2:00PM Water Cooler 10/24/2018

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“TRUMP SUCCEEDS IN FORCING WTO SHAKEUP: Trade ministers from 13 economies — including Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Japan — gather in Ottawa today as part of a high-stakes effort to rescue the World Trade Organization from the trade fight sparked by the world’s two largest economies, Pro Trade’s Adam Behsudi reports. And while the United States and China weren’t invited, the two economic powerhouses are expected to loom large over the talks today and Thursday. It also appears that the Trump administration’s ‘disruptively constructive’ policies — a phrase used recently by U.S. envoy to the WTO Dennis Shea — are accelerating efforts to review and potentially rewrite the WTO rules and legal system” [Politico]. “A big issue confronting officials is how to control a superpower like China, which subsidizes industries, grants special treatment to state-owned companies, and still gets some of the same preferential treatment that developing nations do under international trade rules.”

“Higher costs are racing through U.S. industrial operations and manufacturers are trying to pass them through their supply chains as fast as they can. Caterpillar Inc., 3M Co. and other industrial bellwethers are pointing to higher freight and commodities spending in their latest earnings… and several companies say higher tariffs on imported goods are making production more expensive. The growing risk from trade tensions raises new concerns for the manufacturers, and several report slowing sales in China as barriers to shipments grow and the country’s economy cools” [Wall Street Journal].

“The Universal Postal Union is fast-tracking a rate review following President Trump’s threat to pull out of the body, and the head of the United Nations agency that oversees the global mail system [says] it could institute changes as early as April. The Trump administration last week started the yearlong process to withdraw from the UPU because of discounts that make it cheaper to ship small packages from China to the U.S. than from domestic locations” [Wall Street Journal].



12 days until Election Day. 12 days. That’s less than two weels, still is a long time in politics. And speaking of October surprises, or surprises in October:

“CNN ‘bomb’ – live: At least six suspicious packages sent to Obama, Clintons and news media organisations across US” [Independent]. Live blog. The top item: “ABC is reporting that the suspicious package found by Capitol Police at the Congressional mail facility was addressed to Democrat Congresswoman Maxine Waters.” • So the list keeps expanding, but the detail behind each list item tends to be lacking.

“Suspicious packages sent to Time Warner Center, Clinton and Obama” [CNN]. Live blog. The top item: “Potentially explosive devices have been mailed to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, liberal billionaire George Soros, former FBI director John Brennan and Former Attorney General Eric Holder over the past few days.” • Further down, Harris and Cuomo. It’s not clear to me whether all the devices were pipe bombs (the CNN one apparently had “white powder”) and whether all were of identical manufacture. (The NYPD says “similar.”) It’s also not clear to me whether all the packages containing the devices were mailed, or hand-delivered. It would also be interesting to know what the labels look like. Ditto timing details, as an indicator of coordination. Presumably this will all be revealed in due course (though thinking back to the anthrax episode after 9/11, possibly not). I’ve gotta say, there don’t seem to be many Republicans on the list of recipients.

“Pipe Bombs Sent to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and CNN Offices” [New York Times]. (The package for John Brennan was sent to CNN, with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz as the return address.) Detail on the device sent to CNN:

That device was constructed from a length of pipe a little longer than six inches and wrapped in black tape with what appeared to be epoxy on the ends, according to a person who had seen a photograph of it. What could be a timer was attached to the side of the pipe and wires were visible at both ends. Like the bomb sent to Mr. Soros’s home, the envelope it arrived in was roughly 5-by-8 inches and had a printed white address label and half a dozen first-class postage stamps affixed to the outside.

“Reports of a suspicious package addressed to the White House are ‘incorrect,’ Secret Service says” [CNN]. More on the packages: “The packages sent to the Obama, Soros and Clinton addresses have a number of similarities, according to NBC News. The devices were contained in manila packages, and the signature on the devices, their components or packaging is almost exactly the same. The packages also have a return address the belonging to a prominent Democratic Party official.”

Salutary advice: “The Shooting At YouTube Showed How Bad Twitter’s Misinformation Problem Is” [Buzzfeed]. • That’s a little unfair to Twitter, I think. Twitter is only as good as its sources: Professional and/or amateur, brilliant and/or trustworthy, or tendentious and/or horrid. Gutting the newsrooms didn’t help (thanks, Facebook, for the pivot to video). When I first started following this story earlier this morning, it became quickly apparent that there wasn’t much real news being shared, but what little there was, was being echoed feverishly. Readers, please update in comments, the more concrete detail the better!

* * *

“Political polarization and congressional candidates in the 2018 primaries” [Brookings Institution]. “Even though contested congressional primaries are rare and even though incumbent defeats in primaries are even more rare, factional divides within a party manifest themselves in primaries, and the existence of those factions shapes the behavior of members of Congress—even when they are not being directly challenged themselves… Much ink has been spilled this cycle on incumbent losses. When progressive candidates beat long time incumbents in New York and Massachusetts, they gained instant fame. And when President Trump took down a Freedom Caucus member from South Carolina, it too became big news. However, as we will see, the headlines that these wins triggered are hardly representative of any broader trends.”

“Polls Could Be Missing a GOP Surge. Here’s Why.” [Bloomberg]. • Various reasons to be cautious. Here’s one: “A late surge. That’s what happened in 2016: Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump fell sharply in the last two weeks of the campaign. Although the polls picked this up, or at least most of it, it’s a good reminder that even mid-October surveys can miss late change. Could it happen again? It probably won’t, but it could — in either direction. Watch what’s in the news in the final days before the election.”

“TJR’s Two–Evils Endorsements” (PDF) [TJR (DK)] • A voter’s guide for California. There certainly is a lot going on!

“Here are the 172 veterans running for Congress in November” [Military Times]. “On election night, Military Times will track the status of each veteran’s race — 62 Democrats, 109 Republicans and one independent — across the country and update the results here. Readers can sort the candidates by clicking on the column headers below, or search for specific names using the search bar.” • Handy!

