2:00PM Water Cooler 8/15/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, yesterday I promised more business news, which is here today, but I got wrapped round the axle on a household issue, so I didn’t cover as much politics as I’d like. I’ll add some material, so please check back. –lambert UPDATE 3:15PM All done!


“Trump’s Tariffs Are Changing Trade With China. Here Are 2 Emerging Endgames.” [New York Times]. “[B]eneath the acrimony, two potential paths for China seem to be emerging, according to participants in the trade negotiations and their advisers. Both would deliver trade wins for President Trump and his more moderate advisers, while also letting President Xi Jinping of China push ahead with his ambitious industrial plan to build national champions in cutting-edge technologies. A stalemate appears the most likely endgame…. A negotiated truce is also possible.”



“Companies Shouldn’t Be Accountable Only to Shareholders” [Elizabeth Warren, Wall Street Journal]. “That’s where my bill comes in. The Accountable Capitalism Act restores the idea that giant American corporations should look out for American interests. Corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue would be required to get a federal corporate charter. The new charter requires corporate directors to consider the interests of all major corporate stakeholders—not only shareholders—in company decisions. Shareholders could sue if they believed directors weren’t fulfilling those obligations…. My bill also would give workers a stronger voice in corporate decision-making at large companies. Employees would elect at least 40% of directors. At least 75% of directors and shareholders would need to approve before a corporation could make any political expenditures. To address self-serving financial incentives in corporate management, directors and officers would not be allowed to sell company shares within five years of receiving them—or within three years of a company stock buyback.” • Only 40%? I’m sure we’ll have more to say about this, but here is my hot take: Warren is, in essence, outflanking Sanders from the left (which is not necessarily a bad thing; my touchstone for the left is putting the working class first as a governing principle, which isn’t implementation). Recall the current branding confusion between social democracy (left policies like #MedicareForAll, which put the working class first by conveying universal concrete material benefits) and democratic socialism (harder left policies that allocate capital democratically, which puts the working class first by allowing them to own and control, in the jargon, “the means of production”). Employees electing 40% of directors is not control or ownership of the means of production — Warren, being Warren, stops far short of that — and Warren’s bill is not universal, but it’s certainly more than Sanders has offered. Interesting!

“Elizabeth Warren has a plan to save capitalism” [Matthew Yglesias, Vox]. “[P]roposals to overhaul corporate governance poll well — almost shockingly well, in fact, for an idea that’s had no organized advocacy community or high-profile champions until extremely recently.”

UPDATE “Sen. Sanders refuses to rule out 2020 presidential run” [The Hill]. • Imagine my surprise.


“Ahead of the Midterms, Some Free Advice for Republicans and Democrats” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “For all of the hyperventilating Tuesday night and Wednesday, we really didn’t learn much from this week’s special elections that we didn’t already know. It had been obvious for some time that Republicans were struggling to hold onto seats that should have been slam-dunk wins….. Republicans are going to lose between a dozen and 20 seats no matter what. The question is whether they can keep it under 23 losses and retain their majority, or if not, keep within striking distance of retaking the House in 2020 or 2022. Losses of 40 to 60 seats are not out of the question, which makes the decisions made over the next 90 days utterly critical. At the same time, Democrats are hardly in a position to break out the champagne and begin the high-fives. The fact is that the Democratic Party’s poll numbers, and those of their leadership, are awful—just marginally better than Republicans’. Candidates in competitive districts are still in a position to seize defeat from the jaws of victory. Republicans are going to lose between a dozen and 20 seats no matter what. The question is whether they can keep it under 23 losses and retain their majority, or if not, keep within striking distance of retaking the House in 2020 or 2022. Losses of 40 to 60 seats are not out of the question, which makes the decisions made over the next 90 days utterly critical. At the same time, Democrats are hardly in a position to break out the champagne and begin the high-fives. The fact is that the Democratic Party’s poll numbers, and those of their leadership, are awful—just marginally better than Republicans’. Candidates in competitive districts are still in a position to seize defeat from the jaws of victory.”

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IA: “Part 1: How to corrupt a school district” [Bleeding Heartland (part 2)]. “Let’s say you are a corrupt school administrator, and you want to accept kickbacks from vendors, manipulate time cards, and/or take school property. If you work in Waukee, just go ahead and do it. In this instance, crime really pays. Based on what happened with the the district’s current chief operating officer Eric Rose, here’s what you can expect: Even if the police find probable cause to support an arrest, the county attorney will decline to prosecute. In addition, the school board will give you a 6 percent raise followed by an additional 2 percent raise….” • Is everything really like CalPERs? Readers? Similar stuff going on in your districts?

KS: “Kansas governor concedes, says he will endorse GOP nominee” [Associated Press]. “Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer says he will endorse Republican nominee for governor Kris Kobach after conceding in the state’s GOP primary in a surprise announcement a week after their neck-and-neck finish threatened to send the race to a recount. Colyer accepted defeat Tuesday evening after a review of some provisional ballots from most Kansas counties failed to find enough votes for him to overcome a deficit of 110 votes.” • 

MD: “A surprising grass-roots upheaval is shaking Maryland’s Democrats” [WaPo]. “Primary victories by progressives in three premier races — governor and county executive in Montgomery and Baltimore counties — have created a prominent testing ground for a new brand of Democratic politics, featuring ambitious and potentially expensive policy proposals and greater outreach to the working class. Fueled by anger at President Trump and a sense that Democrats have lost touch with their base, the insurgency is stirring strife within the party, with some moderates already abandoning ship.” • But wait! What about party unity? “Party Unity is for Rubes.”

UPDATE MI: “Keith Ellison Easily Wins Primary for Minnesota AG Despite Abuse Allegations” [Roll Call]. “Ellison also serves as vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee.” • Perez is part-time, so presumably Ellison can keep that job?

UPDATE NY Governor: “Government for Sale” [Indypendent]. “Real-estate groups have given Cuomo $$12.3 million since 2010, including $1.9 million so far this election cycle, according to an open-source data analysis conducted by The Indypendent. They give it through their political action committees, firms, employees and limited liability corporations. LLCs are shell companies commonly used to shield a company’s holdings from the financial liabilities of one property — but in what is called the “LLC loophole,” state campaign-finance laws let landlords game the system: they can donate the maximum amount permitted for an individual business from multiple LLCs.”

PA: “PA Democratic Socialists Look To ‘Radicalize Rust Belt’ And Nudge Dems Left” [NPR]. “This weekend, Pittsburgh hosted around two dozen DSA chapters from in and outside of Pennsylvania, in a gathering of members called the Rust Belt Conference.” • Interesting, though the writer seems to think DSA supports “Medicaid for All.”

VT: “Transgender Candidate Makes History in a Year of ‘Firsts’ for Women” [Governing]. “Hallquist’s win is the latest in a series of “firsts” for women running for governor. In earlier primaries this year, Democratic voters in Georgia, Texas and Idaho became the first ever to offer major-party gubernatorial nominations respectively to black, Latina and Native American women.” • Not a word on policy! So when a trans former “Daughter of the Confederacy” joins the “Sons of Confederate Veterans,” runs for office, and wins on a platform of “redeeming” the Slave Power, that would be good? Just?

UPDATE WI: “Randy Bryce, a.k.a. ‘Iron Stache,’ Wins Democratic Primary for Paul Ryan’s Seat” [Roll Call]. “The union ironworker will now have to determine whether his hard-scrabble profile that brought him national recognition and a fundraising boom will help him win what has been a reliable Republican seat — or whether the GOP will adeptly use his legal troubles against him, and energize the conservative base in the southeastern Wisconsin district…. With 76 percent of precincts reporting, he led [Cathy] Myers 61 percent to 39 percent when The Associated Press called the race. Bryce will next face former Ryan aide and University of Wisconsin Board of Regents member Bryan Steil, who won a six-way contest on the GOP side. With 80 percent of precincts reporting, Steil had 51 percent of the vote.”

