2:00PM Water Cooler 8/9/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Hope Is Not a Plan: The Myth of American Manufacturing” [Industry Week]. “In building a case for an American manufacturing renaissance, economists cite increasing productivity, cheap natural gas, and rising value-added figures to show that manufacturing is in good shape and will get better. Some of these positivists [sic] also claim that rising labor costs in Asia and the creation of U.S. manufacturing jobs since 2010 are evidence of a big turnaround in manufacturing. There are also some mysterious predictions, shared without data to back them up, that manufacturing exports will grow and imports will shrink… [A]re these stories based on truth or are they just ‘happy talk’?” More: “Assessing manufacturing growth requires looking at 12 vital signs of manufacturing and how they are trending. Together, these signs make the case that American manufacturing is declining in terms of market share and employment but can be saved by policy changes.” • Notice especially the horrid figures on machine tools: “In 1965, U.S. machine tool builders were responsible for 28% of global production. By 1986, that share had declined to less than 10%. According to the 2016 Gardner Market Research survey, our share of the global machine tool market now stands at 5.8%.” If you ain’t got machine tools, you ain’t got nothing. There is also a list of policy recommendations, including infrastructure, but remarkably not including industrial policy. (Since tariff walls and industrial policies have lifted other Third World countries into the First World, it’s entirely natural that both policies, let alone their combination, are anathema to the political class.

“U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer may be his own worst enemy when it comes to getting a final NAFTA labor chapter that is acceptable to labor unions and congressional Democrats — a group the top trade official badly wants to secure” [Politico]. “U.S. trade negotiators, with help from labor and congressional offices, are now working to try to make the labor chapter fully enforceable, which is a top demand of labor unions. The challenge has been getting around Lighthizer’s insistence that the U.S. government shouldn’t be bound by any legal challenge brought under the dispute settlement provisions of the agreement. ‘They’re trying to figure out this clever way of basically how all the different parts of the agreement can be enforceable while still preserving the emergency brake of being able to stop a really egregious decision against the U.S.,’ said one source close to Lighthizer. ‘I don’t know how they are going to round that square.'” • Yes, that’s a good question: How to have a labor chapter that’s enforceable while simultaneously preserving U.S. sovereignty by abolishing ISDS.



“Mapping Democrats’ Path to 218: The Eight Types of Races That Will Decide the House” [Dave Wasserman, Cook Political Report]. “We’ve identified eight types of races that will decide the House’s fate. The battleground is wide and spans varied slices of America — from the professional suburbs of Minneapolis to, somewhat unexpectedly, the coalfields of southern West Virginia. Here’s a breakdown of what Democrats need (and what the GOP needs to prevent) in each of these eight ‘buckets’ to prevail.” Here is a handy map (interactive in the original article, which I recommend. Confusingly, “White Collar Wonderland” is a darkish grey almost indistiguishable from the lighter grey of districts not in play).

Speaking of those “White Collar Wonderlands”: “Democrats’ path to the majority depends on running up the score in elite, professional suburbs rapidly souring on the GOP in the Trump era.* Ten GOP incumbents are at risk in highly college-educated districts Clinton carried in 2016: places like Orange County, California, and suburbs of Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City.” • I like this granular approach because it avoids the triumphalist vacuity of “Blue Wave,” and makes it more clear what the Democrats have to do to win the House. At the same time, since it implies Democrats will double down on their professional base, and even become more conservative than they already are, the empty nature of a Democrat victory becomes clear; worse than 2006, where Pelosi immediately took impeachment off the table, because the country, after eight years of Obama, is in a lot worse shape than it was in 2006. • I reject the term “Trump Era,” because I think it’s based more on liberal ego-damage than analysis; there are far more continuities than differences between administrations going all the way back to the neoliberal turn; war, for example, and servicing the FIRE sector.

“What’s been under-reported is that Republicans won the vast majority of the 11 special elections for U.S. House and Senate seats held since the 2016 election” [RealClearPolitics]. “One of the races, in California’s 34th Congressional District, was won by a Democrat in an overwhelmingly Democratic district. In the remaining 10 special elections, where Republicans were defending seats, eight were won by Republicans.” • A Republican operative author, but Ballotpedia says 7 of 10, since they’re not yet counting OH-12.

FL Senate: “Russians have penetrated some Florida voter registration systems, Sen. Bill Nelson says” [Miami Herald]. “‘They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about,’ Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times before a campaign event in Tampa. He said something similar a day earlier in Tallahassee but declined to elaborate. ‘That’s classified,’ the Democrat said Tuesday.” • Oh. OK.

UPDATE NY-12: AOC on “how you gonna pay for it?” and #MedicareForAll:

AOC is good on “pay for.” However, at 1:00, she says that the reason the Supreme Court upheld ObamaCare is that the monthly payments are a tax. No. The mandate penalties are the tax.

OH-12: “Good news for Democrats after Ohio result – but warning signs too” [Guardian]. “First, the good news. Democrat Danny O’Connor lost by less than 1% in a district that Donald Trump carried by 11%. If other Democrats run just as well in their House races this fall, the Democrats will easily take control of the House… While high turnout among Democrats and anti-Trump former Republicans is good news for them, the disparity in turnout we saw last night between Democratic and Republican areas is unlikely to be so great in the fall. That’s because November’s election is a regularly scheduled vote for a slew of races, many of which are local and unconnected to Trump. Many reluctant Republicans will turn out to vote for these contests, and in doing so will likely cast unenthusiastic ballots for Republican candidates elsewhere. O’Connor could only come within one point with a strong turnout advantage… .Trump’s large margins in Ohio 12 came from former Democrats who switched parties to back the populist billionaire… But to manufacture a blue wave and really wipe out the Republicans they need to boost their appeal among rural, former Democrats. Do that and we could be looking at historic midterm gains for Team Blue.” • Lol no. Liberal Democrats would rather chew off their own hands than try to get flipped Obama voters back. And if a play like that was at all likely, we would need to see Pelosi and Schumer at least making some vague gestures toward issues like local manufacturing, or rural broadband, or opiods or — science fiction stuff, here — an actual drop in life expectancy in some of those heartland districts. Na ga happen. Dance with the one that brung ya!

UPDATE OH-12: “The Ohio 12th, the next big 2018 special election, explained” [Vox]. “‘I haven’t seen a [single-payer] proposal that’s gonna move the needle, whether it’s budgetarily or coverage-wise,’ [O’Connor] said. ‘I think voters here are more focused on protecting their access now, not the political jargon and all these catchphrases that have been poll-tested and are proposed by people in Washington, DC — which is what that is.’ • Hard to say whether O’Connor is stupid, ignorant, and/or lying. First, why on earth does he imagine that #MedicareForAll would make no difference, “coverage-wise”? It covers everybody! Second, #MedicareForAll is “proposed by people in Washington, DC”? Really? The activists who have been fighting for it for many years would beg to differ! (PNHP, for example, is located in Chicago; very far from K Street.)

“Democrat poised to snag House seat says it’s unlikely she’d pick Pelosi for speaker” [CNN]. “Asked on CNN’s ‘New Day’ Thursday morning whether she’d vote for Pelosi, Rashida Tlaib said, ‘probably not. I need someone that … is connected with, just the different levels of poverty that’s going on, the fact that there are structures and barriers for working families in my district that need to be dismantled,’ Tlaib added. ‘Supporting big banks and supporting efforts that I don’t think put the people first is troubling.'” • Centrists like Scott Moulton don’t like Pelosi either…

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Independents uneasy about taking cash, even from indie group” [Associated Press]. “Hoping to capitalize on voter frustration over growing polarization in politics, a group fueled partly by so-called “dark money” plans to spend $3 million this year to elect independents. But some free-spirited lawmakers are declining their help. Unite America [here], formerly known as the Centrist Project [ugh], is endorsing and providing polling for independent gubernatorial and legislative candidates across the country. It’s time state legislatures and governor’s mansions reflect the increasing proportion of U.S. citizens identifying as independents, said the group’s spokesman, Nick Troiano. Polls suggest about four in 10 U.S. adults identify as independent; in 2000, fewer than three in 10 did so. “Independents are independents because they won’t want to be told what to do or what to think,” he said. But some independents are reluctant to accept the support because they distrust influence by any outside, special interest group. They’re also leery of dark money — contributions from groups such as nonprofits that don’t have to disclose their donors under federal law.” • And so they ought to be. (Unite America is not, apparently, Serve America, the “party” supporting Stephanie Miner in the New York Governor’s race. Although with dark money it’s hard to tell.)

