue Dogs to prevent #MedicareForAll from passing in the next few cycles.

CA: “‘Medicare at 55’ now on Dianne Feinstein’s agenda” [Sacramento Bee]. Why not 54? Or 42. That’s a good number. Why not 0?

CA: “Clues From the Upcoming California Primary” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “The general rule in California is that one would expect the primary turnout to be more Republican-leaning than the general election. The reason is the same reason why one might expect that in other parts of the country: The Republican electorate is older and whiter, two demographic factors that generally predict more reliable voter turnout. This year, we’ll probably see something similar: Politico reported that 32% of the roughly 650,000 returned absentee ballots have been from registered Republicans according to the nonpartisan California data source Political Data, a turnout that is outpacing statewide Republican registration, which is about 25%. That the primary electorate likely will be more Republican than the general electorate is an additional wrinkle that could hurt Democratic chances to advance candidates to November in one or more of the aforementioned districts.

NY: “Cynthia Nixon doesn’t get a mic at state Democratic Convention”” [NY Daily News]. Classy! And reading all the way to the end: “The speakers offering the opening invocation repeatedly praised the governor during the prayer, while former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn ran through a PowerPoint presentation of what she described as Cuomo’s liberal accomplishments. ‘When you look at this PowerPoint, you’re going to be invigorated,’ she said.” Out of touch, much?

NY: Note the source:

Also of note is the fecklessness and stupidity of whichever DNC consultant crafted that message.

Our Famously Free Press

Probably the same hacker sold Roseanne her Ambien. But this time he’s getting away with it!

2016 Post Mortem

“Trump won because he cared – lessons from Levittown” [Unherd]. “This sense of abandonment – of being ‘left behind’ – came up time and again in my discussions with local people. “They want officials to pay attention to them,” Anthony, a young 30-year old anti-Trump Republican, told me. ‘They aren’t seeing any direct benefit from any of the policies’ politicians talk about. In fact, the disaffection goes deeper. Levittowners, one astute local politico named Greg told me, tend to believe that ‘if I work hard and play by the rules it will work out.’ But, as Greg said as we drove round the old steelworks, ‘there’s a sense that not everyone is playing by the same rules. Many of these folk think ‘I’m working my ass off, and this just isn’t working for me’.” That’s a common view among the White blue-collar workers who turned to Trump…. Disaffection with the status quo – the ‘establishment’ – drove voters to Trump the outsider: ‘The institutions that used to help you are now working against you, many people think. The game is rigged and it’s time to change it.” Interestingly, as both Bill [a retired carpenter] and Greg told me, that outsider could just as well have been socialist populist Bernie Sanders. I was told about exchanges on primary day where Democratic voters told their GOP counterparts that they were voting for Hillary Clinton’s challenger, Sanders, but they were voting for Trump in November if Clinton won.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

Institutionally, this is very impressive:

Indivisible, however, opposes #MedicareForAll. Its funding sources are opaque. And from its inception, it’s gotten surprisingly good coverage, coverage that amounts to a free pass. (Where’s the Political hit piece?). I don’t like any of that at all.

I’d ask Chuck to sit down, but he’s already prostated himself:

Jeebus, I thought Trump was a fascist and a Russian stooge. Guess not.

“Yes, There is a Civil War Within the Democratic Party — it’s Just Not What You Think” [Medium]. “[T]here seems to be unanimous consent that the Clintonites represent the ‘Democratic Establishment.’ While this may be true in the present moment and from a purely operational perspective, the Clinton Wing of the Party (which also includes Obama) by no means represents historically Democratic principles or indeed the ‘traditional’ Democratic Party positions, policies and philosophies. Instead, today’s Democratic elites are ‘moderate Republicans’ who regularly praise Ronald Reagan as their philosophical model while they rarely even mention FDR. These Democratic revolutionaries have created a Party in which the likes of Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush and even Barry Goldwater might feel at home. It is the Sanders Wing, the ones the Media call the ‘upstart activists,’ who represent traditional, dyed-in-the-wool Democratic principles and values.”

“The Teachers’ Strike and the Democratic Revival in Oklahoma” [The New Yorker]. “n 2016, when Oklahoma voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a thirty-six-point margin, one candidate for the state legislature flipped his district from red to blue. That was Mickey Dollens, who had just been laid off from his job as an English teacher at U. S. Grant High School, in south Oklahoma City, in a round of state cuts to education.” Campaign tip: “In the summer of 2016, Dollens knocked on around twenty thousand doors. ‘In the beginning, people weren’t answering, even though I could tell they were home,’ he told me. One day, Dollens noticed that some four out of five doors were being opened. At one house, the resident laughed and said that he had opened the door because he thought Dollens was the mailman. Dollens was wearing dark-blue shorts and a white polo shirt. ‘I started dressing like that every day,” he said.'” Good to see Pelosi and Schumer all in on Dollen’s side. Oh, wait…

“When North Dakota Farmers Blew up Partisan Politics” [Zócalo Public Square]. “During the early years of the 20th century, a broad impulse for popular government transformed election law—particularly primaries—in many northern and western states, but North Dakota took it further than some. Rejecting the notion that politics belonged only to professionals, citizens put themselves in the thick of things—replacing the mediating force of a political party with a self-organized polity. Parties, which had formerly controlled candidate selection, remained powerful, but voters could now challenge the establishment players who often used backroom deals and convention shenanigans to stay in power. From the start, the movement backed anyone who supported farm-friendly economic policies, regardless of that candidate’s party affiliation.” This is very interesting.

