2:00PM Water Cooler 11/5/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, sorry for the excitement, but we are back up. –lambert 3:44PM

Trade

“Will the new trade deal prevent Mexican trucks from entering the U.S.?” [Freight Waves]. “While most of the deal is an update to NAFTA, there is a paragraph inserted into the agreement that could disrupt cross-border trade via truck…. While the section doesn’t implicitly state that the U.S. would halt the current cross-border trucking program, which allows approved Mexican-based carriers to operate outside the current commercialized zone along the border, it does seem to suggest that the U.S. could end the controversial program if it chooses. That would be a departure from where the two nation’s stand and a win for the Teamsters and other anti-Mexican trucking groups. There is speculation in some circles that once the agreement is formally approved, the Teamsters may make a renewed push to get Mexican trucks off U.S. roads for good.”

“Their Soybeans Piling Up, Farmers Hope Trade War Ends Before Beans Rot” [New York Times]. “But this year, the Chinese have all but stopped buying. The largest market for one of America’s largest exports has shut its doors. The Chinese government imposed a tariff on American soybeans in response to the Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese goods. The latest federal data, through mid-October, shows American soybean sales to China have declined by 94 percent from last year’s harvest.”

“Tariffs are being slowly but surely absorbed into the supply chains of American business. A broad range of companies reporting third-quarter earnings say they are blunting the effects from escalating tariffs with China through price increases or changes to their supply chains. But the WSJ’s Theo Francis reports that many also are warning investors that the picture could worsen next year” [Wall Street Journal]. “An analysis of recent financial reports shows tariffs have slowed timber and grain shipments, raised the cost of clothes hangers and heavy-equipment materials, and compressed margins for chip- and toolmakers…. Some companies say tariffs are dampening demand for exports to China, which is hitting transport networks. Railroad giant Union Pacific Corp. says the season’s typical grain-shipment increase hadn’t materialized, partly due to Chinese tariffs.”

“Jack Ma Labels Trade War ‘Most Stupid Thing’ as Tensions Boil” [Industry Week]. “China’s richest person — who warned just last month that a trade war could last two decades — argued it was pointless to target goods because the Asian nation was on its way to becoming a major buyer of foreign products. Indeed, it’s services — such as those on the internet — powering job growth, not old-school manufacturing, the outgoing Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. chairman told a business forum Monday…. While Alibaba gets most of its revenue from domestic commerce, Ma and his fellow executives have championed China as a destination for foreign-made products — American or otherwise.”

Politics

2018

1 day until Election Day, tomorrow. That’s not a long time at all!

“Wall Street and business donors bet on Democrats” [Financial News]. “Democratic donors from the financial industry banded together this year to form a group called the House Victory Project, which accepts contributions of as much as $108,000 from donors and parcels them out to 37 Democratic House candidates in some of the country’s tightest races, Federal Election Commission paperwork shows. Individuals can give no more than $2,700 to a campaign for each election… The group raised more than $14m as of October 17, from donors including Frederick Iseman, founder of private-equity firm CI Capital Partners, and Alan Patricof, founder of the venture-capital firm Greycroft LLC…. Other big-named donors to the House Victory Project include James Attwood, managing director of the Carlyle Group, a private-equity firm; Jeff Zients, president of the Cranemere Group and Obama’s former economic adviser; and Robert Rubin, former Treasury secretary under Obama.” • “Bob Rubin called. He wants his administration back.”

“A Few Moves on the Eve of the Election” [Inside Elections]. “The disparity between the two parties is reminiscent of 2010, when our pre-election list of competitive races included 100 Democratic seats and just nine Republican seats. Democrats lost 63 seats that cycle. Republicans are unlikely to lose that many seats this cycle, but the battleground is one of the biggest reasons why Democrats are likely to regain the majority- because they need to win less than a third of the competitive seats.”

“Final House Ratings: 75 Competitive Races, Ten Rating Changes’ [Cook Political Report]. “Just by winning all of the races at least “leaning” their way, Democrats would net 16 of the 23 seats they need for a majority. In that scenario, Democrats would only need to win eight of the 30 races in Toss Up to win control (they currently hold one Toss Up, Minnesota’s 1st CD). Conversely, Republicans would likely need to win 23 of the 30 Toss Up races to keep their majority. That’s not impossible, but it’s very difficult.”

“Final picks for 2018” [Larry Sabato’s Crystall Ball]. “The 2018 midterm has long been a study in contradictory signs…. Our expectations for this election have been consistent for the past several months…. Our ratings changes leave 229 seats at least leaning to the Democrats and 206 at least leaning to the Republicans, so we are expecting the Democrats to pick up more than 30 seats (our precise ratings now show Democrats netting 34 seats in the House, 11 more than the 23 they need).”

“Nate Silver says Dems could retake House, or not: ‘Both extremely possible'” [The Hill]. “‘[N]o one should be surprised if they only win 19 seats and no one should be surprised if they win 51 seats,’ Silver added. ‘Those are both extremely possible, based on how accurate polls are in the real world.'”

“Polling in Real Time: The 2018 Midterm Elections” [Nate Cohn, New York Times]. • Scan down the right hand column for the Undecideds. The numbers are enormous. Cohn tweets:

“Prediction Markets See Republicans Losing House, Keeping Senate” [Bloomberg]. “The bet viewed as the safest is that Democrats will secure a net gain of 23 seats to take the House majority for the first time since 2010.”

“Dem Avg Gain +26.5 (23 Seat Gain Needed for Dems to Take Control)” [RealClearPolitics].