“An Opportunity to Make Every Vote Count” [Governing]. “Placing voters in their appropriate precincts, districts and wards is a critical part of election administration, and errors are not limited to Virginia. Reports of misassigned voters in Ohio and Georgia surfaced in this year’s primary election cycle, and in South Carolina in a special election…. The good news is that there are solutions. Geographic information systems provide a more accurate way not only to draw district lines but also to place voters within their proper voting precincts and districts. Most of the governing bodies drawing district lines do so using GIS, but then in most cases share the converted district information to election officials in textual representations, called metes and bounds, which require the manual placement of voters. That often is the cause of these later-discovered inaccuracies.” • Thinking in Jackpot terms… .Can we say that anything digital is, by definition, not resilient?

“Insider Baseball” [Joan Didion, New York Review of Books]. From 1998. Well worth a read; Didion describes the great liberal Democrat debacle before the Clinton campaign, and before the Gore campaign, when the Democrat Establishment managed to stuff Jesse Jackson back into his box and marginalize his politicies, voters, and strategic approach. I still remember Jackson’s “They work every day” speech. You don’t hear much like that from today’s liberal Democrats, and when they try to fake it, it’s embarassing.

“Nudge, not sludge” [Richard Thaler, Science]. “Cass Sunstein and I published a book called Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness that offered a simple idea. By improving the environment in which people choose—what we call the ‘choice architecture’—they can make wiser choices without restricting any options.” • Liberals loved “nudging” because it allowed them to leave markets alone, while letting professionals — the “choice architects” — manipulate everybody else. Well, surprise: “Yet, the same techniques for nudging can be used for less benevolent purposes, [called sludge]. Sludge can take two forms. It can discourage behavior that is in a person’s best interest such as claiming a rebate or tax credit, and it can encourage self-defeating behavior such as investing in a deal that is too good to be true.” • So, nudge theory has a phishing equilibrium. Who knew? Oddly, or not, “Nobelist’ Thaler writes a an entire article on “sludge,” while managing to ignore the dopamine loops created on social media by giant Silicon Valley monopolies.

Stats Watch

Wholesale Trade, June 2018: “Wholesale inventories inched up… yet still beat the Econoday consensus expecting a flat reading” [Econoday]. “[T]he stock-to-sales ratio moved up a notch to 1.25. But sales continue to outpace inventories by a large margin year-on-year,” And but: [T]he rolling averages tell the real story – and they improved this month. The short term trends are mixed – with the long term trends showing an improving cycle beginning in 2016″ [Econintersect]. “Inventory levels this month are are the high side of normal – but not recessionary. To add to the confusion, year-over-year employment changes and sales growth do not match.”

Producer Price Index (Final Demand) ,July 2018: “Wholesale inflation pressures were surprisingly subdued in July, with producer prices for final demand remaining unchanged” [Econoday]. “Lastly, personal consumption prices, which some analysts regard as a preview of the CPI… were down.”

Jobless Claims, week of August 4, 2018: “Continuing strength is evident from today’s jobless claims data” [Econoday]. And: “This was lower than the consensus forecast. The low level of claims suggest few layoffs” [Calculated Risk].

Shipping: “Women make better drivers than men so why aren’t there more during a capacity crunch?” [Freight Waves]. “Yet even during a time of historically-challenging capacity crunch issues, women drivers have still only marginally crept up in driving employment. In recent findings, the percentage of female drivers has increased only marginally from 7.13% in 2016 to 7.89% by the end of 2017…. Without exception, insurance companies have concluded that men are more likely to cause wrecks than women…. ‘They think it’s male-dominated; it is male-dominated, but they think that they’re not welcome, they’re not valued, and they think they can’t do the job’ [says Ellen Voie.] ‘They say things like, ‘Well, I’m not mechanically-minded, or I’m not big and burly.’ So they talk themselves out of it without even understanding that the industry has changed, and they can do the job and they are valued. As much as anything it’s a perception problem. At 8% of women currently in trucking it’s as high as it’s ever been. So, it’s something of a historical problem as well.'”

Shipping: “Demand for logistics services in China is growing as consumption rises and factory activity ticks up. Manbang, also known as Full Truck Alliance Group, matches truck drivers with shippers looking to move cargo, and offers services such as stored value toll cards. Now it’s planning to expand into autonomous trucking, and is in talks with U.S. investors for a funding round that would value the startup at $10 billion” [Wall Street Journal]. • I remember a Chinese friend of mine once commented that white-painted crosswalks on the streets meant that the West placed a high value on human life. This was some decades ago, but my guess is that an AI trained with a China dataset would have issues in the United States (which nobody would know how to fix, since AI’s are completely opaque).

Shipping: “Uber poised to double investment in freight unit after making it independent” [DC Velocity]. “Uber Technologies Inc.’s decision to operate its freight brokerage division, UberFreight, as a stand-alone business unit is part of a strategy to double the parent’s investment in the new unit over the next year, the ride-hailing company said. Under the restructuring, which was announced late yesterday, San Francisco-based Uber Freight will no longer be part of the parent’s Advanced Technologies Group. In addition, Uber will close a deal to buy Otto Trucking, one of the two units that had been controlled by Otto, a company that Uber acquired in August 2016 for a reported $680 million…. The parent is still targeting next year for its long-awaited IPO, which is expected to be one of the largest in U.S. history.” • Not expected by everyone….

Shipping: “Alphaliner predicts idled box fleet to more than double by end of the year” [Splash 247]. “Box watchers at Alphaliner are predicting the idle container fleet will more than double between now and the end of the year. Alphaliner suggests the idle fleet could grow from the current 341,000 teu to hit 750,000 teu by the end of 2018. The analysts said the leap in idled tonnage was down to the reduction of the active fleet as the slack season approaches, coupled with the delivery of new-built tonnage and the low number of vessels scrapped.” • So, seasonality and overbuilding, not tariffs.

Retail: “As Crocs Closes Factories, Who Will Make Its Shoes?” [Wall Street 247]. “Crocs Inc. (NASDAQ: CROX), the maker of odd, casual shoes, posted reasonable earnings. It also said it would shutter all of its manufacturing operations. What it did not say is where its products will be made in the future…. Crocs probably has no legal requirement to tell investors more. However, its silence is another example of how public corporations make important plans and shield the specifics of those plans from shareholders.”

The Bezzle: “The World’s Largest Cybercrime Empire” [Safe Haven]. “[T]he latest and biggest hacking ring to be busted (sort of) is run by regular Ukrainian guys and employs sophisticated state-sponsored techniques, primarily targeting American businesses and companies… Meet the Fin7 hacking Group, the most costly cybercrime ring in town. The group has earned its stripes as one of the most sophisticated and aggressive hacking organizations in the world, alleged to have leeched a billion dollars from companies in America and around the world. Fin 7, aka Carbanak Group, has stolen more than 15,000 credit card data-sets from at least 3,600 businesses around the world in its years-long operation. The DoJ has already indicted three Ukrainian nationals for their involvement and charged them with 26 counts of felony each, including conspiracy, hacking and wire fraud.” • And I thought Ukraine was our friend…

The Bezzle: “YouTube is about to pass Facebook as the second biggest website in US, according to new study” [CNBC]. “Facebook has seen a severe decline in monthly page visits, from 8.5 billion to 4.7 billion in the last two years, according to [a new study shared with CNBC by market research firm SimilarWeb]…. YouTube, which is owned by Google parent Alphabet, has seen increased traffic, the study said.” • If Facebook users are going to YouTube (as opposed to WhatsApp and Instagram), they’re leaving one toxic social media environment for an even more toxic one.

The Bezzle: “Facebook Is Shedding Massive Traffic and It’s Apparently Flocking to YouTube” [247 Wall Street]. “Google trouncing Facebook is a bit ironic, considering it was Google’s attempt at a feed-based social network (Google+) that ended up falling flat when it turned out Google already owned a social winner this whole time in the form of YouTube.”

