2:00PM Water Cooler 8/16/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“With no end in sight to the trade standoff with China, NAFTA has emerged as a bright spot in President Donald Trump’s trade agenda. Even incremental progress and ongoing good-faith negotiations there offer somewhat of a sign of hope to American farmers and businesses who are bearing the brunt of retaliatory tariffs and desperate for some sign of more certainty in the global trade arena. To be sure, significant portions of the negotiation remain unresolved — the sunset clause chief among them, though there are others — and Canada still needs to be brought back into the fold once U.S.-Mexico bilateral issues are worked out. But the political situation in both countries is such that each is more eager than ever to make a deal, setting up a scenario in which significant progress could be on the near horizon” [Politico].



“Can the US track how its weapons are used in Yemen? Elizabeth Warren wants to know.” [Defense News]. “In response to the Saudi-led coalition bombing of a school bus that reportedly killed 51 people — 40 of them children — Warren sent a letter to U.S. Central Command’s Gen. Joseph Votel on Tuesday asking that he clarify his testimony the military cannot do detailed tracking…. ‘The reported presence of U.S. advisors in a command center responsible for actively approving and directing such airstrikes, and the reported existence of at least one U.S. intelligence assessment of an airstrike acknowledging the use of U.S.-manufactured munitions, raise questions about whether the U.S. does in fact have the capability to track the origins, purpose and results of U.S.-supported airstrikes should it choose to do so,’ Warren wrote.” • “Wants to know” is Warren’s branding. She’s good at that


“Democrats Discard Washington Platform in Bid for House Control” [New York Times]. “House Democrats, looking to wrest control of the chamber from Republicans in November, are discarding the lessons of successful midterms past and pressing only a bare-bones national agenda, leaving it to candidates to tailor their own messages to their districts.” • A morally and intellectually bankrupt party apparatus, operating solely on a reptilian backbrain-like reflex for institutional survival, and incapable of delivering on whatever promises it makes to voters (as opposed to the promises it makes to the donor class, of course).

“Midwest Democrats’ answer to Trump: White, conventional and boring” [Politico]. “Democrats across the Midwest are opting for a conventional cast of technocrats and long-time public officials in the party’s first response to Donald Trump’s 2016 victories — a rebuttal of sorts to the party’s lunge leftward in the run-up to 2020.

CA: “Combating corruption: How effective is the political watchdog Jerry Brown helped create?” [CalMatters]. “Now [the Fair Political Practices Commission] has a new leader who has spent many years in the political trenches but has little experience as a government regulator[:] Alice Germond, a longtime Democratic Party activist, took over this month to complete the term of the prior chair who resigned. Germond, 75, worked on several presidential campaigns, including Bill Clinton’s, before becoming a leader in the Democratic National Committee.” • Interestingly, Germond was a vocal Ellison supporter, and was purged from the DNC in 2017.

CT-05: “Jahana Hayes Blows Out Democratic Establishment in Connecticut Congressional Primary” [GritPost]. “Hayes ran on a progressive platform of implementing a living wage for all workers, moving toward a single-payer healthcare system, strong new gun reform laws (her district includes Newtown, where 20 children were killed in a 2012 school shooting), and strengthening public education. As the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, Hayes is particularly passionate about public education, and is calling for an end to diverting public dollars to private schools.” • Hayes: “I support moving towards a single-payer healthcare system.” Plus: “single payer”; the technical term is a good sign. Minus: “Moving towards” is weasel wording; translates to the so-called public option, perhaps? Plus: Refreshing absence of focus-grouped liberalisms like “access.”

MN Governor: “Pawlenty’s Loss Moves Race to Lean Democratic” [Cook Political Report]. “Pawlenty had his own political persona that is quite separate from Trump and national Republicans, and he had a relationship with general election voters in the state. This is why national GOP strategists were enthusiastic about his candidacy. Johnson doesn’t have these advantages. He is a conservative who is tethered to an unpopular Trump and running in a strong Democratic year in a swing state. As such, this race has gotten more difficult for Republicans and thus moves to the Lean Democratic column.”

PA-01: “A red flag for the ‘blue wave’? In Philly suburbs, GOP Rep. Fitzpatrick has more union support than Dem challenger” [Philadelphia Inquirer]. “Democrats in Pennsylvania can almost always count on labor groups to support them in major general elections. But in a pivotal midterm race in the Philadelphia suburbs, many high-powered unions are pledging their support to a Republican. U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a freshman GOP lawmaker who has sided with Democrats on some key issues and said he is “extremely disappointed” by a recent Supreme Court decision weakening unions, has raised more than $200,000 from labor groups, according to the website OpenSecrets. His Democratic opponent, multimillionaire philanthropist Scott Wallace, has collected only about $3,000.”

New Cold War

“Manafort Money ‘Littered With Lies,’ Feds Tell Jury” [Courthouse News]. “In contrast to [Special Counsel prosecutor Greg] Andres’ plea for the jury to primarily focus on the documents in evidence, [Defense attorneys Richard Westling] urged jurors to rely on the witness testimony. He said emails can sometimes leave out the context necessary to clarify important issues such as intent…. A chart that defense attorney Westling provided establishing standards around the requirements of reasonable doubt should also be ignored, Andres said, and instead jurors should only consider instruction about reasonable doubt from Judge Ellis himself.” • Most of the national coverage of closing arguments was awful, giving no sense of prosecution and defense strategies. This is better.

“John Brennan: President Trump’s Claims of No Collusion Are Hogwash” [John Brennan, New York Times]. The deck: “That’s why the president revoked my security clearance: to try to silence anyone who would dare challenge him.” • A man gifted with a Op-Ed in the Times to protest his “silencing” perhaps perhaps has skin thinner than the norm? Speculating freely on the real issue, here: Without his security clearance, torture advocate and Hague-dodger Brennan will be able to opine less authoritatively on cable, losing bookings. But surely he can make up the difference on GoFundMe, or with a book deal? Aaron Maté comments on the substance of Brennan’s piece in this thread:

“2016 Trump Tower Meeting Looks Increasingly Like a Setup by Russian and Clinton Operatives” [RealClearPolitics]. “The June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between high-ranking members of the Republican presidential campaign staff and a Russian lawyer with Kremlin ties remains the cornerstone of claims that Donald Trump colluded with Russia to steal the election. A growing body of evidence, however, indicates that the meeting may have been a setup — part of a broad effort to tarnish the Trump campaign involving Hillary Clinton operatives employed by Kremlin-linked figures and Department of Justice officials.” • Readers may find this interesting; I’m not master of the detail on this. However, from the 30,000-foot level, there is very little about the Obama administration’s part in “the narrative” that makes sense. Assume that Clinton’s strong-form claim that Trump is a “Russian puppet” is true. One would expect a Presidential Finding to that effect to be set in motion; instead, we have the infamous “17 agencies” report from hand-picked analysts, and Obama hands over the nuclear codes. Huh? The article is at least salutary in that it grants the Obama administration agency, instead of treating them as horrified bystanders, as most coverage does.


