2:00PM Water Cooler 6/13/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Why Trudeau doesn’t have the high ground on trade” [WaPo]. “One of President Trump’s darkest talents is his ability to identify an opponent’s delicate spot and stab it remorselessly. From his knack for condescending nicknames (Low Energy Jeb, Little Rocket Man) to inviting Bill Clinton’s various accusers to the second presidential debate, there’s no denying the man has a skill for knifing sensitive areas. And now he has found Canada’s vulnerable flank: dairy tariffs… As the CBC reminded, ‘Canada levies a tariff of 270 percent on milk, 245 percent on cheese and 298 percent on butter in an effort to keep U.S. and other foreign dairy imports out.’ These tariffs exist almost exclusively for the benefit of the agriculture sector of Quebec, a province with a unique stranglehold on Canadian politics…. For centuries, much of Canadian policymaking has been justified on the grounds that maintaining sovereignty from the United States is the highest good. It works fine — so long as the United States never feels the need to indulge in a bit of pompous sovereignty of its own.” Imagine that California had broken up, and the part of with almond growers was thinking about secession. Suppose the Feds protected almonds with trade barriers as an, er, inducement to prevent the country from breaking apart. That’s the leverage Quebec has. Trudeau surely knows this.

“[Trump’s] crime [at G-7] was to insist that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should have a sunset clause. In other words, it should not remain valid indefinitely, but expire after five years, allowing its members either to renegotiate it or to walk away. To howls of execration from the world’s media, his insistence has torpedoed efforts to update the treaty” [George Monbiot, Guardian]. “[T]he people of North America did not explicitly consent to NAFTA. They were never asked to vote on the deal, and its bipartisan support ensured that there was little scope for dissent. The huge grassroots resistance in all three nations was ignored or maligned. The deal was fixed between political and commercial elites, and granted immortality…. NAFTA provides a perfect illustration of why all trade treaties should contain a sunset clause. Provisions that made sense to the negotiators in the early 1990s make no sense to anyone today, except fossil fuel companies and greedy lawyers. The most obvious example is the way its rules for investor-state dispute settlement have been interpreted. These clauses (chapter 11 of the treaty) were supposed to prevent states from unfairly expropriating the assets of foreign companies. But they have spawned a new industry, in which aggressive lawyers discover ever more lucrative means of overriding democracy.”



“Where’s the wave? Political reporters hatch new plan for election predictions” [McClatchy]. “McClatchy’s East Region Editor Kristin Roberts told McClatchy’s Beyond the Bubble podcast Tuesday that reporters from McClatchy and the online news magazine OZY are teaming up to identify and talk to specific voters they believe will decide key races in November…. “The Ground Game project really is animated by a single question, and that is, ‘Can Democrats engineer a wave election in 2018?‘” [McClatchy’s East Region Editor Kristin Roberts] told the podcast.” Wait, what? 145 days ’til the election and we don’t already know? More: “McClatchy will focus its 2018 election coverage on six Congressional districts it believes will serve as archetypes in the battle for the House: North Carolina’s 9th, California’s 10th and 45th, Pennsylvania’s 8th, Illinois’s 12th and Florida’s 26th.” All these districts are on our worksheet. As ever, I welcome district reports from readers; just put the district first in the subject line, so I am sure to spot it. Thank you!

ME: “No Democrat won a majority in the gubernatorial primary, meaning the winner will be determined in further rounds of counting. As of early Wednesday, Attorney General Janet Mills led the pack, while Sweet and Eves were running in third- and fourth-place, respectively” [Governing]. Ranked choice voting isn’t “convenient,” then. Reminds me of all the yammering for “closure” in Florida 2000.

ME-02: “U.S. HOUSE DISTRICT 2, DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY” [Bangor Daily News]. “This contest will be decided by ranked-choice voting. Only candidates’ first-place vote totals are listed here.” Jared Golden: 49.9%; Lucas St. Clair: 40.7%; Craig Olson: 9.4%. So Golden barely failed to make the 50% plus one threshold. More yammering for “closure,” I imagine. “We can’t wait a week!” Maybe the best thing about RCV is that it will make horse-race stories harder to write. That alone is reason to support it!

NV: “Dennis Hof, Nevada’s most famous pimp, wins GOP primary” [Las Vegas Sun]. “Pimp Dennis Hof, the owner of half a dozen legal brothels in Nevada and star of the HBO adult reality series ‘Cathouse,’ won a Republican primary for the state Legislature on Tuesday, ousting a three-term lawmaker. Hof defeated hospital executive James Oscarson.”

WI: “Democrats Flip Wisconsin State Senate Seat” [Governing]. “Democrats in Northern Wisconsin declared victory in a state Senate special election on Tuesday, the party’s 43rd red-to-blue state legislative flip since President Donald Trump stepped into the White House last year.”

VA-05: “Varying Degrees of Horror”: In 2018, the Republicans Are Really Just Running Against Themselves—and Their Party’s Future” [Vanity Fair]. Entertaining detail on VA-05. Then: “[O]ne of the defining characteristics of the 2018 cycle is the extraordinary number of House Republicans who are not standing for re-election—a number now approaching 50, and which exceeds any similar exodus in modern political history. [M]ore than anything else, the departures reflect the difficulty of acclimating to a political party increasingly defined by Donald Trump. Many Republican members of Congress view the G.O.P.’s transformation from a party based on principles of limited government to one that has become a populist front for Trump’s unique brand of Twitter demagoguery with “varying degrees of horror,” as Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who also served three Republican presidents, put it. Trump’s strong hold on the base, which has apparently not eroded at all in the last 18 months, has made it politically difficult for those in office to confront this directly, and some are choosing retirement as a means of jumping off a ‘vessel that is . . . damaged and stained.'” And Chuck Schumer is waiting, with open arms, to catch them when they jump! Finally: “In the end, the 2018 midterms are not merely important for settling who will control the House for the next two years. Equally important, they will determine the changing composition of the Republican caucus, and help define the future of the G.O.P.”

SC-05: “[Mark] Sanford’s fatal sin: Crossing Donald Trump” [Politico]. “The South Carolina congressman’s stunning defeat in Tuesday’s Republican primary effectively ended the turbulent two-decade career of a political icon who once harbored presidential aspirations. State Rep. Katie Arrington defeated Sanford 50.6 percent to 46.5 percent…. .Mark had a long and storied career, he was a very famous and successful politician. But he didn’t read the tea leaves right, and that came back to haunt him,” said former state Rep. Chip Limehouse, who hails from a prominent Charleston family and has known Sanford for years. ‘Mark misjudged it, attacking Trump. That’s what killed him.'” Then again: “In what was perhaps an early sign that his political strength was abating, Sanford received just 55 percent of the vote in his 2016 primary, against an opponent who spent little.”

UPDATE NY-14: “Dem leader paying campaign rent to lobbyist brother” [New York Post]. From 2017, still germane.

Health Care

About those two words the DCCC says are unsayable:

Dunno about “make the Earth shake.” C’mon, OR. The last thing our discourse needs right now is less sobriety.

New Cold War

“The Mueller Indictments Still Don’t Add Up to Collusion” [Aaron Maté, The Nation]. “The January 2017 intelligence report begat an endless cycle of innuendo and unverified claims, inculcating the public with fears of a massive Russian interference operation and suspicions of the Trump campaign’s complicity. The evidence to date cast doubt on the merits of this national preoccupation, and with it, the judgment of the intelligence, political, and media figures who have elevated it to such prominence.” Given the current McCarthyite climate — at least on my laptop, this article displayed an email list sign-up teaser identifying The Nation with the lower-case “r” resistanceMR SUBLIMINAL Cash cow — this exercise in critical thinking from Maté is courageous. And if the Mueller report doesn’t drop until September, the timing will be curious to say the least.

UPDATE “Bernie Sanders supporter attends every DNC rule-change meeting. DNC member calls her a Russian plant.” [WaPo]. “‘I’m going to keep showing up as long as I can afford to do so,’ [Selina[ Vickers said. ‘I wish Mr. Mulholland the very best, and I hope he can find some peace.'” One of the costs of citizenship, apparently, is being smeared by DNC members. I’d call Mulholland a fossil, except fossils can’t lose their minds. (This is good straight reporting from WaPo, that adds to the original HuffPo story.)

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Maine Tests a New Way of Voting, and Opts to Keep It” [Governing]. “For voters, though, [ranked choice voting] is a straightforward way of making sure that they get what they want when they cast their ballots in races with more than two candidates running for the same spot. So perhaps it’s no surprise that Maine voters decided to buck the political establishment and stick with the new system Tuesday, which also happened to be the first election that it was used for statewide races anywhere in the United States.”