The Bezzle: “Who in the world will fund Elon Musk’s bid to take Tesla private?” [Quartz]. ” A handful of global companies have more than $50 billion in cash and other ready resources on their balance sheets, which could be put to use buying up Tesla’s shares. Only 11 fit the bill, according to data from research platform Sentieo.” Alphabet, Apple, Berkshire, China, Cisco, Citic Securities, Daiwa, Goldman, Microsoft, Oracle, and Toyota. More: “If these companies don’t step up, there are a few financial firms and sovereign wealth funds able to write checks of sufficient size. SoftBank and its Vision Fund, two of the largest sources of private cash out there at the moment, have been named (and dismissed) as possibilities, while sovereign funds such as Saudi Arabia’s certainly have the cash.” • Or syndicates…

Tech: “Organic flow battery can operate for decades” [EE News Europe]. “‘We designed and built a new organic compound that can store electrical energy and also has a very long life before it decomposes,’ said Roy Gordon, Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science [at Harvard]. ‘We discovered degradation processes of the molecules that we previously used in flow batteries. Then we created new, more stable molecules that avoid these problems.'”

Fodder for the Bulls: “Leading Index for Commercial Real Estate Increases in July” [Calculated Risk]. “The Dodge Momentum Index moved 1.4% higher in July… According to Dodge, this index leads “construction spending for nonresidential buildings by a full year”. This suggests further growth into 2019.” • As opposed to copper prices, which are “Honey for the Bears.”


“First “Photos” of Ocean Carbon Molecules Hold Clues to Future Warming” [Scientific American]. ” Earth’s oceans are littered with the carcasses of tiny life-forms called phytoplankton that in life form the basis of the marine food chain. These microscopic ghosts contain a reservoir of carbon estimated at a staggering 662 gigatons—200 times greater than the amount stored in all living plants and animals—that could come back to haunt us if unleashed from its watery grave as planet-warming carbon dioxide…. An international team of scientists has now taken the first “photographs” of these molecules in an effort to start parsing that out. This first glimpse suggests that while a catastrophic breakdown and release of carbon seems unlikely, there is much left to understand about the behavior of oceanic carbon.” • Unbad news!

Class Warfare

“Tech Workers and Flight Attendants Resist Immigrant Family Separation” [Labor Notes]. “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) don’t operate in a vacuum. They depend on a host of products and services—including technology produced by software engineers and travel assisted by flight attendants.” • Note this is an assault on a fragile supply chain (as detailed here). We can think of ICE and CBP as particularly brutal and not very competent intermediaries.

“Rural Gains Jobs Slowly While New Employment Clusters in Cities” [Daily Yonder]. “More than four out of 10 rural counties lost jobs in the past year, according to a Daily Yonder analysis of federal data. In contrast, only 14 percent of urban counties saw a decline in jobs from June 2017 to June 2018. The jobs survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been telling the same story for the past several years: Employment is concentrating in the nation’s urban centers as rural America sees its share of jobs diminish. The nation added over 2.1 million jobs in the last year. Two-thirds of those jobs were found in the urban areas with a million or more people.” • If liberal Democrats cared enough to fake it, we’d at least see the leadership tweeting about training programs, or something…

News of The Wired

Essay of the day: The rise of the data oligarchs” [P2P Foundation]. • Useful report on, among other thigs, the GPDR.

“Warm-Blooded Plants” [Damn Interesting]. “Thermogenesis is rare in plants, but does occur in several species of Arum, and in the philodendron, as well as the skunk cabbage. The heat generation of these thermogenic plants is not trivial, either. Recent measurements of the titan arum “Ted”, at UC Davis, showed the inflorescence— the flower-like structure of the arum— could maintain a temperature of 32 degrees Centigrade (90 F), well above the surrounding air temperature of 20 C (68 F). The skunk cabbage can do even better, maintaining temperatures as high as 35 C, even when the air temperature is below freezing.” • Not new, but still interesting!

News you can use:

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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 (ChiGal):

ChiGal: “Plumbago: the definition of summer, refreshing just to look at and doesn’t mind the heat, being native to South Africa.”

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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. Amfortas the Hippie

      regarding the Cook’s Report.
      I noticed on that map that just to my west is something they call a “melting pot republican” district(Will Hurd).
      Of course, I’m familiar with the Melting Pot vs Salad Bowl analogy(chef’s tip: soup and salad go together), but I couldn’t find an actual definition. Cook’s doesn’t themselves seem to define it, and crapagoogle get’s you a few pages of stuff older than 2015.
      It interests me, since I’m in the proverbial belly of the beast, here in rural central Texas, and I’ve known forever that the Right, and/or the GOP(IOW by the broadest definition) is anything but monolithic, in spite of their herd-like voting habits.
      where I live, I suspect that many of the people I see when I go to town could be put into a “melting pot republican” category, if we’re talking about more or less accepting the presence in one’s community of hispanics and gay people and whatnot…ie, not donning sheets at the slightest provocation, as the demparty circles I lurk in tend to define All Repubs..
      It’s neither here nor there, probably, since my District (Texas 11th-Mike Conaway, Lil George’s Consiglieri) is unlikely to go blue, but it might be of some use to have a better understanding of all these lumpy categories.

    2. Larry Y

      Internet Society hosts the live streams and recordings from the Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) XII conference. I attended it in person, at Hotel Pennsylvania.

      Here’s a list of the talks: https://hope.net/schedule.html – my favorite was the one on Right to Repair.

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      Nice article/essay. Thank you!

      Reminds me of an all-hands meeting at one of the technology companies I used to work for. The CEO got in front of the workforce and declared that all the rumors of the company having problems were unfounded vicious lies. Layoffs began two weeks later. He was among those let go, only his separation package was quite golden. A friend reported more disturbing events at a telecom company headed by “Nacho Joe”.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I think today’s World Elites might be wise to engage purely robotic domestic help and security. I have trouble imagining how they would otherwise avoid becoming prey to their own help. How did the Roman Elites manage? I also have trouble viewing the coming Fall of our own society as analogous to the Fall of Rome. Rome did not Fall into a world so bereft and shifting into manifold catastrophes. Rome’s population was no where near so large as today’s population and there is no evidence for a Byzantium that might carry on after the Fall of the Western Empire. Will the farm communities of New Zealand welcome their new lords with their manors after the Fall? I don’t see why. The actions of the World Elites are similar to the actions of the Roman Elites but I doubt that similarity will hold for the final outcome of their actions.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        the Roman Elite maintained loyalty and avoided being eaten, by having their Latifundia in the first place. Islands of civilisation(and food) in a sea of emergent barbarism(Greek usage).
        the Villa, etc was the place to be…replaced after a time, by Manors of the new elites(those Barbarians) and the Monasteries.
        They were also very different people than we are, as far as self-image, what they thought was important, sense of duty, etc, etc). I wonder, too, if today’s elites wouldn’t be better served by robots without families….but that contains it’s own problems(lack of donors for Blood of Youth Transfusions, etc)
        There’s a word for the perceived difference in speed between those times and now, but I can’t remember it, offhand.
        Nevertheless, things appear to move much faster, today.
        Maybe China is our Byzantium/Eastern Roman Empire(or, as they called it, “The Roman Empire”). I just spent a couple of days remedying my lack of knowledge about China by wandering from blue link to blue link on Wikipedia. Still haven’t digested it, yet, but combined with that Economist special issue about their New State Capitalism from a few years ago, I think they might be. (given necessary minimum climate disruption, energy supply disruptions, etc)
        as far as the utility of such comparisons, just read Gibbons…or Tacitus, for that matter.
        The similarities are glaring, if inexact.

        1. barefoot charley

          I recently finally spent time in Rome. I’m a lifelong history nerd yet I was dazed by the obvious historical ‘rhymes’ between ancient Rome and USAUSA. Grotesque wealth spent because bigger is better; huge amphitheaters for rewarding bloodlust and idleness; cruelty against ‘the other’ so routine as to be hard to notice; class-rotten state and state religion, with waves of spiritual fads and brazen borrowings promising deeper meaning; armies organized around their own gain; bread, circuses and sex. I was kinda horrified.

            1. Procopius

              Private fire fighting companies was Marcus Licinius Crassus, Caesar and Pompey’s partner in the first truimvirate. Richest man in the Republic. Not successful as a soldier.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Not sure about the Publius Quinctilius Varus CT. I think it’s sufficient that Varus was betrayed by a comprador, one of the locals, which is what Mike Duncan says; a familiar, imperial structure. No need to introduce complicated plots back in Rome.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        Yup. Arminius(a german ally of rome) betrayed Varus.
        Varus killed himself out of shame once he realised all was lost.
        the ambush was in a dense swamp, where the Legions couldn’t use their otherwise superior tactics, but where the germans were comfortable.
        I haven’t paid such granular attention to the order of battle in all our current wars to think of an analog.
        Give it time, I guess.
        The best analogs so far are sociopolitical, rather than military.
        (esp. from Theodosius, on.)