“Why Tom Steyer Doesn’t Care What Nancy Pelosi Thinks” [Politico]. Wait, I’ve got it. Because he’s a squillionaire?

“I am a liberal. But I know Democrats in office are no better than Republicans” [Guardian]. “Pattern No 1: elected officials believe in ethics until someone they like breaks the rules…. Pattern No 2: elected officials also honestly believe, when they run for office, that they will finally bring transparency to government. But once in, they quickly discover that they’d rather not tell the people everything. Doing so – particularly when controversial decisions haven’t yet been hammered out – just complicates their lives…. Pattern No 3: government accountability? Here again, Democrats are as Republicans. As soon as the oath of office is administered, they seem to become incapable of admitting mistakes, especially those of their own party…. Pattern No 4: And then there’s the cronyism problem. True graft is relatively rare; I’ve not seen it in my city. But what we see every day is how people in power take care of the people to whom they feel some loyalty.”

“Groups fight huge expansion of police drone monitoring of protests” [Chicago Reader].

Stats Watch

GDP, Q1 2018 (Preliminary): “A lot of jostling in the components isn’t apparent in the headline which, at 2.2 percent annualized growth, hits Econoday’s second-estimate consensus for first quarter GDP” [Econoday]. “All in all, it was a strong quarter for business, with investment perhaps getting a boost from this year’s corporate tax cut, and a soft one for the consumer as spending sputtered and residential investment went into reverse. But the early outlook for the second quarter is positive with most forecasts calling for a return to the 3 percent area.” And but: “There was minor change between the advance and this second GDP esitmate. The big change was a reduction in the inventory build (down 0.3%). I am not a fan of quarter-over-quarter exaggerated method of measuring GDP – but my year-over-year preferred method showed moderate acceleration from last quarter” [Econintersect]. And: “The big changes in first-quarter GDP took place on the business side. Fixed investment in things like equipment, structures and software was revised higher show a 6.5% increase instead of 4.6%. Yet stronger investment was offset by weaker inventory growth” [MarketWatch].

ADP Employment Report, May 2018: “Moderate strength is ADP’s call for Friday’s employment report” [Econoday]. “The outsized strength in prior readings is evident in ADP’s revision to April which is unusually severe.” And but: “This month the rate of ADPs private employment year-over-year growth remained in the tight range seen over the last year. Last month’s employment numbers were significantly revised downward” [Econintersect]. “ADP employment has not been a good predictor of BLS non-farm private job growth.” And: “U.S. jobs growth continues in May as labor market tightens, ADP says” [MarketWatch]. “What happened: Hiring was spread across industries and company size. Medium-sized businesses — those with 50 to 499 employees — added 84,000 jobs, while large businesses added 56,000 positions and small ones added 38,000 employees.”

International Trade in Goods, April 2018: “Second-quarter net exports open up on the positive side…. But the mix of the results are less favorable as exports of goods fell” [Econoday]. And: “An early look at U.S. trade patterns in April showed a small drop in the nation’s trade deficit, perhaps another small sign that the economy will grow faster in the second quarter” [MarketWatch].

Corporate Profits, , Q1 2018 (Preliminary): “First-quarter corporate profits, despite getting a major boost from lower taxes, inched only 0.1 percent higher year-on-year” [Econoday]. “Pre-tax profits were actually down sharply.”

Retail Inventories [Advance], April 2018: “Retail inventories open the second-quarter with strength, rising” [Econoday]. “Vehicles are not distorting the results with April inventories… Retail sales in April proved moderate which hints perhaps at a slowing build for retail inventories in May.”

Wholesale Inventories [Advance], April 2018: “Wholesale inventories in April won’t be contributing to second-quarter GDP, coming in unchanged” [Econoday].

Retail: “Best Buy Keeps Store Shelves, Distribution Centers Stocked” [Wall Street Journal]. “The electronics giant reported its inventories rose ahead of even its fast-surging sales in its most recent quarter, as the company sought to drive more sales by having goods in place both online and in its physical stores even at the expense of higher supply-chain costs…. Best Buy is seeing its in-store pickup grow. But its first quarterly results suggest the retailer believes it needs to have goods both on shelves and in fulfillment centers helps drive sales.”