The Crash, Ten Years After

“The biggest policy mistake of the last decade” [The Week]. “In the great economic battle of the past decade, the winner is the tried and true — in a rout. After the 2008 financial crisis, old-fashioned Keynesians offered a simple fix: Stimulate the economy. With idle capacity and unemployed workers, nations could restore economic production at essentially zero real cost. It helped the U.S. in the Great Depression and it could help the U.S. in the Great Recession too. But during and immediately after the crisis, neoliberal and conservative forces attacked the Keynesian school of thought from multiple directions. Stimulus couldn’t work because of some weird debt trigger condition, or because it would cause hyperinflation, or because unemployment was ‘structural,’ or because of a ‘skills gap,’ or because of adverse demographic trends. Well going on 10 years later, the evidence is in: The anti-Keynesian forces have been proved conclusively mistaken on every single argument. Their refusal to pick up what amounted to a multiple-trillion-dollar bill sitting on the sidewalk is the greatest mistake of economic policy analysis since 1929 at least.” • First thing we do

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Want Young People to Vote? Make Them Sign a Pledge.” [Governing]. “But will they actually turn out on Election Day? Democrats, who are aiming to inspire a blue wave that helps them take back some control of federal and state offices… But across the country, just 28 percent of young adults are “absolutely certain” they will vote…. On other shifts, they asked them to sign a pledge that they would make it to the polls. Two weeks ahead of the election, the first group received mailers that said, ‘Remember to vote,’ while the second group’s reminders said, ‘Remember your pledge to vote.’ ‘Overall,’ the researchers concluded, ‘pledging to vote increased voter turnout by 3.7 points among all subjects and 5.6 points for people who had never voted before.’… Democrats have nearly three months to energize young voters.” • One despairs. First, as I keep saying, voter registration should be a core party function, 24/7/365. The article lists a number of siloed celebrity and squillionaire efforts, three months before the election, for pity’s sake. One might almost think the Democrats don’t really want to expand the electorate, except for short-term, tactical, effects. Second, “Remember your pledge to vote” is classic liberal Democrat fingerwagging and voter shaming and blaming. To be fair, it’s certainly easier to prey on youthful and gullible authoritarian followers overly trusting voters than it is to deliver on actual policies that might improve their lives, like free college or a debt jubilee. Heaven forfend! This isn’t “governing.” It’s ruling.

“The Revolution Against the Revolution” [City Journal]. Shay’s Rebellion: “The farmers and shopkeepers in Massachusetts repeatedly petitioned Boston, asking the government to stop the courts from foreclosing until after the next election, in the spring of 1787, when they hoped that their pleas would be acted upon by a new and more sympathetic administration. If the courts were allowed to continue foreclosing, half the people of the affected counties might go bankrupt. Since the vote was limited to white men of property, the rebellion wasn’t just about losing money; it was about becoming a political nonperson. Losing one’s farm or home or shop could disenfranchise a citizen.” • The first foreclosure crisis…

“The 5 M’s for Describing Why Congress Is Broken” [Roll Call]. Money, maps, media, mingling, masochism. “Psychologists call it the Golem effect, after a clay figure in Jewish mythology: Low expectations placed upon individuals by people they’ve been trained to respect tend to get adopted by those individuals, and poor performance is the result…. Congress has moved steadily in the past decade to reduce its own capabilities and capacities for making legislation and conducting oversight — the only two options available to lawmakers who care about standing up to an executive branch, no matter who’s in the White House, that has been steadily making its balance of power more lopsided. Members have put their committee and personal office budgets on starvation diets, drastically reducing the median tenure of Hill staffers. The resulting brain drain has only expanded power in the ideologically polarized leadership suites of both the House and Senate, and in the better-paying lobby firms and advocacy groups already derided by voters as a swamp with too much sway.” • And term limits would only reinforce this, as they have in Maine.

Stats Watch

Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey, August 2018: “Rates of growth may finally be slowing in the Mid-Atlantic manufacturing sector based on the Philly Fed general conditions index” [Econoday]. “New orders are the life blood of business and growth here is clearly slowing… Slowing should be no surprise for this report which was the first of the regional and private reports to shoot higher after the 2016 election. Slowing in orders should help limit the risk of capacity constraints for this sample.” And: “Consider this a much weaker report than last month as key elements significantly declined” [Econintersect].

Housing Starts, July 2018: “Capacity constraints in construction may very well be slowing down the sector as housing starts have turned lower” [Econoday]. “The housing sector in general is lagging though the gain in permits is a plus…” And: “We consider this a weaker report relative to last month – and both housing starts and completions are in contraction year-over-year” [Econintersect].

Jobless Claims, week of August 11, 2018: “The labor market is the key strength of the U.S. economy” [Econoday]. • Especially since wages are flat or declining!

Retail: “July retail sales turn in solid performance based on Commerce and NRF data” [Logistics Management]. “Retail sales are a direct, and largely current, barometer of economic activity, more so than the aforementioned consumer confidence, which really gauges how consumers “feel” about the economy at a given moment, with feelings and sentiment able to quickly change based on just about anything. And based on recent earnings calls from publicly-traded freight transportation and logistics services providers, they are also echoing a theme of a healthy economy, specifically a healthy economy buoyed by strong retail sales, which had various executives touting the gains in revenue stemming from things like increased e-commerce activity, which has had a direct impact on things like last, or final, mile logistics, and the ongoing build out and development of warehouses and distribution centers that are needed to help meet increasing demand and uptick in service to meet that higher demand.”

Retail: “Walmart sees sales rise at stores and online, raises outlook” [Associated Press]. “Walmart raised its financial outlook for the year after beating Wall Street’s expectations for the quarter and seeing the strongest growth in more than a decade in sales at established stores. Its shares rose nearly 10 percent…. Walmart said sales were strong across many categories but the grocery business was notable with sales rising the most in nine years, fueled by fresh items like meat and produce. That helped sales at stores open at least a year rise 4.5 percent at Walmart’s U.S. division, better than analysts expected. The measure, an indicator of a retailer’s health, was helped by a more than 2 percent increase in customer traffic and in transactions.” • I remember a couple years ago Walmart had stocking problems in produce. So it looks like they solved that.

Marketing: “OPINION: Interpretation of airline ‘big data’ must be objective” [FlightGlobal]. “Confirmation bias is a common problem, for instance. This occurs when data is wittingly interpreted to confirm a pre-existing hypothesis. For airlines fixated on big data as a money-saving opportunity, that is a real danger…. Looking at sales of in-flight food as an example, data will not tell you why very few people are buying your sandwiches. But a carrier with a fixation on using data to cut wastage might see that data and cut the number of sandwiches loaded on to aircraft, then celebrate the financial saving. In reality, however, it could be missing out on a significant growth in revenues, simply because it is ignoring the fact that its cheese and tomato baguette is revolting.” • I dunno whether I’d say “objective.” Maybe “imaginative,” or “empathetic.” Or “non-sociopathic.”

Shipping: “July 2018 Sea Container Movements Slow” [Econintersect]. “Simply looking at this month versus last month – export rate of growth declined whilst exports also declined. The three month rolling averages remain in positive territory – but both exports and imports are declining. It may be that we are seeing the impact of the trade wars.” • And see the very interesting “Caveats on the Use of Container Counts” at the end of the article.

Shipping: “Cass’ July volume, rate data shows market staying red-hot” [DC Velocity]. “Volumes and freight rates have escalated dramatically since the end of last year. After leveling off somewhat in the first quarter, rates spikes in the spring and summer to levels not seen for years. To put 2018’s strength in perspective, traffic levels in February, normally not a great month due to adverse winter weather and other seasonal factors, were roughly equal to the activity in June 2014, which was the peak of a very strong year, Broughton said. He called such a phenomenon ‘extraordinary.'”