CO: “In Colorado, a Bitter Battle Over Oil, Gas and the Environment Comes to a Head” [New York Times]. “If passed, the measure — Proposition 112 — would require companies to place new wells at least 2,500 feet from homes, schools, waterways and other areas designated as “vulnerable,” two-and-a-half to five times the current state regulation. Even as the measure faces fierce resistance, industry leaders and environmentalists alike acknowledge that it could succeed. One recent industry poll obtained by The New York Times showed 43 percent of voters in favor, with 41 percent opposed. In recent years, Colorado oil and gas well operations have come so close to homes, schools and playgrounds that drill rigs, holding tanks, diesel trucks and floodlights are now common neighborhood features.”

GA Governor: “Stacey Abrams, Brian Kemp clash in first debate” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. “[Abrams] said Medicaid expansion would be her Day One priority as governor. It would save rural communities and increase jobs in areas where hospitals are closing, she says. ‘I know how to work across the aisle. Rural Georgia has been losing hospitals at an alarming rate,’ Abrams said.” • Same issue in ME-02.

ME-02: “Poliquin indicates he might challenge ranked-choice results if he doesn’t win” [Portland Press-Herald]. “One of the more telling moments in the two debates among the four candidates in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District came during the final question they faced. Asked if they’d accept the outcome of the ranked-choice voting contest, three of the contenders said they would. But U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a two-term Republican from Oakland, passed up the chance to rule out a possible legal challenge if he comes up short Nov. 6… With three recent polls indicating that Golden and Poliquin are locked in a dead heat in the hard-fought race to represent the sprawling district, it’s becoming ever more likely that neither of the front-runners will collect a majority of the votes cast.”

ME-02: “Chinese firm completes purchase of Old Town Mill” [Bangor Daily News]. “ND Paper completed its purchase of the Old Town Mill within nine days of its announced plan to buy the shuttered pulp mill from OTM Holdings…. After a series of phased capital investments, ND Paper said it expects to restart the mill in the first quarter of 2019.” • Republican Governor LePage takes credit.

ME Senate: “He’s a Long-Shot Senate Candidate With a Message: ‘Capitalism Unchecked Is a Complete Disaster’” [New York Times]. “Mr. Ringelstein, who is the only Democratic Senate candidate to be endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, is a long shot: the Democratic Party of Maine has offered scant support, seeming to prefer instead the incumbent, Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats.” • “Seeming”?


Realignment and Legitimacy

“The massacre men” [Scalawag]. • This is a long read on North Carolina history, but an essential one if you think of the South as a monolith: “Over 100,000 White Southerners would officially fight for the Union, with about 25,000 from North Carolina.” Also good to know the Slave Power operated death squads, even during the Civil War. Looking at North Carolina politics today, you can see the sense in the old saw from Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” The Poor People’s campaign originated there for good reason.

Stats Watch

Architectural Billings: “Architecture firm billings slow but remain positive in September” [American Institute of Architects]. “AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) score for September was 51.1 compared to 54.2 in August. However, continued strength in new projects coming into architecture firms points to billings growth in the coming months.” And: “According to the AIA, there is an ‘approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending’ on non-residential construction. This index has been positive for 12 consecutive months, suggesting a further increase in CRE investment into 2019” [Calculated Risk].

Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (Flash), October 2018: “Growth has firmed slightly in both the PMI manufacturing and PMI service samples so far this month” [Econoday]. “These results point to a fast start to the fourth-quarter and will lift expectations for the coming ISM manufacturing and non-manufacturing reports.”

New Home Sales, September 2018: “the volatility in the September report is sharply downward” [Econoday]. “Buyer blahs in the housing sector are one of the chief and unwanted features of the 2018 economy.” And: “This month the backward revisions were significantly downward. Because of weather and other factors, the rolling averages are the way to view this series. The rolling averages also significantly fell helped by the downward revision of the last two months of data” [Econintersect].

Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index, August 2018: “[S]oft as expected” [Econoday]. “Growth in home prices has been slowing visibly this year for a housing sector, where demand is flat and mortgage rates going up, that is the big disappointment of the 2018 economy.”

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of October 19, 2018: “Purchase applications for home mortgages rose… rebounding after falling sharply in the previous week on the back of a jump in interest rates” [Econoday]. “[P]urchase applications may be on the brink of turning negative year-on-year again (as they were in August), which does not bode well for a housing market showing signs of increasing weakness.”

Banking: “Trump reopening Wall Street casino by weakening Volcker Rule” [The American Banker]. “Prohibiting Wall Street’s biggest, most dangerous banks from high-risk gambling with taxpayer-backed deposits, the Volcker Rule was one of the most important provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. It outlawed proprietary trading, which is Wall Street banks using other people’s money (depositors) to make socially useless bets to fund their bonuses…. As we mark the 10th anniversary of the catastrophic 2008 financial crash, this is no time to return to the failed and discredited policies of the past which deregulated Wall Street. However, if the recent Volcker Rule proposal is finalized as proposed, there can be little doubt that will happen and there will be a substantial increase in prop trading at Wall Street’s biggest banks. This will mostly be unseen due to the innumerable ways the proposal intentionally blinds regulators by eliminating reporting requirements and the broad-based delegation to the banks to self-police.”

Commodities: “Oil’s Rally Isn’t Over Yet” [Bloomberg]. “Put down that chart and look around you…. It’s still possible that the world rides out this latest supply-demand mismatch and heads toward the landmark of 100 million barrels a day of demand without prices spiking again. But for that to happen, everything has to go right on the supply side, and the demand side needs to start showing signs of a fatigue that we haven’t seen so far. Don’t count this rally out just yet.”