Retail: “Last Recession Effect: New Car Buyers Hold Cars Longer” [Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis]. “In 2005, this average age equaled 5.5 years. Beginning with the overall decline in the U.S. economy starting in 2008, the age increased to over 6.8 years by 2012. On average, people who bought new cars were holding their cars longer.”

Shipping: “Is the F-150 production shutdown visible in freight market data?” [FreightWaves]. “We feel confident that the F-150 production shutdowns perceptibly affected freight markets in at least two markets, and most likely impacted spot prices in associated lanes.” With charts.

Shipping: “Maersk to Cut Services as It Battles Shipping Glut” [Wall Street Journal]. “The world’s biggest container operator said its underlying loss widened to $239 million from a loss of $139 million a year earlier, with Chief Executive Soren Skou blaming rampant overcapacity as the main culprit and warning that a trade war between the U.S. and China would dash any hopes of a recovery in the shipping industry after a long down cycle. ‘In the short term we will be closing down some services,’ Mr. Skou said in an interview. ‘Overcapacity is the biggest defect.'” What, again?

Shipping: “Change or pay up: UPS aims to modify shipper behavior through new measures” [DC Velocity]. “UPS will raise surcharges by more than 40 percent on the handling of packages that exceed the company’s maximum dimensional requirements. Surcharges for handling oversized pallets will also rise by 40 percent. …. In its service announcement, UPS said it wants to encourage its shippers to use the company’s less-than-truckload (LTL) network for these items rather than its small-package infrastructure. The company’s small-package network was never designed to efficiently handle big and heavy goods, and it requires what the company called ‘extraordinary special handling’ at high labor expense to process them.” People are sending sofas by UPS?! Imagine the extra work for the driver!

The Bezzle: “Uber, beset by safety criticisms, introduces panic button” [MarketWatch]. “Ride-hailing service Uber has introduced a new ‘911 button’ on its app to allow riders to easily call for help in emergencies. The addition was first announced in April and went live on Tuesday across the U.S. Users can now find the emergency button by swiping up on the center icon and tapping ‘911 assistance.’ After confirming the call, they will be patched through to emergency dispatchers… The vast majority of emergencies in Uber rides are related to road accidents, a spokeswoman told MarketWatch. But the new panic button could also be used in cases of sexual assault perpetrated by drivers, an issue that has been brought to light by a number of high-profile cases.”

The Bezzle: “Amazon’s Relentless Pursuit of Largesse” [The American Conservative (via Internet Archive)*]. “contra the libertarian ethos that Amazon and its leader purport to embody, the company has not emerged as one of history’s preeminent corporate juggernauts through thrift and elbow grease alone. Although the company’s harshest critics must concede that Amazon is the world’s most consistently competent corporation—replete with innovation and ingenuity—the company’s unprecedented growth would not be possible without two key ingredients: corporate welfare and tax avoidance” NOTE * Google picks this article up still, but it doesn’t seen to exist at TAC. Odd.

“The financial scandal no one is talking about” [Guardian]. “‘What do they say about hubris and nemesis?’* pondered the unconvinced insider who had taken me into the club. There was certainly hubris at Number Twenty. But by shaping the world in which they operate, the accountants have ensured that they are unlikely to face their own downfall. As the world stumbles from one crisis to the next, its economy precarious and its core financial markets inadequately reformed, it won’t be the accountants who pay the price of their failure to hold capitalism to account. It will once again be the millions who lose their jobs and their livelihoods. Such is the triumph of the bean counters.” NOTE * The time-gap between hubris and nemesis is where The Bezzle lives, IMNSHO.

Transportation: “Boeing Deploys Executive to Rolls-Royce as 787 Engine Woes Mount” [Industry Week]. “Boeing Co. has dispatched a prominent executive to help Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc work through escalating engine problems that have grounded dozens of 787 Dreamliners…. [Keith Leverkuhn’s] special assignment to Rolls signals the importance Boeing is placing on containing the disruption to its marquee jetliner — and placating airline customers as the crucial summer travel season approaches. About 34 Dreamliners are parked and awaiting repaired engines, and the number is at risk of rising in the coming months, said people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the details are private… Dreamliner operators that rely on the power plant for so-called ETOPS routes, typically over ocean routes with few diversionary airports, are now required to check for signs of cracking or unusual wear after every 80 flights. That means taking the planes out of service on a near-monthly basis — far more onerous than the previous standard required by regulators of checks every 200 flights.”

Tax: “Here’s what businesses did with Trump tax-cut windfall. Hint: they didn’t spend it” [MarketWatch]. “American businesses got a huge tax cut in the first quarter, but they didn’t do much with the extra cash. Most of the dough ended up in their bank accounts…. For the most part, the tax savings fattened up the bottom line. Cash flow rose at a $100 billion annual rate while dividends increased at a scant $3.4 billion pace.”