UPDATE “Maine Gov. Paul LePage ‘Probably’ Won’t Certify Primary Election Results” [HuffPo]. “‘I will not … certify ranked-choice voting because it is unconstitutional,’ LePage told Maine Public Radio. ‘The Supreme Court has said it is unconstitutional.’ Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D) said LePage’s threat was without weight. ‘It really doesn’t make a difference. His authority to certify is inherent in election results; the primary is a nomination, not an election. So he can’t prevent people from qualifying for the November ballot,’ Dunlap said in an email.”

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“The Left’s Problem With Order, the Center’s Problem With Happiness, and the Right’s Problem With the Truth” [Benjamin Studebaker (via the excellent BLCKDGRD)].

The center speaks for the order we have–it emphasises the value of its order, the value of the institutions and norms that it defends. But it increasingly is unable to tell a story about its order which speaks to the values we have beyond order itself…. The right doesn’t buy the story. It’s sick of the center’s order. But the right’s solutions all involve trying to make the world more like it used to be…. The right tells compelling stories but there’s no truth in them. It is a movement built on lies and false hopes.

The left understands the economic origins of the problems which the right mistakes as racial, ethnic, or national. It understands that we can’t go on ignoring the mass unhappiness our order increasingly leaves unaddressed. But the left is order-phobic. It views powerful institutions like the state or major political parties as fundamentally corrupt, and it views the strategies and tactics necessary to capture those institutions as morally unclean. The left wants a politics of self-actualisation–it wants to prioritise happiness not merely in its policies but also in the political means by which it pursues its ends. Worse, it wants this self-actualisation on an individual level, making it difficult for people who self-actualise in different ways to work with one another. The left resists engaging with institutions, and it views efforts to engage with institutions and the constraints they impose as an assault on the purity and moral identity of its movement. It is so hostile to order that it is unable to tell a story in which its proposals to make us happy can be enacted or sustained through stable, lasting institutions. This makes the left increasingly irrelevant and allows the political debate to focus around the distinctions between the center and the right.

I like the “order, happiness, truth” trope, but I think Studebaker is stuck on the linear, “Overton Window” model that sees left, center, right” as a spectrum. I think this is a category error. To recategorize, I think that conservatives, liberals, and the left are on a plane, not a line: Conservatives and liberals put markets first; the left puts the working class first, and so are not simply more liberal liberals. Ergo, the identity politics crowd (“politics of self-actualisation”) needs to be taken out of the left bucket, and thrown into the liberal (“centrist”* bucket). If you unmuddy the waters like that, the willingness of the left, in the form of both Sanders and institutions like DSA, to “engage with institutions” becomes clear. I mean, surely the left’s call for #MedicareForAll brings about both happiness and “stable, lasting institutions,” in contrast to the “End ____ism” calls from the identity politics crowd, which cannot. NOTE * Both liberals and conservatives can be centrists, exactly as they can both be neoliberals. A good litmus test for a centrist, at least in the national security arena, is using the phrase “rules-based international order” non-ironically. After Iraq? Libya? I’m all for a “rules-based international order.” We should try it some time.

UPDATE “The union may find itself relegated to a political bit player. The chief may find himself out of a job. And the SFPD may continue to run on autopilot” [Mission Local]. “The Sixth and Bryant headquarters of the San Francisco Police Officers Association is well-lit and airy, with high ceilings and parquet floors. It is every bit as sleek and elegant as the adjacent Hall of Justice is dumpy and decrepit. It’s a fitting citadel for a union flush with cash; an outfit that — until recently — weighed in significantly on who advanced in the San Francisco Police Department, and could demand fealty from elected officials. It’s still a hell of an office, but those days are done, at least for now. The police union has poured vast quantities of its members’ money into failed causes of late, with each mounting loss being more humiliating than the last. Most recently, in this month’s election, the POA’s Taser measure, Prop. H, not only lost, but lost by a 60-40 split — and saw the police union’s nearly half-million dollar campaign routed by, of all organizations, the city’s Democratic Socialists.” Interesting, but the article leaves us hanging on how the DSA did this, if indeed it did. Readers?

UPDATE “Durbin and Duckworth give Emanuel a pass on CPS scandal” [Chicago Tribune]. “Days after the Chicago Tribune began publishing stories of alarming and unreported sexual abuse and assault within Chicago Public Schools, Illinois’ two U.S. senators fired off letters demanding accountability and transparency. But something — or rather someone — was missing from their missives. No mention of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Must have been an oversight. Instead of directing their concern at the person who actually oversees CPS, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth sent letters to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Illinois schools Superintendent Tony Smith expressing their alarm and requesting more data collection at federal and state levels. By threading the needle carefully, they honed in on narrow aspects of the Tribune’s investigation that touched on state and federal data collection and transparency, not CPS’ failures.” Shocker!

Stats Watch

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of June 8, 2018: “Purchase applications for home mortgages fell a seasonally adjusted 2 percent in the June 8 week following a rare increase in the prior week” [Econoday]. “Surprising at a time of continuing exceptional labor market strength, the first negative year-on-year reading in purchase applications this year is not a good indication for a housing market already showing signs of weakness.” At some point, we’ve got to put together a post on labor market stats. At the very best, we’re finally seeing some wage growth, which the Fed immediately wants to stomp on. Not sure how that’s either “continuing” or “exceptional.”

Producer Price Index (Final Demand), May 2018: “Large jumps for steel and aluminum and also the closely watched trade services category lead an overheated 0.5 percent rise in the producer price index for May. The results hit the top end of the Econoday consensus range” [Econoday]. “Prices for steel mill products surged… Prices for aluminum mill shapes came in even hotter… Gains in metals are at the intermediate level but may already be affecting the finished level where goods prices rose a sharp 1.0 percent in the month. Year-on-year rates in this report have been flat but they do show a pivot higher in May. The rise in metals will be a general focus while for forecasters and Federal Reserve policy makers the gain that will get special attention is trade services, a reading that offers an indication of price change for wholesalers and retailers.” And: “The Producer Price Index rose year-over-year. Food prices did moderate” [Econintersect].

Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations, June 2018: “Despite tariffs and evaporating labor slack, inflation expectations at the business level remain subdued” [Econoday].

Housing: “Housing Inventory Tracking: The Bottom Turn” [Calculated Risk]. “Watching existing home “for sale” inventory is very helpful. As an example, the increase in inventory in late 2005 helped me call the top for housing…. Inventory is a key for the housing market, and I will be watching inventory for the impact of the new tax law and higher mortgage rates on housing. Currently I expect national inventory to be up YoY by the end of 2018 (but still be low)…. This is not comparable to late 2005 when inventory increased sharply signaling the end of the housing bubble, but it does appear that inventory is bottoming nationally (and has already bottomed in some areas like California).”

Debt: “Americans just paid off a ton of credit-card debt—but here’s the bad news” [MarketWatch]. “Americans repaid $40.3 billion in credit card debt during the first quarter of 2018, according to a new analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Federal Reserve and credit agency TransUnion by the personal-finance website WalletHub. That’s the second-highest amount paid off in one quarter since the first quarter of 2009, when consumers paid off more than $44 billion…. Now, the bad news: That doesn’t mean their debts are getting that much smaller. Americans ended 2017 with $91.6 billion in new credit-card debt, the largest annual amount since 2007 and 104% above the post-recession average. Outstanding credit card debt is at the second-highest point since the end of 2008, the report said… What’s more, the first quarter of every year tends to look stunning for debt payoff, [Nick Clements, the co-founder of personal finance company MagnifyMoney] said, because so many people spend massively in the fourth quarter of each year during the holidays. Then, during the first couple months of the new year, they use work bonuses [really?] to pay holiday debt back… Now is a particularly important time to think about paying back debt, McBride said. The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates after its two-day meeting, beginning Tuesday. That, in turn, will likely make debt more expensive.”

Shipping: “Truckload and intermodal pricing firmly remains at elevated levels, says Cass and Broughton report” [Logistics Management]. “The pricing train for truckload and intermodal freight movements continues to accelerate at a rapid clip, according to data in the most recent editions of the Truckload Linehaul Index and Intermodal Index from Cass Information Systems and Broughton Capital…. Truckload rates have now risen sequentially for seven straight months and annually for 14 straight months.”