Shipping: “As we publish this, a story we ran yesterday on the city of Springfield, Illinois fining a local Walmart $50,000 for violating what the city said was an agreement on truck parking in its lot had received an enormous number of hits” and comments [FreightWaves]. “Those sheer numbers point to how big of an issue parking has become…. [T]here was the constant theme in the comments about how parking has gotten even more complicated in the [Electronic Logging Device (ELD)] era, and parking opportunities are getting squeezed with more trucks on the road delivering more freight. This comment was typical: ‘This is the number one issue for me. Safe and legal parking. This is why the older truck drivers are getting fed up. This is how you destroy America. Limit distribution of goods and services. Please don’t be surprised if you’re notified I’ve been killed while I was sleeping in my truck, or someone you love. Please tell your elected official to make more safe and legal places to park.'” • Turf wars over infrastructure? Like scooters?

Shipping: “Increased crop-storage capacity means farmers can hold onto grain longer as they wait for prices to rise. As the balance of power shifts, U.S. grain giants have to reset decades-old crop-buying practices and devote more personal attention to increasingly tech-savvy farmers who get price alerts on their phones” [Wall Street Journal]. Cargill is shrinking its grain-elevator footprint, directing more volume to higher-capacity facilities and pushing to make them more efficient so farmers don’t get stuck waiting around: ‘If [their trucks] are sitting still, we’re the worst place in town.'” • See above; same issue.

The Bezzle: “Tesla on Track to Make 8,000 Model 3s Per Week, Analysts Report” [Industry Week]. “Tesla produced more than 5,000 Model 3s in the last week of June, working around the clock to hit the mass-manufacturing milestone. The push also included assembling vehicles in a tent outside its factory, raising questions on the carmaker’s ability to sustain that rate and keep up quality standards….. [After a site visit to the Fremont plant, the] analysts saw nothing that would suggest Tesla isn’t able to produce 5,000 Model 3 cars per week currently and increase that by 1,000 per week ‘very shortly.'” • “Throw a tarp over that rework, boys!”

The Bezzle: “Uber’s Losses Mount at Self-Driving Car Unit” [The Information]. “Some investors have told Uber officials that it may be wise to divest the self-driving car unit, said a person familiar with the issue. Uber has invested least $2 billion in the unit over the past three years. Yet the company hasn’t yet come up with a clear path to commercializing the technology it has developed.” • Because the technology doesn’t work!

The Bezzle: “US Drivers Learn More About Self-Driving Cars, Like Them Less” [247 Wall Street]. “Over the past two years, U.S. drivers have become more aware of autonomous (self-driving) vehicles. More than three-quarters (78%) have some knowledge of autonomous vehicles that a human driver may choose to drive and 64% know something about self-driving cars that do not require a human driver. Both totals are more than 20 percentage points higher than they were two years ago. But drivers’ confidence in the safety of autonomous vehicles has fallen in the same period by nearly 20 percentage points in both those categories. The reason, according to a new survey from Cox Automotive, is that recent high-profile crashes involving self-driving cars have cast a pall over the previous excitement over driverless cars and the technology that enables them.” • Thanks, Trav!

Tech: “Tech Giants Charge Deeper Into $8 Trillion Healthcare Industry” [Safe Haven]. “Apple, IBM, Amazon, GE, Intel and Alphabet are placing their bets in the $3-trillion industry and driving a major digital health renaissance. And they’re viewing this as something between a rescue mission and a great business opportunity. The fusion of healthcare and tech is expected to lower costs and provide a better experience for both healthcare professionals and patients…. A key part of healthcare reform involves the use of technology to address issues such as access, cost and value.” • I’ll bet. How about we start with this: I want a doctor who was the time and incentives to actually look at me instead of pecking into the sucky app on their tablet.

Health Care

“Best Buy is buying a health tech company that caters to the elderly and analysts are gushing” [MarketWatch]. “Best Buy Co Inc. shares rose Thursday as analysts cheered the news of its acquisition of San Diego-based GreatCall, a health technology company that focuses on the elderly. The electronics retailer BBY, +0.60% said late Wednesday it is paying $800 million in cash to acquire the company, which provides connected health and emergency response services to more than 900,000 paying subscribers. GreatCall offers mobile products and wearables that connect users to agents who can hook them up with family caregivers or send emergency medical help.”

Class Warfare

“US bosses now earn 312 times the average worker’s wage, figures show” [Guardian] (original). “CEO pay dipped in the early 2000s and during the last recession, but has been rising rapidly since 2009. Chief executives are even leaving the 0.1% in the dust. The bosses of large firms now earn 5.5 times as much as the average earner in the top 0.1%.” • Thanks, Obama!

“Relocation for Work Reaches Historic Lows” [247 Wall Street]. “In the 1980s, over one-third of job seekers were willing to move for a new position. Now more than ever this number is dramatically shrinking as new trends are emerging in the labor market. Over the past decade, only 11% of job seekers relocated for work, versus 19% of workers who relocated in the previous decade, according to new data from Challenger, Gray & Christmas.” • So much for “Why don’t they just move….”

“Building a Rapid-Response Network to Defend Immigrant Workers” [Labor Notes]. “The rapid-response network consists of a 24-hour emergency hotline, 2,000 members, and 20 religious congregations. Forty bilingual responders are trained to manage the hotline, where they instruct callers in their constitutional rights, connect them to services, and activate the response team if necessary. Since November 2016, members of the network have supported 35 families and individuals facing deportation and workplace abuse, including wage theft and sexual harassment.” • Impressive.

“90,000 Forgotten Sears Employees” [247 Wall Street]. “The CEO of Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD) wants his hedge fund to buy the company’s Kenmore appliance division as another means of getting the retailer cash and stripping it of one of its most valuable assets. It is one more in a long line of financial engineering by Eddie Lampert, which has included shuttering stores, loaning the company money and disposing of part of Sears and Kmart, the company’s operating divisions. Lost in all the noise are the approximately 90,000 workers whose jobs are at risk, many of whom can count on being laid off.”

News of The Wired

“Twitter’s Secret ‘Guest Mode'” [Terence Eden’s Blog]. “Twitter has an undocumented feature which lets you follow accounts without being logged in. Here’s how I found it, and how you can use it.” • If you have an ancient browser…

“The Akrasia Effect: Why We Don’t Follow Through on What We Set Out to Do and What to Do About It” [James Clear]. “Akrasia is the state of acting against your better judgment. It is when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else. Loosely translated, you could say that akrasia is procrastination or a lack of self-control. Akrasia is what prevents you from following through on what you set out to do….. Aristotle coined the term enkrateia as the antonym of akrasia. While akrasia refers to our tendency to fall victim to procrastination, enkrateia means to be “in power over oneself.'” • With an excellent anecdote. Victor Hugo signed an agreement with his publisher and then procrastinated for a year:

Hugo developed a plan to beat his procrastination. He collected all of his clothes, removed them from his chambers, and locked them away. He was left with nothing to wear except a large shawl. Lacking any suitable clothing to go outdoors, Hugo was no longer tempted to leave the house and get distracted. Staying inside and writing was his only option.

The strategy worked. Hugo remained in his study each day and wrote furiously during the fall and winter of 1830. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was published two weeks early on January 14, 1831.

In memoriam Aretha Franklin (1):

And more trechant commentary on political economy–

Aretha Franklin (2):

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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 (CR):

I should have grown morning glories this year, but never got around to it.

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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. Roger Smith

    MI Governor:

    This had me so confused as the article is about Minnesota, but Johnson was the candidate who one the GOP senate nomination against another P– Pensler, as opposed to governor, Haha.

      1. Roger Smith

        Hahaha I missed that. For a moment my entire hold on reality started to break down until I caught “Minnesota” while skimming the article.

    1. polecat

      The article could’ve stopped at “money” × 5 …


  2. flora

    re: The 5 M’s…

    The resulting brain drain has only expanded power in the ideologically polarized leadership suites of both the House and Senate, and in the better-paying lobby firms and advocacy groups already derided by voters as a swamp with too much sway.

