2:00PM Water Cooler 5/8/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Since the announcement was for 2:00:

“Live Now: Trump Announces Decision on Iran Nuclear Accord” [Bloomberg]. A live blog. As of 2:08: “Scene is still reporters’ chatter and George Washington’s mug.”

2:13 Here we go…

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“Top trade officials from the U.S., Mexico and Canada enter their second day of high-level talks at the Winder Building today, as they face heightened pressure to strike an agreement in principle in the next couple of weeks. But pressure or no pressure, Mexico wants to reach a fully renegotiated NAFTA instead of a preliminary deal on a few issues, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Monday” [Politico]. “Guajardo’s push for a complete rewrite comes amid intense deadline pressure. Time is running out for any renegotiated deal to make it through Congress this year, on one hand, and on the other, Mexico and Canada will soon be forced to pay tariffs on steel and aluminum if they do not reach some sort of agreement with the U.S. by June 1.”

“U.S. and China each say the other is wrecking the WTO” [Reuters]. “China and the United States blamed each other on Tuesday for risking the destruction of the World Trade Organization, with Beijing’s ambassador decrying U.S. hostage-taking and Washington’s envoy calling China’s claims ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ U.S.-China trade talks will resume next week after failing to reach agreement last week, the White House said on Monday.”

“American agriculture exporters can already see the deterioration of U.S.-China trade relations in their order books. Chinese importers have canceled purchases of corn and cut orders for pork while dramatically reducing soybean purchases in the past month and scaling back orders for sorghum, a grain used in animal feed. …[T[he chill in agriculture trade comes ahead of threatened tariffs from Beijing, and it is sending jitters through a U.S. Farm Belt that has been sending trade missions to China for years to cultivate the market” [Wall Street Journal].

“Understanding the Decline of U.S. Manufacturing Employment” (PDF) [Susan Houseman, Upjohn Institute for Employment Research]. This looks important:

The apparently robust growth in manufacturing inflation-adjusted (real) output and productivity are driven by a relatively small sector—computers and electronic products, which account for only about 13 percent of value-added in manufacturing. Without the computer and electronic products industry (hereafter referred to simply as “the computer industry”), real GDP growth in manufacturing was less than half that of the private sector average from 1979 to 2000, and only 12 percent in the 2000s. And without the computer industry, manufacturing labor productivity generally has been no higher or only somewhat higher than that of the private sector.

The computer industry, in turn, is an outlier and statistical anomaly. Its extraordinary output and productivity growth reflect the way statistical agencies account for improvements in selected products produced in this industry, in particular computers and semiconductors. Rapid productivity growth in this industry—and by extension the above-average productivity growth in the manufacturing sector—has little to do with automation of the production process. Nor is extraordinary real output and productivity growth an indicator of the competitiveness of domestic manufacturing in the computer industry; rather, the locus of production of the industry’s core products has shifted to Asia. Manufacturing’s declining employment share has mirrored its declining share of output (nominal GDP) and to a large degree reflects the fact that, in most manufacturing industries, there has been relatively little growth in the amount of goods made in American factories for the past 40 years. The recent precipitous decline in manufacturing employment is a distinct phenomenon, and a growing body of research examines whether—and the extent to which— international trade can explain it. Although none of the studies comprehensively examines the various mechanisms by which trade and the broader forces of globalization may impact employment, collectively they find that trade has played a significant role in the collapse of U.S. manufacturing employment in the 2000s. In contrast, research to date finds no support for the hypothesis that automation was responsible.



“Stormy Daniels is crowding out Democrats’ 2018 message” [Matt Yglesias, Vox]. “Democratic Party leaders, for exactly this reason, aren’t talking about Daniels; they’re talking about issues they think can cut into Trump’s base and/or improve their own image among voters. But they’re having a hard time breaking through.” Poor Democrats, helpless to get their message out! I think Yglesias is carrying water rather too visibly for Democrats here. In fact, Democrats — with the notable exception of their Outreach Chair, Senator Sanders, who Yglesias oddly, or not, does not mention — have been yammering about Russia! Russia! Russia! and Stormy! Stormy! Stormy! for two solid years, and if they wanted to change that narrative, they could have pulled strings with their friends in the press corp at any time, in ways that the Podesta email trove made all too clear. I would urge: (1) the Democrat leaders have belatedly figured out that their tactics over the last two years have failed to reach beyond their own echo chamber, and that (2) although they know wish to pivot, it will be impossible for them to do so, for the simple reason that if you care about issues, that’s what you talk about about, as the Democrat’s Outreach Chair, Senator Sanders — who again Yglesias oddly, or not, does not mention — has been doing for years, which is why he has credibility with the voters in a way that Schumer, Pelosi, Booker, Harris, and all the rest of ’em do not and cannot.

“What’s at Stake in the Midterms” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “What happens now? A micro-political, race-by-race House analysis suggests that Democrats are headed for pretty substantial gains, perhaps in the 30-seat neighborhood (30 seats would be seven more seats than they need to get to 218). The limitation is that the micro approach works well in normal “all politics is local” elections, but it chronically understates party gains and losses in wave years—when the political sum is greater than the parts. It dramatically understated Republican gains in 1994 and Democratic gains in 2006, for example; when dominos start tumbling in wave elections, they have a cascading effect. A more macro-political analysis, factoring in national and statewide polling and what appears to be a wave, suggests something more like a 40-seat Democratic pickup. Obviously six months is a long time and much can and will happen, but the trajectory seems to be in a single direction and consistent with the party holding the White House losing seats in 35 out of 38 (92 percent) midterm elections since the end of the Civil War. In midterms with a president having job-approval ratings in the mid-40s or less, losses are typically in the 40-seat range. It is premature to say that the GOP majority in the House is toast, but is it in very serious danger? Absolutely… What are the policy implications of these odds? The best-case scenario for Democrats in the House, a gain of 40 or 50 seats, would give them roughly the advantage that Republicans have had for the past two years, when they could pass some things, but even something that unified the majority as much as repealing and replacing Obamacare only passed on the third attempt. The best-case scenario for Republicans would probably be losing 10 to 20 seats, holding onto their majority by their fingernails. In the Senate, a best-case scenario for Democrats might be a net gain of three seats, giving them a scant 52-48 seat majority, while a best-case scenario for Republicans might end up with the GOP gaining three or four seats, putting them at 54 or 55 seats. Putting all that together, giving the difficulty of getting anything controversial through the Senate (except under budget reconciliation, when a simple majority is sufficient), between filibusters and President Trump’s veto pen, it’s hard to see the next two years being any more productive than the last two.” Awesome! Even if they win, Democrats won’t have to govern!

“When this election cycle began, handicappers repeatedly pointed out that 10 Democratic Senate incumbents from states carried by Donald Trump would be on the ballot in 2018. That count was accurate, and the point behind it obvious — Republicans had a long list of opportunities” [Inside Elections] “But now even the most partisan Republicans are acknowledging that the list of serious targets is shrinking to five or six states. Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia, North Dakota and Florida are certainly in play, but how are the other competitive Senate races holding up?”


WV Senate: “Who is Paula Jean Swearengin?” [Register-Herald]. “[Swearengin] pointed a finger at Manchin, as well as two of the Republican candidates running for the U.S. Senate seat — Evan Jenkins, currently a U.S. representative, and Patrick Morrisey, currently West Virginia Attorney General. ‘They’re funded by Big Pharma and industry. We deserve clean water, clean air, and for sewage to quit running through our creeks. We have the right to the American Dream and a living wage. But none of that will happen when they’re only serving the wealthiest in the country and state. The working class deserves working class representation.’ She says her campaign has been funded solely by individuals. Her campaign account has a balance of roughly $300,000, and the average donation has been $15.”