Transportation: “‘Data is the new asphalt’: High-tech Colorado road test to be first of its kind in the U.S., may improve traffic and save lives” [Denver Post]. “[Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT)] is readying a $2.75 million contract with Integrated Roadways to test the company’s technology, which consists of precast and interlocking concrete slabs embedded with an array of sensors, processors and antennae that the company says can easily be upgraded as technology advances. …. Integrated Roadways’ long-term goal with its smart pavement is not simply accident detection but a network that provides a collection of real-time services — such as road conditions and traffic alerts — to drivers in conventional cars or passengers riding in autonomous vehicles. Sylvester said the company hopes that its road technology will eventually generate business from trucking companies trying to minimize inefficiencies in fleet mobility, property developers seeking high-resolution traffic data and insurance companies trying to pinpoint accident risk with greater precision.” And I’m sure other scenarios can be devised. Like collections, for example. Anyhow, I’m guessing technology like this will provide the inputs that robot car algos need to work (inputs besides enormous amounts of public subsidy, that is).

The Bezzle: “Bitcoin’s Price Was Artificially Inflated Last Year, Researchers Say” [New York Times]. “SAN FRANCISCO — A concentrated campaign of price manipulation may have accounted for at least half of the increase in the price of Bitcoin and other big cryptocurrencies last year, according to a paper released on Wednesday by an academic with a history of spotting fraud in financial markets.” I’m shocked (“97% of all bitcoins are held by 4% of addresses“). The original paper—

The Bezzle: “Is Bitcoin Really Un-Tethered?” [SSRN]. The abstract: “This paper investigates whether Tether, a digital currency pegged to U.S. dollars, influences Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency prices during the recent boom. Using algorithms to analyze the blockchain data, we find that purchases with Tether are timed following market downturns and result in sizable increases in Bitcoin prices. Less than 1% of hours with such heavy Tether transactions are associated with 50% of the meteoric rise in Bitcoin and 64% of other top cryptocurrencies. The flow clusters below round prices, induces asymmetric autocorrelations in Bitcoin, and suggests incomplete Tether backing before month-ends. These patterns cannot be explained by investor demand proxies but are most consistent with the supply-based hypothesis where Tether is used to provide price support and manipulate cryptocurrency prices.”

The Bezzle: “Autopilot tried to kill me twice today. (Since latest update). Revised” [Tesla Forums]. What I’m not getting, no doubt because I don’t drive, is why it’s so cool to have your hands “rest lightly on the wheel while [AutoPilot] is engaged,” as opposed to actually using the wheel for, like, steering. What’s the point? It can’t be convenience.

The Bezzle: “Uber is set to disrupt another industry: the magazine business” [Daily Beast]. “According to a preview of the two inaugural issues, posted online and viewed by The Daily Beast, the magazine is one part journalism, one part Uber promotional brochure.” Oh please. What’s “disruptive” about the robot car equivalent of an in-flight magazine?

The Bezzle: AirBnB in Japan. Thread:

It seems that AirBnB’s view that one’s dwelling is simply a cash machine isn’t a cultural universal.

Investment: “$1.5 Trillion Says: Eat What You Kill” [Bloomberg]. “With 160 trillion yen ($1.5 trillion) to invest, Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund [(GPIF)] has an awful lot of clout. Its latest innovation is to oblige many of the outside firms that manage its money to eat what they kill rather than enjoy a free lunch from simply gathering assets. And where the world’s biggest pension fund leads, the rest of the money-management industry looks bound to follow… The pension fund says it doesn’t need active managers to fulfill its obligations. ‘GPIF is basically able to meet its investment targets for pension funding through passive management alone,’ it says. So the only reason to employ active managers, who currently oversee about 20 percent of the fund’s assets, is if they can effectively guarantee to deliver better returns than an index tracker.”

Investment: “Does The Revised Volcker Rule Signal A Return To Risky Banking?” [Investing.com]. “Even Paul Volcker, the man who proposed the rule, isn’t against the changes. ‘What is critical is that simplification not undermine the core principle at stake — that taxpayer-supported banking groups, of any size, not participate in proprietary trading at odds with the basic public and customers’ interests,’ he said in a prepared statement. While some decry the Volcker reforms as a return to the pre-financial-crisis days of risky banking, it remains to be seen if the sector will indeed revert back to the ‘free for all’ that existed prior to the 2008 crisis. For many the new changes mean the opposite: less busy work and more time for regulators to make sure banks don’t bring about another financial crisis.” If they can, they will….

Five Horsemen: “In late morning trade, juggernaut Amazon is at a fresh record high, putting the top of our chart in danger of another rupture” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen June 13 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “After yesterday’s mild market gain, the mania-panic index gained one tick to 70 (complacency) as the CBOE put-call ratio dropped again to a “no fear” 0.72″ [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 June 12 2018


“Grantham says capitalism is making this one big global risk to humanity worse” [MarketWatch]. “‘Fossil fuels will either run out, destroy the planet, or both. The only way out is the complete de-carbonization of the economy,’ [Jeremy Grantham, the co-founder and chief investment strategist of GMO] said at Morningstar’s annual investment conference, in a presentation entitled ‘the Race of our Lives.’ ‘Capitalism and mainstream economics can’t deal with these problems. Given how corporations are driven to maximize profits, it’s nearly impossible for them to give up profits in order to address this” and focus on sustainability.’ ‘Capitalism has a problem with the very long term because of the tyranny of the discount rate,’ he added. ‘Grandchildren have no value.'”

“Putting logistics on a low-carbon diet” [DC Velocity]. “Experts say logistics (which accounts for an estimated 10 percent of total carbon emissions worldwide) will be one of the toughest economic sectors to decarbonize, due to expectations of rising demand for freight transportation and the industry’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels.”

“On a Photograph of Philip Hyde” [Compass Rose]. “Philip Hyde [1921-2006] was among the first photographers to feature and promote photographic imagery in support of environmental ideals. Beginning in the early 1950’s, he along with Ansel Adams, and Eliot Porter, contributed to the growing body of work that came to be called the Western Landscape Tradition…. What immediately strikes me about this image is its mystery of scale…. Is the ‘tree’ 20 feet high, the image taken from a considerable height? Or is it a foot or two high, just a little seedling sprouting between boulders? The shadow suggests the latter, and the grain of the rock also confirms that.”

“Hawaii’s Kilaeuea Volcanic Eruption: A Stunning Time-Lapse” (video) [The Atlantic (Kokuanani)]. It’s alive…

Class Warfare

“Failing Pension Fund Threatens Thousands of Retired Truckers” [Transport Topics]. “There are more than 1,000 multiemployer pension funds in the U.S., and about 100 of them — of which Central States is the largest — are projected to run out of money within 20 years. … Nevertheless, if all endangered multiemployer pension funds were to go under, some 1.2 million active and retired workers in the U.S. would be left with a fraction of the pension benefits they were promised…. In many cases, endangered multiemployer pension funds haven’t fully recovered from downturns [sic (!)] in financial markets during the last decade [sic (!!)]. Another reason the funds are collapsing: Many companies that used to pay into the pension funds have either left or gone out of business, such as Consolidated Freightways, the company Onley once worked for. Trucking companies and factory workers — two industries that have shrunk considerably in recent decades — have traditionally made up the bulk of Central States members.”

“Angry Chinese truckers in mass strike as fuel costs overtake haulage fees” [The Loadstar]. It’s almost like things are the same all over:

Truckers across the country have staged mass protests and refused to work over the weekend.

They claim transport fees are no longer sustainable in the face of rising fuel costs.

An anonymous social media post said: “We can’t take it anymore, we have no choice but to stand together.”

It added: “We won’t starve to death if we don’t work for a few days, but we will certainly not survive with the ridiculously low transport fees we are being paid.”

The message called on the country’s 30 million drivers to join the strike and threatened to “smash the vehicle” of any who refused to participate.

In the past four days, strikes have been recorded in Anhui, Chongqing, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Shandong, Shanghai, Sichuan, and Zhejiang.

One striking driver told Radio Free Asia [ugh] on Monday the protests were also linked to a rising sense of job insecurity, exacerbated by the introduction of bidding systems for loads.

s”Have you heard of Yun Man Man? It’s a logistics app, and recently they introduced a bidding system, which means that they will definitely pick the cheapest bid,” said the driver.

If the neoliberals, when they moved our industrial base to China, had also encouraged unions, China might be quite a different country today. But n-o-o-o-o.