        1. The Rev Kev

          If you are looking for an analog to the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, I would go with the British retreat from Kabul in 1842 during the First Afghan War. Out of a force of 16,000 people, only one doctor and a few sepoys made it back. More on this at-


          Would you believe that we now know the site of the Battle of Teutoburg Forest? There is a museum there now and you can see it at http://www.kalkriese-varusschlacht.de/en/museum/

          1. Amfortas the Hippie

            aye. US defeats have tended to be rather diffuse…more of a process than an event.
            Tet was bubbling in my mind when I wrote the above, but it doesn’t really fit, either.
            Maybe the whole “process” of the Vietnam Thing is the analog.
            Timing is apt…Varus was, after all, at the beginning of the actual (as in Out of the Closet)Empire.
            (And I am insanely jealous of folks who get to travel to those places…I cajole people I know who travel abroad to bring me rocks and sand.)

  1. flora

    . I still remember Jackson’s “They work every day” speech. You don’t hear much like that from today’s liberal Democrats, and when they try to fake it, it’s embarassing.

    And that, I posit, is the reason the Dem liberal estab – party of the “smart people” – cannot counter bad conservative ideas with better liberal ideas; because they sold out those ideas long ago in the quest for money. Instead, they counter with demands to silence ideas the liberal estab does not like.

    1. Shane Mage

      I was definitively and eternally finished with Jesse Jackson when I saw and heard him say “I am the General in the Wear On Drugs”

      1. flora

        I was pointing to the fact that New Deal language is no longer spoken with conviction by the neoliberal Dem estab and the reason why it is no longer spoken with conviction; I was not pointing to the rise or fall of a particular politician.

  2. dcblogger

    on what planet is the Eastern Shore of Virginia part of the bellwether suburbs?????
    and Cook is a Democrat in the same sense that Guizot was a liberal.
    and strategy for this midterm has more to do with Indivisible, Justice Democrats, Progressive Democrats of America et al than the DNC/DSCC/DCCC axis of cluelessness.

    1. Carey

      Countering the broken record: DNC/DSCC/DCCC are not clueless; they are malevolent.

      They know exactly what they’re doing.

        1. Richard

          Yeah, but in this case, naw….
          Any cluelessness you see is perfectly operational
          The “not working” works exactly how it’s supposed to
          to achieve the end of a “people’s party” that is forbidden from helping the people, imho.

  3. Watt4Bob

    Back in the early 1980s I made a delivery to a very large warehouse that was full of machine tools, row upon row of Bridgeport vertical milling machines, lathes, surface grinders and every other kind of tool-making equipment, I’m talking rows that were blocks long.

    When I asked the guy I delivered the package to, what he was doing with all the machine tools, he said they were on the way to China.

    When I told my father, who was manager of the tool making department where he worked, about the scene, he explained it was worse than I imagined, he said those tools were being sold at scrap prices.

    There is a phenomenon called economic hysteresis, which explains the fact that in many cases the damage done to the economy is such that it can’t be undone easily, in the case of manufacturing, selling your tool-making equipment and outsourcing the jobs that go with them precludes returning to the business because the people who used to run those machines have aged out of the labor force, or their skills have declined. On top of that, when you sold the tools, you quit training younger workers, so there are not a lot of people with the necessary skills even if you wanted to hire them and return to business.

    Add to the irreversible damage already done, there are now reports of factories closing due to the impact of tariffs recently imposed on the component parts imported from other countries, most notably China.

    Much of what Trump would have us accept as ‘manufacturing jobs’ actually involve simply assembling inexpensive parts made somewhere else, often operating on a tight margin that cannot withstand the increased price of foreign-made parts due to tariffs.

    Folks just like Trump, scrapped our manufacturing capacity, and the good-paying jobs, and wide-spread prosperity that went with it, chasing short-term gain for themselves.

    There will be no American manufacturing ‘renaissance’ because we lack the tools, and even if we decided to buy new ones, we’ve quit investing in the sort of training necessary to use them.

    1. clarky90

      “the irreversible damage already done”.

      Germany and Japan did very well as manufacturers, as a result of being flattened during WW2. Starting from scratch could work out well for the USA as a future manufacturing powerhouse. People, particularly men, love to make things!

      “Death and rebirth” is a key to life. (also the crux of Christianity)

      Apoptosis (from Ancient Greek ἀπόπτωσις “falling off”) is a form of programmed cell death that occurs in multicellular organisms. Biochemical events lead to characteristic cell changes (morphology) and death…..”


      Cells that grow and grow and grow, and do not die, are cancer itself.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Yes the damage is not irreversible. But the rebuilding of Germany and Japan did not just happen like a Phoenix springing forth from the flames. However comparing of the utter destruction of German and Japanese manufacturing in WWII seems an apt analogy to the destruction of American manufacturing. Where should America look for its Marshall Plan in this Neoliberal world?

        1. Tomonthebeach

          Also, keep in mind that both countries, Germany especially, have education programs aimed at providing turnkey new employees for the tool and dye biz. The US has relatively nothing that compares. Plants grow only if you water and fertilize regularly.

          1. RUKidding

            Nicely put.

            Team USA – or our elites – has done everything possible to break our once fine and world-class education system and dumb down the populace.

            Who’s being trained to work in and run these plants?

          2. Oregoncharles

            CULTIVATED plants need water and fertilizer; most plants do not.

            That might be a metaphor; I’m not quite sure.

            I believe Germany still has a machine-tool industry; we could get them from there. Of course, that’s because they have an industrial policy.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        That’s encouraging.

        Where there is a will (manufacturing renaissance – is Trump the only politician in the last few decades to focus the national attention on that?), there is a way.

        “We are short on imported parts? What to do?” – Did China go through that same phase too, in the 80s’ and 90s?

        Perhaps China as the Rome of manufacturing was not built in a day.

      3. Watt4Bob

        I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m saying it isn’t as easy as waving your hand and making loud promises.

        If Trump was being honest, he’d have to say something like the democrats do, “I’ll fight for an American manufacturing renaissance.”

        Meaning the same thing the democrats do when they talk the same way, which is, don’t hold your breath.

        America could certainly regain some semblance of a manufacturing renaissance, with a massive commitment, and in about two generations.

      4. Darthbobber

        Germany and Japan also had former enemies willing to not only cooperate with, but actively encourage and help finance the redevelopment of their industrial base. I somehow doubt that anybody but some Americans sees the revival of our manufacturing sector as so linked to their “national security” that they find it in their self-interest to do such a thing.

        1. RUKidding

          Exactly. Europe, including Germany, benefited from the Marshall Plan. My history knowledge is hazy, so I’m not sure what aid was provided to Japan, but I believe we helped them out as well. I still objects/toys from my childhood with “Made in Japan” labels on them.

          Who is going to come to our aid to help us build up our manufacturing base and infrastructure?? I can certainly assure that your own “elites” could give a stuff and won’t do it. That’s for sure.

          And with Trump being rude to just about everyone in sight, well….

        2. Jean

          Yeah, like Germany and Japan, it’s not likely that the Commies could possibly win elections here, only being forestalled by lots of high paying, high skill jobs.

        3. Procopius

          I remember the complaints about the Marshall Plan, “sending our money overseas to our [former] enemies.” The truth was the plan reinvigorated American industry after the Depression and War. The money had to be used to buy stuff from American suppliers, it wasn’t spent in Europe. George Catlett Marshall was one of the great geniuses of all time, and we are not likely to see his equal again.

      5. Chris

        Way back when I knew a guy who’d worked as a printer in the UK in the 50s. He explained why German printeries were able to outcompete their UK rivals for high quality work at the right price.

        In the late 40s British industry raided German manufacturies (including printeries), taking the machinery as ‘spoils of war’. German printeries had to re-equip from the ground up. After a few years, the Germans were all using brand new state of the art Heidelberg presses, while the Brits muddled along with ageing kit from the 20s and 30s.

  4. clarky90

    “In holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”

    President Eisenhower Farewell Speech 1961

    Ike was the POTUS when I was a child. He was a wise man. He is, of course, best known as a real (fighting), US Army General. His dire experiences during WW2, possibly imparted prescience?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The bad guys with better science will enslave and kill good guys with not as good science.

      Thus, we must study science…a rather poor reason, but necessary.

      The other option is some sort of non-proliferation treaty.