New Cold War

UPDATE Ka-ching (1):

Nice work if you can get it, this #Resistance thing.

UPDATE Ka-ching (2): “#Resistance Twitter Star Seth Abramson Wants to Turn His Threads Into a Book” [Daily Beast]. “And now, following in the footsteps of other #resistance heroes, he’s looking to leverage his Twitter fame to get into a new line of business. In his case, he’s shopping a book.” • Grifters gotta grift.

UPDATE Ha ha only serious:

Realignment and Legitimacy

Reader Query: Again, I’m trying to remember the name of the Kos employee who invented the business model of taking a commission on click-throughs for online commissions; this probably would have been after the Dean campaign in 2004. But I can’t. The name was well-known in the blogosphere of the time. Can any readers help out?

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UPDATE “Democrats Must Reclaim the Center … by Moving Hard Left” [Nick Hanauer, Politico]. Hanauer is a squillionare, so beware of his bright ideas. Nevertheless: “This is not mere wordplay. Over the past several decades, Democrats have allowed a mistaken and self-destructive definition of centrism to become party orthodoxy… In fact, there are two kinds of political centers: There’s the ideological center—the one that Democrats are waging a civil war over. And there’s the majoritarian center—the one where most of the people are. If Democrats hope to be a majority party, it’s the majoritarian center they need to embrace… .a centrism that seeks to balance the interests of capital is a centrism that seeks to balance the interests of the very wealthiest Americans against those of everybody else.” • Well worth a read, and connects neatly to Warren’s proposal above.

UPDATE “The treachery of Tom Perez” [The Week]. Fun piece, also well worth a read. There’s quite a bill of particulars, but here’s the last sentence: “It takes a special kind of incompetence to sell out the party’s activist base and not even be able to raise good money off it.” • Thanks, Obama!

“Omarosa’s Unhinged is an unconvincing mess of a book” [The Week]. • Fun!

“How trustworthy are electronic voting systems in the US?” [Significance (Flora)]. “My statistical analysis shows patterns indicative of vote manipulation in machines. The manipulation is relatively small, compared with the inherent variability of election results, but it is consistent. These results form a pattern that goes across the nation and back a number of election cycles. I’ve downloaded data and verified the results from several states for myself. Furthermore, the manipulation is not limited to a single powerful operator. My assessment is that the data reveals multiple (at least two) agents working independently to successfully alter voting results.” • Given the source, I assume the methodology is sound, but can readers comment?

Stats Watch

Productivity and Costs, Q2 2018: “Growth in output jumped at the same time that hours worked slowed, making for a very strong… rate for second-quarter nonfarm productivity that is right at the top of Econoday’s consensus range” [Econoday]. “Wages aside, this is a very strong report that speaks to the robust health right now of the business sector.” • Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” And: “Productivity in US Climbs 2.9%, Fastest Pace in Three Years” [Industry Week]. “Improved gains in efficiency would support faster economic growth without generating higher inflation, a development that could suggest a slower pace of Federal Reserve interest-rate hikes than otherwise warranted.”

Industrial Production, July 2018: “A respectable… rise in manufacturing volumes is the takeaway from a deceptively soft industrial production report” [Econoday]. “Capacity utilization was unchanged in July at 78.1 percent which is a moderate rate that points, despite all the warnings of stress in regional and private reports, to spare capacity still remaining in the industrial sector, a factor that will help limit goods inflation.” And: “July 2018 Industrial Production Improved” [Econintersect]. “There was significant upward revision to last month’s data. So industrial production improved from last month. The best way to view this is the 3 month rolling averages which declined. Industrial production is in a long term upward trend.”

Empire State Manufacturing Survey, August 2018: “The heat isn’t letting up at all for Empire State’s manufacturing sample where the general conditions index rose” [Econoday]. “New orders continue to pour in…. Employment is strong…. Price readings remain elevated.” And but: “I am not a fan of surveys – and this survey jumps around erratically – but has been relatively steady for the last year. This report was weaker than last month” [Econintersect].

Business Inventories, June 2018: “[A]s-expected but still marginal” [Econoday]. “[T]he slight build in inventories is actually very positive for the economy given the strength of business sales… As inventories are built, production and employment should get a lift.” And: “Inventories remain elevated this month. Our primary monitoring tool – the 3 month rolling averages for sales – improved and remains in expansion” [Econintersect].

Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations, August 2018: “Despite tariffs and high input costs, inflation expectations among businesses are not accelerating” [Econoday].

Housing Market Index, August 2018: “Rising construction costs tied in part to tariffs are holding down builder confidence” [Econoday]. “[B]uilders are increasingly concerned about affordability which reflects a lack of skilled construction labor, buildable lots and rising lumber costs.”

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of August 10, 2018: “[posted] the fifth consecutive weekly decline in a row” [Econoday].

Retail Sales, July 2018: “Demand for autos has cooled but not overall retail sales” [Econoday]. “[R]estaurant sales, which like autos are a discretionary category, rose…. Also very strong are sales for e-commerce….[T]his report is not about negatives but positives — and that is strength in the central driver of the economy which is consumer spending and which is getting a major boost from strength in the labor market.” And but: “The year-over-year growth rate in inflation adjusted retail sales and retail employment have diverged” [Econintersect].

Retail: “NRF raises its 2018 retail sales forecast” [Logistics Management]. “In the beginning of 2018, the [National Retail Federation (NRF)] said it expected retail sales for the year, excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, to increase between 3.8%-4.4% annually. But that number is now at ‘a minimum of 4.5% over 2017….’ The intersection of tariffs and retail sales is a bit fluid, to be sure, at the moment, but things appear to be solid on the retail sales front, at least in the short term. A year from now or so, though, it could be quite a different story. Stay tuned.” • And in the short term, we’re all alive!

Retail: “Bribes, Backdoor Deals, and Pay to Play: How Bad Rosé Took Over” [bon appétit]. “We call it pay to play, and it’s caused an outbreak of shitty rosé on wine lists everywhere. Specifically on by-the-glass lists, which sell the highest quantity and where diners are more likely to order based on name-brand recognition…. As a sommelier, I know I am spoiled, but when I see big-brand pink swill on otherwise nice restaurant menus, I get furious. You might know which brands I am talking about, the ones that sponsor huge parties in the Hamptons. They masquerade as luxury goods, with fun bottle shapes and cutesy names, but are simply bulk wines.” • I wonder if they served rosé at Kamala’s fundraiser and, if so, what brand?

Commodities: “Agriculture supply chains across a wide swath of Australia are drying up. A region more than twice the size of Texas is in the grip of drought that’s lasted six years and shows no signs of abating” [Wall Street Journal]. “Experts say the drought is likely to worsen a global grain shortfall and lower beef prices, as a heat wave ravages crops in Europe and North America. Australia is the world’s No. 4 wheat exporter and the No. 2 beef exporter, and agriculture accounts for 3% of its economy.”

Labor Power: “Stewards at UPS’ largest local vote to reject labor contracts” [DC Velocity]. “Shop stewards of the largest Teamster union local representing UPS Inc. small package and freight workers have voted overwhelmingly to reject the tentative collective bargaining agreement covering both groups, the Louisville, Ky.-based local said yesterday. The action, taken by more than 70 shop stewards who represent about 10,000 UPS workers at Local 89, increases the already strong possibility that the local’s rank-and-file will vote down both contracts…. Perhaps the most controversial provision is the creation of a full-time hybrid driver classification whose work schedules could extend into the weekends. The new drivers would make, on average, about $6 an hour less than the traditional UPS driver, who typically works a Monday through Friday schedule.” • Two-tier contracts aren’t exactly a shining beacon of solidarity.