Five Horsemen: “Amazon is at a third consecutive record high in late morning trade” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen May 30 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “In yesterday’s market decline, the mania-panic index plunged to 46 (worry) as VIX, the put-call ratio, and new 52-week lows soared” [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 29 2018


“Cores From Coral Reefs Hold Secrets of the Seas’ Past and Future” [Quanta]. “Marine science expeditions like this one collect all kinds of biological samples, from ocean water to reef fish to coral microbes. But coral cores are distinct from the rest. They are organic time capsules, containing records of local pollution, geology, temperature and reef health that go back hundreds or thousands of years. As researchers refine the surprising methods available to extract this kind of information from coral skeletons, the advice for climatologists, geochemists and paleontologists who want to plumb the oceans’ past has increasingly become: Look to the cores. ‘I call them natural reef history books,’ said Janice Lough, a climatologist and coral core expert at the Australian Institute of Marine Science. ‘They’ve got lots of stories to tell.'”d

Health Care

Anybody else gotten one of these? Via DK:

“Iowa wanted to funnel $1 billion in Medicaid money into private nursing homes. Why the feds said no.” [Des Moines Register]. The endpoint of a lot of sleazy maneuvering by nursing home lobbyists writing legislation: “On April 30, CMS rejected that response and noted that federal law has what amounts to a prohibition on kickbacks, restricting states’ ability to finance their Medicaid spending through ‘donations’ from, or state taxes imposed on, the recipients of the new money.” So that’s the legislation they tried to write: Kickbacks.

Guillotine Watch

“Yes, Sears is likely to collapse, but its CEO will be just fine” [MarketWatch]. I can’t bring myself quote from this, it’s so convoluted and vile and horrid. As I keep asking: Is everything like CalPERS?

Class Warfare

“More Governments Turning to Gig Economy for Help” [Governing]. “A new national survey from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence provides the first-ever snapshot of the gig economy’s developing role in the public sector. It suggests that while only a few governments have started hiring gig workers, they’re already plugging some staffing holes in nearly every segment of the public workforce. “It’s an emerging issue and is one there has not been much attention paid to,” says Gerald Young, a senior research associate at the center. Gig economy and temp workers are most commonly employed in office and administrative support functions, with 20 percent of states and localities surveyed indicating their use. Other positions more frequently filled with these workers include accounting, cleaning and maintenance work.”

“If the job market is so great, why aren’t many people getting pay raises?” [MarketWatch]. Because it isn’t? “Research by the Kansas City Federal Reserve found that an abnormally high share of employees still in the same jobs haven’t received a pay raise in the last 12 months despite a 3.9% unemployment rate that is the lowest in almost two decades. Economists refer to the phenomenon as ‘wage rigidity.’ What’s more, the rate of future wage growth in the U.S. also tends to rise more slowly than usual when a high number of people aren’t getting any raises at all, the research suggests. The report might help explain why average U.S. wages still aren’t growing all that fast and it could have implications on how fast the Fed raises interest rates.”

News of The Wired

“The Slippery Math of Causation” [Quanta]. “[C]learly defined causes may not always exist. Complex, interdependent multifactorial causes arise often in nature and therefore in science.” With mathematical problems at the end, for those so inclined.

From The Department of Making It Look Simple, thread:

(Click through for the GIFs. They don’t crash my machine, and I’m not over-powered.)

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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 (TF):

A horse chestnut.

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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. jo6pac

    I think I’ll take nap until your return;-)

    I have question anyone? I’ve tried to save my name several times and I’ve gotten nothing from sky net. Help?

    Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment

    1. Jason Boxman

      That’s a great idea. I’m considering a nap myself! My name didn’t save, either.

        1. tegnost

          something strange in the skynet, I had posts go straight on without delay or edit option, good thing i didn’t use enny complickatid werds

    2. blennylips

      If you fine tune your browser settings to _not_ clear “form data” on exit, then your previous entries will always appear in a menu for that control (windows left click).

      tegnost, I too have seen the same thing.

  2. Enquiring Mind

    Those horse chestnut leaves may turn a wonderful iridescent color or two in the fall, with various tangerine and pinkish shades along the way.

  3. Wukchumni

    It’s hard work, but Joan Ibarra gladly harvests bok choy eight hours a day in the Bakersfield sun.

    Competition for farmworkers has gotten so tough lately that the 19-year-old now earns $12 per hour, plus a bonus for high productivity — more than he has ever made in his six years working local fields.

    The president of the Nisei Farmers League, Manuel Cunha, has grown quite frustrated. He said other industries — construction, restaurants, manufacturing — are trying to lure the same pool of workers, which puts upward pressure on wages. More troublesome, he said, is the federal push for stricter enforcement of immigration laws.