      “You and me promise neither of us will not conduct research to invent more powerful weapon.s”

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      The MIC stands tall but it hardly seems like a “scientific-technological elite” at this juncture. Control over Education and Science has shifted into the hands of a Neoliberal Corporate Elite. Even the MIC does not seem as it once was. I believe Avarice wars with Lust for Global Power within the MIC. I believe that might explain some of the MIC’s actions which little serve a growth in Global Power while lining many pockets and serving the interests of factions within the Neoliberal Corporate Elite.

  5. Oregoncharles

    “Shipping: “Women make better drivers than men so why aren’t there more during a capacity crunch?” ”

    The implication is that women aren’t even applying. While the reasons given make a certain amount of sense, I’d look for something more basic: what about the job is unappealing to women? I can only speculate, but an obvious candidate is that they’re like sailors: away from home for days at a time. That won’t appeal to women who have children or plan to. (There are a significant number of couple teams.) Is there a similar disproportion among local delivery drivers? Another consideration would be personal safety. The quote also doesn’t mention outright workplace hostility – though that’s been overcome in other contexts.

    1. Arizona Slim

      One of my Tucson acquaintances was a trucker. She also worked in logistics during the waning days of the Alaska pipeline construction.

      Her secret to success? Be @#$%^ good at your job. And don’t take #&(# offa nobody.

      She has one child, who was born after her trucking and logistics careers. He’s 29 years old, and is a very thoughtful young man. Heck, I went so far as asking Mom if she’s ever pestered him for his autograph.

      So, there you have it. Change at the ground level.

      1. Carolinian

        There ‘s a pretty good movie about a woman trucker with Michelle Monaghan called, originally enough, Trucker. Her life on the road and in interchangeable truck stops becomes a moviemaker expression of anomie. Good perfs. Your hard boiled friend sounds like the character in the film.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Women make better drivers than men.


      Some men might not be able to take that. But if that is what it is, it is what it is.

      We – all genders – have to accept reality.

      And we can also list the other areas where women are better than men.

      And also (maybe) some activities that men are better than women (though this could be just one man deluding himself…the answer is none!!!!!!!!).

    3. Darthbobber

      I’ve known two women who worked long-haul trucking. They both married men in the same line, and worked partners (IE, both living in the truck more time than not.) In both cases, the arrival of the babies brought an end to that career phase, and when the kids were old enough for going back to that to be an option, the forced nomadism had lost the appeal it had had when younger.

      (In both cases, the guy also got work that allowed more time at home within a few years.)

  6. Arizona Slim

    Quoting Lambert:

    “If Facebook users are going to YouTube (as opposed to WhatsApp and Instagram), they’re leaving one toxic social media environment for an even more toxic one.”

    To which I say:

    Ya gotta point there, Lambert. The YouTube commentariat is the nastiest I’ve ever seen on the Internet. Name calling. Straw manning. And worse.

    Despite the nasties, I still comment on YouTube videos. I try to keep things positive, if not humorous.

    As for the videos themselves, many of them are quite helpful. Case in point: I’m working on improving my photography skills. Thanks to all of those YouTube togs with helpful channels, I am making progress.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      youtube has always been the nastiest. worse, even than david horowitz’ various intertube slums(in order to know one’s enemy, lurk)
      but it has value, nevertheless., for at least the reasons you stated(I had no clue what to do with prolly 60% of the tools i inherited).
      I’d also add the current underground music revolution going on, there…wherein all manner of musicians are bypassing the record companies and servicing their followings online, while making their money touring small venues and the million little festivals that seem to have sprung up when I wasn’t looking.

    2. Lemmy Caution

      If you treat YouTube as an excellent “How To” resource it is invaluable. I still wade into the comments to see contrasting views on to do something and for useful links to other YouTube videos covering the same topic. Sure, there are some odious types in there, but their foul attitude is their problem, not mine.

      For my purposes, YouTube is actually quite remarkable. For example, recently I was able to find a video of someone demonstrating how to reprogram all of the settings on a water softener. Not just any water softener, mind you — no, the exact make and model as my own. Took me 3 minutes, as opposed to setting up an appointment for a Tech to come out and waiting half a day.

      1. dcblogger

        I learned how to do videos from YouTube and a bunch of other open source software. as for comments, it depends upon what section of youtube you look at. music, period drama, historical documentaries and puppy videos seem to be ok.

        1. barefoot charley

          The classical YouTubes I’ve enjoyed had almost monotonously lyrical comments, often thousands. I wondered, do professionals nowadays employ positivity-trolls?

      2. Bridget

        I didn’t even know that YouTube had comments! And I use YouTube frequently, mainly in order to learn how to fix stuff. All kinds of stuff. Pretty much everything ever made has a YouTube video on how to fix it. But I’ve never read a YouTube comment. Weird.

        1. Oregoncharles

          We sometimes read them for background information. My son says he sees nasty ones occasionally, but not like news, where they’re more like 90%.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yes, I use short technical and educational videos a lot (in addition to lot of Thomas Frank).

      But the comments! Useless at the very best. Perhaps a video culture simply isn’t conducive to writing? Or community building?

  7. Polar Donkey

    If Democrats don’t take the House, will that be enough to dump Pelosi? How much failure is enough failure. Same for Schumer in the Senate.

    1. Big River Bandido

      If Democrats don’t take the House, will that be enough to dump Pelosi?

      You’ll have to ask Pelosi and Schumer’s constituents at Citibank. They’re the ones who chose them, and they’re the only ones who can dump them.

    2. Darthbobber

      If throwing Pelosi as an individual under the bus looks like it might suffice to pacify those seeking more fundamental change, then yes. She’s more expendable than the grift as a whole.

  8. Annieb

    Testing positive for opium/morphine after eating a poppy seed muffin is a real event. It happened to me 20 years ago duiring a routine job screening. Pass this on please to any pregnant women you know!

      1. todde

        because you can lose your kid if you test positive at the baby’s birth as recently happended

        1. Oregoncharles

          And why are they running a test like that on women giving birth – without permission?

          1. steve

            Because that is who they are. Alabama has mandatory testing at delivery, test positive and your life is hell and you loose your child. Traveling out of state for a Caesarean section is a thing now.

              1. JBird

                Totalitarianism at its finest.

                Worse really. Many of the drug tests, parole “monitoring,” counseling sessions, jails, prisons, and so on, are done by politically connected businesses, sometimes, as like in Florida, done by businesses owned, or run, or invested in, by politicians’ relatives, if not themselves.

                I am reminded of the field drug “test” kits used by the police that often have little better chance than flipping a coin at being accurate, or of the breathalyzers which need to be maintained and often aren’t, or of some of the drug sniffing dogs that have a problem with accuracy. Granted, it does depend somewhat on the particular police department because some are serious about doing a good job. Some are, but many, many are not. One might think that this is a feature especially with civil asset forfeitures or convictions for drug use, and drunken driving. Actual guilt often does not matter, just its mirage, and for not pleading guilty

                Rather like how half of police homicides went unrecorded in the office FBI statistics because many (most?) often either only reported a few or reported none, of their police homicides to the FBI as required by law. However, any police deaths are meticulously recorded.

                All of this is particular bad in the South, but that is only by severity as it is prevalent in every single state.

                I do not know anything about Alabama’s apparently mendacious drug testing. If they are using a testing standard that is too low, and been know to be so for over twenty years, then the goal is not to catch drug users. However, using it to feed people into the maw of the criminal justice system it works just fine. It could just be incompetence, but I suspect somebody(s) is making a profit and paid offed the state’s legislature.

            1. John Zelnicker

              August 9, 2018 at 9:09 pm

              Sorry, but there is no state that mandates testing of all pregnant women at delivery.

              However, 4 states require it if there are drug-related complications or suspected use.

              Tennessee is the only state that makes drug use during pregnancy a separate crime, while courts in Alabama and South Carolina have interpreted the child abuse, child endangerment, and chemical endangerment (meth labs) statutes to criminalize drug use during pregnancy.

              There is more good info at the link for those interested.

              Edit: I haven’t heard anything about women leaving Alabama (I live in Mobile) for Caesarean sections. Please be kind enough to provide a link(s) to evidence for this phenomenon. The women being subject to these drug screens are mostly poor and black. They don’t have the ability to travel out of the state for surgery.

              1. JBird

                Sorry, but there is no state that mandates testing of all pregnant women at delivery.

                I can accept that that is true, but it has not much meaning because what the law says is congruent or comports with, less and less with what it actually is.