Infrastructure: “Recognizing Infrastructure’s Role as a Local Economic Anchor” [247 Wall Street]. From the Brookings Institution. “As our recent report on the U.S. water infrastructure workforce shows, water utilities embody these anchor-like roles. They act as a key hub for jobs, training, and environmental stewardship at a local and regional level. On the lookout for a new generation of workers to construct, operate, and maintain pipes, plants, and numerous other water systems, utilities offer long-term, well-paid positions for workers across all skill levels. And the fact that they do so in some of the most disadvantaged areas nationally speaks to their unique role in expanding economic opportunity in their backyard.”

The Bezzle: “The downfall of Elon Musk” [FreightWaves]. “The current pickle Musk is in has two outcomes: either he has engaged in obvious stock manipulation to avoid retiring $920M in debt by knowingly disseminating false information, or the Saudis end up gaining control of Tesla with very favorable terms. Other institutional backers of Musk’s enterprises are checking out: Fidelity, which in addition to being one of Tesla’s largest shareholders also has a $436M stake in SpaceX, sold off about 20% of its TSLA shares yesterday.” • Well worth a read, especially for Musk fans and detractors.

The Bezzle: “Tesla’s Musk may have to justify SolarCity deal in court” [Francine McKenna, MarketWatch]. “Elon Musk will likely have to prove his offer for Tesla Motors to buy SolarCity in court, experts say. Musk is taking the “moral high ground”, he said on a call with analysts early Wednesday, but as the largest shareholder of both companies it won’t be easy to prove the deal is fair, experts say…. ‘In the end, what’s more important to shareholders for both companies than the price paid is whether they trust Elon Musk,’ says Ludomir. ‘Is this a strategic move or just him bailing out an investment?'”

The Bezzle: “Want a lower tax bill? So do Apple and Genentech” [San Francisco Chronicle]. “In one appeal filed in 2015, Apple said that a cluster of properties in and around Apple Park in Cupertino that the assessor valued at $1 billion was worth just $200. In another, property that the assessor valued at $384 million was, in Apple’s view, worth $200, according to an appeal application.” • Sounds legit.

The Bezzle: “Tech Startup Had ‘Designated’ Masturbation Zone: Lawsuit” [Daily Beast]. • Let’s look on the bright side; at least there wasn’t a cuddle puddle.

The Bezzle: “Fintech Frenzy: Hype or Reality? A Closer Look at 6 Key Sectors” [Fortune]. “[T]his whole “fintech” thing is kind of a charade. As I shared with attendees last month during our annual Fintech CEO Summit, co-hosted together with Nyca Partners, the CEOs in our portfolios don’t actually run ‘fintech businesses.’ They run a payments business or a lending business, or they build investing technologies, or they sell to banks or insurance or real estate companies. Regardless of what VCs tell limited partners, or how media cover the industry, these businesses don’t necessarily have much to do with each other (besides the obvious of moving money around).” • Film at 11. But not news to Clive, I am sure.

UPDATE The Bezzle: “The end of MoviePass as we know it” [The Week]. “The promise of MoviePass was always borderline ludicrous: For a relatively small monthly fee, which fluctuated over the years, you’d get the ‘Netflix of movie theaters,’ allowing you to go to an unlimited number of films with the only restriction being that it was limited to one screening a day… It was a better ride than we ever could have imagined, but at last, as we always knew they would, the lights have come up.”

UPDATE The Bezzle: AirBnB epic. Thread:

Mr. Market: “Tencent Sends Emerging-Market Shares to Third-Worst Day of Year” [MarketWatch]. “Investors were looking for contagion in all the wrong places. The travails of Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. matter more to emerging-market equities than Turkey’s turmoil, with hints that technology stocks stateside won’t be immune from this storm. Tencent’s unexpected drop in quarterly profit and reports that Chinese regulators have frozen approval of game licenses sent the MSCI Emerging Market Index tumbling 2 percent, on track for its third-worst day of the year. The move is less than Friday’s, when Turkey’s crisis roiled markets.”


“Scorching Summers Melt Away America’s Growth” [Bloomberg] (original). “Researchers from the Richmond Fed think the fallout of global warming in the U.S. could be worse than expected, potentially cutting growth by up to a third by the start of the next century. Every 1 degree increase in summer temperature cuts the gross state product growth rate by 0.154 percentage points, Riccardo Colacito and co-authors find in a study. That reduction could come as people stay indoors rather than engaging in economic activity (think home-buying), and as labor productivity takes a hit.”

Net Neutrality

“Congress is set to grill the FCC’s chairman for falsely claiming his agency was hit with a cyberattack — here’s how it could affect the war over net neutrality” [Business Insider]. “Pai’s expected grilling comes as a result of his and his agency’s response to the FCC’s server outage last year. At the time, the FCC was soliciting public comments for Pai’s proposal to repeal the agency’s net-neutrality rules…. Immediately after the episode aired, the FCC’s comment system saw a spike in traffic, with the site unavailable to many users in the wake. To outside observers, it seemed clear that the site’s unavailability was likely a result of “Last Week Tonight” directing its viewers to the FCC’s site for the purpose of registering their objections to the net-neutrality repeal effort…. Immediately after the episode aired, the FCC’s comment system saw a spike in traffic, with the site unavailable to many users in the wake. To outside observers, it seemed clear that the site’s unavailability was likely a result of “Last Week Tonight” directing its viewers to the FCC’s site for the purpose of registering their objections to the net-neutrality repeal effort.”

Class Warfare

“How economic anxiety could help reshape America for the better” [Guardian]. “Trump has naturalized all kinds of outrageous or regressive behavior but, at the same time, innovative and progressive ideas that once seemed far-fetched are being normalized as well. We’re used to thinking of social change as something that happens very slowly, incrementally, but sometimes change can happen more rapidly than we expect. When we decide the operation of the machine has simply become too odious, to remix the famous line from activist Mario Savio, we can and sometimes do throw ourselves swiftly on its gears, in new and surprising ways.” • Volatility!

UPDATE “Latitudes not Attitudes or ‘Maps not Chaps’” [the HipCrime Vocab]. “But what really got me thinking about this was looking back at the history of financial innovations. It makes sense that these all began in places which had to have expansive trade by necessity. These were places that were rich in some resources, but poor in other critical ones, and so trading became a necessity. That’s why it is in such places that we must look to find their origins. You’ll find that in history, things are invented out of necessity when and where they need to be. Ian Morris articulates this as his ‘Morris Theorem’: ‘Change is caused by lazy, greedy, frightened people looking for easier, more profitable and safer ways to do things. And they rarely know what they’re doing.’ The Tigris-Euphrates valley is the major case in point. The well-watered flat river valleys produced lots of raw materials, but not much in the way of stone, gems, or precious metals. So it was here that the first trading “innovations” began such as writing, double-entry bookkeeping, bonds, insurance, tradeable debt, and the like. By contrast, the Nile region was much more self-sufficient. It’s trading was command-and-control, organized through the Pharaoh’s household which owned the major national resources, such as mines and the shipping fleet.” • The Atlantic slave trade, I believe, produced a good deal of financial innovation….

UPDATE “See No Evil” [Logic]. “The industry of supply-chain management (or SCM, to its initiates) is both vast and secretive. It’s one of the most rapidly growing corporate fields, and the subject of reams of books, journal articles, and blog posts…. We call them ‘supply chains,’ but that image is misleading. They really look more like a network of waterways, with thousands of tiny tributaries made up of sub-suppliers trickling into larger rivers of assembly, production, and distribution…. By the time goods surface as commodities to be handed through the chain, purchasing at scale demands that information about their origin and manufacture be stripped away… To be traded as a commodity, in other words, gold must be gold.” • As opposed to, say, gold produced by slaves.