WV Senate: “Outmatched in Experience and Funds, Swearengin Remains Undeterred in Primary Against Manchin” [West Virginia Public Broadcasting]. “That record puts him at odds with the national Democratic Party. Manchin has voted against a majority of Senate Democrats 29.3 percent of the time in the 115th Congress, according to Propublica’s Represent, a web app that tallies congressional voting records. He ranks first among all senators in voting against his party — with the average Senate Democrat breaking against the majority of the party’s vote 10.1 percent of the time…. ‘He calls himself a West Virginia Democrat, but I’m not sure if he knows what that means,’ said Paula Jean Swearengin, a native of Mullens, West Virginia who identifies as a coal miner’s daughter and coal miner’s granddaughter. ‘The reason to take him on is because he’s not adhering to the platform of the Democratic Party and he’s not serving the working class,’ she said. After asking Manchin in person for help with the economy in southern West Virginia and to tackle environmental issues like water quality, Swearengin says she felt unheard and overlooked. She took her pleas to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders when the Vermont politician made a stop last spring in McDowell County for a taping of a town hall on MSNBC’s ‘All In with Chris Hayes. ‘The reason that I went to go see Bernie Sanders is because I was begging him for hope. I mean, I’ve begged for this state for years and I admired him because he was the only senator to sit down with me and talk to me like I was a human being,’ Swearengin said.” Hmm. Those town halls…

Stats Watch

NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, April 2018: “The highest earnings improvement levels in 45 years helped support small business optimism in April after a sharp decline in the previous month” [Econoday]. “The highest earnings improvement levels in 45 years helped support small business optimism in April after a sharp decline in the previous month. Among the positives was higher inventory satisfaction, with the net percent of owners viewing current stocks as too low rising 2 points to a minus 4 percent. Sales expectations also gained ground, rising 1 point to a net 21 percent, as 59 percent of construction firms and 56 percent of manufacturing firms expected higher sales volumes in the coming months, encouraged by wage growth and solid consumer sentiment. Though labor markets remained strong and owners reported adding a net 0.28 workers per firm on average, the third highest reading since 2006, it was job creation plans that led the declining components, falling 4 points to a historically still strong net 16 percent.” And but: “April 2018 Small Business Optimism: Reaches Highest Level In Survey History” [Econintersect].

JOLTS, March 2018: “There are more than enough job openings… to give everyone who’s looking for a job…. a job. [Econoday]. “Openings in this report, underscored strongly by March, have been on a sharp climb and clearly hint at the risk of overheating in the labor market, that demand for labor is surpassing supply. Though wage pressures have remained limited and have been giving the Federal Reserve breathing space to keep on a gradual path of rate hikes, today’s report does invite questions over capacity stress and wage inflation.” And: “The headline seasonally adjusted view shows significant improvement in job openings. Although the unadjusted data analysis shows rate of growth improved, the year-over-year improvement is in the midrange of improvement seen since the end of the Great Recession. JOLTS non-adjusted job openings remain about average for what was seen in the last 3 years” [Econintersect]. And: “For the first time ever, there’s a job opening for every unemployed worker” [MarketWatch]. “According to the latest data from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, there were 6.55 job openings in March. In March, there were 6.59 million unemployed, meaning there are 1.01 unemployed workers for every job…. The standard retort to that point, is if the job market is so tight, why aren’t companies aggressively raising wages? The fact is companies are increasing pay, though not at the rate typically associated with a tight labor market. While average hourly pay was just 2.6% in the 12 months ending April, the three-month average of median wage growth in March was a stronger 3.3%, according to Atlanta Fed data.”

Credit: “March 2018 Headline Consumer Credit Growth Rate Little Changed” [Econintersect]. “[There has been] a gentle deceleration of consumer credit (blue line in graph below) over the last year.”

Credit: Handy chart [@SoberLook].

Credit: “US Credit Managers Service Sector Dollar Collections For April Decline Below 50 (Signals Downturn)” [Confounded Interest]. “The NACM US Credit Managers Service Sector Dollar Collections SA declined to 47.30 in April. The index value above 50 represents growth in the economy. It was the biggest decline since November 2008, smack in the middle of The Great Recession. The CMI is based on a survey of about 500 credit managers during the last 10 days of the month with equal representation between manufacturing and service sectors. The survey asks respondents to comment on whether they are seeing improvement, deterioration, or no change for various favorable or unfavorable factors.” Survey says… We’re in the middle of a recession? Now?

Real Estate: “Las Vegas Real Estate in April: Sales Up Slightly YoY, Inventory down 19%” [Calculated Risk]. “This is a key distressed market to follow since Las Vegas saw the largest price decline, following the housing bubble, of any of the Case-Shiller composite 20 cities…. Watch inventory. Last year, inventory declined almost 500 homes from March to April, this year inventory was up slightly from March to April. The inventory decline might be nearing an end in Las Vegas (and elsewhere).”

Shipping: “New employment figures show signs of potential turmoil in the transportation and logistics sector. Trucking companies hit the brakes hard on hiring in April… slashing 5,500 jobs from the month before on a seasonally-adjusted basis. The pullback raises questions about the direction of capacity growth in a freight market marked by sky-high demand and tight constraints on roads and rails” [Wall Street Journal]. “Trucking companies have flexed their new financial muscle by scaling up orders for big rigs, but the jobs numbers back up statements by some carriers that they are having a tough time getting new workers behind the wheel. Companies focused on e-commerce aren’t facing that problem: Couriers and warehouse operators added a combined 12,300 jobs last month. Hiring in trucking had been growing, but the recent figures suggest the sector’s trends may not be built for the long-haul.”

Shipping: “Teamsters float proposal for Sunday deliveries by UPS; three officials canned for opposing it” [DC Velocity]. “A proposal by the head of the Teamsters union’s package division to allow UPS Inc. drivers to work on Sundays for the first time, and to create a two-tier driver structure to do it, has led to three members being dismissed from a Teamster committee negotiating a new contract with the transport and logistics giant because they opposed the proposal.” Oh, great. A two-tier structure.

Shipping: “Automated invoice and payment systems in shipping could wipe out billions of extra costs” [The Loadstar]. “A new white paper from Drewry claimed that as shipping costs are further squeezed more attention should be diverted to ‘inefficiencies’ in payment processes, where it calculates some $31bn in transaction costs is incurred annually. The maritime consultant estimated that the global container shipping industry earned revenues of $166bn in 2017, generated from the movement of 207m teu across 400 liner services, requiring the raising of a staggering 1.26bn freight invoices. ‘We conclude that the prevailing inefficiencies pose a significant market opportunity for technological disrupters,’ said Drewry. It added: ‘In particular, we believe that tremendous efficiency gains can be achieved through technological solutions.'”

Shipping: “Freight Operators Dismiss Threat of Digital Startups” [Wall Street Journal]. “According to PitchBook Data Inc., venture capital firms invested nearly $1.2 billion in freight-related firms in 2017, up from $200 million five years ago…. C.H. Robinson executives say they haven’t been sitting back on their heels. The company says it is spending about $150 million a year on technology, and operates an internal “innovation lab” in which employees can test and vet ideas…. XPO Logistics Inc. said it would spend about $450 million this year on technology ranging from automation and robotics to data analysis and the company’s digital freight marketplace, which launched earlier this year and now has about 100 large customers and 2,500 carriers.”

Shipping: “Industry divided on low sulphur fuel availability in 2020” [Splash 247]. “As it stands 46% of Splash readers believe there will not be enough low sulphur fuel come January 1, 2020 when the new IMO regulations kick in, with a slim majority, 54%, believing there will be enough to go around.”

The Bezzle: “Uber unveils ‘flying car’ prototype for a future air-taxi service” [MarketWatch]. Oh, stop. Just stop.

The Bezzle: “Tesla’s Factory in a Fishbowl” [Wall Street Journal]. “I took a tour on Thursday, observing the body shop where 1,068 robots were welding, gluing or riveting together parts for dozens of Model 3 sedans…. The result is a car company that looks more like a software company—making changes as it goes along and pushing through product updates to cars already on the road. Doug Field, a former Apple Inc. and Ford Motor Co. engineer who is now Tesla’s engineering chief, notes that, rather than ‘batch large changes all at once,’ Tesla continues to make tweaks after a product launches, much as the software industry does…. In some ways, Tesla is updating the Japanese principle of ‘kaizen,’ or continuous improvement,” an approach to manufacturing that swept the auto industry in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Mr. Field said Tesla practices ‘continual disapproval’ of its processes and is ‘almost religious’ in sweating over everything from seat costs to the best way to attach a roof rack to its $35,000 sedan…. [Ford Motor’s chief of markets, Jim Farley] is also watching Silicon Valley’s production process. “This is where a lot of tech companies do a better job—they observe the customer and they change quickly,” he says. “They put something out and it doesn’t work and they fix it and they put it out again, constantly figuring it out and fixing.” Why pay to debug the product when you can get your customers to do it for free?