    He said when federal authorities contact Central Valley farm contractors and ask them to produce documentation of their workers’ right to work in the country, between a third and half of the employees flee.

    “Ninety-nine percent of the time the workers never come back. It’s a disaster,” he said. “I will tell you, I have never seen bigger destruction for employers.”


    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Have Bok Choy lovers been subsidized by too-low wages?

      Sounds ominous – upward pressure on wages.

      1. Kurtismayfield

        When were the citizens of the US asked if they wanted their farm products subsidized by cheap migrant labor? I would prefer a “Food stamps for all” program where you had to purchase fresh produce and meats with it. Subsidized farmers and makes people eat healthy.

        Also, how much of the produce in California is sold internationally?

    2. kareninca

      Oh, boy. $12 per hour. You know what – no-one can live on that. Maybe this 19 y.o. is still living with his parents – but I doubt they are earning more than that. So here’s hoping that there is far more pressure on wages, so at some point they earn enough to live on. I doubt it will affect grocery store prices for bok choy very much. And he was working in the fields at age 13? That is horrible; I didn’t know that that was still legal. “Destruction for employers” – boo hoo, let them pay living wages.

      1. JohnnySacks

        You can bet the guy trading agricultural futures makes more than $12 an hour, but the labor which provides the food that supports basic life is there for the exploiting? You wouldn’t want to peek behind the curtain before eating anything I had a hand in picking for starvation wages, that’s for sure.

  4. Wukchumni

    So many straws to choose from, but which one breaks the financial camel’s back?

  5. jo6pac

    Well naps over I guess I’ll have to do dishes instead reading some fun and not so fun articles:-(

  6. Jim Haygood

    Your car has been paused for a software update — please do not touch the controls:

    In a tweet on Friday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company had started rolling out an over-the-air software update for its Model 3 electric cars to address a problem with their braking performance, a problem revealed by Consumer Reports last week.

    In the tweet, Musk said the update should improve braking “by ~20 ft for repeated heavy braking events.”

    Consumer Reports had tested the car and had released its results last week. In its review, the magazine said it could not recommend the car because of its inconsistent braking performance, and emergency stops that took longer than a Ford F-150 pickup on average.

    In response to the criticism from Consumer Reports, Musk had said that the company would ensure that all Model 3s had “excellent” braking, even if that meant recalling all existing Model 3s for a hardware fix.


    Based on bad experiences with supplier-initiated updates on computers and phones, I do NOT want a vehicle that is subject to software updates.

    If you’ve ever watched a Windows computer lurch into update mode just after starting a movie for guests, you know how badly things could go wrong if a car starts updating itself at a inconvenient moment.

    The carbon-based lifeform known as Elon M could use a complete operating system upgrade — he’s visibly malfunctioning.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Do auto-piloting cars copycat each other, in the wake of recent news reports?

      And am I the only one who feels like we’re just in the opening minutes of a horror sci-fi movie?

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      On the bright side, it was quite elevating to watch Musk grovel before Consumer Reports. “Thank you for your feedback,” and so forth.

      I share your skepticism about software updates — since when did software updates not introduce new bugs? — but I think the bigger issue is the stupid touchscreen that forces you to take your eyes off the road; you can’t fix that without a major redesign, retooling the line, and so on.

    3. Alex

      A few points on this bit of news:

      OTA updates could be a convenient way for Tesla to hide incompetence or worse (would have been an easy way for VW to coverup the code involved in Dieselgate….). One could bury fixes to safety or environmental issues in an update to the multimedia system, for example.

      ABS braking systems have been around since the 70’s – it’s revealing that this system was not optimized from the beginning, and they were able to wring a 20 ft improvement from the same braking hardware… which is what should be the limiter, not the software

      Barely a week to update the code on something this vital to safety seems awfully short. I’m guessing the code was checked for integrity, but there was little, if any, real world testing in a variety of conditions, using actual cars…

  7. Jim A.

    I have a poster of “Incident on the edge of town” by Mr. Stalenhåg on my wall.

  8. allan

    Upstate Medical Center to CalPERS: Hold my beer:

    Upstate Medical prez calls hiring of lying official ‘mistake,’ despite robust vetting

    A top Upstate Medical University official who quit last week after it was revealed he told self-aggrandizing lies about himself was thoroughly vetted before he was hired last year, according to his former boss.

    Dr. Danielle Laraque-Arena, Upstate’s president, says Upstate scrutinized Sergio A. Garcia’s application, checked his references and did not see any red flags. …

    Garcia, 43, was senior vice president and chief of staff, earning an annual salary of $340,000. He oversaw Laraque-Arena’s office. He also was in charge of Upstate’s offices of external relations, human resources, facilities and planning, and university police.