UPDATE “My Great-Grandfather, the Nigerian Slave-Trader” [Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, The New Yorker]. “Nwaubani Ogogo was a slave trader who gained power and wealth by selling other Africans across the Atlantic. ‘He was a renowned trader,’ my father told me proudly. ‘He dealt in palm produce and human beings.’… . In the late nineteenth century, he carried a slave-trading license from the Royal Niger Company, an English corporation that ruled southern Nigeria. His agents captured slaves across the region and passed them to middlemen, who brought them to the ports of Bonny and Calabar and sold them to white merchants. Slavery had already been abolished in the United States and the United Kingdom, but his slaves were legally shipped to Cuba and Brazil. To win his favor, local leaders gave him their daughters in marriage.” • So, a supply chain. We don’t hear a lot about the sell side (though I remember a discussion of this supply chain in Graeber’s Debt).

News of The Wired

“The easiest way to keep your web apps accessible: Just use text” [LogRocket]. “[T]ext is still the way to build the web. Even as more content is delivered via images, videos, and audio, text is the single best way to keep that content accessible to the widest range of users.” • Has a product plug at the end, but still useful.

The war on cash:

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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. L

    With respect to Elizabeth Warren’s bill and your apt point: “Employees electing 40% of directors is not control or ownership of the means of production — Warren, being Warren, stops far short of that — and Warren’s bill is not universal, but it’s certainly more than Sanders has offered. Interesting!”

    I’m not particularly surprised by that at all. The fact is that Elizabeth Warren’s expertise (or “brand” if you prefer) is in corporate governance and corporate management. In areas where that is relevant she has specific points that shine and would be beneficial. In others (e.g. Health Care) she leads rather than follows. Bernie Sanders by contrast is a true expert in government policy and governmental managment but he generally is lighter on corporate governance structures preferring regulation. This is just an area where she is at her best much in the same way that John McCain love him or not actually knows about how the military functions unlike many of his R colleagues who just want it to “win”.

    1. Spring Texan

      Exactly! Eliz Warren is not as strong in many areas as Sanders, and she’s certainly not as generally liberal, but on banking and finance she’s fantastic. And, like Sanders, she doesn’t care about being in the “in club,” she genuinely cares about ordinary people, she’s not out to enrich herself, and she is sincere and won’t sell people out (unlike a lot of the others hypocritically saying the right things). I think they’d make a great team!

      A perfect example of people I’m perfectly happy to work with even if we don’t agree 100%.

      P.S. If you’re a parent, give your kids a copy of her money book, “All Your Worth,” that she wrote with her daughter.

      1. John B

        I’d agree that Warren makes an excellent proposal, even if it is only 40 percent.

        At the moment, most Americans for most practical purposes live in dictatorships — which is what a privately owned company is, as unions have died off. For most people, your employer runs life far more than government does. Habits of deference, subservience, and resignation take hold. Perhaps Warren’s plan could start to reverse that.

        It would be interesting to compare her proposal to Germany’s requirements for worker participation in management, and how those have affected management-labor relations.

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          I can’t penetrate the wsj paywall(and I need more coffee before yglesias), but based on the part Lambert thinks is important, it made me almost giddy.
          when’s the last time a Senator proposed such a thing? I could hear Warren in my mind, scolding the wayward children in the corner office, and proposing a big shakeup in how these monsters are run (i’ve always admired the Scandinavian and German practice of including the people who happen to live near the plant on the board)
          and like somebody said, I don’t require 100% agreement. That such talk is happening, in public, at that level, is encouraging.

          1. Bugs Bunny

            My sentiments as well: at least someone who can get attention is saying this.

            Don’t bother with the Yglesias bit, it’s just cheerleading for his team, not the changing the rules of the game.

            1. Amfortas the Hippie

              my ad hoc and chaotic defenses rarely make things that simple. (hulu’s mad at me for my machine not allowing their ads. I pled luddism)
              I think enforceable, and even limited, charters are a good thing, for all the talk of personal responsibility and “moral hazard”, and all.
              Oh look, the Cato Guys are already on it, calling it a recipe for marxism and lawlessness,lol.

              (and…I got the wsj to work, thanks)

        2. ChrisPacific

          The combination of 40% employee representation on boards and a 75% approval requirement for political expenditure would effectively give employees a veto over lobbying activity, provided their directors don’t get co-opted and they can manage a sufficiently unified front.

          It’s an interesting idea. In practice I expect employees will still allow companies to spend lots of money on completing the full set of Democrat and Republican action figures, but only on condition that employees get a fair turn at playing with them. Progress of a sort…

    2. Code Name D

      I would point out how arrogant it is of her to take her idea (good or bad) strait to the legislative stage. Even if we are critical, its still worth talking about, even if only to argue that 40% is too small and should be larger. (I might offer the right to offer a vote of confidence/no confidence over the chairman, individual board members, the board as a whole, and/or etcetera.

      It’s a result of the neo-liberal model which treats the individual (in this case, Warren) as the intellect we must bow to. Rather than building ideas using the popular dialog so that the ideas are bigger than any just one person. It also allows ideas to build momentum and popular support BEFORE they are submitted to the floor as legislation. As it is, Warren can offer any thing she wants, but it will be lucky to even be assigned to committee. Where it will die before it can ever be brought to the campaign, other than something Warren can use to burnish her presidential resume with.

      1. L

        I disagree with this. First submitting legislation is what Senators do and many many good pieces of legislation are submitted multiple times to with the precise goal of getting the ideas out there and building support.

        Second this idea is hardly new or confined entirely to her. As others have noted this is the standard in Germany under the general title of Co-Determination. It was proposed, then dropped in the UK by Theresa May of all people. It has been a demand from the UAW in the past and has been written up by the Roosevelt Institute, anhd commented on in Der Guardian. Vox even published the results of a survey that noted the idea polled well (71+ 10- Democrats; 35+ 39- Republicans) with independents generally favorable.

        Indeed if there is any criticism of Senator Warren’s approach here it is that Senator Tammy Baldwin proposed it first. In her case the legislation would also have limited stock buybacks.

        1. Code Name D

          But that is not how legislation is passed these days. If flies through committee with strict deadlines and debate cut-offs. A bill can go from submission to presidential signature in the matter of weeks. Oh wait; this is what happens to establishment friendly legislation. Silly me. It’s only progressive legislation that has to be re-submitted over and over again, languishing in committee for decades on end.

          You see my point? There is a two-tiered structure here. Certain legislation flies through, while ours dose not. And somehow we have become fine with this, as if this is how it is supposed to be.

          Look, I will give Warren major credit for submitting the bill. What angers me most about cooperate dems is that they refuse to even try. Failure is a part of the process. But submitting bills with the certain knowledge that they will go nowhere isn’t much better. It is not productive! And let’s stop pretending that submitting a bill to congress is how you build popular support for legislation, as if everyone sits around and watches CSPAN live all day. You build support by talking directly to the people. Like how Bernie Sanders fills football stadiums to capacity, while Warren waxes eloquently to an empty Senate chamber with the speaker’s stopwatch hanging over her. Which do you think is more effective in building support?

          I am not “critical” that Warren submitted the bill in the way she did. I am challenging the traditional approach and arguing that there are faster and more effective ways to present – AND PASS legislation.

          The Republicans have already figured it out. They write legislation in think tanks, and then use Senators as mere carriers. For them, the legislative process is merely the final formality.