“Here’s How Higher Education Dies” [The Atlantic]. “In the spring of 2013, there were 19,105,651 students enrolled in higher ed; this spring, there were 17,839,330, according to recently released data from the National Center for Education Statistics. That represents a roughly 7-percent decrease—and is driven largely by declining enrollments in the for-profit and community-college sectors, as well as stagnant enrollments among four-year non-profit public and private institutions…. Why is the dip in enrollment such a big deal? Well, quite plainly, the business model for a lot of colleges is dependent on enrollment. If enrollments decline, revenues decline, and colleges have less money for facilities, faculty, and programs. That creates a sort of death spiral in which colleges are getting rid of programs, which in turn makes it harder to attract students, and so on.” Oddly, or not, we’re leaving he parasitical administrative layer out of consideration. Why not gut it, instead of cutting programs, and return universities to their formerly central missions of teaching and research? Sure, that’ll throw a lot of highly credentialled administrators into the labor market, but “disruption” and “innovation,” ya know….

UPDATE “The $1.5 Trillion Student Debt Bubble Is About To Pop” [NASDAQ]. “According to a report published by the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, wiping away the $1.4 trillion in outstanding loan debt for the 44 million Americans who carry it could boost GDP by between $86 billion and $108 billion per year, on average, for the 10 years following the debt cancellation. It would also lower the average unemployment rate by 0.22 to 0.36 percentage points over 10 years and could add between 1.2 million and 1.5 million jobs per year.” I’m a little stunned to see MMT’s Levy Institute cited in this venue.

“Driver guards cargo at crunch time” [DC Velocity]. “One of the prime directives given to truck drivers is to safeguard your cargo. Most of the time, that simply entails following safe driving practices and remembering to lock up the vehicle at rest stops. However, an Oregon trucker went above and beyond expectations when he recently became lost in the woods outside Pendleton, Ore., for four days after an errant GPS led him off course. Despite being stranded in a remote location without food or water, the driver never touched his tasty freight—a load of potato chips….. Asked by his boss why he didn’t eat some of the chips for sustenance, the driver said he relied on his upbringing. ‘That stuff’s worth something, that’s the load—I’m not gonna touch it,’ trucking company owner Roy Henry said Cartwright told him. ‘That’s the way he was raised, that stuff’s not yours, you don’t touch it.'”

“The Destruction of Latin America’s Left And Lessons for Everyone” [Ian Welsh]. “This is a very dirty game, and left-wingers keep treating it as if it is not: as if there are rules, and both sides play by them. Increasingly in the US that is not the case, and it is clearly not the case many other places. If your enemies win, they will destroy you by any means. You should think long and hard about what you will do to them if you get into power, because they know what they will do to you.”

News of The Wired

“The Strange Case of the Missing Joyce Scholar” [New York Times]. This is fun! Disinterested scholars in the quest for truth, and all that.

“The future of classicism” [New Criterion]. “Any major building project involves expenditure. For architects who, like many classicists, rely on private patronage, the fact that there are so many more extremely rich people in the world, quite a number with homes in or around London, is a wonderful thing. The opportunities presented by the colonization of London’s most prestigious streets by families wanting to live not merely in the manner of the Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian builders, but on a significantly increased scale, are prodigious. What have always been large houses are being enlarged with swimming pools, gyms, and cinema rooms, often provided in new basements.” That said, I prefer the Parthenon to anything by Frank Gehry….

“This 30-second change to your computer settings is the easiest way to stop hackers” [MarketWatch]. “Change the Domain Name System (DNS) that your computer uses. Most computers connect to the DNS that’s automatically set by their internet service providers, but there are safer alternatives…. The DNS services that your internet service provider connects to automatically are likely not as secure as they could be … Users can set up a new DNS with a few clicks. On a Mac, go to System Preferences, click ‘network settings,’ click ‘advanced’ and ‘select DNS.’ Then change your server location to the desired DNS address. For Google,; for Cloudflare; and for Quad9, Save settings, and you’re done. Windows users can take similar steps through its ‘control panel.'”

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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 (IME):

IME writes: “Yesterday at the bookseller fair in Retiro Park (Madrid) went to the rose garden and took some pics with my not so good cellphone. This year we are having a gorgeous spring thanks to May rains.” Gorgeous! As readers know, I encourage walks, and talking photographs on one’s walk.

* * *

Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So do feel free to make a contribution today or any day. Here is why: Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of small donations helps me with expenses, and I factor that trickle in when setting fundraising goals. So if you see something you especially appreciate, do feel free to click the hat!

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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. petal

    An update about NY rich guy Tom Golisano’s fight about goose poo and his demand the town lower his assessment: “The South Bristol Board of Assessment Review has ruled against Golisano’s argument that value of his $5.7 million home should be lowered because geese are pooping on the lawn according to the South Bristol Town Assessor Office.

    Last month, Golisano asked the town to cut the assessed value in half, which would cut his property taxes….He demanded that the town help keep the birds away or give him a corresponding break on his property taxes.

    Golisano has withheld his latest property tax bill in protest. He said he would pay that bill only at the point of foreclosure, then withhold taxes again.

    Golisano, who ran unsuccessfully three times for governor, moved to Florida to protest New York’s high taxes.”

    (gotta love what’s in the link-“golisano loses goose poop”)

    1. Oregoncharles

      My reaction: free fertilizer! Have your landscaper occasionally run a thatcher (power rake), set high, through it to break up the lumps, then water. Problem solved. (Granted, said landscaper will need a way to wash their boots.)

    2. Amfortas the Hippie

      lol. I’ve read about that guy before.
      and I happen to be an expert on geese and their leavings.
      if anything, all that goose crap is improving the value of his place…it’s excellent fertiliser…and has he never heard of a fence?
      sounds like property taxes are his real issue, here…and I have a tried and true method for lowering those, as well: allow rain to get in and rot part of the wall…take picture of rot…yell at the assessor and show him the picture.
      I discovered this method due to poverty and neglect, when we moved to town for 7 years, leaving the old trailerhouse in the woods on it’s own.
      tax ass. valued it up more and more every year(I didn’t contest, because the bill was negligible anyway), until that beat up old trailer was “worth”$16K,lol.
      pictures proved it was Not made of gold, after all…and the vids of the squirrels (and 2 screech owls) living in the 2 holes in the wall were all the evidence needed.
      I’ll patiently await Mr Golsiano’s check for my modest consultancy fee.
      (and geese mow the grass, too)

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        As a goose expert — can you suggest any way to train geese to leave their fertilizer on selected targets? The geese could do much to make America great again.

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          aside from physical barriers(fences are usually mostly psychological. my geese won’t enter, say, a barn…or a dense thicket)…I get them to go where I want them to by placing “goose pools” of various shapes and provenance at either end.
          water trough with a concrete block in and out(especially for babies). once established, a Goose World will persist in their tiny minds, and the hard part is therefafter convincing them to move to greener pastures(they’ll yell at an open gate for a month. the most conservative of birds. I use them for debate practice….it’s just like a yard full of tea partiers)
          I rarely mow any more, and rattlesnakes don’t like them.

  2. Tom Stone

    Bill McBride called it again.
    Inventory is definitely picking up in Sonoma County and the number of “price reductions/Back on the market” is higher than I have seen in a decade.
    Prices are sticky on the way down but my reaction to what I saw on today’s broker’s tour is that legalized pot is having a significant affect on sellers.

      1. Fiery Hunt

        My guess, based on my own search for a bit of land to build a house on?

        Open land that can be turned into a quick pot grow is being bought by growers for cash..lots of time they get in, grow and in six months, give up. The land goes up for auction…rinse and repeat.

        And sellers all now think their inaccessible, non-house-buildable vacant lot is worth $100K an acre…

    1. Arizona Slim

      Here in Tucson, I like to go on real estate bike rides. And what do I do during such rides? Well, I count the number of “for sale” signs.

      Lately, it’s been easy to go on 10-milers and spot at least 20 signs. Many of them have been up for a while, and that’s because of pricing. Way too high for this market.

      1. ArcadiaMommy

        It’s also miserable to look at houses in the heat. You have to coordinate with the seller to have AC turned on or else swelter as you see the house.

        Plus getting in and out of the hot car a bunch of times is horrible.

        Re pot: I don’t see how it would affect RE prices for residential properties. I have seen some whacko valuations for cannabis zoneable commercial real estate though.

        1. ambrit

          In general, I’ve noticed that former fallow fields or residential properties, when listed as commercial, are way overpriced. I don’t know whether it is simple greed or the practice of looking up surrounding properties and picking the highest one found to be your ‘benchmark’ price (complex greed.)
          I know that the biggest commercial property owner/dealer around here is famous for almost never lowering their asking price, even when surrounding properties are cratering.