                The massive and growing financial, legal, and political corruption that our country is dying from makes the law for many a system to be control by and profit from, and not a system of protection and services, or a means of expressing their desires. Much of what is done is, if not flatly illegal, often twist the already weakened legal protections and rights of the victims being abused.

    1. Lee

      Everyone who has ever been in rehab knows this….I’m told. I’m surprised this is not more generally known. It seems these tests are pretty crude if they can’t detect quantities or differentiate between substances that produce a high and those that don’t.

      1. Oregoncharles

        As with marijuana, the tests are actually for a metabolic byproduct of the drug, not the drug itself. Poppy seeds are actually from opium poppies (= bread seed poppy), and contain the same precursor.

        So, guaranteed false positives; a feature, not a bug.

        Suing the hospital might be a feature, too, but would require a good lawyer.

    2. RUKidding

      Back in the day, there was Jerry Seinfeld episode about this, where Elaine had to give test for some reason (a job??) and had eaten a poppy seed muffin before she knew about the test. The episode, of course, was played for the laughs, the situation is a real, nonetheless.

      Only did I ever have to take a drug test. I rarely eat poppy seed muffins, but I made sure I didn’t have any poppy seeds for six weeks beforehand (I knew in advance, obviously).

      I’m surprised this knowledge has waned. It’s real.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      Perhaps eaters of poppy-seed products should video themselves eating the poppy-seed product every single time they eat one.

      Perhaps there could be a movement by false-positived poppy-seed product eaters to sue the issuers of the false-positive tests for libel, slander, etc. etc.

    1. Big River Bandido

      Special elections are notoriously difficult to predict, because they are irregular and thus hard to determine who is even likely to show up at the polls. Judging Cook and the others by their record in regular elections is more fair.

    2. grayslady

      I agree on Cook’s forecasting, but from the other side. Just looking at Illinois races, I think they may have drunk some Democrat kool-aid. Here are the Illinois districts Cook’s highlights and my commentary as someone who has lived in the state for 70 years:

      IL-14 Bellweather Suburbs
      Immediately suspicious since the district is not suburban. It’s all rural farmland! Dems are running a young black woman who is a Hillary clone–in a district that has 3% blacks. This district could be won by a Bernie-style populist.

      IL-06 White Collar Wonderland
      Roskam (incumbent) v. Casten (Repub-lite)
      No way this is a toss-up. Roskam will win.

      IL-13 Urban-Rural Divide
      District includes Univ. of IL, but otherwise rural. Could be won by a Bernie-style populist, but Dems are running a Hillary clone.

      IL-12 Trump Surge Zone
      I agree with Cook’s that this is a toss-up. In grayslady’s opinion, this is the only possibility for a Dem pick-up. Southern Illinois is in real economic pain–so much so that it is the only part of the state willing to consider fracking. Both candidates grew up in the area, but the Dem, in this case, seems to have some creative economic ideas to help this area of primarily small business and farmland. Could easily be won by a Bernie-style populist with an area-specific economic agenda. Kelly (the Dem), doesn’t support MFA, but doesn’t want to privatize SS or Medicare. Kelly is supported by Obama–that’s the bad news.

  9. JerryB

    I have never been a fan of Thaler or Sunstein. They both come across as too paternalistic for me. Although on Sunstein’s Wikipedia page he does have some refreshing thoughts on the positive relationship between taxes and living a civilized society. Still they come across as many other University of Chicago elites in that “they” know what’s best for everyone else.

    I was impressed with the AOC interview on Cuomo Prime Time. She always comes across as very prepared like she has done her homework and speaks with passion, directness, and conviction and not just spewing ideological sound bites.

    1. Lee

      I don’t much like that for good or ill, charisma matters. But it does and she’s got it. I’m glad she’s on our side.

  10. a different chris

    >I tested positive for morphine (and codeine) after eating a Costco poppy seed muffin.

    This is a good solid illustration about what I was trying to say about the “poisoned by Novichok” blather. They don’t identify a substance like you identify your car in the parking lot. They “run tests” where they “correlate data to known” items. And the devil is in the details of those tests.

    So when you have some people dead and some people not, I’m not going to be easily convinced that they were exposed to the same thing. And Mother Nature, scarily enough, is quite capable of inventing something that looks like Novichok just for what she sees as fun.

    But you don’t seem to get to the top of the Western world my way.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Nothing about either Novichok story adds up, any more than our own anthrax episode did. If I had to guess, I’d say it was a UK insider from Porton, and some sort of collossal screw-up!

      1. Oregoncharles

        Any more, and it will be a serial killer – from Porton Down.

        In fact, the proximity to their own chemical weapons facility, making it the obvious suspect, might be one reason the Brits were so quick and so passionate about blaming the Russians.

      2. Skip Intro

        Have you actually seen evidence that any chem/bio agents were even used? No need to involve Porton unless there is more than bad shellfish at work.

        1. pretzelattack

          the british government involved them, and pressured them to say it was some mysterious soviet chemical. we don’t know what happened, and the british official story has gaping holes. it’s about as convincing as the iraqi wmd’s, but trumpeted all the more loudly.

  11. allan

    GOP Rep. Chris Collins used campaign funds to pay legal bills for insider trading investigations [CNBC]

    Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., used campaign funds to pay legal bills while he faced investigation for alleged insider trading for more than a year.

    A federal criminal investigation culminated in his arrest Wednesday, but before that he was under scrutiny by congressional ethics investigators. …

    Since July 2017, Federal Election Commission records show Collins’ campaign has been paying up to $60,000 per month in legal services to prestigious law firm BakerHostetler. The firm is representing Collins in the case.

    While it is legal to use campaign funds to pay for legal fees, it’s not clear whether Collins’ constituents and supporters were aware that donations were being used to assist his legal fight. …

    $60,000 per month on legal bills – is that a lot?

    Collins is a multimillionaire, the 14th richest member of Congress on one list,
    but surely the early-bird-special customers at Earl and Mae’s Diner in Batavia, NY,
    will all agree that this is how they expected their campaign contributions to be spent.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Should have set up a foundation.

      In the Darwinian world of our politicians, one has to go big and go all the way to the foundation.

      1. allan

        I was wrong. It turns out that Collins’ I-am-not-a-crook schtick is not selling, even in Batavia:

        Collins mum on substance of insider trading charges, refuses to take questions at press conference
        [The Batavian]

        With barely a mention of the insider-trader charges he is facing, Rep. Chris Collins held what was billed as a press conference at the Embassy Suites in Buffalo on Wednesday evening and vowed to fight vigorously to clear his name.

        He called the charges — detailed at length earlier Wednesday in a 22-page Securities and Exchange Commission civil complaint — “meritless” but offered no details on why he believes he has been unfairly charged.

        With his wife, Mary Sue, standing placidly by his side, Collins held forth for nearly seven minutes on: his successes in business; his record as Erie County executive; his belief in the company at the heart of the insider trading allegations — Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd.; and his hope of finding a treatment for secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. …

        After vowing that his name will be on the ballot for the NY-27 election in November, Collins walked off stage and refused to acknowledge reporters’ questions. …

        Video: Chris Collins “press conference” in Buffalo on Wednesday evening …

        Dear Batavian: those snide “air quotes” destroy any pretense you might have of journalistic objectivity.
        If a politician calls a press conference and then doesn’t talk to the press, it’s still a press conference.
        Get with the stenography program.

      1. nycTerrierist

        oh nos!

        what happened?

        Comrade Haygood has an excellent way with words — most enjoyable


        1. pretzelattack

          well, he was a bit too tendentious on some of his favorite subjects; there was a discussion a few days ago on the daily links (or maybe wc) thread about it. i’ll miss his contributions on subjects other than, say, venezuela or the impending bankruptcy of social security. i think he writes with insight and wit on many subjects; honestly, i would just skip his posts on latin/south america or economics. i enjoyed some of his personal reminiscences, too.

    1. Duck1

      Anybody catch when the denouement occurred? I tried using the search function, but didn’t get it to be helpful.

      1. Fiery Hunt

        Heygood was booted by our host for his specific disdain for journalism (or at least paying for it). Since that’s what what Naked Capitalism is, he blatantly insulted our esteemed Yves (and Lambert and et al).

        Yves gave him a swift kick out the door sometime last week, I think.

        1. savedbyirony

          Back on July 26 in the thread for “CalPERS Pays…”. I found it particularly insulting (well, and boneheaded) that he expressed that attitude in a thread connected to Yves’s ongoing and in depth work on CalPERS, and specifically its copyright infringements in this case, of all things.