          We should take a page out of their playbook. Build legislation outside of congress where we control the medium for debate so that the best possible legislation can be produced. Then build popular support for that legislation. That popular support translates into primary and election victories for congressmen, not just in Washington, but also for the state houses and city halls. Then bills can be submitted to the floor – with the public watching.

          1. L

            The catch is that the flythrough approach relies on autocratic control of the process and these days that is only available to the Republicans. And when that process is used it tends to engender opposition by its very nature. I think that this approach, introducing a bill to do something that already has broad support and then using that introduction to garner more, may be the best option in the current landscape.

      2. macnamichomhairle

        I agree. This is her (sole) area of strength, and she has noticed that Bernie has been building a base for years; one that may rule her out as the left candidate net time. This is an attempt to attract attention and build credentials. Too bad she did not contribute to the effort in the last Democratic presidential primary, then endorsed Clinton at a critical point.

    3. makedoanmend

      So this is what corporate democracy will mean: 99% (the workers) get 40% of the vote.

      The adage about beauty products and porcine species comes to mind.

      What are some of the issues that cause corporations, such as those owned by the Koch Bros. for example, to get such a bad name these days (in no particular order) :

      1) direct political donations
      2) indirect political influence through networks of so-called think tanks
      3) avoidance of taxes
      4) avoidance of regulations
      5) off shoring of jobs
      6) Monopoly status and rent seeking

      I don’t imagine that your average grease monkey or factory hand is going to wipe their hands down their overalls and go attend the Friday afternoon “board meeting” but, rather, there is going to be a certain bureaucratic type of worker representatives on the board. I imagine they’ll be something akin the current crop of Union leaders who know how to hob nob with their counterparts during cocktails but whose rank and file membership now often turn down the deals “recommended” by the Union leadership.

      A very cursory glance at the issues then –

      Issue one: Senator Warren addresses this one issue directly but the devil is in the daily corporate governance issues which can be manipulated to benefit the 1%
      Issue two: not addressed
      Issues three and four: I can readily see the “labour” component agreeing to keep the current status quo if they get a percentage of the action. Might be a plus for worker’s pockets in the big corporations. But the national soul won’t likely be mended.
      Issue five: has the potential for the most impact
      Issue six: see three and four

      I could see the proposal prolonging the capitalist system by promoting the appearance that alienated workers will have input into their corporations. Does the 40% really give the clout? More so than their current ability to vote on issues that affect their entire economy now? Maybe.

      What’s the chance of the bill being passed by the current USA Congress? Dunno

      Will it energize the electorate? Depends of the MSM I imagine. Who owns it?

      Is it really a leftward move? Maybe left of Senator Sanders but definitely cuts off talk of any meaningful democratic ownership of people’s own labour.

      It is a move to left to ensure the left doesn’t succeed.

      And it is a move which ensures the rich keep taking the majority of the rewards of total labour output and purchases.

  2. desmoinesdem

    Some context on that Iowa school district: Waukee is the fastest-growing suburb in Iowa’s fastest-growing county. By Iowa standards ,there is tremendous wealth, and the pot keeps getting bigger as more people move into the area. Since the state reimburses on a per-pupil basis, and there is a strong local property tax base, the school district has had a lot of money pouring in. I suspect that increases the opportunities for corruption. Even so, I was stunned when they gave that senior administrator a raise. They have had to settle a number of whistle-blower lawsuits.

    Last August, Apple corporation picked Waukee as the site for its new data center and is receiving enormous state and local tax subsidies.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      The fish rots from the head…

      I’ve always been worried that the obvious corruption of elite impunity in the bailouts (thanks, Obama!) would mean that corruption would sink lower and lower, down to the local level, not as a sometime thing, but as the, er, norm. Looks like Waukee is a fine example.

    2. Big River Bandido

      I’m just stunned because having grown up in Iowa, I can say its reputation of having a relatively clean political tradition is deserved. This type of Tammany-style corruption has not been the norm.

      1. Mark Gisleson

        Changed when Terry Branstad replaced Bob Ray in 1983. Brought in scab meat packers and within four years over 100,000 Iowan workers had emmigrated looking for jobs (many followed by their families after they found work elsewhere).

        This changed the state from 1/3 D 1/3 R 1/3 I to much more conservative. Evangelicals bred like racists think immigrants do, and the state started sliding right. By the ’90s my GOP mother was upset at some of the crazies showing up at her caucuses.

        I think Gov. Vilsack (who replaced Branstad) simply didn’t clean up like he should have (a la Bill Clinton). Branstad got back in and then the corruption really bloomed.

        It’s a mess now, but I’m confident Fred Hubbell will help clean up the state (I’m a firm believer in the School of Tall Candidates).

        1. Mike Mc

          Living in red state Nebraska – just executed our first death row inmate in 24 years! – it’s pretty strange to see both Iowa and Kansas go full on Goldwater/John Birch Republican.

          Some of it may be that there’s still less than 2 million Nebraskans spread across the 7th largest state in the Union, so converting large swathes to full GOP madness is difficult.

          Some of it is also that all Federal and most state offices are already held by the GOP, and I can swing a short stick and hit Trumpers… and I live in the state capitol and college town!

  3. Lee

    Re Daily Kos clickthrough commission:

    I suppose one might simply contact them and ask. I don’t care to, so I’ve been reading the staff bios for a clue. I got down to the following and then had enough. Others should feel free continue the task. Here are a couple that might fit the bill.

    Will Johnson

    Will Johnson is the senior vice president for advertising strategy at DailyKos. Prior to joining DailyKos, Will held a similar position at Talking Points Memo. Earlier in his career, Will served as the vice president of sales at NGP VAN, the leading technology provider to Democratic and progressive campaigns and organizations, where he led the sales team in an expansion of their digital footprint among top tier political campaigns. Before joining NGP VAN, Will served as a senior director at Bully Pulpit Interactive where he helped lead new business and strategic initiatives for the firm’s non-profit and political clients. Prior to joining BPI, Will was a director of partnerships and business development at Change.org, where he secured more than $15 million in client revenue that was instrumental in helping the firm receive a multi-million dollar venture capital investment. Throughout his career, Will has relied on a broad background in the public, private, and non-profit sectors to help clients engage in the digital space.

    David Waldman

    A participant in online communities since the early 80s, David found Daily Kos some time back in mid-2003 and has stuck around ever since. A non-practicing attorney, a former Capitol Hill aide and Hotline staff writer (back when Chuck Todd was an intern), David now works in marketing….


    1. chuck roast

      I gotta “sign in” to look at this? Cuddle puddle wasn’t bad enough!
      I’m going back to sea!

  4. Peter VE

    “No cash”? That’s odd, the dollar bills in my wallet say “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private”. I’d take a sip before noticing the “no cash” sign.

    1. FreeMarketApologist

      I understand different prices based on payment methods — gas in NJ is typically more expensive if you pay by cr. card (to offset the card processor fees). But credit card surcharges are illegal in 10 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas).

      Are there any states that permit a seller from refusing to take cash? (Maybe there should be some laws…)

      1. FreeMarketApologist

        Should have been “Are there any states that do not permit a seller to refuse cash?”

        The Federal Reserve implies not:

        “There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person, or an organization must accept currency or coins as payment for goods or services. Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether to accept cash unless there is a state law which says otherwise.”


      2. PKMKII

        I believe in NYC a seller can allow only credit card payments (two coffee shops near me have such a policy), as long as the policy is clearly posted somewhere that consumers can see it.

        1. Carolinian

          And in SC. A new downtown entertainment area has a prominent No Cash sign at the entrance.