    The Albany Times-Union published a story two weeks ago showing he fabricated many details about his past in a speech he gave at Upstate last year. Some of those details included:

    • Narrowly escaping a deadly suicide bombing in Afghanistan while employed by the State Department;
    • Being hired to work at the State Department by former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and being a close friend of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
    • Getting a law degree from an unidentified university in Oklahoma and working for a Los Angeles law firm.
    • Being in the White House when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred for seven days without shaving or showering.

    Your health care dollars at work.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Having lost his gig at Dos Equis, the most interesting man in the world moved on to Upstate Medical Center. From the resume that landed him the job:

      — He once ran a marathon, because it was on his way.
      — Mosquitoes refuse to bite him purely out of respect.
      — If he were to mispronounce your name, you would feel compelled to change it.
      — If opportunity knocks, and he’s not home, opportunity waits.
      — His two cents is worth $37 in change.
      — Once, a rattlesnake bit him. After five days of excruciating pain, the snake finally died.
      — When he has a 50/50 shot, the odds are 80/20 in his favor.
      — He has won the lifetime achievement award, twice.
      — His words carry weight that would break a less interesting man’s jaw.

      After Upstate Medical Center: swiping Trump’s nuclear football and escaping in the presidential helicopter with several nubile interns flinging their undergarments out the windows as it rises from the South Lawn.

    2. a different chris

      Comically not a single thing vis a vis his job itself that he was described as doing wrong.

      Because it wasn’t that hard a job. But still somebody gets paid 340K for it, just because that’s the kind of (tuition) money Universities have to throw at their simpleton admin jobs.

      1. Sid Finster

        I live there for many years. It is disturbing to say the least, talking to friends, people that I loved, people who used to be rational and have since turned into raving manics, babbling delusional conspiracy theories about Russians and Jews and prophesying victory until the end.

        The closest thing I can imagine is what it would be like to talk to, well, Nazi fanatics in 1944, or junior Japanese Army officers after Nagasaki. The walls are crumbling all around them, and they refuse to admit it, and not only that, but are quite ready, willing and able to murder in cold blood anyone who mumbles a word of dissension or even doubt, anyone who suggests that the events since 1994 are not an unbroken string of glorious victories.

        1. JBird

          Die hard Japanese officers actually tried to stop the Emperor’s speech from being broadcast. They searched the palace but didn’t find the hidden recording, which was smuggled out. The Emperor had no assurance at the time that he would keep his position or life, but he decided the continued existence of Japan was more important.

        1. Fiery Hunt

          Dropping a Slayer reference…and a beaut at that.
          Very nice to know we here are all kinds…

          Best commentariat on the interwebs!

  9. allan

    “I’d ask Chuck to sit down, but he’s already prostated himself”

    Would Lambert like to enlarge on this?

  10. fresno dan

    2016 Post Mortem

    ……..Disaffection with the status quo – the ‘establishment’ – drove voters to Trump the outsider: ‘The institutions that used to help you are now working against you, many people think. The game is rigged and it’s time to change it.” Interestingly, as both Bill [a retired carpenter] and Greg told me, that outsider could just as well have been socialist populist Bernie Sanders. I was told about exchanges on primary day where Democratic voters told their GOP counterparts that they were voting for Hillary Clinton’s challenger, Sanders, but they were voting for Trump in November if Clinton won.”
    there are about a half dozen or so links today e.g., “If the job market is so great, why aren’t many people getting pay raises?” [MarketWatch] that I believe capture the real zeitgeist. But Trump now is where Obama was with the inane cheerleading. Trump won because he was willing to say the US is going to h*ll economically
    I think the dems could win easily if they made that point, and proposed almost anything to address it, but their wall street masters won’t let them utter a peep….

    1. jrs

      the job market is not so great too many things argue against it: 1) lack of pay raises 2) labor force participation rates 3) workers not leaving their jobs as readily as they usually do in good times (in a truly good economy workers leave their jobs for better opportunities generally at a much higher rate than they are now).

      1. JBird

        All of this is fairly easy to find, or figure, out even for the nonexpert if they wanted to. You wanted the truth, but it looks like the MSM among others don’t.

        1. Procopius

          The MSM don’t report anything that makes their six corporate masters uneasy. I’m surprised as many of these stories/comments/remarks are getting out as are doing so. There’s a really strong feeling of unease. The wealth inequality is too great, it’s restricting aggregate demand and is going to lead to… what?

  11. Seth Miller

    The only way the word “incrementalism” fits the Democrats from Carter ’till now is if it is used to mean “in favor of slow deterioration.” They have not made or advocated even incremental improvements on the rent control laws, the labor laws, the welfare state, job security, election rights or anything else of importance. Each one has deteriorated, and much of the deterioration was abetted by “incrementalists.”