    Closed primaries increase ideological polarization in the parties by shutting independents – usually moderates – out of the primary voting process. It seems to me if states pay for primary elections with tax dollars then all registered voters should be able to vote in a primary. In open primaries an independent voter can vote in any party’s primary, but only in one party’s primary. An independent can only vote once. It’s a moderating influence on the the kinds of politicians who win the primaries. States requiring open primaries would go a long way to reduce extremism and polarization in the parties, and would do some good in ending the “private club” aspect.

    Or, states could insist on party registration deadlines that are close, within a week or even on the same day, to the actual primary date. Registration deadlines several months ahead, before people have any idea who the candidates will be or have started thinking about the election, is another voter suppression tactic. imo.

      1. flora

        Thanks. Add in the State Office charged with overseeing, verifying, advising county clerks on vote counting, certifying the results, etc. It’s a state function.

    1. Grandt

      Well, I don’t see the logic in assuming independents are “moderate” (I don’t identify with any party and am on the left), or necessarily informed on policy any more than people aligned with the parties. Given the decades long economic trajectory of the country, given that we have a healthcare system that results in 45,000 people dying each year (15 Sept. 11s), and given that the environmental crisis will necessitate structural changes, it seems that people that look at this country and the economy and think everything is fine are not really any different than the far right. I mean, if we placed the people you call “moderate” into the UK, if the moderates and their stances on healthcare were placed in the UK, they would be considered the far right fringe. No chance in hell that someone could get elected pushing for our healthcare system, or the ACA there, or any other developed country. There were a number of Obama and Clinton folks in the UK recently working to get May elected, which is telling. I mean, what actual solutions do “moderates” propose for any of our problems?

      I do agree though that primaries should be open, more than anything because these two parties are not very democratic internally (especially the Democrats), and the system has been rigged by the two parties in ways not radically different than what we see with one party states. So, any move to democratize the system is fine with me, however small something like that would be. I would like publicly financed elections, ranked choice voting and I would like the top four parties to be able to participate in presidential debates. Would be nice if the DSA eventually broke off.

      What policy positions of candidates on the left would you call “extreme”? My guess is that most of those positions are supported by a strong majority of the country.

      1. flora

        I suppose the Dems that focus only on money and therefore only on the rich and Wall st. I would call extreme – financially extreme in the people they really represent, the extreme end of the wealth distribution.

        I know that in my state when both parties had open primaries we had fairly moderate, sensible policies and a sane legislature. The Gov. office would go from GOP to Dem and back, though the lege always had GOP control (a sane COP control; one that didn’t run the state’s finances into the ditch.)

        1. flora

          As for extreme policies of the Dems (and the GOP), letting Wall St. off the hook and bailing out the crooked banks was pretty darn extreme policy decision. (note: I don’t confuse ‘left’ with ‘Dem’.)

          (I don’t care for the “we allowed” language. “We” didn’t allow it; the politicians allowed it, enabled it, and covered for it.)

          1. a different chris

            >an independent voter can vote in any party’s primary, but only in one party’s primary.

            Why just one? How does that relate to any other human selection experience ever? “You can date people from the one neighborhood you picked, but no other neighborhoods” (oh, uh actually it used to be a lot like that especially when skin tone was involved…anyway you know what I mean)

            The D party comes up with a slate of possible candidates. They have an open primary and everybody in the area under question is encouraged to vote. The Rs do the same thing.

            Yeah there needs to be some much better vetting in that case, otherwise you get somebody who can never win like Donald Trump on your ballot as the people from the other party will be able to manipulate the primary so their candidate is a shoo-in for the general. Oh wait….

            But seriously, get maybe 3 candidates truly acceptable to your party, and have *all* the people that are going to vote in November let you know what they think.

            1. flora

              “Why just one?” That’s how it worked in my state and it worked well. I think the idea was that, for primary purposes, if you voted in party A’s primary you were declaring yourself an A for that primary day and could not be also a B for that primary day. Not perfect, but much better than the closed system we have now.

            2. Darthbobber

              But the primary is supposed to BE the process for deciding what candidate is “truly acceptable to your party.” Some vetting process that gets the field down to 3 “truly acceptable” candidates before the primary implies yet another filtering stage (run by whom?)

              1. LifelongLib

                According to Wikipedia, primaries in the U.S. originated from a Progressive-era effort to wrest candidate selection from party leaders:


                But it seems to me that each party actually should have a process for selecting its own candidates — why should all voters be involved? Let each party run who it chooses by whatever means for whatever office and let the voters decide in the general election…

                1. flora

                  Because we have a presidential, not a parilmentary system. So there aren’t smaller parties whose primaries result electable candidates who, if elected, could form small but important voting blocks in coalition with other parties on issues.

                  And, the 2 main parties currently – and for the past 100 years – have a lock on the system. So locking independents out of voting in primaries essentially disenfranchises registered voters from selecting the candidates who will run in the general. Lots of people don’t want to register with a party affiliation for a number of reasons: they don’t want endless begging junk mail or emails, they don’t think either party offers something they want to be formally associated with, they live or work in an area is mostly one-party and they lean the other way but don’t want that to become known… lots of reasons.

          2. Amfortas the Hippie

            aye. neither party represents me, either.
            if the greens could stay on the ballot(the rules of which are stupidly hateful), I’d go with them…but with that portion of the libertarian’s platform that focuses on Rights/Liberties and an aversion to foreign entanglements.
            the duopoly based way we do it now…dem/rep in charge of all the machinery, from debates to primaries to running the elections…is not democratic, at all, and excludes the actual wishes of the people.
            and, like Grandt said, those wishes are largely “progressive”, in spite of the machinations of the powerful.
            at least according to what ends up in the bottom of my cauldron when all the data and stories and polls and surveys are boiled away.

            1. foghorn longhorn

              So what is your take on O’rourke v Cruz?
              A ctually asked the O camp, via an unsolicited text sent to me, a few questions…
              Medicare for all
              Marijuana legalization
              Endless wars
              Reply was pretty much blah,blah,blah
              Fighting for you
              None of the above, in a landslide, was my reply

                1. foghorn longhorn

                  Very true
                  Beto shoud have changed his name to Bevo O’Reveille, that way he would have at least have the t-sippers and the aggies votes
                  If ya can’t answer yea or nay to those four simple questions…

    2. Utah

      So the Utah GOP is actually having a field day these days with trying to limit their membership for who can run as a Republican, which this reminded me of. We have a caucus-convention system which basically means that there are no primaries unless a candidate fails to get 60% of the vote at convention. But GOP caucuses are limited to membership within the GOP. We had a law go through the legislature a couple of years ago that allowed GOP members to gain access to the primary ballot with some number of signatures- the threshold is fairly high.
      The GOP is arguing that the state cannot tell them who they allow to run as a republican because they are a private organization. The circuit court (I think I’m in the 8th, but I don’t remember) actually ruled against them and in favor of the law, though they did make some fine arguments about our gerrymandering in the decision. If the GOP’s arguments win on appeal, think it could make its way up to the supreme court. Because, as Lambert always points out- how do political parties define their membership? It’s easy in Utah- it’s members are the convention delegates who were elected at caucus night. That’s it.
      The whole situation is super ironic because the state is 85% Republican majority. Democrats haven’t held a state-wide seat since the Reagan administration. They are literally bickering among themselves about who can run as one of them.
      But, you can change your party affiliation at the ballot box for primaries should you want to. Most of the time you just don’t get a choice in the primary because the insiders have already chosen for you.