Shipping: “Cass Freight Index report highlights a still strong freight market” [Logistics Management]. “Many freight transportation and logistics executives and analysts consider the Cass Freight Index to be the most accurate barometer of freight volumes and market conditions, with many analysts noting that the Cass Freight Index sometimes leads the American Trucking Associations (ATA) tonnage index at turning points, which lends to the value of the Cass Freight Index. September shipments, at 1.241, were up 1.1% compared to August and up 8.2% annually. Donald Broughton, the report’s author and principal of Broughton Capital, wrote in the report that an 8.2% annual gain in shipments is the result of an expanding economy, adding that Cass is hard pressed to imagine a scenario, save for the catastrophic geopolitical event, in which such a strong rate of freight flow expansion was possible or even a precursor to an economic contraction.” • Maybe I should file this one under Fodder for the Bulls… And: “I tend to put heavier weight on the CASS index which continues to show a strong and upwardly trending rate of growth improvement year-over-year. CASS rate of improvement is 8.2 % YoY whilst the ATA is 2.9 % YoY” [Econintersect]. “It should be pointed out that the trucking movements are improving YoY – and the likely reason is the shift from box stores to eRetailers.”

Shipping: “ATA’s truck tonnage readings trend down but remain on solid footing” [Logistics Management]. “‘Truck freight slowed at the end of the third quarter,’ said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello in a statement. ‘As anticipated, the year-over-year gains have slowed on strength a year earlier, but there is no doubt that freight softened in August and September. Despite the decreases late in the quarter, based on July’s strength, third quarter tonnage rose 0.1% from the second quarter and 5.2% from the same period in 2017.'”

The Bezzle: “Uber’s Secret Restaurant Empire” [Bloomberg]. “[A] phenomenon that Jason Droege, vice president for Uber Everything, labels the ‘virtual restaurant.’ Such places start with no storefronts and no seats; they operate out of a corner of a professional kitchen, inside a restaurant with a different name and menu. These kinds of unconventional options are proliferating as the online food delivery business continues its pace of 20 percent year-over-year growth…. There are now more than 300 Uber Eats employees as the unit leverages Uber Technologies Inc.’s existing drivers, data and name recognition to expand. Droege sees the most growth outside of the major urban centers… ” • Easy-peasy until the first case of food poisoning, and it’s hard to assign responsibility. More regulatory arbitrage? Too cynical?

Tech: “Peter Thiel’s Controversial Big Data Firm Could IPO At $41 Billion” [Safe Haven]. “As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Palantir has been discussing IPO plans with Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley, and expects to turn a profit this year. It could even IPO with a value of up to $41 billion—more than double what private investors recently valued it at, and 55 times its 2018 revenue.”

Tech: “Silicon Valley silent on Saudi money amid Khashoggi scandal” [Politico]. “Tech executives withdrew in scores from a high-profile Saudi investment summit amid the uproar over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi — but top Silicon Valley companies show no signs they plan to unwind their lucrative business ties with the country…. Ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft have struck major investment deals with Saudi investors in recent years, and Twitter counts Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal as one of its top shareholders. The Saudi financial fingerprint also extends to other well-known brands such as Snap and Tesla.” • It would excellent to put an end to the horrid war in Yemen. However, I also understand that Saudi money is stupid money, and it would also be excellent to let some of the air out of companies like Uber and Tesla. And heck, Twitter. Maybe if @jack had less money sloshing about, he could stop paying engineers to crap around with algos that ruin the user experience, and revert to the simple and rugged chronological timeline from accounts I subscribe to. If less stupid money means less crapfication, I call that win-win.

Tech: “Yahoo Agrees to Pay $85M to Settle Consumer Data Breach Class Actions” [National Law Journal]. “Yahoo Inc. has agreed to pay up to $85 million to settle consumer class actions brought over its recent data breaches. The settlement, filed in court on Monday, includes a $50 million fund from which consumers can file claims to be reimbursed. In addition, Yahoo has agreed to provide credit monitoring and pay up to $35 million in attorney fees.” • Credit monitoring… So they douse my house with accelerant, and then agree to let me know when it catches on fire.

Class Warfare

“NAFTA’s Army: Free Trade and US Military Enlistment” [International Studies Quarterly]. From the abstract: “I argue that international trade increases military enlistment in the United States….. This study analyzes an original, county-level data set on army enlistment and trade-related job losses from 1996 to 2010. The results suggest that a trade shock of one thousand job losses is associated with a 33 percent increase in army enlistment in the median county.” • Remember that combat deaths correllated to Trump votes in 2016.

“Labor Flexes New Muscles in Online Media” [Bloomberg]. “Employees of Law360, a unit of LexisNexis, voted two years ago to unionize but have been unable to secure a contract. On Tuesday night, they voted 141 to 11 to greenlight a work stoppage, according to the Communications Workers of America’s NewsGuild… Along with threatening a strike, the NewsGuild has begun seeking support from Law360 subscribers, including law firms, urging them to contact management.”

“Capital for the People?” [Jacobin]. “A school of thought that has recently surfaced in the wake of the Amazon wage increase (the impact of which may be mixed) holds that policy proposals should be evaluated purely in terms of their agitational impact. To be sure, political struggle makes change possible. However, if we hope that a victorious President Ocasio-Cortez would construct [a Social Wealth Fund (SWF)], we ought to venture into the weeds of the rationale for such a fund, how it would come into being and operate.” • “Agitational impact…”

Deaths of despair:

News of the Wired

Edmund Wilson. Haven’t heard his name in years:

Fine anaphoric layout, and proper punctuation!