UPDATE The Fed: “Fed debates new vocabulary as it shifts away from loose policies” [Reuters]. “One issue under consideration is the continued use of ‘forward guidance,’ a communication tool used by central banks across the globe during the era of ultra-low rates in which they pledged to do “whatever it takes” to reflate the economy…. [F]orward guidance, which mitigates risk for financial institutions, spurring needed investment during an economic slowdown, may be controversial as it is not seen as appropriate for ‘normal’ times when it can stoke instability. Speaking in Zurich on Tuesday, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank ‘will communicate our policy strategy as clearly and transparently as possible to help align expectations and avoid market disruptions.'”

Five Horsemen: “Apple is trading at a fresh record high as Amazon eases down from yesterday’s record close” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen May 8 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “The mania-panic index rose to 54 (complacency) as the put-call ratio fell from its May 1st spike” [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 7 2018


“The Very First Animal Appeared Amid an Explosion of DNA” [New York Times]. The headline in the original is… different: “Reconstruction of the ancestral metazoan genome reveals an increase in genomic novelty” [Nature]. From the abstract: “Here, using extensive genome comparisons between metazoans and multiple outgroups, we infer the minimal protein-coding genome of the first animal, in addition to other eukaryotic ancestors, and estimate the proportion of novelties in these ancient genomes. Contrary to the prevailing view, this uncovers an unprecedented increase in the extent of genomic novelty during the origin of metazoans, and identifies 25 groups of metazoan-specific genes that are essential across the Animal Kingdom.” Back to the Times: “[T]he animal kingdom arose…with an evolutionary burst of new genes. These may have played a crucial part in transforming our single-celled ancestors into creatures with complex bodies made of many kinds of cells. The new genes also proved to be remarkably durable. Of all the genes in the human genome, 55 percent were already present in the first animal.”

Our Famously Free Press

“Newsonomics: Alden Global Capital is making so much money wrecking local journalism it might not want to stop anytime soon” [Nieman Labs]. “Is there any chance Alden Global Capital might change course?…. Today we can reveal some key financial numbers from the very private company that shows just how successful Alden and [Digital First Media (owned by Alden)] have been at milking profit out of the newspapers it is slashing to the bone. DFM reported a 17 percent operating margin — well above those of its peers — in its 2017 fiscal year, along with profits of almost $160 million. That’s the fruit of the repeated cutbacks that have left its own shrinking newsrooms in a state of rebellion…. Most astounding within a decade of unending bad business news for newspaper publishers: In seven years, Alden has doubled its Bay Area News Group profit (including its main Silicon Valley properties, but not others on the region’s outskirts) from $20 million to $40 million. In 2011, its profit margin was 7 percent, one-third of what it is now. And in that time, the group has shed about 220 newsroom staffers, now down to about 160.”

“Univision Is A F*cking Mess” [Gizmodo]. The lead: “This is the story of how corporate raiding, complacency, excess, and incompetence are gutting a media company that matters to tens of millions of people. It’s not a novel story, and perhaps not even scandalous by the standards of corporate opulence: A shark-obsessed boss, millions wasted on consultants, and an executive who insisted on publishing softcore porn are more embarrassing buffoonery than insidious greed. The main problem—the billions in debt the company ran up in the process of its owners buying it and weighing it down—is practically routine in media and beyond; that doesn’t make it any less infuriating.”

Class Warfare

“Are You in a BS Job? In Academe, You’re Hardly Alone” [David Graeber, Chronicle of Higher Education]. “For a number of years now, I have been conducting research on forms of employment seen as utterly pointless by those who perform them. The proportion of these jobs is startlingly high. Surveys in Britain and Holland reveal that 37 to 40 percent of all workers there are convinced that their jobs make no meaningful contribution to the world. And there seems every reason to believe that numbers in other wealthy countries are much the same. There would appear to be whole industries — telemarketing, corporate law, financial or management consulting, lobbying — in which almost everyone involved finds the enterprise a waste of time, and believes that if their jobs disappeared it would either make no difference or make the world a better place.” This is a must-read.

“‘Like Selling Crack to Children’: A Peek Inside the Silicon Valley Grift Machine” [New York Magazine]. “When a tech company captures an audience, it gets more than the opportunity to sell products and ideas. It also harvests the discretely quantified and collated bits of individual user data that people hand over, wittingly and unwittingly, as they stare at their computer and smartphone screens. As valuable as this information is for what it reveals about individual consumer habits and preferences, it’s even more precious in the aggregate, as so-called big data, which can be used to predict political shifts, market trends, and even the public mood. Who knows, wins, as the old military adage goes — and this is equally true in the world of business. Watch the video, click the link, fill out the form — this is the labor that tech companies turn into profits. The people who carry out this labor consider themselves customers, but they are also uncompensated workers. The process whereby eyeballs get turned into money is mysterious, but not totally opaque — just discouragingly complicated and boring.”

“Before the next videotaped Starbucks disaster, everyone should take implicit bias training” [USA Today]. “Everyone should get tested for implicit bias, and if you’re a public official or receiving public dollars — it should be mandatory. It’s just a matter of time before another black person is abused, arrested, or shot dead for flying, golfing, driving, walking or drinking coffee ‘while black.'”

News of The Wired

“I Used The Web For A Day With JavaScript Turned Off” [Smashing Magazine]. “The web is a hostile, unpredictable environment, which is why many developers follow the principle of progressive enhancement to build their sites up from a core experience of semantic HTML, layering CSS and unobtrusive JavaScript on top of that. I wanted to see how many sites apply this in practice. What better way than disabling JavaScript altogether?” “Progressive enhancement” is what happens when you start reading a site and get a paragraph or so into it when the layout jumps around, making you lose your place.

“Amazon Froze My Account and I Still Don’t Know Why” [Bards and Sages]. “Most people have suspected for a while now that Amazon was relying way too much on automation. The story you are about to read is evidence of just how ridiculous this has gotten.” And: “Amazon is not a friend of authors. They see us as interchangeable commodities to be used up, worn out, and replaced: like widgets.” Well… of course.

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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 (JB):

JB writes: “Also known as the sensitive plant because touching it leads the leaves to fold up temporarily. Tried capturing a bumble bee doing its thing on the flower but without success. This is the best could do for your efforts of sharing photos of gaia.” Photographing flowers is very difficult, because they are always in motion. It’s almost as if they adapted to catch the slightest breeze! [Instantly worrying about exceptions] Well, the kind of flowers I grow….

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About Lambert Strether

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


    1. Jim Haygood

      2:20:42 pm There it is: The U.S. will withdraw from the deal, Trump says he’ll begin reinstating sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

      US consumer-depositors are going to pay dearly for the Orange Charlatan’s decision, through $70 crude and three-dollar gasoline.

      Tilting US policy toward the parvenu states of Israel and Saudi Arabia and against the five thousand year old Persian culture is a profound error.

      Perhaps our occupied European poodles will be sufficiently incensed to deliver some payback to out-of-control, know-nothing, cowboy America.

      1. Carolinian

        His payback to Adelson no doubt. Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com has a different theory which is that Trump is a neocon for show but often surreptitiously does the opposite. Thus he token bombs Syria, then cuts off funding to the White Helmets propaganda shop which is egging on more intervention.

        While Congress is under Bibi’s thumb it may still be unclear how much that applies to Trump.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          That’s something to keep in mind and keep an eye on.

          Perhaps like Sanders sometimes when it comes to foreign policy with him, Trump can’t go too directly or openly in another direction.

      2. Glutton for Punishment

        ”European poodles will be sufficiently incensed to deliver some payback”

        I predict that day will be the 31st of November ad kalendas graecas.

        They have spinelessly but systematically been inflicting pain on Europe through austerity, CETA, TTIP, sanctions on Russia, opposition to OBOR, bombing and killing civilians in Afghanistan, bombing and killing civilians in Libya & Syria & Irak (all these leaders planning on strengthening the Euro by trading oil in EUR instead of USD), bombing and killing civilians in Yugoslavia, supporting Saudi Arabia in the systematic genocide of Yemenites, wrist slapping instead of punishing US companies breaking market rules. Those are just the things on top of mind so there is certainly more.

        Sidenote: Let us make a list together of self-defeating policies the great geniuses of EU are inflicting on their citizens.

        Most importantly none of these policies and actions further European welfare or security.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Opposition to OBOR is arguably the way to go, or maybe not…it’s not so clear cut.

          1. Glutton for Punishment

            There are certain rather repulsive aspects of it in terms of the economic bondage elements for smaller countries in OBOR.