      1. flora

        The GOP is arguing that the state cannot tell them who they allow to run as a republican because they are a private organization.

        wow. Heavens forbid a GOP candidate not beholden to ALEC should get on the ballot. What would the party bosses tell their corporate backers? /s
        But seriously, sounds like the party bosses are openly trying to privatized an essential governmental function. Thanks for this info.

        adding, a bit from history. Teddy Roosevelt’s 1912 campaign to challenge Taft for the GOP nomination.

        His message found an audience. Roosevelt swept the Republican primaries. If the people had been in charge of choosing the Republican candidate, T.R. would almost certainly have been the nominee. But the 1912 nomination campaign was the first in American history to feature primaries at all, and only a few states used them to allow actual voters to have a say in determining each party’s nominee. The bulk of the delegates who would actually select the presidential candidate were still chosen the old fashioned way: through machine-controlled caucuses and shady backroom deals. Taft exploited his entrenched position within the party (and many party bosses’ horror at Roosevelt’s maverick views) to secure his own renomination. William Howard Taft, not Teddy Roosevelt, was the Republican nominee for president in 1912.

        The parties are going back to the pre-progressive era.

        1. LifelongLib

          Why should “the people” be in charge of choosing the Republican (Democratic/Communist/Libertarian) Party candidates? Shouldn’t it be entirely up to the respective parties? And if a party’s members are unhappy with their party’s process, isn’t it up to them to change it?

          1. flora

            See my answer to your question above.

            adding: in open primaries most candidates pitch their stump speeches and policy proposals to the general voter audience hoping to win independent votes in the primary. In closed primaries candidates pitch their stump speeches and policy proposals to the most committed and often most ideologically distant from the general ideological center of the unaffiliated voters.

            In my state the far right faction of the GOP closed their primaries out of frustration that the far right candidates lost against the moderate candidates. The far rights got control of party levers by making nice sounds, then closed the primaries, started electing far right candidates and purging the moderates.

  3. ewmayer

    Re. Tesla, an example of classic Musk-distraction-PR in action – on the TSLA summary page on Yahoo Finance today, there are two smaller-font link-headlines:

    Tesla reportedly subpoenaed by SEC – Yahoo Finance Video
    Former Tesla employee’s tweets show allegedly flawed batteries – Engadget

    But those are in the shade of the much-larger-fonted LEAD STORY OF THE DAY! To wit,

    Elon Musk plans to build a tunnel to Dodger stadium under LA (Bitchez!)

    (OK, I admit I added the litte David-Chappelle-esque in-your-face flourish at the end there. :)

    1. Wukchumni

      I was really hoping there would be another portal @ Angels Stadium, so the SoCalist movement could claim a subway series of their own, and all thanks to Eloi, er Elon.

    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      Doing the same damned fool thing over and over seems to be richly rewarded in some places.

      1. Jen

        Indeed. I’m sure if he approaches tunnel construction the same way he builds cars, everything will be just fine.

  4. Dave

    Democrats might not be too happy with who those pledge-signers actually vote for, if the only thing driving them to the polls is a bunch of whiny, nagging mailers. It kind of gets to be like the urge to steal a sign marked “No Stealing.”

    1. a different chris

      We need a freaking paid day off in November. I bet MLK would be happy to have his day moved. “MLK Voting Day”.

      Everything gets closed up so tight you would think it was France on a Sunday. Polling stations are usefully located. Those with jobs and thus cars go fetch those that don’t.

      “you may say I’m a dreamer… but I’m..” actually I do seem to be the only one. Sigh.

      1. Richard

        I don’t think he’d mind either, but let’s save offering MLK day for the end of the negotiation, if we need to. In other words, let’s not bargain like Obama. I want a separate day.

  5. shinola

    Thanks for the Aretha tunes – a big part of the sounds from my youth.

    I remember listening to her on a transistor radio in my room & trying to sing the back up singers parts (as if a skinny, freckle faced white boy could ever do justice to them).

    She shall be missed.

  6. Biologist

    Thank you Lambert for mentioning Aretha’s passing. Feel sad, but also grateful for all her wonderful music and memories she left us. Rest in peace.

    1. foghorn longhorn

      Loved her in the “Blues Brothers”
      Fiour fried chickens and a loaf of white bread…

  7. JBird

    “90,000 Forgotten Sears Employees”

    I know it has been talked about before here, but I just have to mention again on how much the destruction of so many of our businesses, not just in retail, seems to be a deliberate act of burn and pillage. Sacking in the same way as an ancient city, not only businesses from ginormous to tiny, but entire industries, merely to extract whatever immediate wealth the few parasitic weasels can get. Like gluttonous financial vampires on already weakened companies.

    There still should be a large retail bookseller market, and a large number of functioning department stores or clothing stores. Anemic, reduced, greatly shrunken yes. That was going to happen, but still here.

    1. Jerry B

      JBird—In May my wife and I went to Door County, WI for a vacation. While in Door County’s main town, Sturgeon Bay, we stopped in the local department store, Younkers. They had a “Going Out of Business” sign on their window. While my wife was shopping I chatted with a manager/salesperson and mentioned to him my intuition/guess for the store closing: “Death by Amazon, huh?” i.e. online competition. He said no and informed me about the real reason that store and all Younkers store were closing. The primary “store” known as Bon-Ton had filed for bankruptcy and all the store chains under Bon-Ton were being liquidated which included the Younkers chain. The Bon Ton chain includes: Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers.



      Interestingly the manager at Younkers told me that particular Younkers store in Sturgeon Bay, WI, was doing very well but since it was part of the chain it had to close. To me that is the tragedy of the recent wave of closures; the local store’s success does not matter.

      From one of the links above:

      Bon-Ton became the 11th retailer to declare bankruptcy in the first four months of the year. The list includes Toys R Us, gunmaker Remington and the jewelry chain Claire’s, which has led some to suggest we are in the middle of a retail apocalypse, with several other businesses teetering in the edge.

      Companies considered on a death watch by a variety of business insiders include Southeastern Grocers (owner of the Winn-Dixie supermarket chain), Sears (which also owns Kmart), Italian casual dining chain Bertucci’s, PetSmart, Eddie Bauer, J. Crew, Payless Shoes, Neiman Marcus, GNC and Guitar Center

      A bit of nostalgia —-Another casualty of the Bon-Ton liquidation was Carson Pirie Scott. Growing up in the western suburbs of Chicago, my parents and I went to Carson’s on occasion. Also great memories were going to Downtown Chicago to see the Christmas displays in the store window along State Street. One of those stores that had Christmas displays in their windows was the old Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building.

      It might be easy to blame online shopping for some or all of this. However my sense is, along with a lot of company mismanagement, this is part of the Private Equity, Hedge Fund, and Neoliberal Predatorial Financial destruction of “Main Street”. Hopefully others with more expertise in business, economics, and finance can speak on if my “spidey sense” is correct and this is more than just “the Amazon effect”.

      1. Carolinian

        When I lived in Atlanta there was a constant churn of new retail store ideas that would come–and then go. And this was before the internet was much of a thing. There is also the apparent fact that the US is overbuilt with retail. Wolfstreet talks about this. Locally we just acquired a new grocery chain even though there were already plenty of grocery stores and also some empty, closed stores. So perhaps it’s not just private equity mining retail companies for their assets but also the commercial real estate business constantly creating strip malls that need to be filled. If you build it they will come?

        1. a different chris

          >but also the commercial real estate business constantly creating strip malls

          We always say “another group of dentists just had to do something with their spare cash”.