    1. John k

      Yes, absolutely.
      I do hear Obamacare is an incremental improvement, but I bet many that paid something and got denied or had unaffordable copays beg to differ.
      And then there’s the big wage increases…
      Gonna incrementally walk the picket lines…
      Funny, not jailing white collar criminals didn’t seem incremental. What if they’d just got ten years in the slammer… one of the real ones…

  12. BobWhite

    – “Medicare at 55’ now on Dianne Feinstein’s agenda”

    As Ron Placone tweeted: she is “courting the youth vote”…
    Well played Ron. :-)

  13. Sid Finster

    I live in North Dakota. For a ferociously reactionary fire engine red state, it is in some ways quite progressive.

    Strict laws protecting farmers, homeowners, borrowers and insured people, all straight out of the 1930s or the Great Society, and a initiative and referendum process that has successfully swatted down the legislature when it has attempted to “modernize” and “reform” these “archaic” laws.

    In other ways, North Dakota is a libertarian’s paradise. More gun-friendly than Texas, a code of financial regulations that is something like 20 pages long, double-spaced, single-sided; a legislature that is restricted to meeting for a few weeks every two years (lest they get ideas into their heads and start passing laws); a neutered state bureaucracy; a medical marijuana initiative that gave the Health Department the vapors; and – get this – something like a grand whopping total of 6,500 lawyers licensed to practice in North Dakota at all times since the state first became a state in 1889 (of which most are long dead or retired or were out-of-state lawyers who got licensed in North Dakota for a one-off transaction and never set foot in the state again).

    You could easily find more lawyers in a midtown Manhattan office building than infest the entire State of North Dakota, where all men live as brothers, unmolested by lawyers.

    1. Sid Finster

      Forgot – no voter registration, open primaries. State-owned bank and grain elevator.

      Incidentally, the article skirts over this, but Non-Partisan League originally ran as Republicans.

      1. Sid Finster

        Scorchingly hot – in the summer. But that only lasts a few weeks, and then it’s back to winter, winter, winter!

        Winters are like something on Hoth Ice Planet.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Plus, North Dakota is where farmer-rancher Gabe Brown is doing his . . . umm . . . ground-breaking work in eco-restorative agriculture.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Gabe Brown here and here (just from a quick search). Sounds like he understands soil. And FWIW, “no till” makes a lot of sense to me. If soil is a network (the mycelial mat) then running sharp blades through it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    3. voteforno6

      Also, a lot of people of Norwegian descent who seem to think that fish cured in lye is a delicacy.

  14. a different chris

    >portraying it as proof of their independence in Washington. Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) co-authored the bipartisan legislation, signed by Trump on Thursday, that eases the regulatory oversight imposed on banks

    I didn’t realize the Deplorables were made up of bank President’s and VP’s? I would have thought they hated the banks more than anybody. I guess I’m not capable of eleventy-dimensional chess.

    1. Sid Finster

      No, but Trump is treated as a near-deity here in ND, and there is no more reasoning with the local Trumpers than there is with anti-vaxxers or Mormon apologists.

      Heitkamp is the only statewide elected official from Team D, and she knows that she is in trouble.

  15. clarky90

    Tommy Robinson and The Destruction of Free Speech in the UK


    An old UK lady is arrested because she asked (no kidding) a police officer why was it ok for Muslims to pray in a public park, but not for Christians. Later, the police come to her home and drag her to Court.

    This (one example) is why people are voting for Trump, IMO.

    I never imagined that I would be living in a Zombie Apocalypses, but here we are. It is unfolding before our eyes!

    1. windsock

      Tommy Robinson is vile. He was filming defendants in a court case where they have anonymity in press reports until the verdict. It was a contempt of court for which he was sentenced as he had done this before and had been warned he would be jailed if he did it again. ‘Tis nowt to do with free speech.

      A link for your story about the UK woman’s arrest would be welcome. It sounds like unmitigated bollocks to me.

      You may be a bit part actor in the Zombie Apocalypse. Or you may not

    1. allan

      x2. That’s a great ad. Here’s to hoping that whether or not there’s a Blue Wave™ in the Fall,
      there will be an Ultraviolet wave in the Democratic primaries.

      1. polecat

        Yeah, but if that pertains to Blue Dogs .. then I would rather hope for a Gamma-ray burst .. just to weed them out.

    2. ambrit

      Yes, someone who has grasped the principle that all politics is local.
      An excellent ad, and running on he Internets. So, much cheaper than television and cable? And, considering the demographics of urban areas, probably reaching the cohort that can be counted to vote for “enlightened self interest.”
      These internet run campaigns are the ‘stealth’ political weapons that will be surprising and discommoding the Traditional Politicos, going forward.
      I’d love to see a breakdown of eyeballs per dollar for traditional television and cable political advertising versus internet political advertising.

    1. ambrit

      I don’t know about you, but the caption suggested that the ‘victim’ was running away from an attacking police officer. I mean: “Help! Police officer!” Run, run, run. Someone in Yunnan Province has a sense of humour.