“Redefining the Mole” [NIST]. “[T]hanks to the concept of the mole, you know that 18 grams of water—a macro quantity you can easily see and measure—contains approximately 600 billion trillion individual water molecules—a submicroscopic quantity not easily measured. And you would know that for every 10 water molecules you create, you need exactly 10 oxygen atoms and 20 hydrogen atoms. Because of this, you can easily design chemical reactions at the atomic level that would produce exactly the amount of substance you need at a macroscopic level. For about 20 years, the international community has been working on a modern redefinition of the mole. This effort centers on an amazingly ultra-pure sphere of one of the world’s most common elements: silicon. But unlike the kilogram ingot in France, this one won’t sit in a little vault somewhere and be used for reference. Instead, the equations will be used for reference. The sphere will serve as evidence that the numbers work. And scientists will finally achieve what French revolutionaries envisioned when they created the SI: a measurement system for all times and for all people.” • Chemistry mavens may enjoy the two large equations.

“The Nose Knows: Scientists Confirm Scent of Lavender Reduces Anxiety” [Courthouse News] (original; mouse study, n = 240). “Researchers in the physiology department at Kagoshima University in Japan found that linalool, a terpene alcohol naturally found in lavender, decreased anxiety levels in laboratory mice when simply inhaled and does not need to enter the bloodstream to work… Researchers in the physiology department at Kagoshima University in Japan found that linalool, a terpene alcohol naturally found in lavender, decreased anxiety levels in laboratory mice when simply inhaled and does not need to enter the bloodstream to work.”

“GNU Kind Communications Guidelines” [Richard Stallman, GNU Operating System]. • Interesting and useful.

* * *

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 (In the Land of Farmers):

In the Land of Farmers writes: “Fall has arrived in Missoula, MT.” Gorgeous!

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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. Wukchumni

      We took a mile walk or so to Aspen Flat in Mineral King yesterday, and the round trip took 3 hours as we did a side trip to soda springs (byo lemonade powder to make a lemonade soda) amidst power lounging on carpets of newly fallen leaves in the groves as the quaking aspens had more the look of chiffon colored lemon-lime than their sidekicks that are 500 feet lower and ablaze, each looking like a just lit match in a melange of gold, red and amber. The black cottonwoods along the road are chartreuse or strident yellow, and the whole scheme has the look of an artists palate.

      It will only intensify in the 6 days left to see it before the road closes for the year…

    2. Oregoncharles


      My wife once handed DeFazio a bag of peach pits at a town hall, when we were trying to get the Dems to im peach Bush II.

      Actually, DeFazio changed his position after he lost control of that town hall – a medium he’s very good at it. Fair notice: Merkley, now expressing interest in the Presidency, is even better at it.

      1. emorej a hong kong

        town hall – a medium … Merkley, now expressing interest in the Presidency, is even better at it.

        This is good to know. It was already clear, from long-distance observation, that a Progressive winning statewide in Oregon is not nearly as easy as it looks.
        Merkley’s activities and visibility relating to 2020 Presidential campaign can have huge value by filling the void of ‘qualified’ back-ups to Bernie Sanders. This creates a non-capitulationist endorsement option if Bernie feels he is not up to another campaign, and serves as a (political and physical) life insurance policy on Bernie.

    3. freedomny

      Here in Queens NY – OMG – very few trees turning.

      Could be a Thanksgiving thing which happened about 10-15 years ago.

      1. Yves Smith

        My mother, whose birthday is around Thanksgiving, came to New York that particular Thanksgiving. She still talks about how the colors in Central Park looked then.

        For those of you who are not local, peak color here is usually mid to late October. And of course it depends on how much rain and wind there is. A blustery fall means few pretty leaves stay up. The big rain we are supposed to get this weekend will dull things out.

  1. Gary

    “The Nose Knows: Scientists Confirm Scent of Lavender Reduces Anxiety”

    My wife rubs lavender oil in the ears of our dogs when they are spooked by a storm or have some other anxiety triggering event. I am highly skeptical of such things, but I have to admit, I’ve seen it work on several occasions.

    1. Bridget

      I make it a point to always have lavender growing and to share it at every opportunity. Unlike some of my other lovelies like gardenia, plumeria, and jasmine, the scent of lavender is year round.

      1. Buck Eschaton

        Both of those words, plus “Shultz”, have entries on Urban Dictionary. Can’t speculate regarding any connection though.

          1. dk

            Yeah… the look like rocks?!? except it looks like the controller wires go into them. Blobs of epoxy or some kind of composition glue/filler?

            Actually we can’t see the composition of the pipe either, all that tape.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Didn’t someone mention before that, in China, they would collect small packages and ship them bulk from there to a point in the US, and then, mail the individual packages from there on (in the original envelopes or boxes, or not…i.e. new envelopes)?

      2. polecat

        Who’s to say that these things are part of some tag-team psyops bewteen some democrats and IC operatives ..

        .. puts kitchen collander back on head ..

        1. Elizabeth Burton

          I confess I had the same thought, in light of knowing the FBI has been exposed for having undercover agents persuade mentally-challenged individuals to make bombs or otherwise engage in “terrorist” activities.

          These days, paranoia isn’t aberrant behavior.

      3. Edward E

        Isn’t there a name in the Mideast for an obvious scare tactic like this? A ‘bibi’
        He sure wasn’t fond of any of those folks.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Here in America, we could make up our own word for an obvious scare tactic like this. We could call it a “thrax”. From “anthrax”, get it?

    1. Bob

      1. That’s less than $3 of postage. You can’t mail that package with a pipe in it for less than $3

      2. The stamps aren’t even cancelled by the post office. What’s going on here???

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Focusing on the device because that’s where the speculation seems least pervasive:

      More on the CNN package:

      A law enforcement official says the pipe bombs that were sent to several prominent Democrats and CNN were packed with powder and shards of glass.

      The official says the devices were made from PVC pipe that was about six inches long and covered with black tape.

      The official says each device also had a small battery, similar to a watch battery. The official didn’t say whether the powder was explosive.

      The official, who viewed X-ray images of the device, wasn’t authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.