      2. Amfortas the Hippie

        same here, undiminished since the big bust.
        the number of realtors has gone back to mean, though.
        solvitur ambulando, applied to economic research.

    2. RUKidding

      RE inventory in Sacramento CA is still moving pretty briskly, but I do notice some properties that stay on the market for a long time. Typically, these properties are just priced too high.

      1. Richard

        I loved that too. Lee is funny and wise, and the Poor People’s Campaign deserves all the attention it can get. Pass it on.

  3. Big River Bandido

    Re: “Here’s how Higher Education Dies”

    …roughly 7-percent decrease—and is driven largely by declining enrollments in the for-profit and community-college sectors

    Personally, I wouldn’t fear the demise of the for-profit “college” sector, at all. That might actually be a healthy development.

    I suspect the only thing that would help education recover would be to completely reform college finance…specifically, massive grant monies again for studies. We used to have Pell Grants and they were a great thing.

    1. Grumpy Engineer

      I’ve griped on this blog multiple times about the seemingly infinite monetary appetite of America’s EIC (educational industrial complex) and how student loans have amplified the problem, but colleges and universities aren’t entirely to blame for the recent 7% enrollment decrease.

      Part of it is demographics: https://seekingalpha.com/article/3947686-story-americas-economic-future-told-demographics

      A few years back, the millennial “bulge” was causing America’s schools to overflow with students. The generation that is coming afterward is smaller, and it’s not a surprise that enrollments have dropped accordingly. The bigger question is this: After several straight decades of continually-growing budgets, do America’s colleges and universities have the wherewithal to “tighten their belts”? Somehow, I doubt it.

      1. Scott

        It’s also unclear as to how much flexibility they have in tightening their belts given the massive construction boom on campuses over the past two decades. Loan payments for those will be coming due. They could cut administration costs (both salaries and positions), but that is highly unlikely.

        There is a not insignificant scandal in Massachusetts regarding the failure and sale to UMass Amherst of a small college, Mt. Ida.

        1. roxy

          Yes, the Mr. Ida deal is malodorous. Seems to have been presented as a fait accompli to the shock and dismay of the students. Mt. Ida offers some specific degrees not available just anywhere such as in funeral management. UMass breezily states that students can finish their degrees at UMass Dartmouth, or whatever. Courts say there’s no recourse. UMass says “yeah we’re doin’ this, whatayagonnadoaboudit?” It’s a nice piece of land, in Newton, MA.

      2. Sid Finster

        I have said it since I was a kitten – easing lending “to make college/housing/autos/whatever more affordable” achieves precisely the opposite.

        Instead, easy money sets off an arms race, just as before the financial crisis, it became impossible for anyone not a hedge fund billionaire to buy a home without taking out some obscene 5/1 neg am liar loan. This was because a home would go to the person willing and able to bid the most for it, and the person able to bid the most is the one who can borrow the most, so anyone not taking out the biggest and most speculative loan available had to compete with other bidders that had done so.

        This is a corollary of Gresham’s Law.

  4. curlydan

    “This is the worst possible way the government could have dealt with [the AirBnB] issue.” Actually, if the government’s goal is to get AirBnB landlords to get a license, then cancelling reservations of non-license holders is the best way to get the ball moving.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        You mentioned –

        It seems that AirBnB’s view that one’s dwelling is simply a cash machine isn’t a cultural universal.

        -with which I have a minor quibble. One’s dwellings are often not what are being offered up as Airbnbs. In my area, people don’t rent out their own home – they are buying up other homes to rent the entire place out as an illegal hotel. That’s what really needs to stop.

        1. perpetualWAR

          I know some airbnb-ers who actually need the help to pay the ever-increasing property taxes! And yes, they do share their space. The whole house or apartment rental was not the intention of airbnb when it began.

  5. allan

    Giuliani’s son gets West Wing access revoked [The Hill]

    Andrew Giuliani, a junior White House staffer and the son of Rudy Giuliani, has had his West Wing access revoked, despite an order from President Trump to promote him. …

    According to Axios, Kelly and others believe that Giuliani “subverts the chain of command.”

    Kelly stripped Giuliani of his West Wing access about two weeks ago, Axios reported, leaving him with a “green pass.” That means he cannot enter the West Wing without an escort [the joke writes itself.] …

    Nobody could have predic … oh, never mind: Judge tosses out Giuliani son’s Duke lawsuit [McClatchy, 2010]

    The son of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was unable to make a federal case against Duke University for kicking him off the golf team.

    A federal judge in Greensboro on Tuesday dismissed the 20-month-old case that Andrew Giuliani filed against his alma mater.

    U.S. District Judge William Osteen said in his order that there was no evidence of a contract between Giuliani and Duke that assured him a spot on the golf team and a lifetime membership to university “state-of-the-art” golf facilities. …

    As is carved into the National Archives Fake News, What’s past is prologue.

  6. lb

    The DNS article bugs me as a yeah/security guy who’s looked at this sort of problem for a while.

    1. The article urges trust in Google or another company proclaiming their motivation is altruism over a person’s ISP. Do we fully trust the motives of these companies?

    2. Choosing a common DNS server with greater network distance may make DNS poisoning attacks easier. Usersemember these cute repeated single digit DNS servers to the point that is used quite commonly and assumed to be benign. (Note to other security types: I’m not trying to provoke a nerdfight especially regarding minutuae here, but I believe my claim is correct for UDP-based DNS, inherent to the protocol).

    3. Generally, this article pushes a user to choose to trust party A (Google, cloudflare, …) Over party B (all ISPs as a lump, presumed inept no matter how diligent) based on the word of proclaimed security experts C as chosen and quoted by media outlet D. Users generally lack the expertise to validate these claims and generally don’t know the credibility of such firms. It’s a hard problem, conveying good security advice credibly to non-experts, but this does not obviate the need for skepticism.

    We’re decades late in securing DNS and it’ll need to be a bit more invasive than picking new servers du jour.

    1. liam

      DNS really is the achilles heal of the web. As far as I’m aware the Great Chinese Firewall is really just a DNS poisoning of root servers. Imagine giving Google the power the Chinese have.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      We could start keeping the IP addresses in our lists of sites and relay no more on a DNS — assuming we keep only valid IP addresses and those addresses are not ‘captured’ or re-routed at other than DNS servers.

  7. audrey jr

    Tom Stone: My son just returned last night from a trip up to Santa Rosa, where he grew up – boy do I miss living there – and said that the R.E. market is heating up around there again. FWIW, my San Diego neighborhood, near Mesa College, is heating up with “For Sale” signs all over the place after a lull in inventory. And the appearance of many apartment complexes “For Sale” is leading me to believe that some folks are beginning to understand that the bubble is going to pop soon and that they had best unload their extremely over-valued properties before the inevitable unwind begins to speed up.

    1. Arizona Slim

      In my nabe, there have been two failed listings in the last few weeks. One’s now for rent — its selling price was too high. The other was a flip attempt that belly-flopped.

    2. Milton

      Pretty quiet here in my UC neighborhood (or as I like to call it “La Jolla’s backyard”). Seems like the rush was in early spring. Either way, there is no comparison with the frenzy of home selling that we experienced back in 2005.

  8. skippy

    Kinda why human memory is designed to forget stuff I guess…. anywho…

    It seems that Friedman´s most pathbreaking innovation as an economist has been in the art of what is called “massaging the data” to arrive at preferred conclusions.

    In July 1970 Nicholas Kaldor wrote an article in the Lloyd’s Bank Review in which he questioned Friedman’s empirical assertions. Friedman replied — in the same journal in October — that:

    “Asking how Professor Kaldor would explain the existence of essentially the same relation between money and income… for the UK as for the US, Yugoslavia, Greece, Israel, India, Japan, Korea, Chile and Brazil?”

    The problem with this? Friedman just made it up. No such relation existed. went back and crunched the numbers. Kaldor is his responded in his ‘The Scourge of Monetarism’:

    “The simple answer to this is that Friedman’s assertions lack any factual foundation whatsoever. They have no basis in fact, and he seems to me to have invented them on the spur of the moment. I had the relevant figures extracted from the IMF statistics for 1958 and for each of the years 1968 to 1979, for every country mentioned by Friedman and a few others besides… Though there are some countries (among which the US is conspicuous) where in terms of the M3 the ratio has been fairly stable over the period of observation, this was not true of the majority of others.” Kaldor, N. 1982. The Scourge of Monetarism. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York.