      1. The Rev Kev

        You’re right. They do have a good sense of humour but their message was also quite serious. If there is an attacker with a knife, run away and call the police. That’s good advice that. Kudos to those cops though.

        1. ambrit

          I took a second look and noticed that the policemen being shown were not wearing firearms. Is this standard in China? Good show if so.

  16. The Rev Kev

    “Trump won because he cared – lessons from Levittown”

    Couldn’t let this pass without mentioning the significance of Levittown itself. There is a website on this place and just to throw you in the deep-end, here is what a kitchen from this era of newly built homes looked liked.

  17. Whoa Molly

    Re comment: “I’m increasingly coming to doubt that they’re a political party at all. “

    Robert Reich, after 2016 elections, said the democrats are not a political party, they are a mailing list. He has also said the democrats need to be rebuilt from bottom to top. (Dont have links at my tiny keyboard)

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I like the joke, but I’m serious. Institutionally, it’s (at least to me) utterly fascinating. “They” aren’t an NGO, they aren’t a membership organization, they’re not really a conglomerate because the parts are too independent, they aren’t an army because there’s no central command, they aren’t a guerilla force because they have no core principles (other than “retain power” and “because markets”), they aren’t a mafia because the “families” aren’t at odds… The “Democrat Party,” so called, is a very strange and amorphous beast, and the biggest of their many big lies might be that they’re a party at all. They’re like Flexians, but at the institutional, not the individual, level.

  18. Milton

    New 2018 income data from Esri – U.S. Median Household Income is now $58,100. This up from $56,124 in 2017, an increase of about 3.5% and roughly a 2.5% annual increase the past 5 years. Just some figures to parrot, nothing more. I’m sure if the stated inflation rate was a true representation of middle class costs then this income increase would result in decreased bank account sums.

  19. JBird

    That the primary electorate likely will be more Republican than the general electorate is an additional wrinkle that could hurt Democratic chances to advance candidates to November in one or more of the aforementioned districts.”

    California is at least ⅓ Conservative or at least not the same ultra socially liberal and neoliberal as the Bay Area or Greater LA. If the Ayn Rand acolytes and members of the John Birch Society that seem to be the majority of the California GOP actually became conservative like Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, or Bush the Elder, they would actually have a chance of controlling one or both chambers and maybe just maybe the Governorship. I guess that’s crazy talk. So the coastal liberal majority and the inner California conservative minority will just have a choice between parties that are corrupt and uncaring or crazy and dysfunctional. That’s just swell.

  20. The Rev Kev

    Sorry to go off topic here but I just had a revelation. I was thinking about Obama’s Temple, errr, Presidential Library when it suddenly hit me. One day there will now be a Trump Presidential Library. Can you imagine? Would it be part Casino and Hotel? There would undoubtedly be a commercial component to it knowing Trump. The actual library itself would be pretty small when you think about it too. His tweets would be archived there in book form. And I just realised. You do that and you know what book that it would most resemble? The Quran.

    1. ObjectiveFunction

      “As the cofveve that gallop, snorting / flames sparking from their hooves / to drive home the charge at dawn / so truly is the Failing New York Times / to its Lord ungrateful, libelious and #FakeNews / unbelievable that anybody still reads it / Sad!”

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > One day there will now be a Trump Presidential Library. Can you imagine? Would it be part Casino and Hotel?

      That’s an awesome thought. That would own the libs, for sure. So it will happen.

        1. JBird

          I really really really hope he picks a spot in the Hamptons.

          That really would be awesome!


  21. Wukchumni

    Quite a large mountain lion has been hanging around our cabin community in the National Park, and last weekend another cabin owner related:

    “I’m guessing 6-10 people saw the cat. X, Y, Z and myself were extremely close! It was not afraid of us…most likely cause it was a big old cat. It was around for a few minutes before we chased it off.”

    1. ambrit

      Watch out there. Big cats are twice as dangerous when they lose their fear of humans.

  22. The Rev Kev

    “Yes, There is a Civil War Within the Democratic Party — it’s Just Not What You Think”

    Another call-out to Yves in this story for nailing a democrat plan to privatize Social Security I see, including-

    “This plan was called out by the intrepid economist Yves Smith for what it was, namely another neoliberal boondoggle”

  23. ACF

    On Medicare at 55–of course single payer is the way to go and starting at 55 is not nearly enough of a concession en route to sanity–but there’s another aspect I want to see in any Medicare at (some age other than 0)–you should be able to put your spouse and kids on it too. That would make the insured population younger and healthier, and prevent some of the cream skimming by the for-profit industry. Eg. I’m 48. My husband is 5 years younger, and I have an 11 and an 8 year old. If I got Medicare at 55, both of my kids would have a long time before aging out at 27 or whatever that is, and my husband would get a 5 year head start. And I wouldn’t be the only one in this situation… That is, unless and until Medicare really is for all, it should allow spouses/dependents in too, the way employer-based insurance does.

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