            However, that is only a question of changing of the master, not the slavehood.
            Between IMF-loans requiring implementation of neoliberal policies with privatization and sell-out to foreign owners of infrastructure fundamentals and OBOR loans that can not be served and the assets will be transferred to China in that case is just the
            difference in who gets to keep the cake. With a slight advantage to the OBOR because you are not necessarily forced to abolish any welfare policies for the citizens as a principle.

            However, OBOR, if completed, will facilitate trade between China & EU so it will lead to something better in the end: faster, cheaper and possibly more environmentally friendly (current sea shipping and flights are horrible for the environment)

            1. Olga

              To the extent that BRI (OBOR is the old acronym) contemplates new infrastructure and trade as the basis of cooperative relationships with other countries – it can only mean improvement, given the only other choice (i.e., being bombed into submission). Let’s just all keep that in mind….

      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        This is EUrope’s big chance to stay in the deal, and to make staying in the deal so lucrative for Iran that Iran is incentivized to stay in the deal too. The EUropean leadership can do that if they want to. If they don’t do that, it is because they secretly support Trump in his efforts to abolish the deal entirely.

        Perhaps China and Russia can incentivize Iran to join them in upholding the deal all on their own. I don’t know if China and Russia can do that all on their own. China could help by stopping buying oil from anywhere else but Iran ( and of course honoring its current purchases from Russia). I’m sure China could do other things too. And Russia could sell Iran the very best and most modern air defense systems it has ( unless those are so super secret that Russia does not sell them to anybody). Russia could even staff them and man them with Russian experts and trainers alongside the Iranian users to send the clear message that bombing the Iranian air defenses means bombing Russian personnel. ( Which Clinton would of course support, but which Trump might feel some sentimental hesitancy towards doing).

        1. Ignacio

          My theory: Trump has withdrawn knowing that EU countries would stay and probably for this very same reason. Carolinian commentary seems well pointed to me.

          1. WobblyTelomeres

            Carolinian commentary seems well pointed to me.

            Or y’all could all be delusional, thinking Trump is capable of eleventy-dimensional chess (far far more difficult than mere 10-dimensional as I have recently learned).

            1. Mo's Bike Shop

              I figure Dodge Ball is the appropriate sports metaphor, so can’t help but thinking he’s doing pretty well there. I’l Douche has no worries about a Carter Malaise. The Media love him.

              But then, we live in a world where I’m pretty sure the Neocons want to destroy Iran, but so far they’ve simply removed Iran’s biggest adversaries. Should I try to figure out the plan, or should I put my effort into speculating about how it will fail?

            2. Skip Intro

              You think it requires even 2d chess for Trump to bluster and bully, without ever intending to throw a punch? He makes angry gestures for the neocons who are standing behind him pushing, and they back off for a bit.

                1. Skip Intro

                  Very well then. I think Trump’s experience with professional wrestling illuminates his presidency as well as anything.

                  1. WobblyTelomeres

                    FWIW, I would have said 0-dimensional chess, but feared I would be accused of trying too hard to make a point.

          2. drumlin woodchuckles

            I will offer another theory as to part of the source for Trump’s distaste for the JCPOA.
            That reason is the friction in Trump’s brain between the respect Obama got for this agreement as the “One Good Thing” in Obama’s legacy versus Trump’s own race-based antipathy for Obama the person. So Trump takes this opportunity to lift his leg and urinate all over “Obama’s” Iran Deal.

            1. Patrick

              Trump’s roll-back of everything “Obama” seems to be one consistent dynamic (it seems as though he/the admin tries to come up with alternate reasons to roll-back, but the focus seems squarely on undoing any form of legacy…payback for the WHCD jabs from Obama that embarrassed).

              Another dynamic that seems apparent in much of the Trump agenda is the DNA of Donnie’s business approach: get people committed with skin in the game and then tell them the game is off unless they agree to letting DT rewrite the rules. Countless stories of stiffing contractors and forcing them to settle for pennies on the dollar, after they have already delivered is the true MO of the Trump business.

              Trump has two hammers. Everything issue on the agenda becomes either an “Obama legacy nail” or a “back out on your commits to force suckers to accept your terms nail”.

              Sometimes he can’t resist hitting a given nail with both hammers.

        2. jo6pac

          China began cutting back a few weeks ago on buying oil from the house of saud. Then upped the buying from Iran & Russia.

          Russia, China, & Iran no longer trade in dollars, they use their own currency or gold.

          Iran just bought 100 mid-range commercial passenger planes from Russia. Boeing & Air Bus 0.

          I do hope the eu gets backbone and stays with the treaty.

          When Russia sells advance weapons like S-300 & S-400 there is always Russian staff that goes with them. Buy the weapon and the soldiers are along for the ride.

          $3.00 gas would be OK with me in Calif.

          1. ambrit

            Not to be too ‘ugly’ but we here could still find gasoline at $2.39 USD a gallon Sunday. This is going to hurt the ‘flyover states’ a lot more than the coasts I suspect. Mainly because the hinterlands have much longer commutes and drives to shop in private vehicles on average. We here in the great micropolitan region have scant public transit. Almost everything that needs to be done requires an automobile.
            Three dollar a gallon gasoline, and probably higher if real shooting commences in the Middle East, will impose austerity in earnest on the ‘average’ family. The Indian Summer of gas and oil production has staved off any serious actions towards ‘alternative’ energy production and transportation ‘reforms.’ Counterintuitively, more expensive overseas supplies of gas and oil will be a boost to the fracking industry. The cynic in me suggests that some amorphous entity is trying to find that fine point where price and affordability match necessity. Ultimately, this is not a zero sum game.

            1. Whoa Molly!

              4, 5 (or more?) gas will hit CA hard too. People frequently have to live two hours away from work in order to rent or buy.

              People who live in lower cost areas like the central valley, or northern california counties are pretty much limited to cars. There are buses but they run so infrequently they are not practical for getting to and from work. Only other options I know of are ride sharing and van pools.

              1. ambrit

                Oh. The rot has set in all over I see.
                The long term problem will be the long lead times needed for major infrastructure projects. The new national sport is going to be: “Catch Up.”

          2. sierra7

            We’ve had “$3 gas” here in CA for months……..in the flatlands it’s around $3.25; and in the mountains it’s above $3.50.

          3. Lambert Strether Post author

            > Iran just bought 100 mid-range commercial passenger planes from Russia. Boeing & Air Bus 0.

            China is also developing passenger planes, though I’m not sure I’d fly one just yet (but then I wouldn’t fly a DreamLiner either).

        3. a different chris

          >If they don’t do that, it is because they secretly support Trump in his efforts to abolish the deal entirely.

          Or they are just cowards that cannot bear to separate themselves from the skirts of Mommy America.

          1. Sid_finster

            The latter. There’s no benefit to Europe in breaking the deal, and much benefit to keeping it.

            However, Europeans, as has been demonstrated over and over again, are the biggest weenies on the planet.

            1. Temporarily Sane

              When the World Bank/IMF extortion team fails to achieve the desired results the so-called first world cabal of nations relies on force, delivered via US-led “coalitions”, to keep dissident regimes in line and access to cheap and plundered resources open. European states benefit from this arrangement, even small countries like Austria and Switzerland which never contribute directly to military missions in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Giving up on stolen and extorted resources and paying honestly for them would mean the end of the Western way of life.

              This is why Europe participates in the US-led plunder and subjugation of foreign countries. A sovereign European foreign policy would force Europeans to take a close look at themselves and expose the hypocrisy of self-righteously blaming the United States for wars and military operations that help maintain Europe’s consumer capitalist lifestyle.

              Something tells me European leaders aren’t exactly interested in fair trade and acquiring essential resources without IMF/World Bank arm twisting and “coalition” firepower to back it up. So they will continue shrugging their shoulders helplessly and tut-tutting quietly to each other while making a show of reluctantly going along with their demented Uncle Sam.

      4. Sid Finster

        European poodles stand up on their hind legs?

        Won’t happen, not with this generation of poodles, just as they haven’t resisted anything that the United States has done so far.

        Europoliticians will grumble but comply.

  1. Lee

    Trump: “America will not be held hostage to nuclear threat.”

    Indeed not. That’s our job. One of a few that will not be outsourced.

    For a long time now the Israeli tail has been wagging the American dog. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Veteran middle east reporter Eric Margolis:

      ‘Chutzpah’ is a wonderful Yiddish word that means outrageous nerve, or unmitigated gall. This week’s Chutzpah Award goes to Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

      Netanyahu repeatedly warned the world about Iran’s alleged nuclear arsenal while making no mention at all of Israel’s own large, secret nuclear arsenal, which is believed to comprise of over 100 warheads, perhaps even several hundred, that can be delivered by aircraft, missiles and submarines.