      A law enforcement official says tests have determined that a powder found inside an envelope delivered to CNN along with a pipe bomb was harmless.

      From an anonymous single source, sadly.

      (The National Review’s headline, “Pipe Bomb and Powder Delivered to CNN Were Harmless”, deceptively conflates the bomb — not necessarily harmless — with the powder (harmless). Massive self-own, there, that headline.)

      I’m not an expert here, fortunately, but I’m not getting how this works. (1) Why would anybody send a device with a timer through the mail? You don’t know when the package will arrive! (2) Wouldn’t it be more typical to use a trigger that works when opening the package, with lots of packing material to keep the device stable? (3) So what kind of sense does a manila envelope make? (4) Typically, the pipes are metal — the metal turns into shrapnel when the explosive inside goes off. So what kind of sense does a PVC pipe make? (5) By the same token, does glass even work as shrapnel? (It’s been used, apparently.) (6) If the goal of PVC and glass as opposed to metal is to get past the X-Ray machines, what about the wires? (7) Then there are the “parody ISIS flag[s] featuring comedian Larry the Cable Guy’s signature slogan, ‘git ‘er done,’ on all the devices. Joke? Signal? (8) Having removed it from the envelope, why did a CNN employee (?) feel safe enough to photograph it? I understand dedicated newsgathering, but yikes. (9) At this point, we also don’t know if the devices even work (“crudely functional,” according to IIRC the NYPD). We don’t know if the powder is really explosive. We don’t know if the timer works. We don’t know if the timer is wired up to anything. We don’t know the force of the explosion, if any. Presumably the FBI knows or will know all this. But we don’t. (Many believe that the FBI fingered the wrong guy in the anthrax scare of 2001, where packages were also mailed, including Senator Patrick Leahy and scientists in the field.)

      I think the whole thing is horrible and creepy, but I’m not getting the perp’s/perps’ logic here.

      There are also at least three modes of thought that people are reaching for:

      1) stochastic terrorism (mostly from liberals and the left): “using language and other forms of communication to incite random acts of violence that are “statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.” However, I don’t see how it’s possible to disprove a claim of stochastic terrorism.

      2) false flag (mostly on the right). “Operations carried out during peacetime by civilian organizations, as well as covert government agencies, can (by extension) also be called false flag operations if they seek to hide the real organization behind an operation.” Here again, I don’t see how you can disprove such claims. You also have a neat possibility for infinite regress: False0 false1 ….. falsen operations. (You’d have to be as twisty as a corkscrew to think of and organize such an operation, but I don’t see that as an insuperable barrier.)

      3) cui bono (ubiquitous): The principle that probable responsibility for an act or event lies with one having something to gain.” Such claims can be disproved, but it’s not easy: The issue is not the benefit you imagine might be gained, but the benefit the perp(s) believe can be gained. Absent a perp, we can’t know that.

      I’ve processed a lot of reactions and hot takes on this topic, and it’s more than a little disturbing that two of the prevalent modes of thought (stochastic terrorism and false flag) enable non-falsifible claims, and the third (cui bono) is close to that.

      More to come, no doubt…

  2. DJG

    Edmund Wilson: True, his name doesn’t come up much these days. Yet his handy list of conditions is something that I am going to have to make off with.

    1. Hana M

      I love that list! Also Shuja Haider’s comment down the Twitter thread on David Frum’s frowsty beard: “I appreciate the effort bro but you’re really not pulling off the millennial scruff thing”

      I’m deep into a baseball postseason dominated by far more authoritative–even alarming–beards, plus weird hoodies, which gave Shuja’s comment an extra whiff of authenticity and timeliness.

      1. Wukchumni

        There’s an odd predilection towards baseball players wearing overly long necklaces that come down to say a foot below their chin, this year.

        If I had my druthers, i’d make the MLB season 16 games long with a contest every Saturday in the summer, instead of the 162 stanza snorefest.

        1. Fiery Hunt

          Some people like the long story that is baseball…
          Some just can’t understand.

          Nothing better than listening to baseball on the radio on a summer’s eve while you work with your hands on a project…like restoring a motorcycle. Best summer I had…

      1. JCC

        Hear Hear! Not all the sympathizers are under 40. Always interesting and every once in awhile they hit a Grand Slam. Their foray into the Ozy Fest with a little mind-bending assistance on top was a definite winner.

        1. PhillyPhilly

          That was a hilarious episode. I loved their skewering of the description from the Ozy website:

          “…and we built those convictions into our name, which comes from “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley. The poem is commonly read as a warning against outsized egos and the impermanence of power. But we choose to read it differently. To us, it’s a call to think big while remaining humble”

          Their sarcastic tone of voice is absolutely golden sometimes.

  3. Knifecatcher

    The opposition to 112 here in CO is getting pretty desperate. None of the oppo ads make any reference to what the proposition is about, just that it will destroy jobs and hurt schools. Doesn’t seem to be sticking though.

    1. a different chris

      Of course not passing it will destroy schools and hurt jobs in the cleaner power industry.

  4. Wukchumni

    I get the idea that heroin addicts by using ever more, are lessening the anticipated high and by the heroin dealer adding a wee bit of Fentanyl that’s cheaper than China White, and 100x as potent-that high can be extended, but what I don’t understand, is why heroin dealers would want to kill off their clientele?

    Is Fentanyl (and soon to come: Carfentanyl-100x as strong as Fentanyl) a plot to get rid of useless eaters, or China’s anything goes manufacturing capabilities, a little payback for all those lost generations of opium denning, or a little of all of the above.

    There were 75 Fentanyl overdose deaths in the UK in 2017, versus around 30,000 here in the USA~

    Something is quite fishy…

    1. Oregoncharles

      A lot are probably suicides.

      Also, if you kick the habit for a while, then relapse, you’ve lost your tolerance. If you use the same amount as before, it can kill you.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      If the Oxycontin-Industrial Complex keeps recruiting new waves of people onto opiate addiction, that is an ever-filling pool of new recruits over to heroin and what comes after.