    Kaldor summed this up well in a speech to the House of Lords regarding this little ‘blunder’ on the 16th April 1980. There he said:

    “Professor Friedman, as on some other WELL-KNOWN OCCASIONS, invented the facts to clinch the argument, and relied on his reputation as an expert for being taken on trust without anyone bothering to check the figures.” source: The UK Forum for Post Keynesian Economics
    Keynes Seminar in Cambridge Professor Richard Kahn on The Scourge of Monetarism (11 December 1987).

    Professor Paul Diesing a Economist and Philosopher of Science that worked closely with Friedman at University of Chicago, points out in his valuable article ‘Hypothesis Testing and Data Interpretation: The Case of Milton Friedman,” Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, vol. 3, pp. 61-69.: that Friedman “tests” hypotheses by methods that never allow their refutation.
    Diesing lists six “tactics” of adjustment employed by Friedman in connection with testing the permanent income (PI) hypothesis:

    1. If raw or adjusted data are consistent with PI, he reports them as confirmation of PI
    2. If the fit with expectations is moderate, he exaggerates the fit.
    3. If particular data points or groups differ from the predicted regression, he invents ad hoc explanations for the divergence.
    4. If a whole set of data disagree with predictions, adjust them until they do agree.
    5. If no plausible adjustment suggests itself, reject the data as unreliable.
    6. If data adjustment or rejection are not feasible, express puzzlement. ‘I have not been able to construct any plausible explanation for the discrepancy’…”

    In a proposed Op Ed column written in 1990, Elton Rayack (Not So Free To Choose, New York: Praeger, 1987) pointed out the interesting fact that while Friedman’s models did well in retrospective fitting to historic data, where the Friedman testing methods could be employed, they were abysmal in forecasts, where “adjustments” could not be made. Rayack reviewed eleven forecasts of price, interest rate, and output changes made by Friedman during the 1980s, as reported in the press. Only one of the eleven was on the mark, a not-so-great batting average of .092;
    “not enough to earn a plaque in baseball’s Hall of Fame, but evidently quite adequate to qualify [Friedman] as an economic guru.” The guru was, however, protected by the mainstream media; Rayack’s piece was rejected by both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

    We may conclude says Elton Rayak that Friedman’s truly pathbreaking innovation as an economist has been in the art of what is called “massaging the data” to arrive at preferred conclusions. This innovation has been extended further by other members of the Chicago School.”
    Professor Edward S. Herman writes further in Triumph of the Market, Boston: South End Press, 1995, p. 34-37 : about Milton Friedman:

    “Friedman was considered an extremist and something of a nut in the early postwar years. As Friedman has not changed, and is now comfortably ensconced at the conservative Hoover Institution, his rise to eminence (including receipt of a Nobel prize in economics), like that of the Dartmouth Review’s Dinesh D’Souza, testifies to a major change in the general intellectual-political climate.

    Friedman is an ideologue of the right, whose intellectual opportunism in pursuit of his political agenda has often been heavy-handed and sometimes even laughable. The numerous errors and rewritings of history in Friedman’s large collection of popular writings are spelled out in admirable detail in Elton Rayack’s Not So Free To Choose.[2] His “minimal government” ideology has never extended to attacking the military-industrial complex and imperialist policies; in parallel with Reaganism and the demands of the corporate community, his assault on government “pyramid building” was confined to civil functions of government. As with the other Chicago boys, totalitarianism in Chile did not upset Friedman-its triumphs in dismantling the welfare state and disempowering mass organizations, even if by the use of torture and murder, made it a positive achiever for him.

    Friedman’s reputation as a professional economist rests on his monetarist ideas and historical studies, his analysis of inflation and the “natural rate of unemployment,” and his theory of the consumption – income relationship (the so-called “permanent-income” hypothesis). These are modest achievements at best. His monetarist forecasts have proven to be as wrong as forecasts can be, and the popularity of monetarism has ebbed in the wake of its failures…

    The Chicago School intellectual tradition traces back to University of Chicago professors Frank Knight and Henry Simon, who flourished in the 1920s and 1930s. These men were conservative, but principled and iconoclastic, Simon’s 1934 pamphlet, “A Positive Program for Laissez Faire,” actually called for nationalization of monopolies that were based on incontrovertible economies of scale, on the grounds of the evil of private monopoly and the inefficiency and corruptibility of regulation of monopoly.

    The post-World War II Chicago School, led by Milton Friedman and George Stigler, has been more political, right-wing, and intellectually opportunistic. On the monopoly issue, for example, in contrast with Simon’s 1932 position, the post-World War II School’s preoccupation was to dispute the importance and damaging effects of monopoly and to blame its existence on government policy. The postwar school is also linked to U.S. and IMF policies toward the Third World, in its pioneering service, through the “Chicago boys,” as advisers to the Pinochet regime of Chile from 1973 onward.

    This alliance points up the School’s notion of “freedom,” which has little or nothing to do with political or economic democracy, but is confined to a special kind of market freedom. As it accepts inequality of initial economic position, and the privilege and political influence built into corrupt states like Pinochet’s (or Reagan’s), its economic freedom is narrow and class-biased. The Chicago boys have always claimed that economic freedom is a necessary condition of political freedom, but their tolerance of political non-freedom and state terror in the interest of “economic freedom” makes their own priorities all too clear.

    The Chicago School’s attitude toward labor was displayed in the Chicago boys’ complacence over Pinochet’s use of state terror to crush the Chilean labor movement. The School’s general tolerance of monopoly on the producers’ side has never been paralleled by softness toward labor organization and “labor monopoly.” Henry Simon himself developed a pathological fear of labor power in his later years, as evidenced in a famous diatribe “Reflections on Syndicalism,” which may have contributed to his committing suicide in 1944. Subsequently, the labor specialists of the postwar Chicago School, most notably Albert Rees and H. Gregg Lewis, dedicated lifetimes to showing that wages were determined by marginal productivity and that labor unions’ pursuit of higher wages was futile.

    Rees, however, did acknowledge the non-economic benefits of labor organization in his class lectures.) Chicago School analyses stressed the wage-employment tradeoff and the employment costs of wage increases based on bargaining power (as opposed to those negotiated individually and reflecting marginal productivity). They linked collective bargaining to inflation, viewing “excessive” wage increases as the pernicious engine of inflationary spirals. Milton Friedman’s concept of a “natural rate of unemployment” was a valuable tool in the arsenal of corporate and political warfare against trade unions-a mystical concept, unprovable, but putting the ultimate onus of price level increases on the exercise of labor bargaining power…. – en fin…..

    Economics is Funtastic….

    1. jsn

      The media credibility money bought even way back then was all Friedman needed. Kaldor’s reply lacked such mediated legs.

      It paid well, and like Tyler Cowan today, it really was all about justifying wealth for the wealthy in as abstruse, off beat and obfuscatory terms as can be found, to keep the whole propaganda facade from decomposing into the boring banality of greed.

      As Friedman’s buddy Buckley knew all to well: “The trouble with the emphasis in conservatism on the market is that it becomes rather boring. You hear it once, you master the idea. The notion of devoting your life to it is horrifying if only because it’s so repetitious. It’s like sex.”

    2. ambrit

      I’m surmising that the Chicago School prevailed in Chile because it had the force of the State behind it. In the beginning, several States. Nothing does an economic theory more help than having a ruthless dictator advocating for it. World Communism had Stalin. Neo-liberal Capitalism had Pinochet. Modern Western (Superior) Elitism will have Khan Noonian Singh.
      We live in interesting times indeed.

      1. polecat

        “Botany Bay ? … BOTANY BAY !!”

        So, I guess we can be thankful that little milton & the emperialists weren’t the product of late 20th Century genetic experimentation.
        A day late, and a CRISPR short.

    3. The Rev Kev

      Great piece that, skippy. Hmmm. Massaging the data to get a bs conclusion made to order. Now I see where Kenneth Rogoff got that procedure from.

    4. makedoanmend

      Is state just a state – excitable, plastic and not concrete..,

      “L’etat, c’est moi…”

      “…Louis XIV … sat on the French throne for over 72 years, brought France to perhaps its pinnacle of power, and is widely considered one of the great monarchs of History…”


      Whilst attribution of the ‘state’ quote is contested, nevertheless:

      When dictators, whatever their a priori, sit on the throne, they claim oneness with the state but rely upon a fortiori.

      Is the USA state today the same one that existed in 1950? Or is the state fluid and contestable – until it isn’t.