      Trump, of course, made no mention of the awkward fact that Israel had stolen much of its nuclear technology and uranium from the United States, sometimes with the connivance of very senior US government officials. France, that paragon of world peace, had the rest.

      Listening to Netanyahu accuse Iran of hiding secret nuclear facilities was pure pot calling the kettle black. Israel’s early nuclear program at Dimona in the Negev desert was entirely concealed from US and UN inspectors, including fake walls in the nuclear complex that completely fooled them. When Netanyahu accused Iran of cheating, he knows of what he speaks.


      “The little country that never grew up” gets a special nuclear free pass — thanks to the US veto in the UN Security Council — that no other nation on the planet receives. Chutzpah is too weak a word to characterize Israel’s projection onto others of the lethal nuclear threat that Israel itself poses.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        That special nuclear free pass applies to all the nuclear powers of the world – India, Israel, France, America, China, Pakistan, Russia, North Korea and the British.

        These nations (and maybe Taiwan) are exceptional.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Are India and Pakistan and North Korea equally non-signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty along with Israel? Or is India a signatory to that treaty?

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            That’s a good point.

            On the other hand, from the point of being not wanting to be a victim, a nuclear free world is the goal whether a nation is a signatory or not.

      2. ewmayer

        I recall reading about the crucial nuclear aid and matériel 50s France gave to the little apartheid state that could – it was France that did the heavy lifting in building the Dimona complex. So in that regard chutzpah could be translated as “unmitigated Gaul”. Of course that other (former) colonial empire across the channel was deeply involved as well:

        The French justified their decision to provide Israel a nuclear reactor by claiming it was not without precedent. In September 1955 Canada publicly announced that it would help the Indian government build a heavy-water research reactor, the CIRUS reactor, for “peaceful purposes”.[40] When Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, France proposed Israel attack Egypt and invade the Sinai as a pretext for France and Britain to invade Egypt posing as “peacekeepers” with the true intent of seizing the Suez Canal (see Suez Crisis). In exchange, France would provide the nuclear reactor as the basis for the Israeli nuclear weapons program.

  2. FriarTuck

    RE: “Are You in a BS Job? In Academe, You’re Hardly Alone”

    So are we going to load them all the people with “useless jobs” in a spaceship, call it the “B Ark,” and then dispatch it towards a new colony called “Golgafrincham“?

    In other words: this is not a new thought. Though it is kind of new to try to quantify it.

    1. Don Midwest USA

      Don’t have to go that Sci Fi colony.

      There already is a new land.


      Not connected to the earth

      Home of the billionaires with their strings to get what they want.

      Not return to land of old, not on a trip to future in globalization

      Just go to offshore colony

    2. epynonymous

      It may be time to have my telephone cleaned.

      A quick sci-fi diversion, in the “Ender’s Game” universe, the way they handle population density and job scarcity is to have the rent income and social heirarchy to have people ‘own’ jobs and then sub-contract them out, often to multiple people.

      That way, people don’t work so hard, and some don’t work at all, and yet everyone stays on the hook.

      I read the amazon criticisms above and can’t help but remember this


      Forget fake jobs, fake people are selling fake products on Amazon to cover money laundering.

      Real authors, what are those? ;)

      1. The Rev Kev

        ‘It may be time to have my telephone cleaned.’

        Ha! I saw that reference that you slipped in. And they were our ancestors I will have you know!
        There was an article on jobs programs in India a few days ago. I wonder how many of them were BS jobs.

        1. AbateMagicThinking but Not Money

          Telephone Cleaning: (BS job? – not really) – Revin’ Kevin

          There you go, I thought (not much) that it might be a reference the the ‘Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ and the space-(ex) ship loaded with account executives and telephone sanitizers. Thanks to the Hitch Hiker’s Guide, my communications paranoia really took off.

          What with all the acronyms buzzing in my head (eye-roll, eye-roll) , I’ve started to need things up-front and as unsubtle as a convicted criminal GOP canditate (are there NO gate-keepers to American political parties?).


    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      A BS job is better than no job at all. If you make enough money beyond brute survival in a BS job, you can use some of the excess money to make the world a better place in small ways.

      Whereas if you lose your BS job, you become homeless and penniless. And how does that improve the world? And don’t even think you would get a non-BS job in return for your BS job because you absolutely will NOT.

      1. Isotope_C14

        Actually, this is immensely complicated.

        I have been essentially homeless for years. Now in Deutschland since they will hire at full price instead of .79 on the dollar, haha.

        If I wasn’t doing some science, I would opt for homeless and penniless.

        To me, all the rich are sociopaths that deserve to clean their own toilets in their secret New Zealand bunkers. They assume Venus 2.0 will become habitable someday, but it won’t.

        So a BS job is still BS. Don’t try to kid yourself, a BS job generates way too much carbon. My science job generates too much carbon, but we have to live forever right?

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          ” Generates carbon” is a good point. And a problem.

          Now . . . I would say that science is not a BS job. If you are generating science along with the carbon, it is a tradeoff or even a tradeup depending on what the science leads to.

          I was thinking of the artificially-engineered social-darwinist social setting here in America. If you have a BS job and you leave it because BS is offensive to you, chances are good you will find zero job to replace it with.

          1. jrs

            yes it is better for the individual to be employed at a BS job than no job especially as there isn’t even any other way to get necessities of life (even if they would gladly forgo any status benefits). But it is not better for the larger society, that is the planet.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              True . . . . having many BS jobs is not better for the larger society, that is the planet. But when the larger society has been engineered to enforce YOYO ethics
              (You’re On Your Own), the individual will die close to immediately if the individual cares about a collective which has been engineered to not care about the individual.

              So any individual who has a BS job in this No Money = You Die society, should keep his/her job.

              So . . . with the BS job safely kept and well in hand, can the BS job-doer do something to mitigate his/her job’s damage to society? Well, the well-meaning individual can vote for this or that, organize for this or that, etc. And in the meantime, the individual can target some of his/her purchasing dollars towards more planet-friendly economic activities and away from more planet-hostile ones.

              Every little-bit-more organic food bought is a little bit more money going to soil protection, water protection, bee protection. Money spent doing one’s own organic gardening even more so. Money spent super-insulating one’s house and putting in ways and means to live with as little electricity in the home as possible . . . even more so.

              Every dollar is a bullet on the field of economic combat. Even if that dollar was earned suffering at a BS job.

    4. a different chris

      Note the difference, though: the holder of the “useless jobs” themselves are well aware of it. That’s not what Adams laid out. I did think he was being a little short with people trying to find something to do that paid in a world that arguably didn’t need them.

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        He was composing in the later 70s, a lot of the satire was the idea that people could be just as bloody-minded in a post-scarcity sci fi future. Some people will still want to be Marketing Executives. I don’t think precarity entered into it. Even the telephone cleaners had spiffy jogging suits.

    1. allan

      From long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away the Water Cooler, March 23, 2016:

      “Donald Trump endorsed an unabashedly noninterventionist approach to world affairs Monday during a day-long tour of Washington, casting doubt on the need for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and expressing skepticism about a muscular U.S. military presence in Asia” [WaPo]. Which would be why the WaPo editorial board, who have yet to clean Iraqi blood off their lips, call him “bananas.”

      Hard as it is to believe, there were actually people who believed him.

      1. ambrit

        I’ll take my lumps and admit that I did. On the other hand, the default position was Hillary, the Queen of the D—-d. So, given those parameters, nihilism emerges as a logical ‘Third Way.’ When the fires start, I’ll have my marshmallows ready, and a very long fork.

        1. AbateMagicThinking but Not Money

          Re Ambrit and lumps

          Following Ambrit’s admission, I’ve got to admit that on the day Tony Blair took power, I cycled into London and was among the masses gawping as he exited Buck house after getting Brenda’s nod.

          Such optimism: such deception!

          Now we are in the days where the nature of governments’ policies are locked in step with the nature of Viz magazine’s spoofs.


          1. ambrit

            Narf! I had to look Viz up. Your reference to life imitating ‘art’ is spot on. Over here, the “Onion” has often veered into pure prescience along with a bit of prurience.
            It is sad to think that todays’ politicos have lost the knack of effective deception. Being stuck like this with second rate politicos is so, declasse.