      If there are a couple million or so heroin addicts, then losing 30,000 per year will not affect the business.

      And if 30,000 join for every 30,000 who die, then the illegal opiates industry doesn’t lose any customer numbers.

      Britain has made heroin quasi-legal for every addict in Britain who wants to join the registered-addict system. Those who do just go to a properly regulated pharmacy to get their properly regulated maintainance dose every day or whatever. So heroin addiction is “un-cool” in Britain, and unfashionable.
      So the heroin users are not recruiting thousands of joiners. And since the heroin is legal there, in those regulated channels, the UK authorities can make sure to administer pure fentanyl-free heroin to their registered clients.

      Whereas here, heroin is kept illegal to keep the War-On-Drugs Industrial Complex profitable and at peak employment, and also to keep launderable revenue streams flowing through the International Money-Laundry-Center banks. And since the heroin is illegal, government does not consider it government’s job to keep Chinese fentanyl and carfentanyl out of the heroin supply.

      Now if the Chinese authorities are also doing it for gits and shiggles to gloat over some kind of “revenge” on people who are not descended from the dynastic wealthy Lords Of Opium from the 1800’s, then that is one more reason to move the US to a posture of zero economic or personell contact between the US and China. If America were sealed off against China with naval-bulkhead-quality barriers against contamination from exposure to anything having something to do with China, then the Chinese opiates could be kept out of America. That would require re-configuring and re-engineering our whole society and economy around the principle of most-possibly-feasible autarchy and selective cordon-sanitaire-ization against hostile alien enemyconomies.

  5. willf

    Chuck Schumer on Twitter, yesterday:

    “Make no mistake: Despicable acts of violence and harassment are being carried out by radicals across the political spectrum—not just by one side. Regardless of who is responsible, these acts are wrong and must be condemned by Democrats and Republicans alike. Period.”

    1. nippersdad

      Nice to see that he has noticed how bi-partisan support for the GWOT has been. If they had just sent the Bush Administration to the Hague in the first place, as our treaties obligated them to do, they wouldn’t have these problems. ……….Oh! He has a problem with people bombing pols?

      What a hypocrite.

    2. Tomonthebeach

      Not a soul even suffered from a paper cut from these mailed bombs.

      Meanwhile, a real bomb hit Wall Street like a nuke while we were watching to see if any Democrat would even smell smoke.

      Thank you Prez Don for your terrif tariffs. You just wiped out every penny of gain on the market that you have been bragging about daily to your MAGA base – nearly all of whom do not own a single share of stock. I sure hope the news impacts your party at the polls to the same extent it affected most of our wealth.

      1. Charlie

        nearly all of whom do not own a single share of stock.

        Pray tell, just why would MAGA people care about a correction in overpriced stock they don’t own while Bezos tells them how long they are allowed to pee?

  6. cnchal

    > “It should be pointed out that the trucking movements are improving YoY – and the likely reason is the shift from box stores to eRetailers.”

    Less efficient = moar groaf.

    > “NAFTA’s Army: Free Trade and US Military Enlistment” . . .

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

    > “Here are the 172 veterans running for Congress in November” [Military Times]. . .

    The optimist in me hopes that most of these people are running because they hate war, and we get less of it.

    1. ewmayer

      Re. the veterans, alas I believe many if not most are from the military/intelligence complex and are touting their spook credentials. Lambert has been following this as well, via his frequent commentary on the “CIA democrats”.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      > “Here are the 172 veterans running for Congress in November” [Military Times]. . .

      The optimist in me hopes that most of these people are running because they hate war, and we get less of


      Except when business persons are running.

      They are not running because they hate business, free market and capitalism.

      Likely they are running to give us more.

      And while business is like war, I don’t believe, or hope not, that veterans are like business persons (except those veterans who go into business).

    3. nippersdad

      Chuck Enderlin is running here in Georgia 03, and he really does dislike even discussing the anti-war perspective. As a result we have taken a “better the Republican you know” attitude wrt him. Ferguson is awful, and we would never vote for him either, but at least you know what you are getting.

      Our undervotes may be the best thing to come out of our voting records.

  7. marym

    Judge: No rejecting mail ballots due to signature mismatch

    Georgia election officials must stop rejecting absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications because of a mismatched signature without first giving voters a chance to fix the problem, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

    U.S. District Judge Leigh May ordered the secretary of state’s office to instruct county election officials to stop the practice for the November midterm elections. She outlined a procedure to allow voters to resolve alleged signature discrepancies.

    1. Kokuanani

      It makes me sad to realize that rulings like this will be a thing of the past once all the “Trump judges” make their way into the pipeline.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        It makes me sad too. It is a heavy price to pay for keeping the evil Clinton out of the White House and away from the Red Button. I would much rather have been able to vote for Sanders than having to vote for Trump. But the Democrats made it a choice of Trump versus Clinton, and I had to vote for the Lesser Evil. I hated to do it, but it had to be done.

        Nominations have consequences.

  8. Oregoncharles

    ““The Universal Postal Union is fast-tracking a rate review following President Trump’s threat to pull out”
    Both this and the WTO link imply that Trump’s tactics are alarmingly effective – and in this case, oddly in line with progressive policies.

    And the one about costs cascading through the production system implies that there’s more inflation than is being counted. Isn’t that what the Fed wanted? So far, it isn’t wage-driven, which would be a lot better.

    1. marku52

      Yes, this pisses me off. A guy who does so many hateful things, yet is accomplishing useful changes (more fair competition for US Etailers in postage) as well as getting rid of unfair help China gets from the WTO.

      And had HRC won, none of that would be happening.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s good to lock in gains from not giving up our national sovereignty to the ISDS system (TPP being dead, TTiP moribund, and NAFTA revised). That doesn’t mean that conservatives won’t leverage the gains for purposes the left might regard as abhorrent.