      When Stalin died, state capitalism ( the theoretical precursor to communism) became the dominant motive force of the ruling class. One wonders what is in store for the USA.


    I know this has been complained about before, but does anyone know of a good alternative to Google News? I’ve lost all patience for its interface and garbage results.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      My favorite thing about the Google News interface is that you can’t filter by date. I should actually write a post on how much I hate Google News (unless that brings down the wrath of the algo Gods?)….

      1. blennylips

        I, for one, would throw myself in front of your lightening bolt to read that post!

      2. Kurt Sperry

        It’s sorta, kinda possible to do. First, enter your search term in the web search box, from the results page select the “News” tab (All, News, Videos…), and from *that* page go to “Tools”, just to the right of “Settings” near the top of the page. Once you’ve done that three pulldown menus appear, “All News, Recent, and Sorted by…” Select “Recent” and from that pulldown you may select to filter by how recent they were published, archived content, or select a custom date range. It’s not a nice, ordered list by date, no, but it can still be useful for finding specific links or original sources.

        Edit: Parenthetically, I’m still getting the “edit” option after posting.

    2. Chris

      Find an RSS reader that you like (I use NewsBlur) and subscribe to RSS feeds from your favourite trusted sources.

      It’s easy to scan the feed lists for items that interest you, and you can often spot the megaphone-like repetition of a ‘planted’ story across multiple outlets.

      Failing that, just rely on NC’s daily Links page…

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        I’ll add my second to this motion. I use both an RSS reader (NewsBar on Mac) and various newsletters because not all my usual sources have a decent RSS stream that works in the reader. However, I also use Opera, which has a very easy-to-use Personal News utility that can find those, and everything has a “posted X hours ago” data mark.

        I know other browsers have similar options, but the one in Opera is by far the easiest to use, in my experience.

        1. blennylips

          …and a third carries the motion!

          When the old google reader went senile ~2013, I switched to Tiny Tiny RSS, a free & open source regurgitator that you run on your own server (php – a snap to admin).

          I have over 500 feeds (few are daily) and love it.

          Nostalgia break:

          Remember the old days you could turn any search into a feed of future matches. Blog search -> feed was invaluable for finding new writers…



    3. Jeremy Grimm

      I search with DuckDuckGo and get my news from NakedCapitalism, Truthdig, and RealClimate.org.

      1. polecat

        The four cornerstones of my news & commentary pyramid are NC, Moon of Alabama, Ecosophia (John Greer), and lastly, ZeroHedge… for a touch of imbalance.

  10. liam

    Then change your server location to the desired DNS address. For Google,; for Cloudflare; and for Quad9,

    Don’t do this if you don’t want Google or some other ginormous operation to know every page you visit. If you’re a bit more tech savvy, (I don’t know for Windows/Mac but on linux it’s not difficult), set up a validating server on your own machine, with DNSSEC, so that you basically query yourself, and can be sure that upstream servers are legit.

    As I said, I don’t know about Windows/Mac.

      1. Jason Boxman

        But then we’re on to the question, do you trust the developer of this DNS package, and will it be patched promptly if a security issue is discovered, and will you upgrade promptly, if one is discovered?

        And it might even be a vulnerability no one thought of, in some core library. Everyone remembers HeartBleed, I presume?

  11. Jim Haygood

    Our mandate has nothing to do with marijuana.‘ — Fed chair Jerome Powell

    Maybe not … but FOMC members must have gone through several pounds of Juicy Fruit buds to reach the delusional conclusion that they should cut the Fed’s balance sheet in half.

    Stocks sagged in late going as the 2yr/10yr Treasury yield curve fell to new low of 40 basis points. Two more rate hikes could easily push it below zero, a classic recession marker.

    None of this mattered for juggernaut Amazon, which powered on to its first close above $1,700 a share. For $19.95, Bezos could sell a Chinese-made “Fed in a box” that would do everything the FOMC does … only better.

  12. Darius

    I’d say today’s plant is a Peace rose. One of the greats. Released at the end of WWII. Thus, Peace. A vigorous, beautiful, dependable bloomer.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        I went outside last night to roam a bit, and was almost assaulted(in a good way) by the Bee Brush that had suddenly leapt into bloom(due to torrential rain last week. they’ll do this just about any time of year, given enough h2o)
        even in the wind, the smell was strong…sweet, but not cloying.
        we have it everywhere out here.

    1. Oregoncharles

      I stopped pruning mine, so it’s now about 8 feet high with sometimes 20 or 30 flowers all at once. Peace is doing very well – in the garden.

  13. Jim Haygood

    Monkey see, monkey do:

    Comcast announced a $65 billion bid for Twenty-First Century Fox units that are currently in an agreement to be acquired by Walt Disney Co.

    Comcast, the parent of CNBC, offered Fox shareholders $35 a share in cash and 100 percent of the shares of the company left behind after the deal.

    The announcement comes one day after a federal judge cleared the way for AT&T’s megadeal for Time Warner, a decision that is expected to unleash a wave of big mergers.


    If you hate the cable company now, just wait till they start locking up content and applying their flat-footed, customer-averse tunnel vision to its production.

    Should this merger go through, the number of companies in the new Communications Services sector will drop from 27 to 25 before it even launches officially on Sep 28, 2018. A new Comms Services sector ETF will use the ticker symbol XLC.

    Currently Alphabet and Facebook alone make up a heavy 42.8% of the new sector, according to a pro forma chart from S&P Dow Jones:


    When they all condense into one noxious blob, we’ll just call it Minitru (Ministry of Truth).

    1. Jim Haygood

      News with views:

      Disney is selling the New York City buildings that currently house ABC News HQ to a developer who’s expected to demolish them and build luxury condos.

      The transaction was reported by a respected New York real estate publication, the Commercial Observer. The publication said Disney is selling the ABC complex for more than $1 billion to Silverstein Properties, one of the city’s biggest developers.

      Luxury apartment towers built on the ABC lot would overlook Central Park and command enormous prices.


      Sherry buys a paper and a cold six-pack of beer
      The headlines read that Silverstein raked it in this year
      She pulls back onto Broadway in her new Mercedes Benz
      The road goes on forevah and the party never ends

      — Robert Earl Keen

  14. Neocap

    Any article that mentions the massive Canadian diary tariffs but doesn’t mention the equally massive agricultural subsidies the US provides to dairy farmers (that Canada does not) isn’t sufficiently thought through.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Agreed. I like the bit in that story about the poor Canadians going over the border to get dairy products but fails to mention Americans crossing in the other direction to get life saving drugs. Maybe a swap can be organized. Canada’s diary industry for America’s big pharma – let them both be up for grabs. So would this be a deal?

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      Give him props for being out there and marching. *I* wasn’t out marching and/or protesting today. You?

      1. allan

        It wasn’t so long ago that Crowley thought there were too many Hispanics in his district:

        Lobbyists join redistricting in N.Y.
        [Politico, 2011]

        POLITICO has learned that Democratic Reps. Joe Crowley, the Queens County party chairman who also holds a leadership position on the party’s congressional campaign committee, and Brian Higgins, from the Buffalo-based district, have both signed lobbyists to oversee their interests in the decennial remapping process, aides confirmed. …

        The machinations provide an insight into the bare-knuckle world of redistricting, in which even powerful members of Congress feel threatened enough to bring in hired guns to safeguard their seats.

        In Crowley’s case, he signed Brian Meara, a longtime lobbyist with ties to the state Assembly’s powerful Democratic leader, Sheldon Silver, sources confirmed. One potential issue of concern for Crowley: A corner of his district is in a heavily Hispanic area of the Bronx, which could ultimately leave him vulnerable to a primary challenge from a Latino candidate. …

  15. clarky90

    Re “…the linear, “Overton Window” model that sees left, center, right” as a spectrum.”

    The extreme “Left” and the extreme “Right” are the same Beast.

    NKVD ORDER No 001223
    regarding the Procedure for carrying out the Deportation of
    Anti-Soviet Elements from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

    [Translated from the Original Russian Text in London]

    signed by Lavrentiy Beria on October 11, 1939


    “1. General Situation

    The deportation of anti-Soviet elements from the Baltic Republics is a task of great political importance. Its successful execution depends upon the extent to which the district operative “troikas” and operative headquarters are capable of carefully working out a plan for executing the operations and for anticipating everything indispensable.

    Moreover, care must be taken that the operations are carried out without disturbances and panic, so as not to permit any demonstrations and other trouble not only on the part of those to be deported, but also on the part of a certain section of the surrounding population hostile to the Soviet administration…..”