        2. Montanamaven

          This is a very interesting conversation. I was led to believe late in life that Capitalism is basically big fish eating the small fish. Eating up Mom and Pop. Wall Mart, Amazon. I come from Chicago. Sears and Roebuck. So if Sears and his friend Roebuck bought up all the little fish too, what makes them different? The upside is that they supplied a lot of good jobs for one hundred years. The downside is that they may have run out of town some Mom and Pops. But somehow they are different. Is it that they paid a good wage an there was dignity in that all American job.
          Paging David Graeber!

          1. JTMcPhee

            It was the Catalog. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sears_catalog

            All those dreams, on paper. Paper that could be used to wipe with, after reading in the outhouse. All those drawings, very artistic, in the earlier ones, and the randy color photos in later years, of ladies in their various undergarments. And Wells Fargo was a delivery service, who delivered the dreams to your door. Or in the case of one of the houses you could buy in Giant Lego form, delivered to your little lot or farmstead. Which how they can steal out from under your successors in interest.

            Sears was one of the myths, now dead and de-mythologized by experience, that sort of helped knit the ingredients in the salad bowl together…

            1. Carolinian

              The catalog had car engines! You could buy a rebuilt engine for your ’57 Chevy.

              I grew up with the thing and that goes double for my farm raised parents. The Sears catalog was Amazon before Amazon. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that the chain has been going downhill ever since they got rid of it.

              1. Wukchumni

                Sears had the best popcorn, and you got more @ K-Mart, but it wasn’t as good. Target continues the tradition of having the intoxicating smell waft through the air, not far from the entrance.

          2. JBird

            There is some truth to that. There is also a major difference between American businesses then and now. Long term thinking and the goal of having the most successful business.

            American businesses, and governments, and the nation too, are strictly money now, Now, NOW. That the business will be destroyed (or the government by another tax cut) by the financialization, cheapism, backstabbing, abusing of everyone, employees, customers, vendors, the business itself, does not matter. Only the usual gigantic “profits” that can be extracted from the cannibalizing.

            Whatever destruction that the old businesses caused, the businesses still existed, but now all there is is the waste.

        3. JBird

          So perhaps it’s not just private equity mining retail companies for their assets but also the commercial real estate business constantly creating strip malls that need to be filled. If you build it they will come?

          The problem started in the late 80s and slowly accelerated to the Retail Apocalypse that is now. There are vast wasteland of chain-stores interspersed with just wastelands of dead stores.

          Clothing, furniture, books (and how I miss them!), stationary, sports, guns, hobby, games, repair, shoes, restaurants, grocery, banks, anything really, especially specialty or true department stores are all getting harder to find except for national cheap chains, especially discount, like Dollar Store, pharmacies, check cashing, or the umpteen coffee shops within within a ten minute drive of me.

          Can’t get some decent pizza anymore, and almost all the bookstores are gone, and forget buying pants, but I have no problem getting overpriced coffee.

          So yes, there is too much retail of some things, but I am often forced to shop online, not because I want to, I just don’t have any choice. Unless I want coffee of course. This in the Bay Area, were if you are willing to travel, there are some choices left. Still, there is a hollowing out here too, where it is either cheap junk or overpriced (hopefully) not junk.

          1. Wukchumni

            There seems to be twice as many tattoo parlors as there are barber shops in the Central Valley.

            1. polecat

              Tats are the inker’s bomb !
              Do not delay, get one today, for tomorrow they’ll wrinkle and fade .

              And yes .. parlors seem to be popping up Everywhere ! …. Like mushrooms, but having a different kinda buzz.

          2. Carolinian

            Yes I think when Wolf says overbuilt with retail he means overbuilt where retail wants to build. Atlanta in the 80s/90s was the perfect retail lab with lots of rich suburbs (aka edge cities) and constant outward expansion. This trend may be fading now that the middle class is starting to run out of money.

            Here in my SC home town the city itself had to build a strip center on the poor side of town so the residents would have some place to buy groceries.

            1. JTMcPhee

              In St. Pete, fl, like in many cities for some reason, the South Side is where poor folks have been concentrated. There was a Winn-Dixie there, which got city payments and tax breaks as I recall to locate there and stay. Closed, by “corporate,”’leaving pretty much nothing but Quik Trip kinds of places selling crap for folks to get groceries and necessities. Meantime, the carpetbagger owners of the MLBTampa Bay Rays are, after long skullduggery, going to get their gift of a billion dollar stadium, which will boost their falsely named “equity” so they can get a nice payday soon, when they sell the franchise. Fokkers all.

              Nothing to see here

          3. Fiery Hunt

            It really is at core a problem with the Bay Area Real Estate asset bubble!
            Take heart JBird!
            I’m one of those old-school repair shops still fighting the good fight here in the East Bay… There’s still some real economy left here. Can’t afford a house or health insurance but still grinding away.

        4. Jerry B

          Thank you Carolinian— I agree with your point about the US being overbuilt with retail and the constant churn of new retail stores. Also the commercial real estate industrial complex creating strip malls that need to be filled! Most small towns now have a big box strip mall consisting of a PetCo, T.J. Maxx, Home Depot, Payless Shoes, etc. As you mention, the grocery/food industrial complex of too many grocery stores is another issue.

          That all being said I think you are missing important aspects of my post. First, the Younkers store in Sturgeon Bay, WI was the only “department store” in Door County and it carried a lot of decent quality merchandise. Now to buy the things that Younkers had people in Sturgeon Bay/Door County have to go to the local Target or WalMart and buy planned obsolescence crap. Yuck! Not to mention that thousands of people lost their jobs in the Bon Ton liquidation!!

          I am not sure what it was like in Atlanta, but in Northern cities and probably the East Coast as well there did not used to be “retail churn” but institutions like Carsons, Sears, Marshall Fields, etc. that had been anchors and had been in business for decades!! In the Frank Sinatra song “My Kind of Town” one of the lines was “State Street that great street!” It was great because of Carson Pirie Scott, Marshall Fields, and all the other great stores on State Street. Christmas time on State Street when I was a child in the 1960’s was wonderful with all the animated Christmas displays in the big department stores. Generations of people took their children to see the displays at Carsons and Marshall Fields. When I took my son to State Street in the late 1990’s it was not the same.

          Toys R Us was not just some retail chain but probably the last toy store. When my son was little we use to go to the local Toy’s R Us just to browse. (This was in the mid 1990’s before Toys R US turned into a “movie franchise” toy store). Where are kids supposed to check out toys now? Online??? You have to touch, hear, and play with some toys before you decide if you like it.

          Lastly as JT mentions, Sears. Growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s the local Sears was to most Americans what Younkers is to the people of Sturgeon Bay. Kenmore appliances, Die Hard batteries, Craftsman tools, and that catalog!!! One of my favorite memories of Christmas was waiting for the Sears Christmas catalog so I could browse the toys!! When my son was young the Sears Christmas catalog was gone but Toys R Us used to come out with a Christmas insert for the Sunday paper. Now What??

          As I mentioned Carolinian, your point about retail churn is valid but also we as a society have lost something. Call it a lack of permanence, a lack of commitment to a town or city, or something else but the loss of local long standing business “institutions” is and will be a loss for our social fabric.

          1. Carolinian

            The other night I watched a movie called Rampage where the Sears tower (now named something else?) is destroyed by movie monsters. Kind of says it all.

            Suburbanization and strip malls killed the downtowns and now in cities like mine a reverse trend, called the new urbanism, is taking place with one time department stores turned into condos and coffee bars. But the one thing that isn’t returning–to our downtown at least–is significant retail. We have a mall with a now closed Sears and a couple of higher end department stores still remaining. Presumably those who don’t want to buy their clothes at Walmart or Target will always need somewhere to go. But it does look like specialty stores such as Petsmart may be in trouble.