          1. Duck1

            Thanks for the reference, didn’t look at that thread. Have often noticed that polymath types that contribute to a commentariat lose perspective upon whose stage they display their wares.

    2. ewmayer

      Haygood alas got himself banned by Yves last month when he posted laudatory words about, and how-to-tips for avoiding paying for content on various paywalled websites. Forget the exact article, but ISTR it was on a settlement by CalPERS w.r.to their multiyear mass-scale online news theft via wideband internal copy-dissemination, news which Yves broke here at NC.

      1. Yves Smith

        It was specifically his closing remark: “Don’t feed the media!”

        He thinks it’s perfectly fine to steal from underpaid writers and editors…presumably including NC as well.

        1. JBird

          Maybe it’s because I’ve known people in the news media, but I have never quite understood the thinking of some that there can be a news media without anyone paying for it. It’s kinda nutty.

          1. Clive

            And little appreciation for how hard it is. Put it this way, if I write anything for NC, that is about five times as much effort for one piece that might go into a post that I put in as a day’s work for the “day job”. Infinitely more rewarding and socially useful (or at least, I hope it is) but I could never make writing pay compared to working in finance.

            Sad but true, unless somehow I was able to up my work rate to match that of Yves, Lambert and Jerri-Lynn. And I simply don’t have the talent to do that. Lambert and I got into a half-conversation a few days ago about how a very skilled young writer who normally produced great work ended up coming a bit of a cropper when asked (I suspect) to do commissioned work to a deadline to a specific brief which was a little adrift of their usual beat. It wasn’t that they produced terrible work. More that it showed the difficulty in moving between two different styles. If they’d ended up slipping from excellence to merely being okay, it shows the immense difficulties in being able to generate consistent high quality output.

            Which is why it’s especially egregious when anyone condones ripping off professional writers.

            1. Bugs Bunny

              Haygood may have been irascible and offbase on Latam in particular but I’ll miss his posts. Learning that he never paid up is um, (family blogging) disappointing. He probably figured that he contributed in kind. Those charts in Water Cooler were pretty awesome.

              1. Clive

                To make monetary contributions (or not) is everyone’s choice depending on their circumstances and perhaps even consciences.

                But no way should anyone who even remotely claims to “get” what Naked Capitalism is trying to do would say that it’s in any way okay to wilfully reduce income for writers. Ripping off, CalPERS-style, subscription-based publishers is doing just that.

                Solidarity with the workers begins at home. For every big name paid a nice wodge (e.g. Paul Krugman) to burnish a publication’s credentials, there’s a dozen or more making very — very — modest livings.

                1. Carolinian

                  On the other hand one could point out that Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Wall Street Journal, is opposed to any other site even linking his stories. So big media’s view of their digital rights is often, how shall we say, rather expansive. They probably wish we could go back to an era when the internet didn’t even exist although they do, of course, have the option of not putting their publications on the web.

                  Site policy here is up to Yves and that’s as it should be. But if we are talking about the larger question then there’s a considerably more nuanced view to be heard from people like Cory Doctorow.

  12. marym


    Laura Ingraham promoting white supremacy on Fox (Link)

    15 tweet thread by Princeton historian Kevin Kruse with history and references on the rise and consequences of similar fear-mongering about “demographic changes.” (Link)

    This bears strong echoes of the racist screeds of the 1910s and 1920s that paved the way for the rise of the Second Ku Klux Klan and immigration restriction at home, and much worse abroad.

    Judge halts mother-daughter deportation, threatens to hold Sessions in contempt

    A federal judge in Washington halted a deportation in progress Thursday and threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt after learning that the Trump administration tried to remove a woman and her daughter while a court hearing appealing their deportations was underway.

    The woman…is a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union. It challenges a recent policy change by the Department of Justice that aims to expedite the removal of asylum seekers who fail to prove their cases and excludes domestic and gang violence as justifications for granting asylum in the United States.

    More about ACLU lawsuit (Link)

    Trump’s wife’s parents sworn in today as citizens.

    1. MK

      Come thru legal access points, like back in the 1910s and 1920s.

      Don’t come in thru open desert with no intention of declaring your arrival.

      1. marym

        Asylum seekers at the southern border are following a legal process.

        Trump’s wife’s parents (according to reporting today) followed the legal process that Trump wants to discontinue and has fear-mongered as chain migration and wants to end. (Link)

        Read up on the near total lack of immigration restrictions prior to the 1920’s. (Link)

        In the Laura Ingraham clip she disapproves of both illegal and legal immigration.

        The Trump administration is preparing further restrictions on legal immigration (not his wife’s parents though) (Link) (Link), revoking naturalized citizenship (Link), and opposes birthright citizenship. (Link)

        It has never been about “illegal” immigration, just a racial and ethnic agenda.

  13. makedoanmend

    From the Nation, 2016


    “…The US government has not only cheered, and funded, these anti-democratic actions. By absurdly declaring that Venezuela is an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security and pressuring investors and bankers to steer clear of the Maduro administration, the White House has prevented Venezuela from obtaining much-needed foreign financing and investment.”

    The international Neo-liberal gamebook in action. All alternatives must be destroyed. (I’m also trying to track down a news article with photographs of Venezuelan capitalists who would rather stock pile food produced in warehouses in order to foster hunger and anger against the government.)

    And of course an assassination attempt on President Nicolas Maduro was carried out by drones only last week. Just what a struggling nation needs in order to steer through to a recovery.

    Funny how Western Neo-liberal MSM have such heart felt sympathy for the poor of Venezuela. Maybe some day they’ll find so sympathy for their own poor, struggling families, and the dispossessed.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        What a bad idea it was for any serious outfit to go on Facebook. Why would anyone do that? You don’t own your content.

        Google search,now… Gawd it’s getting bad.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      No photos, but Abby Martin spent considerable time in Venezuela checking the validity of the MSM’s reports on conditions there. About 2/3rds of the way through she mentions visiting numerous supermarkets and finding that only some specific necessities were missing. The various reports themselves are on Empire Files.


      1. pretzelattack

        thank you, i feel like i’m caught between izvestia and pravda, here. harder all the time to find dissenting opinions.

  14. Tomonthebeach

    “they’re leaving one toxic social media environment for an even more toxic one”

    I think Lambert is unaware that not everybody goes to YouTube for the latest Alex Jones rant. My hypothesis regarding the jump in YouTube visits is Comcast is driving people there. They drove us there, and believe me when I say this has Comcast spooked. You see, YouTube offers a service, for a monthly fee, that provides access to a lot of TV.

    Two weeks ago, we cut the cable which was running $130/month for zillions of crapified channels we never watched. Already Amazon Prime subscribers, a YouTube streaming subscription cut our TV bill in half. No surprise, yesterday I get a robocall from the local Comcast company, Spectrum, which recently bought out Bright House, our original monopoly provider. For a low low intro price they will provide what YouTube provides. Thus, THEY know what is happening – the big migration. LOL

    Caveat! Without net neutrality, Comcast can, and likely will, eventually throttle back streaming for competitors just enough to nudge people back to their service – just watch, er stream, or whatever.

    1. Big River Bandido

      As a former Time-Warner customer, I wouldn’t bother with Spectrum. TWC was no great shakes, but the quality and level of service we received plummeted immediately after the change. After six months of frustration, we finally bolted for another company.

      Spectrum (owned by Charter Communications) also has had longstanding issues with the comm workers’ union (TWC made a point of cultivating good relations with them) — and New York State just fined Spectrum for noncompliance with the terms of its merger. It appears Spectrum may have to fold up shop in New York State.

  15. Kim Kaufman

    “Plumbago: the definition of summer, refreshing just to look at and doesn’t mind the heat, being native to South Africa.””

    hmmm. Yes, good on a hillside at a distance with room to grow… not so good in a smaller garden like mine. Yes, the lavender blue blooms are pretty but otherwise It’s sticky, it spreads and is nasty. I thought I had gotten rid of it and for many years it had disappeared. But then it came back a few years ago and I am determined to get rid of it this fall. I may have to use Roundup. Yes, I know it’s evil but I want that plant gone.

    At the first super heat wave a few weeks ago, I lost a bunch of plants. I stepped up my watering but it wasn’t enough and they appear to be gone. I have a tiny bit of hope some might come back, although it will still take years to get as full as they were. Those particular plants, epidendrums, are relatively hard to find, especially in all the colors I had. It is usually an extremely drought tolerant plant. For years I sprayed some water at them and they just bloomed and bloomed. I have now gone through all the stages of grief and arrived at acceptance. Now working on next steps in how to fix the spaces come fall. Even though I’m basically thoroughly bored with gardening at this point, I’ve got to do something.