      I’m trying to imagine the next President, and what sort of person they would have to be for everything they do or say not to be instantly discounted; certainly they would have to have a very strong character. Lincoln, when elected, wasn’t Lincoln. Ditto FDR. (I’m toying with the notion that the James Buchanan analog for our time is not Obama, but Trump, thinking of Buchanan and the Slave Power rigging the Dred Scott decision and provoking a legitimacy crisis that way.)

  9. Synoia

    Researchers in the physiology department at Kagoshima University in Japan found that linalool, a terpene alcohol naturally found in lavender, decreased anxiety levels in laboratory mice when simply inhaled and does not need to enter the bloodstream to work.

    Researchers in the Shitty of London in England found that cash money, not naturally occurring in nature, decreased anxiety levels in humans when simply held in the hand and does not need to enter the banking system to work.

    1. Hana M

      My grandmother (who pushed my grandfather to sell his stocks and buy a Model T in the spring of 1929) used to iron her dollar bills and annoint them off with a spritz of lavender water or 4711 cologne. She said it made the money last longer.

      1. Wukchumni

        In a secret back room of a San Francisco hotel wired with fiber optic cable, one man still practices a tradition leftover from the 1930s: cleaning money. Rob Holsen is the coin washer at the Westin St. Francis Hotel, and perhaps the only coin washer on Earth.

        He said the hotel on Union Square started washing its coins in 1934 when the general manager noticed a woman’s white gloves getting dirty. Now, nearly 80 years later, the tradition somehow survives.

        “I once gave an FBI agent my card that says ‘coin washer’ on it,” Holsen said. “And I told her we laundered money, at which point she reached for her hip.”


  10. tangfwa

    Thank you for mentioning food safety! One of the pious-liberal prescriptions for food deserts and economic underdevelopment is to allow anyone anywhere to cook and sell food. Obviously I’m for the economic empowerment of the left-out, as well as the rich cultural/gastronomic potential, but this path is a Trojan horse for deregulation and ultimately a libertarian paradise of pure hell. Let’s please wake up from our well-intentioned anarcho-primitivist penny-wise pound-foolishness.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      25 years in “food service”, here.
      I agree, to a point. some of the regs regarding preparing food are downright silly, contemplating rube goldberg cascading failures, and are selectively enforced.
      cleanliness and an eye on temps are what really matters.
      backflow valves on outside faucets*, when there’s no water hose present…are rather lower on the lists of concerns. (* for when the city water fails and your hose is on and laying in the mud puddle, muddy water can get sucked into the city water mains)
      I also fought a lot with the inspectors over “approved sourcing” of veggies and fruits. I always sought to get tomatoes and whatnot from the grandmother down the street, etc…I got docked on the inspection repeatedly for this.
      Flavorless, gassed, with inserted flounder genes and shipped around the world are just fine(and no bathrooms in the damned fields, no less,lol)
      In Texas, around ten years ago, they loosened the regs regarding home kitchens…say…for the little ladies who make tamales.
      I’ve heard nothing of an increase in gut bugs.
      I am NOT saying that we need to jettison all the regs..but we must keep in mind that a feature of regulatory capture is then using those captured regulators to harm one’s competition by getting onerous regs pushed through that your megacorp can easily swallow, but the mom and pop outfit cannot.
      This happens in every part of the food industry, from dirt to plate to dirt.

  11. Eduardo

    Jeff Bezos-Funded Super PAC Attacks Democrat As A Traitor Who Didn’t Support America After 9/11

    A super PAC fueled with $10 million from billionaire Amazon and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos is attacking Democratic congressional candidate Lauren Baer as a traitor for voicing opinions critical of U.S. foreign policy in a college newspaper after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    The ad comes from With Honor Fund, a super PAC that supports Democratic and Republican military veterans running for office.

  12. a different chris

    >“The packages sent to the Obama, Soros and Clinton addresses have a number of similarities, according to NBC News. … The packages also have a return address the belonging to a prominent Democratic Party official.”

    Haha was that you, Mark? We certainly understand…

  13. JTMcPhee

    “Liberal billionaire George Soros…” Maybe a sort of Thomas-Frank-described liberal, if one squints, but really? I’m fed up with “conservative” acquaintances telling me that what is wrong with the world is the evils of Soros (true, that, but not how they mean) and his largesse to “liberal” organizations and causes, and SEIU and the Teachers Union and gdam Communists. Soros is an oligarch, on the side of the wealthy. Maybe gets props for doing a bit to try to unseat Georgie Bush, but… Not a friend of the mopery.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If I heard that, I would say: Soros isn’t a real liberal. He just plays one on TV. Now about those Koch Brothers . . . there’s a REAL conservative.

      1. Milton

        He is a Liberal and that is the problem. I’ve said it a million times. Liberals are not the Left.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          True . . . but if I were talking with an ordinary John Q. Citizen who didn’t make that distinction, I would still say ” Soros isn’t a real liberal. He just plays one on TV. etcetcetc . . . ” and see whether some sort of conversation went somewhere.

  14. drumlin woodchuckles

    Maybe Candidate Biden could wear a full-head Latex Reagan Mask to the debates and at the right times say to Trump . . . ” there you go again” . . .

  15. Indrid Cold

    Twitter is full of condemnation on the heads of any who would doubt the implied liberal general line that some enraged Trump fanatic is mailing explosive devices to crusaders for human rights and justice like Mssrs Soros and Ms. Waters. As if those people just rip into any old package that shows up in the mail. As if all former presidents don’t have skilled secret service details to keep an eye out for this sort of thing.