    Read on. The entire order is chilling, and a premonition. George Orwell spoke of this

    1. Grebo

      Can you think of no differences between the ‘extreme “Left” and the extreme “Right”‘?

      Have you noticed many Stalinists here?

      You quote Lambert only to ignore him. What’s up with that?

      1. clarky90

        Grebo said “Can you think of no differences between the ‘extreme “Left” and the extreme “Right”‘?”

        Well, they have/had different colored uniforms and hats. Different flags. Their army helmets were a different shape? But no, not really.

        What differences have you discovered? I am genuinely interested in your thoughts, and in this subject. thanks!

    2. Oregoncharles

      An example of how little difference there really was between Communists and Nazis; both were more authoritarian than anything else. It’s a truism that extremes tend to meet.

      OTOH, they aren’t really “left” and “right” for our purposes. Fortunately, the current left is mostly very anti-authoritarian. I speak from experience of facilitating meetings. Remember Occupy? The right, OTOH, once dominated by libertarian types (go back and read Goldwater, who opposed both the draft and drug Prohibition. Good times), is now dominated by nostalgic authoritarians, with the Libertarians wandering off by themselves. Not a good sign, really.

  16. Jeremy Grimm

    RE: Politics 2018: The Democratic Party’s red-to-blue campaign seems to have had the opposite effect of morphing Democratic Party chosen candidates from blue-to-red — e.g. the NJ District 02 ‘Democratic’ Party choice for Congress. Doesn’t a red-to-blue win for a blue-to-red candidate result in a red-to-red transition in politics?

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      A last moment thought — maybe the future of the GOP lies in the ‘Democratic’ Party.

  17. Daryl

    > UPDATE “Bernie Sanders supporter attends every DNC rule-change meeting. DNC member calls her a Russian plant.”

    This is amazing. Commentariat members who lived through the Cold War, was the atmosphere anything like this? It seems to match up with what I read from that era, except there’s no actual threat and it’s limited to a small but visiible slice of America (Democrats and they media they own).

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Sorry. The McCarthy era was in the early 1950s, well before I was politically aware. Afterward the most important things I remember from the Cold War years was hiding under my desk in third grade during the Cuban Missie Crisis and hearing crazy pronouncements from the John Birch Society in the middle 1960s. After that, “Morning in America”, marked a very noticeable decline in the physical maintenance of my college campus followed by an opportunity to work in the MIC which I took, though with many misgivings and regrets all eased by the stupidity of the left’s opposition. I was a staunch Democrat from then on until the recent present when I finally perceived that the Democrats were no more than apologetic Republicans favoring the aggrandizement and enrichment of the rich while raising their handkerchiefs to catch their tears and hide their munching while they consumed the same tender morsels, and often more of those morsels, than their supposed opponents. … And no … I ain’t proud about my past.

    2. Eureka Springs

      Bless her heart. Toward the end of the original article we are reminded just how rigged and futile trying to reform things are within that party.

      The Providence meeting did not settle the question of superdelegates. The deal crafted in 2016 requires a final decision on superdelegates to be made by June 30; DNC Rules and Bylaws members are likely to make a final recommendation after a conference call, which has yet to be scheduled. The full reform package will then be adopted and explained in August, when the full DNC meets.

      All that is missing are cigars and a back room. Maybe Vickie should live stream in black and white.

    3. Elizabeth Burton

      The answer is: it depends. As is the case today, any major challenge to the status quo and you risked being labeled either a “commie,” a sympathizer or a stooge. It was also impossible to hear anything about life behind that Iron Curtain that didn’t make it sound full of miserable people who were aching to overthrow the Red government and become just like ‘Muricans.

      Johnathan Cooke wrote this on Common Dreams in an essay on “How the Corporate Media Enslave Us To A World Of Illusion”:

      The Great Western Narrative tells us something entirely different. It divides the world into a hierarchy of “peoples”, with different, even conflicting, virtues and vices. Some humans – westerners – are more rational, more caring, more sensitive, more fully human. And other humans – the rest – are more primitive, more emotional, more violent. In this system of classification, we are the Good Guys and they are the Bad Guys; we are Order, they are Chaos. They need a firm hand from us to control them and stop them doing too much damage to themselves and to our civilised part of the world.

      Just yesterday I had a meme on my Facebook Timeline phrased as a question asking whether those of us who opposed Hillary Clinton ever considered we were brainwashed by Russian propaganda. That’s pretty much replaced “right-wing propaganda” as the source for any negative information about Her Royal Clintonness, and among those suffering Trump derangement syndrome any fact offered to counter the whole “Russia elected him” nonsense can only be tendered wearing Kevlar and a helmet.

      For those wanting to read the rest of the essay: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/06/13/how-corporate-media-enslave-us-world-illusions

    4. flora

      re: Commentariat members who lived through the Cold War, was the atmosphere anything like this?

      History repeats: first time as tragedy, second time as farce. heh.

      But really; a person wanting to know the rules of the game is castigated as an ‘other’ ? Even while the current occupants of DNC got their positions by knowing and using said rules of game? Don’t know why I’m reminded of this bit of history:


      1. Daryl

        > History repeats: first time as tragedy, second time as farce. heh.

        I guess that about sums it up…

        Thanks for the replies everyone.

  18. ewmayer

    “The future of classicism [New Criterion]” — Seems like the title should be ‘The future of classism‘, because this definitely belongs in either Class Warfare or Guillotine Watch.

  19. Darthbobber

    Studebaker and left orderphobia. Depends on what subset of the left, I suppose. There is an element, visible on social media out of all proportion to its numbers, which is allergic to the state as such, and the concept of planning in particular.

    2nd and 3rd international socialism of course saw the existing state and parties as corrupt, but proposed the creation of a new state-form. In the absence of full-blown revolution, social-democratic and labor parties of course relied heavily on state action, and were indeed a tad naive about the nature of the state apparatus in which they got to play a role.

    Huge segments of the New Left picked up the anarcho-cowboy vibe of many sixties students, and of a variant of anarchism. This tendency tends to wave off questions of what a different order would look like, often invoking the mantra of spontaneity. Usually score points in this group with a lot of Deleuze and Guattari references. Negri and Hardt’s trilogy is a fair example of where that variant of politics goes to die.

    But however strong that tendency may be in graduate Literature departments, its impact elsewhere remains pretty minimal.

  20. Darthbobber

    Something similar in Philadelphia to the diminished clout of the SF Police union in politics. Philly’s local had long been accustomed to spending more effort defending the right of cops to act with impunity towards the citizenry than on what one normally thinks of as the core business of a union (wages, hours, working conditions of the membership.) It had a screaming hissy-fit against all things even vaguely BLM related, and really went all-out trying to derail Krasner for DA.

    The upshot was that it showed its actual clout to be vastly less than had been assumed, once anybody failed to be intimidated by it. For the moment, it seeems to be relegated to a bit player role.

  21. Kim Kaufman

    Fwiw, here’s Brad Friedman’s take on the Maine/ranked choice voting issue and other election matters.

    Why Ranked Choice Voting is a Terrible Idea, Election Results/Failures and Trump’s GOP Cult:


    1. onelurkerinmaine

      I live in Maine, and I voted against RCV for much the same reasons. I sympathize with the underlying rationale of having results be more reflective of the will of the voters, but I’m concerned the actual mechanics of RCV aren’t going to get us where we want to go. Personally I did not enjoy having to rank (or not) seven candidates… it felt a bit like having to scrutinize a crystal ball of if-then scenarios. I’d prefer a true run-off. I also note that two of the Dem gubernatorial candidates (Eves and Sweet) tried to ice out the perceived frontrunner by coordinating to encourage voters to rank them first and second (Eves even mentioned that he’d put Cote third, I imagine to further add chances to nip at Mills’s heels in the form of additional run-off rounds). Approval voting seems much more elegant. See discussion here: https://politics.stackexchange.com/questions/14582/what-arguments-are-there-against-ranked-choice-voting Unfortunately I fear the situation has devolved to Red Team/Blue Team political football and the specific voting system is no longer being evaluated on its merits. I’m a little surprised that Lambert isn’t a bit more skeptical. I heartily agree with his position on handmarked paper ballots, hand counted in public — and the chain of custody with RCV seems to leave much to be desired on that score. Evidently the local officials only tabulated the first choices on each paper ballot on election night before packing them and the optical scan data off to Augusta for a centralized ranked run-off.

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