            1. Carolinian

              Some private restaurant owner types. The lot on our main street was once a store, now torn down. By entertainment I mean outdoor live music and large video screen for sports etc. The several food and drink sellers are enclosed in repurposed shipping containers.

    2. Elizabeth Burton

      Just playing devil’s advocate, but I can see reasons for not wanting to deal with cash as a business, not least being the hassle of ensuring there’s enough in the till to make change. If the majority of my customers paid with plastic or pay apps, I’d likely not want to fiddle around with cash, either. Granted, the price differential is outrageous; it’s not that hard to do a bus thing: cash transactions correct change only. It doesn’t eliminate the hassle, of course.

      Let’s be honest. If all sales resulted in even numbers such that they could be paid for with bills, it might be more pleasant paying with cash. However, doing so eventually results in one accumulating a slew of coins that may or may not be sufficient for use as payment. And are a nuisance to carry around. I’m no supporter of a cashless society because in the current economy it’s highway robbery, but at the same time it’s very helpful just having payment show up in one’s bank account without having to carry it there.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        I fear a cashless society.
        Much of my existence relies on cash.
        I’m certain I’m not alone…although I am the only person I’ve ever met who’s never had a credit card, so there’s that.(talk about second class citizenship)
        your mention of worthless coinage reminds me of a story my mom likes to tell, about getting on the bus in the late 40’s with “two bits”, going to downtown houston for a movie and a coke and some junior mints and coming home with change.
        now, pennies aren’t even metal, let alone copper, and i wonder what the rest of them are made of.
        I think the inflation numbers might be a little off.
        I remember the Laroushites on the corner in the Montrose when I was a young man going on about Capital Controls and such, and looking it up later. Thinking,”hmm. sounds good”. We’ve come a long way since even then in the other direction.
        Free money from even this tenuous rag paper manifestation, and they’ll eat us all.

      2. JBird

        A growing number of Americans are unbanked which can be a problem when getting a debit or even a credit card. Add the extortionist fees and we have a problem.

        I have noticed that small family or single person businesses sometimes either don’t want cards or just don’t take them.

        I wonder if I the economy is becoming split between poor/working class and small businesses cash economy and an upper classes chain/boutique/large/luxury businesses debit/credit card economy. There has always been differences but it looks to becoming bifurcated instead of gradated. Like everything else in America. Joy.

        Although this looks like a good idea for me to a paper on.

    3. Rocco Contini

      Screw cash, let’s all just buy precious metals instead since the dollar is high which made the precious metals market go down.

  5. Joel Caris

    Re: the Kos employee.

    Are you thinking Chris Bowers? See this article:

    “Today, two-thirds of the company’s revenue comes from its email program, he said, and it’s also what gives it its political organizing capacity. When members donate to candidates, they’re given the option to give to Kos as well. For instance, in Kansas, around $160,000 was raised for Thompson, and those same donors gave Kos another $40,000 directly. Nir said more than half a million in direct donations has come in since the inauguration; Moulitsas said it was likely far higher than that.”

    The couple paragraphs previous to the above talk about Bowers’ role in convincing Moulitsas to focus on their email list both for organizing and revenue. Not sure if this is what you’re talking about, though.

    Dredging up Bowers’ name is now making me nostalgic for the old OpenLeft blog he and Matt Stoller ran back in the early blogosphere days. Loved that place.


    1. Lambert Strether Post author


      That’s it. It was a good blog, but Bowers moderated me because I was too vociferous a single payer advocate. Of course, I was asking for it, because he never would have budged!

      1. Joel Caris

        Ha. Yeah, I didn’t know enough back at that point to realize that the public option was basically just a bait and switch. I imagine the place these days would just frustrate me for toeing the party line too much, but back then they felt quite a bit better than Daily Kos. Nice to see Stoller still out there doing good work, if nothing else.

        1. Jeff W

          I imagine the place these days would just frustrate me for toeing the party line too much…

          Actually, it frustrated me then in those days. That site is, in fact, how I know lambert—he’d be bashing Chris Bowers and those guys for the public option (and also Chris for his unironic use of the term “creative class”) and I’d be backing him up (or try to), to the very small extent that I could.

          I remember, in fact, when he was banished—which was basically the last straw in persuading me that the site was kind of a “‘left’ front” for the Democratic establishment. I never thought lambert “was asking for it”—what kind of Democratic site thinks that advocating for something which was in the party platform for decades and still remained the ultimate goal is some kind of offense? Yes, I was pretty naive in those days—I learned a lot about the Democratic establishment at that site but I think what was most important was that I found at least a few commenters who were raising the same questions and making the same arguments that I had. It made me feel a bit less like an outlier.

          1. Jason Boxman

            I used to read OL until it closed. They noted early that the Obama cabinet picks were terrible and I realized before inauguration we were screwed. And that’s how it played out. People are policy.

  6. Kurt Sperry

    Honestly apropos of nothing, but typing things out sometimes helps me to think more clearly-

    When a group of people are sitting around a big table playing cards and it gets to the point where there are one or two big winners who are using their winnings to buy better cards, and a lot of losers, the probability that the table’s going to be kicked over by someone greatly increase. Growing wealth inequality increases the likelihood of disruptive political volatility.

    In 2014, the significant favorites for their respective nominations for President were Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton, both strongly favored by their party national committees, one frankly hardly distinguishable from the other on most policy. Two insurgent candidates, against all odds—and I’d reckon probably both to their own surprise— appeared and quickly found unexpected traction, ready to kick the table. One succeeded, in spite of the party bosses on both sides trying desperately to prevent it, and got the first mover’s advantage. The second person kicking the table down isn’t really a thing.

    The plan obviously was to run two very establishment, corporate centrists; to limit the choice to a non-choice. Since Dick Morris’ hugely successful triangulation strategy in 1996 of placing his candidate, Willie Jeff, as near to his opponent on policy to as possible on policy to maximally expand the potential support, the Democrats have since hewed to this course of following the Republicans to the right. This obviously encouraged the Republicans to move right as far they could on policy and still keep their backers. Even if it sometimes meant losing electoral battles, it was clearly winning the larger war. The far less ideological Democrats were happy to make that bargain to get wins. This in turn further opened the spigots of bribes for the Democrats from the wealthy and big corporate players who stood to materially benefit most from a rigged non-choice election with both viable candidates under their control— the gold standard of political influence.

    The big money wants corporate centrism and full control of the levers of government, but the electorate at large has a different set of, often conflicting, interests. Trump is less a threat than an ongoing embarrassment to the status quo, but it was the general disaffection with that status quo that he exploited and pandered to with populist rhetoric, and thus how a candidate so unfit and unsuited to the office that the Democrats actually encouraged him to run, a candidate nobody gave a chance of winning, became President.

    1. JBird

      It is bait and switch by both parties. Have you noticed the often emotional attacks on the Deplorables and the Liberals as well as identity politics and civil rights while denying the economic conditions by the major parties? It is the money and the power and prestige that it gives.

      On surveys, with all the labels like socialism, liberalism, and conservatism removed, Americans are fairly alike in wanting some variety of democratic socialism. Democracy forever with a very strong safety-net. There are some strong disagreements as too how strong, but something like a combination of FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society with added Olympic size doses of steroids is acceptable, if a little too extreme to some, by almost everyone.

      There are strong disagreements on social values like marriage equality, abortion, and other issues, which are used to separate us into nice easy to con, manipulate, and steal from, chunks, but great agreement on the increasing corruption, and when well explain, the wealth inequality.

      Also both parties lie when they pretend that they are the same liberal and conservative parties of the past accentuating the social differences that they would have if they we still the old parties while minimizing the economic differences which are much different today than both parties’ mainstream of fifty years ago. They both canter now to the economic right, with the Democrats right of center, and the Republicans just about the economic reactionary right.