  8. Carla

    Re: the morning glories in the plantidote — those weren’t planted, they just came. The last time I planted morning glories was more than 25 years ago. They’ve been re-seeding ever since. Proves I’m not much of a weeder!

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      And if they come out clean, give them some advice:

      Feed Your Head!”

      (And even if they test positive, maybe the problem is not drugs per se but the wrong drugs.)

  9. DJG

    A Change Is Gonna Come: This is a sublime rendition. I listened to my other favorite of hers today, Doctor Feelgood (Love Is Serious Business).

    And from A Change Is Gonna Come:

    “it’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die, I might not be if I knew what was up there beyond the sky. It’s been a long time coming but I know my change has got to come.”

  10. clarky90

    Soliloquy of a Neo-Unperson.


    From Waking Life, a 2001 film, directed by Richard Linklater. (perhaps my favorite film)

    “You can’t fight city hall. Death and taxes. Don’t talk about politics
    or religion. This is all the equivalent of enemy propaganda rolling
    across the picket line. Lay down G.I.! Lay down G.I.!

    We saw it all through the 20th century, and now, in the 21st century, it’s time to
    stand up and realize that we should not allow ourselves to be crammed
    into this rat maze. We should not submit to de-humanization.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m concerned with what’s happening in this

  11. CitizenSissy

    PA-01 Resident here. PA Districts were recently redrawn to fix the more blatant gerrymandering excesses. Bucks and Northern Montco trend Republican, but my local election last year swept out anyone associated with an R. I suspect November will be close, but I find interesting Fitzpatrick’s recent ads make no mention of party affiliation.

  12. Wukchumni

    Our friends in search of the 50 largest living things in the world, are coming up to visit the upright members of our community, and us.

    They’ve found a few more accomplices seeking Sequoias. So, they’ll be in tow too, visiting #19, #23 & #30.

    It’s all off-trail and quite steep @ first, and you are rewarded with the Touchdown Jesus Tree, an unusual Sequoia of just average decent size @ say 10 feet wide @ eye level, but where it earns it’s name, is on account of a lightning strike taking out the main trunk, of which not a lot is left above 50 feet, and the brobdingnagian instead grew 2 ramrod straight 20 foot high ‘goal posts’ on ends of the lowest limbs extending 20 feet from the trunk & about 30 feet above the ground. One of these days I gotta bring a football.

    The Diamond Tree (#19) is a really special specimen with a marquise diamond fire scar about 50 feet up from the base on the trunk-earning it the sobriquet, and the tallest of the biggest Sequoias @ 286 feet, towering 12 feet higher than the Sherman Tree.

    Coastal redwoods are all about height, Giant Sequoias are all about girth. Basketball players versus sumo wrestlers.

    The AD Tree (#23) has a large burl about 30 feet up the tree, the dimensions of which are probably 10×10 feet wide. Quite the hickey.

    The Dean Tree (#30) is in a grove of bigguns’ and like the 2 aforementioned trees, all are 20 feet wide or larger @ eye level, and it seems as if they would stick out like a sore thumb, but not when most every other Sequoia is 15 feet wide. I’ve found it once, and have not found it twice, when searching on 3 occasions. I suspect it’s been hiding on me.


    1. a different chris

      Isn’t the world’s largest living thing some fungus in the Northwest, mostly underground of course? (yes I could google but too lazy)

      A little less inspiring than your trees, I would caution the seekers.

      1. Wukchumni

        I discount low lying usurpers as pretenders to the crown, not that there’s anything wrong with fungus getting it on en masse.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The largest living thing: Man’s ego.

      The second largest living thing: His greed.

  13. anon y'mouse

    i mentioned the parking issue in my long, boring posts on trucking.

    the ELD, although implemented to prevent drivers from falsifying logs and driving dangerously long hours, makes it so that many issues arise. one is that they absolute MUST stop when their available driving hours run out, wherever they may be, or risk sanctions and probably fines.

    another is that they are forced into driving for durations that don’t really take into account human variability in energy levels throughout the day. imagine driving for 11 hours straight, with one half hour break that you likely spent filling up gas tanks, washing your windows and inspecting for & completing minor repairs. many people do these kinds of things periodically as road trips, but that is for a limited amount of time and, unless one is pressed by a time requirement at the destination, you can take up or leave off driving wherever and whenever you need to and for whatever reason you might need to.

    the trucker is bound by the 11 hours, unless he breaks the time with 8hr sleep breaks (he literally has to record in his logs that he is in in the bunk, and then go & stay there. as any human being knows, refreshing oneself is not always a horizontal or sleeping activity. sometimes one can refresh with a walk, or some other activity). this inducement to drive for 11 hours can also lead to fatigue, and sometimes makes planning a trip more difficult than necessary (so many times, it seems that what would make the most sense given the terrain and routes, and traffic congestion is to drive for 5-6hrs, take a 3 hour refresher & perhaps get exercise, shower & meals and then drive another 5-6 hrs). then, when the driver needs to stop, there isn’t anywhere safe and legal to do so. he can run overtime just trying to find a spot.

    the issue also becomes a problem x2 when you team drive. one would think that in team driving, as in car road trips, the other driver can just take up where you leave off and you can switch around as necessary. but it ends up being a lot more like shift work with specified hours, while the other guy tries to rest in the back for 10 hours. i have read that NASA and other studies of humans who didn’t have to account for daylight hours or other demands in their schedules found that a 6 hour on/off cycle was what usually happened naturally over time. also, productivity studies have supposedly found the 6 hour peak productivity. you don’t really want people in charge of nearly 100k pounds speeding down highways we all use too much past that, without some significant break or siesta.

    1. Timmy

      I’ve noticed that many trucks are now going to the shoulder when they hit highway delays around NJ and then they start driving again when it clears. I guess there is a certain efficiency to this but it certainly seems like breaks are highly fragmented.

      1. anon y'mouse

        im sorry to say, but it is commonly discussed that the NJ/NY area is one in which NO trucker wants to be, or have to go. usually, people take it as a penance when a load has to go there.

        those bridges specifically designed to keep the riffraff from coming into town also prevents truckers. since many are not from NY, they can get very turned around and some have ended up in dangerous situations, requiring police escort off of ramps and areas where trucks are not supposed to go. i have no idea where a trucker would have to park in order to take a mandated break there.

        one imagines that a lot of these issues are caused simply by NY being a pre-automobile settled metropolis. that means that it was built at a human scale once-upon-a-time. which is another reason why public transit works so well there. perhaps the metro system should have designed local goods transports into it long ago (a kind of local, industrial/commercial rail). however that would work out, we need a real rail revitalization in this country to eliminate all but perishable goods (and maybe certain others, like medicines) being transported long-haul. maybe such a rail system could be both public owned and have lots of good, union jobs in it? ahh, dreaming again…

    2. Felix_47

      My Teamster days were 50 years ago. Amazingly, when I started all the training I got was a few sentences from the dispatcher warning me not to get in a situation where I had to back up until I got to my destination with 28 fully loaded pallets. I had driven bobtails a lot before that so the trailer part was new. At the warehouse there would be someone to guide me back to the loading dock. In those days you did not turn down work. It was OJT. It looks a lot more regulated now. From what I can tell the pay is a lot worse now. We got 45 dollars for pulling out of our warehouse as soon as we hit the street plus a certain amount for the load which we had to unload and a certain amount for each stop. The senior men wanted those assignments because they could get through pretty fast. When we were working by the hour it was somewhere around 7.50 per hour in 1966 with retirement and health benefits. Most of the guys had wives that did not have to work, nice cars and kids. We need Unions. We need picket lines. In those days no one ever crossed a picket line……ever. When the Teamsters struck the US shut down. When the Steelworkers or auto workers went on strike the Teamsters never crossed a picket line. Now it is all scab labor. It is so ingrained in me that even today I would never cross a picket line…..although I never see any. Truckers don’t need ELD…..they need Union solidarity.