          2. AbateMagicThinking but Not Money

            Mea Culpa:

            I’ve been listening to constantly to french podcasts recently whilst painting internal woodwork – so much so – that instead of writing ‘disappointment’ I wrote ‘deception’.

            – Just goes to show what DIY can do to the mind.


            1. ambrit

              Au contraire mon amis! Deception is the perfect word.
              As for DIY, well, it’s what makes us better at what we do, no?
              Somehow, the phrase “painting internal woodwork” had me thinking of you wielding the paint laden brush inside of the kitchen cabinets.

              1. AbateMagicThinking but Not Money

                Oh to be positive when it comes to strip & paint jobs!

                Done the airing cupboard*, door surrounds and finally on the last few coats of the last couple of doors when the paint ran out along with my mojo. Blog de famille!


                * whats that in the local lingo?

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          Well . . . I believed him too, about the non-interventionism part. And yes, the other alternative was Clinton.

          And he has held the US back from toppling Assad and replacing it with Hillary’s preferred Islamic Emirate of Jihadistan. The COLA ( Coalition Of Lawful Authority) looks on track to save Syria from Islamo-jihadification. Russia may well retain enough presence in Syria so as to be able to obstruct and undermine DC FedRegime efforts to pursue war with Iran. So Trump did tell just that much little bit of truth, even if only by accident.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        Last I checked, we’re not at war with Russia yet. Eh?

        To put this another way, it’s volatility voting all over again. If war is your issue, and if you believe Clinton 100%, then anything short of believing Trump 100% could tip the balance. “Better the devil you know” isn’t always a winning argument.

    2. Jim Haygood

      Written by Eli Lake, neocon shill:

      Lake’s past is instructive here. He was an open and ardent promoter of the Iraq War and the various myths trotted out to justify it, contributing to the media drumbeat that helped the Bush Administration sell the war to the public and to Congress.

      He reported on Saddam Hussein’s close ties to Al Qaeda and his stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and he championed discredited con man Ahmed Chalabi, head of the CIA-backed Iraqi National Congress (INC), who promised that Iraqis would welcome U.S. troops “as liberators” and said there would be little chance of sectarian bloodshed after the invasion.


      That the MSM continues to employ discredited neocon propagandists such as Lake tells us all we need to know. The press has an agenda, and it’s not an American one.

      1. Sid Finster

        Note that none of the promoters of the War on Iraq paid any price, not personally or professionally.

        By contrast, not only did all of the most dire predictions of the naysayers come true, they were the ones who were shunned for having the gall to speak out.

        Watch and learn little ones, watch and learn. Judging from today’s MSM, someone surely did.

        1. Jim Haygood

          While it can’t be attributed solely to its notorious “Saddam’s WMDs” campaign, today NYT stock trades at half the price it commanded in 2003 when Judith Miller’s serialized brazen lies were blazing disinfo across the front page. Chart:


          This time round, the NYT’s ten months of pure fiction in 2016 on behalf of “inevitable” Hillary — daily fantasy articles on everything from her new White House chef, to her inauguration ball gown, to her choice of curtains for the presidential quarters — earned the NYT a sharp bear market rally, as true believers of convoluted Russian conspiracy theories had nowhere else to turn. Hey, Putin — get offa my lawn!

          1. Sid_finster

            To be fair, I don’t think that the nyt is performing any worse, financially, than any other purveyor of Serious Journalism®.

        2. Aumua

          If someone did learn, it was surely not the American people, who seem just as eager to buy whatever narratives they’re fed as ever. We continue to prove that we are a nation of fools, and if our president is a fool and a buffoon, then that befits us.

  3. dcblogger

    Big primaries today in Ohio, WV, NC and a few other states. Let’s see how the Medicare for All candidates do and we will know much more about the nature of the blue tsunami that is about to hit.

      1. CB

        consider the “effect” of 2008 on 2009: nothing materially beneficial to the vast underclass, but lots of yada yada pompom waving

        1. a different chris

          Also, wtf?

          >when dominos start tumbling in wave elections, they have a cascading effect.

          Everybody votes at pretty much the same time, no? How can my vote at 6pm cause a cascade at 10am? Who the heck changes their vote to the winning side, it’s more like “my side is winning, so I won’t show up as I got other things to do”.

          I guess he’s the expert, though. Sigh.

          1. Oregoncharles

            Actually, the primaries happen over quite a long time, so he has a point. However, I question whether voters in, say, Oregon (May 25 – we have our ballots) pay much attention to results in Ohio, despite the echo.

          2. ambrit

            Yeah, and, wasn’t the “Domino Theory” a big propaganda meme during the Cold War?
            If you have some way to effect the votes from before you vote, I’m in! Your startup has will have potential!

      1. ambrit

        Separated at birth? And a fell keystroke split them asunder. The pain has lingered evermore.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I remember when Sanders joined the call to investigate Russia, the benefit of the doubt was given that perhaps he couldn’t provoke too openly, and/or he had to keep his powder dry, for a while.

    2. Jim Haygood

      Why would any country in the world sign such an agreement with the United States and make the necessary concessions if they thought that a reckless president might simply discard that agreement a few years later?

      — Senator Sanders

      The Orange Flake is not agreement capable. It’s one of the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder.

      1. Sid Finster

        To be fair to the Cheeto Doofus, I am not sure that anyone in the political leadership of the United States is legally competent.

      2. CB

        It may be that the sort of conceit that afflicts power position people has them believe they can get the best of the deal: I can twist this sucker

        1. Oregoncharles

          Europe has avowed its intention to keep the agreement open. If it involves sanctions, that may lead to real conflict with allies.

          On the large assumption that our military is still rational, I suspect that nothing much will actually happen. They’d be in way over their heads in a war with Iran, and the world economy would tank, providing yet another reason to play “let’s pretend.”

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > The Orange Flake is not agreement capable. It’s one of the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder.

        Not just Trump. The United States. Bush withdrew (?) from Clinton’s North Korea agreement, let us remember.

        To put this another way, it’s not a personality thing. It’s systemic. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” At some point nemesis will arrive, but as in all things bearish, it’s a matter of timing.

    3. Chauncey Gardiner

      Thanks for this link to Senator Sanders response, dcblogger.

      So despite their history of disastrous foreign policy and military conflict decisions, the neocons are still in control and ascendant. Wonder if Dumford and Mattis will resign from participation in this grave policy error. I hope so.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        They may stay on out of a terminal sense of self-sacrificing duty. They may feel they can steer the ship onto the beach . . . instead of onto the rocks.

  4. Darthbobber

    Opinion piece. So not precisely Bloomberg’s take. Lake is dreadful. And clearly had this piece ready to roll before the announcement.

  5. dcblogger

    Great series on Russia by DW.
    Moscow’s empire – rise and fall (1/4) | DW Documentary

    Moscow’s empire – rise and fall (2/4) | DW Documentary

    Moscow’s empire – Russia’s reemergence (3/4) | DW Documentary

    Moscow’s empire – Russia’s reemergence (4/4) | DW Documentary

    1. Optic

      In (Brazilian) Portuguese it’s “dormideira”, or “sleeper” (feminine). The Portuguese wikipedia article (for “Mimosa Pudica”) lists some of the popular medicinal uses for it (I knew it as making a tea that was good for sore throat). The English wikipedia article describes some unique chemical compounds produced by it, including its apparent effectiveness at neutralizing cobra venom(!). Fun, interesting, and (likely?) useful plant!

      Here’s just one of many youtube videos of the closing reaction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9zseSvLM4k

      1. pricklyone

        In the above photo, the plant has a ‘fiber optic lamp’ look to it. What does it look like in direct observation? Are those ‘glowing’ tips merely white?
        An amazing photograph. What is the reality? I must plead ignorance, and I’m off to try to find some other photos.
        (No hope to see direct replies, as each and every comment I have ever made here has gone to moderation, regardless how innocuous. Not complaint, just the facts, Maam.)

  6. Oregoncharles

    “Chinese importers have canceled purchases of corn and cut orders for pork while dramatically reducing soybean purchases in the past month”

    Aren’t soybeans, even more than oil, pretty fungible? That is, even if China buys them from somewhere else, then the people who would have bought those will turn to the rejected American supplies. Much the same would be true of corn; not so sure about pork. So there may be a partial hit on the price, but the same amount of beans will be sold. The price effect should be temporary.