  7. Hameloose Cannon

    “[…] 40% of directors is not control or ownership of the means of production […].” But what Warren does advocate expands “das Produktionsverhältnis der Arbeits”, the Production Relationship of Labor, a well-deserved corrective adjustment to the employee-employer antagonism, which is what “ownership of the means” is ultimately supposed to dissolve. Warren’s dropping hammers on ‘em, substantive, modest and sober, yet far-reaching and optimistic, hammers of truth like one of Wotan’s own Valkyries. Boom.

    1. Carey

      I’m curious to see what all the Democrat MILO candidates do for the Many, rhetoric aside, assuming they get elected in a “blue wave”.

      1. dcblogger

        I am glad that lambert is tracking them. I assume the DCCC recruited them to insure that there are no war crimes inquiries. really, so much of the American economy, including the best paying jobs, are tied up in the MIC undoing it all really will require a revolution.

    2. Tom Doak

      Yes, but if you define your goal as “preserving the status quo”, and then have to compromise a bit because “bipartisanship”, you are just managing the suck.

      Count him in the Blue Wave.

  8. Huey Long

    Kudos to the UPS shoppies for voting down the 2-tier contract!

    2-tier deals are a cancer that wrecks unions. Hopefully the rank and file follows their lead.

    P.S. Lambert, thanks for recommending “Solidarity for Sale” by Bob Fitch. Although I can only read a few chapters at a time because a little part of me dies inside, slogging through it has been incredibly worthwhile. Hat tip to you sir.

    1. Montanamaven

      “Solidarity for Sale” is right here on my shelf. Fitch makes a great case for dues NOT being mandatory. In European countries, most dues are not mandatory. Not a lot of money sloshing around then. But when a union goes on strike, the rest of the country strikes in solidarity and shuts the place down. They don’t have union “bosses” either. Why should workers have any kind of bosses in their organizations? The French vote for somebody amongst them and they rotate the duties. Because it’s not about a lot of money, the head of the union sticks to getting what the workers want. In the U.S. control of those pension funds is just too much of a temptation for shenanigans. Well, that’s my take on it. Doug Henwood was where I heard of the book first.

  9. Tom_Doak

    Re: Transgender Candidate Makes History In Year of Firsts for Women: I heard the NPR story today on my way to work. [I don’t know why it was on that station in the car.] It was the same in their report … not a word about what she stands for, just checking off the diversity boxes.

    1. macnamichomhairle

      As a Vermont resident, I don’t know anything about her. (Don’t live near Burlington, though.)The positions stated on her website seem generally good, but the critical point is that the Democratic candidate this cycle is sure to lose, so statements can be made and positions taken without any need to worry about fulfillment or anything other than scoring virtue points.

      The current Republican governor has experience in government, has a thick Vermont accent, races stock cars (on weekends) and says he is a pragmatist (though he does take direction from the Republican bureaucracy in essential things.) He is pretty popular.

      He won because the Democrats have been running the same type of well-educated well-off bureaucrats as Clinton is-people who have no idea what life has become for most people now. The growing depth of distaste that more and more people have for that type would shock and amaze the liberal 9.9%.

      1. MayM

        Christine Hallquist has been sounding more progressive in recent weeks, but she voted for Phil Scott in 2016 and described herself as a fiscal conservative when she announced her candidacy in February. I don’t actually believe she’ll govern from the left if she were elected.

        Also, she was accepting corporate donations as recently as July and only pledged to return those donations after being publicly shamed by another candidate on August 6th. I think it’s very likely she’ll start taking corporate money again for the general.

        She is the worst of the candidates on offer so I guess it’s not surprising that Democrats picked her. I voted for Brenda Siegel who did remarkably well given her lack of money and experience. She is the real deal and her opioid plan was excellent.


  10. shinola

    From the “Gaia” aection (Scorching summers melt away…):

    “Every 1 degree increase in summer temperature cuts the gross state product growth rate by 0.154 percentage points…”

    No qualifiers (about or approximately) just a straight out “0.154 percentage points”. Such precision – down to the 1,000th of a percent! Those Richmond Fed guys are sharp!

    It’s hubris like this that caused me to drop Econ. as a major.

    1. BobW

      WAG: +/- 3% (ie or should that be +/- 3.000%?) Vaguely recalling high school teacher rant about significant figures.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      In baseball, when a batter gets one (1) hit in, say, seven (7) at-bats, his (or her) batting average is said to be 0.143.

      Why 3 significant digits, and not, say, 2 or 4?

      1. Richard

        Because 3 digits are perfect and cosmic, and in every way express the holy ratio of safe hits :^
        4 would hurt our brains
        2 is too kindergarten!
        We see three

      2. Otis B Driftwood

        Because the average major leaguer has 650-700 at bats per season. Not fewer than 100 and not more than 1,000, where 2 or 4 digits would make better sense, respectively.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef


          What about career averages (assuming over 1,000 at-bats), or spring training averages?

      3. shinola

        Batting stat’s are based on actual, historical information. As for the rounding to the 3rd digit, it is significant i.e. if a batter hits 1 of 8, his batting avg. is exactly 0.125. Carrying out any further is probably statistically insignificant.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Another example could be 1 of 4, and it would be 0.25 (contrasting that with 1 of 8, 0.125).

          In this case, you need 2 digits.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Personally, I think there are a lot of hitters hitting between 0.268 and 0.272.

          And if you don’t carry it to 3 digits, the latter won’t get as many fans. It would be ‘we are all 0.27 hitters.’

          But if you are 0.272, then, you are better than the 0.268 hitters, and you deserve more fans.

          (Numbers used are for illustration purposes only).

          This is my money (financial, economic) hypothesis.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            And if the season ends with two guys both batting .339,, to determine the winner, they would look at the 4th significant figure and the batting championship (and endorsements) goes to the guy hitting .3393, instead the other guy with .3388.

            That is, it’s all about money.

            1. polecat

              My Field of Dreams is an entirety of blooming plants of infinite variety, with birds and insects at their succor … with not a basball in sight !

              I dislike baseball, as I do most organized sport. They’re kinda like organized religions, in that each demands featly to their particular obedience.
              I’ll take the field over the sport, any day !

            2. Shane Mage

              When José Reyes won the batting championship he made more money but it had nothing to do with the championship. All he got for the title was being fired by the Mets, who do everything incompetently, even though he wanted to stay and would take less than was on offer as a free agent.

    3. Linden S.

      Just garbage. In the Upper Midwest an analysis of severe warming scenarios gives modest county-level GDP increases for many locations because there are fewer modeled wintertime deaths. (See: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/06/here-s-how-much-climate-change-going-cost-your-county)

      It turns out that many (most?) increased deaths in wintertime come from people staying inside where air quality is very poor, rather than because of being cold. (See: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2018/06/will-climate-change-bring-benefits-from-reduced-cold-related-mortality-insights-from-the-latest-epidemiological-research/).

      Anyways, who cares about GDP when you can’t grow food, find water, or go outside at noon during the summer..

  11. Kurtismayfield

    Readers? Similar stuff going on in your districts?

    Yes, all the time. My book on school districts is going to sell about 1000 copies on Amazon when I retire, and it will be 100% true. Some examples:

    A Superintendent buying votes by giving family members of school board members jobs.

    A Superintendent both selling old equipment on the side and pocketing the money, plus having affair with an underling… And the underling kept moving up the org chart.

    A Superintendent covering up sexual harrassment done by a Principal. So the accuser went to the state AG.

    All of which have jobs in education still.

    This is all above the minor corruption, like changing classes and grades for certain connected students.