    A neighbor told me she had a few green tomatoes on a plant in the morning and by the end of the day, the hottest, the tomatoes were brown. Cooked on the vine. A deer apparently ate them at night.

    Los Angeles has had pleasantly moderately hot summers for the last few years. Not so this one. It’s now payback time with a vengeance.

    1. Lee

      We’ve been enjoying pleasantly mild temps here in the SF east bay. That is if you’re across from the Golden Gate and near the water. Drive a few miles in most directions and it can be 20 degrees or more higher. However, I’m not looking forward to late September, early October when the our usual cooling sea breezes and morning marine layer of high fog are replaced by easterly air flows from the the super heated central valley.

      1. MichaelSF

        Here near Ocean Beach/GG Park the temps have been hitting low 60Fs. My youngest brother came in from Las Vegas today and remarked on the 40-50F difference in temperature.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s been brutal up here for the last week. And of course there’s no airconditioning because Maine doesn’t need. it. Since the house is an old house, it has huge thermal mass, so it stays cool a long time, but when it gets hot, it stays hot….

      1. The Rev Kev

        Maybe that is why your cat did a disappearing act the other day – because he found a cool spot to hang out for the day.

    1. JCC

      Interesting film that, while maybe not the best example of good investigative reporting, clearly shows Browder to be a seriously major crook with many Govts full support. It’s no wonder he has spent a small fortune to keep this off MSM.

      I had a few mixed feelings about the whole thing until Browder clearly threatened Nekrasov for questioning Browder’s version of what happened.

  16. Samuel Conner

    Re: “if you don’t have machine tools …”

    I started into Seymour Melman’s “After Capitalism” and in an early chapter he discusses the collapse of US machine tool manufacturing. IIRC, he attributed this to deliberate policy to encourage research into military technologies rather than civilian industrial technologies. Sort of a de-industrial policy.

    1. barefoot charley

      Early on in the decline of the Midwest, that would be around 1970, we realized we were uncompetitive with the coasts because we built machine tools, cars and ‘white goods,’ ie things sold at Sears like fridges and stoves, mere consumer goods, while more successful industrial regions built war machinery–for better profits and, it turned out, endless market opportunity.

      1. ewmayer

        “while more successful industrial regions built war machinery” — Indeed. And don’t forget one special kind of war machinery which has greatky enriched the bicoastal elites: Weapons of Mass Financial Destruction.

    2. Big River Bandido

      “if you don’t have machine tools…”

      I’m reminded of the old English proverb:

      For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
      For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
      For want of a horse the rider was lost.
      For want of a rider the message was lost.
      For want of a message the battle was lost.
      For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
      And all for the want of a nail.

    3. VietnamVet

      This started with Jimmy Carter and deregulation. Democrats turned their backs on workers. Manufacturing was broken apart and sold. Third World immigration increased. It was not coincidence that the draft was ended after the silent mutiny in Vietnam. Unwinnable wars for profit were started, fought with paid volunteers and proxy forces that continue to today. If not bombing, the USA is attacking other nations with sanctions and tariffs. Liberalism self-destructed. Predatory Capitalism rules the world. Criminal Bankers avoid jail. Mid-America is a globalist colony. Due to propaganda and deafening silence, this is fairly well hidden.

      Simply, things will get worse. The Trump Administration denies climate change has anything to do with California’s new all year fire seasons. The President thinks the water flowing down California Rivers should be sprayed on their tinder dry forests. The Interior Secretary says the fires are due to not cutting down forests. Democrats scapegoat Russians. Trumpers scapegoat immigrants. Thanks to nuclear weapons and climate change, there may be no coming back from the next great failure.

      Still, there is a chance that the rule of law will be restored and that the forever wars will wither away peacefully.

    4. cnchal

      That sounds like nonsense. When a government hires military contractors to make weapons of mass destruction, or when companies are involved with making weapons of mass production (industrial tools such as progressive dies and injection molds for example) to make items that people can use, both require machine tools, and workers that know how to use the equipment to create the ‘means of production’ from raw material.

      It is a policy of pure neglect due to the nature of politicians here, most of whom are lawyers and think wealth creation is billing a victim that comes to their office at $500 an hour, when the wealth creation formula is this.

      (Material Meet’s Tool X sales) – expenses = profit or loss

      1. ewmayer

        I think one difference between e.g. the government-forced industrialization effort of WW2 and today’s MIC is that the WW2 industrialization was of a general enough kind that it had broad, lasting postwar impacts as well, whereas today’s mil-hardware is so narrowly specialized that any positive side effects in the civilian tech economy are accidental, at best.

        Interested to hear other readers’ thoughts on this.

  17. allan

    Which is more vaporware, Trump’s opioid policy or Saudi Arabia’s $2 trillion sovereign wealth fund? [Bloomberg]

    Saudi Arabia is now looking for Plan B to propel its sovereign wealth fund into the ranks of global giants. The initial plan was to raise at least $100 billion through an initial public offering of a small stake in Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company, in the second half of 2018. Though the IPO is not going ahead as originally planned, the nation’s Public Investment Fund still hopes to control more than $2 trillion by 2030. …

    1. – 3. [train wreck]

    4. What will the PIF do instead?

    Aramco is considering buying as much as 70 percent of the PIF’s stake in Saudi Basic Industries Corp., known as Sabic, which has a market value of about $100 billion — meaning the deal could raise $70 billion in capital for the fund. PIF could raise more by selling its stakes in other Saudi-listed companies. Debt is another option. In early July, the fund was said to be approaching banks for a multibillion-dollar loan, which would be its first. The PIF is willing to borrow to diversify the Saudi economy and increase returns from investments. …

    Willing to borrow. Rock solid strategic vision.

    Pro tip: stop bombing weddings and school buses, buy some index funds
    and wait for the miracle of compound growth to kick in.

  18. Summer

    “Insider Baseball” [Joan Didion, New York Review of Books]. From 1998.

    From 1988. That article was “Listen, Liberal” before “Listen, Liberal.”
    What “democracy”?

    And this about the conventions:
    “The minicams trawled the floor, fishing in Atlanta for Rob Lowe, in New Orleans for Donald Trump….”

  19. Ur-Blintz

    The conscience-less mummy Bill Nelson (who voted for Haspel and against ending the Yemen massacre) is going to lose to the shrieking skull Rick Scott (who refused to expand medicare and legislated much other evil) in the drowning red state of Florida. That he’s already blaming it on Russia is both unsurprising and exasperating. It foreshadows exactly what both parties will be asserting in every close contest they lose and paves the way for 2 more years of Rachel Maddow’s insane rantings. We can only hope that the skyrocketing number of people who are “cutting the cable” will no longer be fodder for these last desperate gasps of televised corporate bobble-heads.

  20. g

    I always figured that Musk’s financiers was the Saudis, and maybe a few other tech companies. Berkshire wouldn’t do it.

  21. Richard

    Has anybody seen any MSM coverage of the Saudi 9-11 threat to Canada? It is kind of blowing my mind that it would be ignored.
    Of course they ignore war crimes in Yemen all the time (a school bus just blown up, according to Kyle Kulinski). But ignore an actual threat made to a close ally? That seems new. I guess just following the lead of our own government, which is staying “neutral” in the matter.

    Here is Kulinski’s segment.

    1. Oregoncharles

      The REALLY weird thing is that it’s essentially a confession to the 9/11 attacks, but no one noticed.

  22. Yellopig

    Re: comment on the picture—”[Plumbago] doesn’t mind the heat, being native to South Africa”.
    Somehow, Americans always think Africa is hot. It isn’t. It’s just like anywhere else. It’s winter now, so the temperatures in Praetoria are in the fifties; it might get to the upper sixties during the day. Average summer highs are around 80°F. That might seem hot if you’re in Chicago, but here in Arizona it’s positively balmy.
    Have a look:

    1. flora

      adding: Short opening ad before first news report, then a second same short ad before the next report. Both reports are worth watching, imo.

      1. flora

        The extra wrinkle, beyond the unreliability of these electronic voting machines, is that in Kansas the KS Sec of State’s office is charged with insuring legitimate vote totals and certifying the vote…. and the current Sec. of State is candidate Kobach. (No conflict of interest there….)

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