    Why don’t the Chinese grow their own soybeans? (I have a personal history with soybeans; my grandfather was an early promoter of their production, and I have the lantern slides he used for his lectures.)

    1. Summer

      You have to wonder about the details of international trade agreements. How much is about dividing the spoils among various elite interests and the division of labor on an international scale to keep workers in check?

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      1. The Chinese buy in bulk.

      2. The replacement buyers (unless there is only one buyer), will buy the same (more or less) amount, broken up into smaller orders. Usually, the more you buy, the better (lower) price you as the buyer would get. That is, the smaller the order, the higher the price the seller can fetch.

      So, that ‘partial hit’ on the price could actually be higher average selling price.

    3. a different chris

      No effect this year. And if this blows over before the next planting season*, nothing. But if Trump/China stick to their guns, the glory of Capitalism will tear up pristine areas to grow more soybeans. Our farmers will continue to also grow soybeans, so there will be an insane glut and a further ruined planet and everybody will go broke.

      *nobody Important seems to understand that, although there is much – me included – talk about “factory” agriculture, underneath it all is Mother Earth and she has seasons and that ain’t gonna change. You can make cars all year, but corn? No.
      Soybeans? No.

    4. ewmayer

      Re. the pork barrel politics, from a Reuters article on the ramped-up inspections, note the irony: “The stepped-up checks have even hit China’s WH Group Ltd (0288.HK), the world’s largest pork company and owner of Smithfield Foods in the U.S.”

      (Aside: I’m guessing the ‘WH’ in the name is short for ‘Whole Hog’?)

    5. drumlin woodchuckles

      In the wider scope, look what goods from China we are tariffing. Manufactured goods, steel etc.

      And look what goods from America that China is tariffing in return. Sorghum. Corn. Soybeans.

      So China sells America manufactured goods and America sells China primary agri-bulk-commodity raw materials.

      What does this kind of economic relationship remind you of?

    6. David

      >Why don’t the Chinese grow their own soybeans?

      Good question. From Bloomberg,

      So how can China produce enough safe food for its growing population if they all start eating like Americans?

      The simple answer is it can’t.

      It takes about 1 acre (half a hectare) to feed the average U.S. consumer. China only has about 0.2 acres of arable land per citizen, including fields degraded by pollution.

      Approximately, 20% of Chinese arable land is contaminated.

      Government studies in 2014 found that some vegetable plots were dosed with high levels of heavy metals such as cadmium, just one of a series of poison scares that has made the public wary of domestically produced food.

      Over the years, local TV stations and social media fanned the fears, reporting a sickening array of scandals, from soy sauce produced with human hair to tofu made with sewage, and cat and rat meat passed off as rabbit and lamb.

      As a result, Chinese consumers pay more attention to where their food comes from.

      93% of Chinese farms are smaller than one hectare, whereas 89% of US farms are over 5 hectares. That makes it difficult for China to scale up efficiencies. Also, as the size of the average farms grows, less people are needed to work the land, which creates a surplus labor problem. Back to Bloomberg,

      “The demand among the middle class in China to move up the food chain is a matter of status and wealth,” said Jeremy Rifkin, author of “Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture.” “It’s not sustainable.”

      1. cnchal

        > Approximately, 20% of Chinese arable land is contaminated.

        Globalization is a disaster, no matter where one cares to look.

  7. Oregoncharles

    “Well, the kind of flowers I grow….”
    I take it you don’t grow corpse flower? Come to think, while it doesn’t move in the breeze, it certainly does “catch” it.

  8. Jim Haygood

    David Stockman rips US Treasurer “Simple Steve” Mnuchin:

    For the first time in history, the combined financial arms of the state — the Treasury and Fed — will be selling government debt, existing and new, with malice aforethought.

    There has never been a more fiscally clueless team at the top than the Donald and his dimwitted Treasury secretary, Simple Steve Mnuchin. After reading the latter’s recent claim that financing Uncle Sam’s impending trillion dollar deficits will be a breeze, we now understand how he sat on the board of Sears for ten years and never noticed that the company was going bankrupt.

    In any event, fixing to borrow upwards of $1.2 trillion in FY 2019, Simple Steve apparently didn’t get the memo about the Fed’s unfolding QT campaign and the fact that it will be draining cash from the bond pits at a $600 billion annual rate by October. After all, no one who can do third-grade math would expect that the bond market can “easily handle” what will in effect be $1.8 trillion of homeless USTs.

    When the Powell Put fails to appear as expected, the casino will have its Wile E. Coyote moment. And at that point there will be nothing to stop the doomsday machine of ETFs/vol shorts/risk parity trades/ levered bond funds/CTA trend followers and combustible bespoke gambles from plunging off the high cliffs of Bubble Finance.


    Fold rising energy prices into the mix, and you’ve got a foolproof formula for prompting Bubble III’s collapse and an economic recession, followed by pension funds smacking the wall like birds flying into the wind turbines at San Gorgonio pass.

    Flake-o-nomics don’t pay.

    1. a different chris

      You say that like it’s a bad thing? This won’t hurt the people that run the place, and will politically push further to the right the near-starving “deplorables”. What’s not to like?

    2. Chauncey Gardiner

      Road out of nine years of Bernanke Fed QE-ZIRP was never going to be pleasant. Lots of people became addicted to all the free money, the related relentless rise in financial asset prices, and assumed to perpetuity. Casual review of Mnuchin’s work history could provide some hints regarding behaviors of key players when it comes to their proprietary accounts. As you know, liquidity in the financial system still seems abundant, but can evaporate like raindrops on a Scottsdale sidewalk. Appreciate the warning that Louise provided back in November regarding the attractiveness of Cash when she tried to warn about rising market risk:


      As legendary Tide coach ‘Bear’ Bryant reputedly said, “Defense wins championships!”

  9. fresno dan


    The 25-year-old male suspect, Alek Minassian, is a self-described “incel,” a man who is involuntarily celibate, and not very happy about it.

    Suddenly, I was reading all about incels and their bros-in-arms, pickup artists who try to scam women into having sex (because of course, that’s the only thing you really want to do with a woman). These are distinct subcultures of the manosphere, which is basically where the men’s rights movement of the 1980s and ’90s decamped after the internet made it so much easier for like-minded people to find each other.
    So my first thought is that the URL for the Los Angeles Times and The Onion had gotten mixed up. I had never heard of “Incel” – involuntarily celibate* – which back in the old days before the internet made too many thesauruses available, was simply know as “not getting laid” – which was always and truly men’s own d*mn fault. I don’t know if humanity…or maybe the manity portion should end, but mankind is getting pretty f*cked up.

    *supposedly there is voluntary celibacy….but I’ve always doubted it.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I don’t want to sound like a prude, but celibacy is a dynamic process anyone can practice.

      There is no shame, in fact, it could be a virtue to say, “I’m going to be celibate for the next 5 minutes.’

      Or 5 days, or 5 decades.

      The key is to know that there is a time dimension.

      1. polecat

        “it could be a virtue to say, “I’m going to be celibate for the next 5 minutes.’
        Or 5 days, or 5 decades.”

        Show of uh .. ‘hands’ .. anyone ?? ..

        1. JBird

          Not just sex, but ego (ahem) stroking adoration, while getting laid and getting the laundry done and supper made afterwards? The poor souls seem to confuse talking robotic sex dolls with human beings.

        2. Chris

          Yes, this. Exactly this.

          Everyone is entitled to a supermodel in their own mind I guess. A lot of the people, and if we’re honest, it’s mostly men, who are interested in learning pick up tricks are doing it to have sex with people they consider to have the proper physical appearance. It’s a sad kind of madness I guess.

      1. Yves Smith

        Incels hate prostitutes. They think women should service them for free. When they do relent and go to prostitutes, they are reportedly verbally and even physically abusive.

        1. The Rev Kev

          I’m sure that the descriptive word that you are looking for is “losers”.

          1. JBird

            Losers sounds like an accurate description.

            I don’t know much about these Incels, and the more I learn, the less surprised I am that they lack women in their lives. Abusing prostitutes, who often have very bad lives already because they are not giving away free sex is sociopathic.

    2. ambrit

      Obviously, you’ve never tried to initiate parareproductive physical ‘intimacy’ while sitting on top of a pillar in the middle of the desert. (Any desert will do.)

    3. ewmayer

      I suspect the promoters of the new lingo are aiming to get the “condition” classified as an official “disorder” in the psych-field’s DSM (not to be confused with the B-prefixed DSM which features in l’affaire Schneiderman, mind you :), so that insurers will be under pressure to finance appropriate “treatments”. As to what the latter might consist of, I propose:

      Platinum plan: An all-expenses-paid evening for 3 on Harvey Weinstein’s casting couch.