  12. Richard

    On Iowa school district corruption – Seattle had a superintendent 10-12 years ago, Maria Goodloe Johnson, who pushed hard for and saddled our district with a pretty much useless standardized test (MAP) that cost in the 10s of millions, IIRC. It was also to be used to evaluate teachers, even though the content didn’t correspond with our curriculum. She also had a financial stake in the company that sold the test, which she was hiding.
    There was a huge stink about the evaluation, and that part has been deemphasized, pretty much disappeared where I work. We’re still stuck with the dumb thing though (it’s our only standardized test at the elementary level in Seattle). Johnson’s financial interest in the testing company came out, and she lost her job.

    1. Richard

      Oops, I meant the only standardized test for the primary grades, K-2. 3-5 does take the state tests.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      How do they compare student achievement worldwide?

      According to PISA, each (selected) student takes a two hour test. Is that test standardized?

      1. Richard

        The MAP test the primary kids take gives a raw score and a percentile rank comparing the kid to test takers nationwide who also take the test. Yes, it is a standardized test and takes about 2 hours, math and reading. The test is online, and as of 8 years ago or so, did not correspond to common core standards. I think they may have adjusted/fixed that. The way it works: Kids take the test at computers, and they are given questions to test reading comprehension, for example, and the questions will either get harder or easier as they go depending on how they do. There is no “fixed” test. Kids are then given raw scores and percentiles for reading or math as a whole, and for each of the sub categories.
        I get why it’s there, but of limited instructional use (teachers don’t get to see it, can’t dive in at a question by question level to assess barriers to understanding), and was a huge waste of time for the high schools and middle schools that were forced to take it, as they already have a number of far more useful measures. Garfield High School, locally, led the opposition to the added test, especially for use in teacher evaluation, and they had some success. I think only K-2 use the MAP now in Seattle.

    3. lambert strether

      I forgot to say, I really like Bleeding Heartland. It’s a good, old school blog that focuses on Iowa politics. If there were 50 such, not Democrat captured, the country would be a lot better off.

    1. jhallc

      I not sure it really is anti-Trump fever that is getting people to the primary polls. I think it’s that finally there may be someone on the ballot besides the usual DNC/DCCC candidate worth getting off the couch for.

      1. John k

        Bernie called the parties tweedledee and tweedledum… not sure which was which, maybe he wasn’t, either.
        Anyway, if it’s the progressives getting the large votes, and not either reps or centrist dems, then there’s no basis clinton could ever reap a blue wave.

  13. Ralph wept

    Re: IA: “Part 1: How to corrupt a school district”

    “Is everything really like CalPERs? Readers? Similar stuff going on in your districts?”

    I would argue it is much worse and people don’t have a clue:


    If it was just corruption, it would be one thing. But add criminal negligence, ignoring repeated threats of violence, destroying the lives of people school administrators are suppose to serve, and then to reward the behaviour instead of punishing it!?!?

    This isn’t just corruption. It is the sadistic systematic genocide of benevolence and civil society where people turn a blind eye. It’s been going on for years if not decades and it isn’t just schools that are the problem.

    “We did everything adults would do. What went wrong?”
    – Lord of the Flies

  14. The Rev Kev

    “Latitudes not Attitudes or ‘Maps not Chaps’ “: ‘I’ve been think a lot about the way geography shapes history. A lot of the big questions of history can be boiled down to simple geography.’

    They have a point. Otto von Bismarck once said that if you showed him a map of a country that he would tell you what its foreign policy would be.

  15. dk

    “How trustworthy are electronic voting systems in the US?” [Significance (Flora)]
    Short answer: they’re not.

    Readers of the linked post may have noticed that the link to Mark Lindeman’s rebuttal article is dead, the article appears to be here:

    Claims of “rigged” voting made headlines during the 2016 US presidential election campaign. But while there is no convincing evidence of fraud, there is also a lack of strong evidence to say that US election systems produce the right results. Mark Lindeman explains the vote verification problem

    It’s worth a read. Lindeman has been questioning the CVT (“cumulative vote tally”) and other statistical analyses of election results for years, initially quite aggressively, his approach in 2017 is more disciplined and his conclusion in 2017 is measured, but (emphasis mine):

    The Crisis report presents other reasons to be suspicious of the results, but none can withstand sceptical scrutiny. [… because] no statistical test offers conclusive results. We would be far better off scrutinising physical evidence of voter intent, recorded on paper ballots.

    Lindeman has some suggestions about how to audit elections, they’re pretty sound, statistically… hmm. Yeah, it’s like that. Auditing isn’t actually verification, and it isn’t counting either. Pragmatic/cynical Lindeman:

    Some people advocate 100% hand counts in every election. Full hand counts are fine, but I think it is very unlikely that most jurisdictions will adopt them.

    I note the absence of the word “public.” But that was February 2017, eons ago in MPT (modern political time). If a well crafted and scored paper-ballot-hand-count initiative were to make the media rounds, who knows wither Overton.

    (Lindeman’s link to the Election Forensics Toolkit that he recommends is broken:
    The app returns R errors for some function selections. It allows upload of own data sets, untested by me.)

    One should be careful when applying the term “fraud”. Considering the gerrymandering, many varieties of vote suppression, and spotty service performance by states and counties, the singular for of the term may be too mild. At the same time, fraud is not the only danger from electronic voting equipment. From a 2005 response by Kathy Dobb to a response by Lindeman to her paper “Mathematical Proof that Election Science Institute’s Test to Rule Out Vote Fraud is Logically Invalid”:

    “Vote Fraud” versus “Vote Miscounts”
    Lindeman, ESI, Mitofsky, and Scheuren use the words “vote fraud” when what we believe they mean is “vote miscounts”. We prefer the term “vote miscounts” rather than “vote fraud” because no statistical analysis of vote counts or exit polls can determine whether vote miscounts are caused deliberately (by fraud) or by innocent errors.

    Paper ballots address many problems brought by electronic voting equipment. They do have their own challenges, and they do take longer to count and process. Counting them publicly is challenging too, the first few times, but it’s a good investment, and both raise the stakes significantly for would-be cheaters.

    1. ewmayer

      Well, Brennan more or less accused Trump of treason, I’m surprised the fallout was this long in coming.

  16. witters

    Without comment: ‘Omarosa … “wanted to work with Donald to understand his broken outlook, and I believed I was teaching him about the danger of starting a cultural war, a race war, of stirring up these dark elements in our society”.’

  17. JJ139

    Shout out to whoever created the WiFi network called “FBI SURVEILLANCE VAN” near the Virginia court where dozens of journalists have descended for Paul Manafort’s criminal trial.

    Funnily enough, while I was waiting at a small Spanish airport for a flight to London last month, that WiFi network was also showing. The airport in question doubles as the training base for the Spanish Air Force, which, of course, is part of NATO – it was a Spanish plane that ‘accidentally’ fired a live missile close to the Russian border on the Baltic recently. The missile apparently, has still not been found.

  18. Kokuanani

    Re “Dem insurgency in MD:” get ready for the “you can’t win if you go too far left” arguments. Ben Jealous, who won the Dem. primary for governor, is African-American and has good policies. However, he faces an up-hill battle against current Republican governor Larry Hogan.

    1) The Washington Post has been running “Larry Hogan is a popular Republican governor” articles for MONTHS, lamenting [sic] that no Dem can beat him. [The Post was so blatant in this several readers called them on it.]

    2) We receive almost weekly a mailer from the [identified by very small print] Republican Governors’ Association screaming that “Maryland can’t afford Ben Jealous,” listing his proposed policies and raising the specter of higher taxes.

    So see, Maryland Dems, if you’d just run more “moderate” candidates — say like Steney Hoyer — everything would be peachy.

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