      1. anon y'mouse

        my take on the ELD is that it is a (perhaps) good and useful idea being used to ratchet up inhuman demands on employees.

        somewhat like making school about testing, and then being arbitrary (and almost all of the standards the bigwigs apply are arbitrary) about what constitutes passing, and thus what (and who) failure is. you can change the parameters at any time, under any guise but usually “efficiency” is used with work systems, and “excellence” in schools. who could be against that? indeed, no one ever asks what those terms mean, but management is there to determine it for all of us.

        so, they make people adhere to machine-like systems, and then when they fail blame them and say “see, this is why we have to replace you all with machines. humans are too unpredictable, faulty, etc. and require too many assists to make them function properly”. this all ties into the efficiency mantra and the skills gap mantra. convenient!

        (as an aside, per stop payments as you described still exist. but only if it is a load where you are taking the same load to 5 different places in a day, and unloading a pallet or two at a time or similar. long haul trucking is generally one load to one place, and that is what i discuss. the long haul guys are getting extreme training under extreme conditions, and paying for it with their own physical and mental health, and at the cost of their social relations, and paying for the training themselves off their own hide, was my main point)

  14. fresno dan


    Nancy Altman: The truth about Social Security today is that it works extremely well. It is completely consistent with the founder’s vision and in fact, although some revisionist historians today say the founders wouldn’t recognize it, not only would FDR recognize it today but they’d be shocked that it wasn’t larger and didn’t include Medicare for All, or paid parental leave, or medical leave, because those are all aspects they envisioned.
    MarketWatch: What are the biggest misconceptions about Social Security?
    Altman: One huge misconception is that it is going bankrupt and it is unaffordable. Whether to expand Social Security or cut Social Security is a question of VALUES, not affordability.
    We run deficits because of defense spending year in and year out, and nobody squawks about that. Its a matter of POLITICS, not economics.
    Deficits don’t matter. Don’t trust me, trust Dick Cheney:
    You know, Paul (Paul O’Neill, Treasury Secretary) Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter. We won the mid-term elections, this is our due.

    Social security is endangered only because rich, stupid, greedy people have a lock on the government. It takes quite a conspiracy to put forward Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton as the best possible representatives of the American people…

    1. noonespecial

      Caught the following on CSPAN the other day. The director of the GAO, Eugene Louis Dodaro, spoke at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Conference. He offers some views on entitlements starting at around minute 42 of the video (watch until about minute 53). Basically, he concludes that the federal government needs to reduce spending on SS and other entitlements but not a word ref. your points on government largesse to the MIC.


    2. paul

      …and these ideas are purposely confused.

      That social security is always trumped by national security has been the neo/con/liberal triumph.

  15. fresno dan

    AND I was about to have a conniption about that ding dong that posted that there was no proof that 20 children died at Newtown, but I’m glad to see that skynet did its job and deleted the post….or was that a human ;)
    Just shows that the price of not dealing with whackos is eternal vigilence

  16. Wukchumni

    A couple of F-35 jets flew over our cabin in the NP the other day going east to west @ about 15,000 feet headed for Lemoore Naval Air Station more than likely. They were anything but stealthy as mountain canyons make for great amplifiers and we heard them well before we saw them, and the roar was that of a commercial jet taking off, albeit up high.

    What a boondoggle…

    1. fresno dan

      August 16, 2018 at 4:53 pm

      Usually in the spring at mid morning there are F-35’s flying over Fresno daily – haven’t seen or heard one in weeks now. Of course, I usually scamper back inside before 7am, lest I melt and not venture out again till the sun goes down.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      As Shakespeare would say, it’s the Elizabethan thing – righteous sound and fury, signifying nothing.

      1. Wukchumni

        Every for sale home gets staged, the realtor, buyer & seller only players. They have their exits & entrances.

        We seldom discuss the housing bubble on here, but it appears that the worm has turned and sales of used homes are on the downswing, the most important part of which is the ‘lack of wealth effect’, as people love to talk about how their domicile is doing when it’s going up in value, not so much going the other way.

        And whose administration did housing bubble part deux peak under?

        There’s potential November election ramifications if the downswing becomes a down swoon.

    1. Wukchumni

      Seems to be more of anti-semantics from the Republican Jewish Committee, not that there’s anything right with that.

  17. Eureka Springs

    I love you Aretha. Both albums among all time greatest music, Amazing Grace (live) and Live At Fillmore West playing all afternoon with goose pimples out here in hillbilly heaven.

  18. Wukchumni

    Pome-rania update:

    #$^%#%#% gophers!

    There, got it out of my system.

    The old guard of 5 years young apple trees can confidently carry dozens on their limbs, and these trees have 25-40 orbs:

    Rome Beauty
    King of Tomkins County
    Red Gravenstein
    Red Belle deBoskoop
    Sierra Beauty

    One rare tree has 3 apples on it, a Colorado Orange Apple.

    A little background:


  19. perpetualWAR

    Because of the primary elections and their results, I have a question to ask this community:

    In the King County elections, there are eighteen judiciary positions up for election, yet FIFTEEN of these positions are uncontested. Are other regions seeing the same thing?

    I was told, don’t know the truth, that judges are quietly instructed to resign before their term ends prior to retirement, then the executive branch can appoint the replacement. And upon election, ensure an uncontested seat. Truth? Anyone know?

  20. The Rev Kev

    “OPINION: Interpretation of airline ‘big data’ must be objective”

    You see the same type of thing again and again. I was going to say that through the judicious selection of a number of data points you could get a conclusion out of alignment with what the true situation is as seen in the example of sandwiches here. Upon reflection, if you were an exec, you could be doing this deliberately to boost yourself a bonus or two with would be justified in a minor boost in immediate profits – at the cost to the business itself in the long term.

  21. freedomny

    I’m a bit freaked out about this Catholic abuse thing……YIKES!!!!

    If I un-follow the Pope on Twitter….will I go to hell?

  22. ewmayer

    o “The biggest policy mistake of the last decade” [The Week] — Nothing about not only failing to prosecute the perps, but richly rewarding them at the expense of their victims? Or about the economically-stimulative effects of the government wiping away ‘odious debts’?

    o “Want Young People to Vote? Make Them Sign a Pledge.” [Governing] — Huh? How about nominating candidates who actually have some credible notions for fixing what ails the country, rather than proven-corrupt establishment-crony insiders?

    o The Bezzle: “Uber’s Losses Mount at Self-Driving Car Unit” [The Information] — Maybe what Uber really means by ‘self-driving’ is as in ‘ … us into bankruptcy’.

  23. XXYY

    Hugo developed a plan to beat his procrastination. He collected all of his clothes, removed them from his chambers, and locked them away. He was left with nothing to wear except a large shawl. Lacking any suitable clothing to go outdoors, Hugo was no longer tempted to leave the house and get distracted. Staying inside and writing was his only option.

    The famous mystery writer Raymond Chandler, who reportedly hated writing, used the following system:

    (1) He had to spend 3 hours in his study every day.
    (2) He didn’t have to write.
    (3) He couldn’t do anything else.

    In this way he would bore himself into writing.

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