      Gold plan: Dinner for 2 and an escort selected by the “patient” from a high-end catalog.

      Silver plan: An hour of bliss at a local rooms-by-the-hour motel with a certified-STD-free local person of negotiable affections.

      Bronze plan: An inflatable doll of your gender choice and a secretly recorded black-rectangles-over-the-eyes video of one of the Platinum plan patients “enduring” his treatment.

      Lead plan: A cover-art sheet from a nasty DVD of your choice – the actual DVD, should you desire to watch it, will cost you out of pocket – and a tube sock.

    4. jrs

      I suspect there is voluntary celibacy for there are those who believe they are asexuals (well they may at least have much lower sex drives than is culturally sanctioned) but then that’s more women than men.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Maybe numbers can be extrapolated by looking at the number of all unattached males in local bars late on a Saturday night. Reminds me all of a mate that had a very wise mother. She always told him that if he was not in bed by 10 o’clock at night, then come home. She knew what singles males did got up to with drink and driving after then.

  10. Carolinian

    Moon on the Trump announcement.


    There are some people in the Trump administration who will want to wage war on Iran. The Bush administration also had such plans. But any war gaming of a campaign against Iran ended badly for the U.S. and its allied states. The Gulf countries are extremely vulnerable. Their oil output could be shut down within days. That situation has not changed. The U.S. is now in a worse strategic position than it was after the invasion of Iraq. As long as somewhat sane people lead the Pentagon they will urge the White House not to launch such an endeavor.

    1. polecat

      I can almost guarantee the neocons .. and their neolib brethren, will be cast as virtual lepers should the clusterfuck of war with the Iranians ensue. This is just about more than I can bear, if you get my drift .. seriously, do these people have a death wish, or what ?!!

      I want no part of their crazy delusion .. !

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      And MoA:

      U.S. credibility has been seriously damaged. Its soft power is gone. Its hard power has shown to be inadequate in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

      And the Chinese need a victory….

  11. Henry Moon Pie

    Graeber concluded his rundown on BS jobs in the academy with some speculation on a possible UBI’s impact on the formerly gowned set:

    A likely result of universal guaranteed income would be the rapid defection of a large number of academics from their university positions to intellectual circles where they would once again be able to argue about ideas and research things they actually find interesting. They might establish free schools where they could teach anyone who wished to learn. Universities would not become extinct. They would retain many strategic advantages. But they would be forced to de-bullshitize very rapidly.

    That confirmed what I had suspected earlier: folks favoring UBI are more likely to have some anarchist sympathies (that’s where I’m at). Most JG-ers have great admiration for the New Deal. UBI-ers might quietly dream of Barcelona in ’36 (Graeber reports that his dad fought in the Lincoln Brigade).

    Re: bullshit jobs more generally–

    Graeber has done a brilliant job over the last few years exposing what a joke Capitalism’s vaunted “efficiency” is., but he is definitely not the first to identify the fraud that is the compliant life in American society:

    Although the masters make the rules
    For the wise men and the fools
    I got nothing, Ma, to live up to

    For them that must obey authority
    That they do not respect in any degree
    Who despise their jobs, their destinies
    Speak jealously of them that are free
    Do what they do just to be
    Nothing more than something they invest in

    It’s Alright Ma

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I knew that wasn’t the headline, though it should have been:

      WASHINGTON — Opponents of Juanita Perez Williams decided Tuesday to drop a lawsuit challenging her nominating petitions, clearing the final hurdle for the Syracuse Democrat to force a June primary.

      Why did they drop the lawsuit?

      1. allan

        Not being privvy to the local leaders’ thinking, I would guess that either they decided it would be
        bad optics to continue to contest the petitions, they were legally outgunned, Perez Williams actually did have enough valid petitions (barely), or it involved horse heads in beds (metaphorically speaking).

  12. ChrisPacific

    Regarding Uber and flying cars, there was a good Fast Company piece a while back that went into some detail on Uber’s activities and also spoke fairly extensively with Hubert Horan and another skeptic. A link back to the most recent Horan NC piece on Uber was included. As is often the case with Uber, the headline didn’t match the content (perhaps the reporter felt it would be pulled if it was more skeptical) but it certainly didn’t paint an optimistic picture.

  13. Summer

    Why do people keep writing there is “no plan” to replace the Iran deal? What’s been going on the last 20 years in the Mid-East?
    Same plan is in effect.

  14. The Rev Kev

    “I Used The Web For A Day With JavaScript Turned Off”

    If you use Firefox, a better approach would be to install NoScript which blocks Javascripts, Flash and other add-ons on your browser. Then you go through your sites and allow Javascript for what you need such as on banking sites. To this day I do not allow the three Javasripts to work on the Google page and only temporary when using Google News. When you go to a site that needs Javascript you allow only those to make the page work and not all the others to do with advertising and statistics. Even when I save files onto my computer I go into the associated folder to delete any Javascript files. Sometimes in the dozen or more .js files that I will see listed, I will find ones that are a half a megabyte in size. What the hell is going on in that one that it needs to be so huge? Haven’t looked back since I installed it.

  15. Edward E

    I hear they don’t want to hire vegetarian truck drivers because as summer approaches they begin to lean towards the sun, makes keeping the rigs straight more challenging.

    1. ambrit

      Not to worry. As the number of photovoltaic electric trucks on the road increases, so will the need for phototropic drivers.

      1. Edward E

        Oh, excellent, can I borrow that? Just don’t give Superstar any ideas, we don’t want our veg-inity back. Had to tie kerosene rags around my ankles to keep out cut worms chompers holes in my drawers.

  16. Luke

    Re incels: I wrote this for another website, but thought it apt here as well.


    “Earl, replace “women and sex” [someone Tradcon had accused incels of being obsessed with both of those] with “marriage and family”, and for TradCons and Incels, at least, you’d also be right. That also illustrates the key point much more clearly; without prospects of those, if a man doesn’t find one h*ll of a cause to devote his life to instead, life ultimately is pretty pointless.

    I read an essay some years ago that was written by a longtime hospice nurse. She noted that people, when confronting their deaths, fell largely into one of three groups. One group was people with extremely deep religious faiths; we’re talking people that knew with certainty by early high school that they wanted to be nuns or priests. When they confronted death, while still now wanting to die, their faith comforted them. The second group was people who’d had children (presumably, of their own blood, and gotten to raise them). They, too, while not wanting to die, found much meaning, and thus great comfort, in having descendants that would live on after them. (Children are what I call my ticket to the future, where at least part of me gets to go there.) The third category of people, when confronting death, had neither major faith nor having had offspring to make it all having had a point. For them, death was absolutely terrifying, a horrifying loss with nothing redeeming about it whatsoever.

    So, when anyone considers the situation of incels, ponder just what they are confronting as the basic fact of their lives. That is, that they are unloved in the most basic of ways, with humanity and life essentially flipping them off and laughing at them, every second. And, they get to go through the decades of pain and humiliation, KNOWING (if implicitly) that they will be in Category Three at time of death. With nothing they can do, no virtue of character, ability, industriousness, patience, or fortitude, able to rescue them from this interminable purgatory (hell, more like it) of a life, with a certainty of only more pain and meaninglessness to their life at last at its end? Its a miracle they don’t ALL go beserk and bomb/gas/machinegun/drive through crowds. On some level, it’d actually be pretty understandable if they did.”

    1. jrs

      I don’t know it’s really not good to bring children into the world just to deal with one’s fear of death – it’s creepy and strange really. And what if they are incels, you just fobbed off your fear of death on them by your own argument.

    2. kareninca

      That just sounds exaggerated to me. I know plenty of people who feel that it all has a point, despite not having kids or religious faith. I wonder what part of the country the hospice nurse lived in. Also, I wonder if she was expecting to see something and so saw it. I don’t doubt that some incels are in the state you describe, but I think plenty of them find meaning in other things; humans are pretty flexible. Also, there are lots of old people who had kids who hardly feel as if it worked out, since the kids don’t ever visit or call, or dump them in homes. The other day I talked with I guy I hadn’t seen in years; he really is a decent person but he had let his mom down in her dying days and he knew it. He kept telling me (over and over again) that he wished he had been “more proactive.” I wonder how much solace his existence was to her at the end.

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