    1. Jonhoops

      Well my FB feed is full of Trump lovers saying this was a false flag by evil democrats to smear Trump. It is also to purportedly blunt the supposedly growing meme of the the “Violent Left Wing Mob”. None of the bombs went off, so this is considered proof of a false flag. I’m sure if a device actually explodes these intrepid sleuths will find some rational to blame the Democrats.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s true that prominent members of the political class have people to screen their mail, so only the poor working class schlubs in the mail room or the sorting facilities are in danger.

      That doesn’t make mailing the devices any less creepy or repugnant. I just hope we don’t get a ton of copy cats, which will make our society even more low trust than it already is.

  16. Kurtismayfield

    When you post from the NIST.. it has to be a slow post day! Did someone share that one Mole day? (10/23)

      1. Kurtismayfield

        It is neat because the mole is one of the standards left that is still based upon something, and not some mathematical constant that can be tested through the universe. I blame Dalton for making the mass of Hydrogen 1 to get us into this mess!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Pile of unsold homes…

      “Put those houses in that pile. Too bad we can’t ship to China anymore. They won’t take our trash.”

    2. Tom Stone

      Thanks, I got home a few minutes ago and haven’t read it yet.
      Our local fishwrap the “Press Democrat” actually mentioned the slowdown in sales yesterday…
      Something every Realtor in Sonoma County noticed in June.

  17. Steely Glint

    RE: 172 ex military running for congress
    I think this helps explain things, vets are looking for a meaningful “mission” other than using their skills to make stockholders more money. Personally, some may not be suited like the ex-seal governor of Missouri, but others think of their spouses needing a different license for each state they move to, or schools around base housing being inadequate. Please read the article’s comments.

  18. wilroncanada

    No, but Trump puts gunpowder n his toothpaste: that’s why he’s always shooting off his mouth. And his explosive mouth, that single emotion, brinkmanship, mouth has finally impelled some nut case to go off the deep end.

  19. The Rev Kev

    “The Shooting At YouTube Showed How Bad Twitter’s Misinformation Problem Is”

    What is that old saying again? Garbage in, garbage out?

  20. Plenue

    >“The massacre men” [Scalawag].

    I recall reading somewhere recently-ish that the Confederacy was essentially an occupying power on its own territory.

      1. John k

        I don’t have any answers to his questions, except to say that sales have been rising fast, and at some point it may be possible to turn a corner.
        They’re selling more cars than any of the luxury sellers, meaning buyers like the product, and model 3 revenues now exceed rhat of any model sold in America. regarding absolute sales, fifth overall behind Camry etc.
        and designed made here!
        Regarding tax rebates… this is one of the few Corp tax incentives I support, and think it should continue until fossil poisoning is dead. Bear in mind the never ending fossil subsidies few complain about.

  21. Edward E

    As I recall every time the economy tanked in the past lots of skateboard drivers and heavy haul would be asking me for referrals. Guess I’m going to have to keep up with this stuff again since it’s time to get back in the saddle. There are so many trucks sitting in shops everywhere, these new trucks are atrocities and the dwivas hate ’em. One little sensor and three days in the shop.

    Demand for flatbeds drop off. Is this a sign of an industrial economy slowdown?

    1. Duck1

      Wow, maybe the owners need to create some moar jawbs, groaf and all that terrible inflation. Magical are the markets these jawb creators invisibly hand.

    2. Charlie

      The funny part about these new trucks is that incoming drivers have aomehow lost the ability to shift a manual transmission. I’ve driven up to a 13 speed (diabetic since 2001. Nobody would even touch me, so I turned in my CDL) and can’t for the life of me figure out how drivers got dumbed down that fast.

      One semi-automatic and I hated it. Six days in the shop for a three times replaced sensor in the transmission that caused a slip into neutral while going down a 10% grade (yes. They exist).

      1. Edward E

        Like we have said, the heavy tow truck is a very profitable and recession proof business. I tell young folks to do that or become an injury lawyer.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Re-wilding could make some CO2 re-suckdown sense.

      Re-wetting, as in re-flooding all the world’s drained wetlands to regrow all the wetland vegetation they used to grow, could make a LOT of carbon-capture sense. Wetlands were/are very good at suckin’ down the Carbon, embodying it into the bodies of the wetland plants, and then sinking all the generations of dead plants and plant- parts down under the water, to turn into peat . . . which is stored bio-carbon.

      The coal beds are all considered to have started as peat beds which formed in/under wetlands . . . the “Great Swamplands of the Carboniferous Era”.

      Production farming itself could also be re-configured to operate as a sky-carbon sucker-downer and capturizer-storer.

      1. Edward E

        The thing is, the sucker-downers and capturizer-storers are being smothered out by fast growing invasive sucker-releasers people have let loose. There are much more than just kudzu spreading, there’s skunkvine and air potatoes. There’s just hundreds of polluting invasives and not just vines. Florida alone has thousands.

        Invasive kudzu drives carbon out of the soil, into the atmosphere


  22. Jonhoops

    Well my FB feed is full of Trump lovers saying this bomb plot was a false flag by evil democrats to smear Trump. It is also to purportedly blunt the supposedly growing meme of the the “Violent Left Wing Mob”. None of the bombs went off, so this is considered proof of a false flag. I’m sure if a device actually explodes these intrepid sleuths will find some rational to blame the Democrats.

  23. Earl Erland

    Gotta love this site. Anaphoric. Can’t define it even after appreciating it, so type it into the Google which leads to Merriam Webster, which has squat on etymology. But the good news is thus: First, Merriam Webster asked me to link to the electrons where I read the word, and I did, so you and yours are now linked to MW, for better or for worse until you become so popular that Google steps in to monetize the link; Second, Refdesk is still functioning, gave me a dictionary option that included at least a bit of the history of the word’s construct, and, delightfully, an example from one of EW’s contemporaries: “We shall be Naked to the End. We shall fight Naked in France, we shall fight Naked on the seas and the oceans, et cetera et Nudus aeterno.

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