“Election Day 2018: Here’s when to expect the results of the midterms” [MarketWatch]. “Experts think it will become clear relatively quickly whether the Democrats have a “blue wave” that can wrest control of Congress from Republicans. • Between 10:00PM and 2:00AM, absent “nightmare scenarios that push the final outcome until early December.”

* * *

“What Is a Wave Election, Anyway?” [Sean Trende, RealClearPolitics]. “So, we start with a definition: A wave election represents a sharp, unusually large shift in the national balance of power, across multiple levels of government.” • With lots of nerdy detail about how to measure “an unusually large shift.”

“Democrats Are Near Certain to Make Gains in State Legislatures, But How Many?” [Governing]. “despite all the speculation about a “blue wave” forming, Democrats shouldn’t count on winning too many chambers. Republicans control two-thirds of the nation’s legislative chambers and hold big majorities in many of them. On average, 12 chambers switch hands per cycle. Democrats this year may fall shy of that number…. In many states, Democrats know they almost certainly can’t erase GOP supermajorities in a single year. In North Carolina, Democrats are simply setting their sights on taking over enough seats to keep vetoes from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper from being overriden. There are some states, such as Ohio, where even big wins wouldn’t be enough to erase GOP legislative majorities.”

Peak liberalism: Sadly, Billy Eichner’s Tweet — “I just told a bellhop to vote” — has been deleted. But it was archived [Archive Today].

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The political climate is making Democrats ‘eat their feelings.’ Here’s how to manage the stress.” [NBC]. “According to a poll conducted by YouGov and commissioned by the fitness site Daily Burn, Democrats are 50 percent more likely than Republicans to say they’re “eating their feelings” as a result of the current political climate. They’re also drinking more (a 2-to-1 ratio over their GOP counterparts). The ostensibly good news is that these stressed out Democrats are also working out more, by as much as 40 percent; but even exercise can be overdone.”” • So all the jokes about brunch and box wine do have a point….

“Applebee’s is betting on stress eaters, and it’s paying off” [CNN]. “Applebee’s knows you’re stressed, and it wants to make you feel better with cheap alcohol and lots of food. That’s been the brand’s strategy since John Cywinski took over as its president in March of last year. And it’s working… Applebee’s customers have an average household income of $70,000, the company said. About 30% of its customers are Millennials, but it also sells to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. And it serves more families and black and Hispanic customers than its peers.”

* * *

“Progressivism is Popular and Conservatism is Not!” [Data for Progress]. “An exploration of the crosstabs on the single payer question demonstrates further the popularity of progressive policies. The Upshot/Siena team asked “Do you support the creation of a national insurance program, in which every American would get insurance from a single government plans?” Support for such a program goes beyond Obamacare and the standard position of the Democratic party, and doesn’t even mention the popular Medicare program. And yet, it is overwhelmingly popular among swing district Democrats and very popular among swing district independents. Even one-fourth of Republicans support this progressive dream!”

“The Southernization of the Midwest” [Benjamin Studebaker]. “[The Midwest] is the region that has changed the most politically in the last decade. Most of these states have, at some point in the last 10 years, fallen under control of a Republican governor who has attempted to radically reform their labour laws and pension systems in bids to remodel these Midwestern states after the states of the deep south. Their strategy is simple–lower taxes, stifle wage growth, strangle unions, kill regulations, and pirate jobs and investment from the states that fail to do the same. It’s a great Midwestern race to the bottom.” • Kochistan, I think they call it.

“Cheating with paper ballots” [Freedom to Tinker]. “[P]aper ballots with audits and recounts, by themselves, are not a panacea. They need careful and transparent chain-of-custody procedures, and some basic degree of honesty and civic trust.” • Very true.

Stats Watch

Purchasing Managers Services Index, October 2018: “[L]ittle changed from… the mid-month flash but noticeably higher from September” [Econoday]. “The report notes that higher wages and rising borrowing costs are contributing to the rise in input costs and that traction for selling prices is the second highest in nine years of data, hints of overheating that the Federal Reserve will note ahead of this week’s FOMC meeting.” And but: “Both services surveys are in expansion – and their intensity of growth and general trends are different again this month. Markit shows this sector’s growth rate is improving whilst the ISM Services growth rate is slowing. Pretty hard to draw conclusions when one survey is improving and the other slowing” [Econintersect].

Institute For Supply Management Non-Manufacturing Index, October 2018: “October’s ISM non-manufacturing index was expected to slow from September’s record and it did” [Econintersect]. “The strength in export orders highlights how strong foreign demand is for U.S. services, such as financial services and technical and managerial services. Yet concerns over tariffs particularly with China are a constant refrain of the sample’s commentary amid concerns that related costs may soon begin to escalate. Tariffs aside, ISM’s non-manufacturing sample has been having an extraordinarily good year.”

Employment: “October 2018 Conference Board Employment Index Improved But Rate Of Growth Slowed” [Econintersect]. “Econintersect evaluates year-over-year change of this index (which is different than the headline view) – as we do with our own employment index. The year-over-year index growth rate decelerated 1.7 % month-over-month and 4.6 % year-over-year.”

Employment: “Hiring in the transportation and warehousing industries accounted for nearly 10% of the country’s job growth last month” [Wall Street Journal]. “E-commerce looks to be driving much of the hiring surge: The parcel and warehousing sectors each added 7,600 jobs in October as employers brace for another expected double-digit increase in online sales during this holiday season. The boost in hiring pushed the logistics operators close to the job gains in manufacturing and construction… Even a slowdown in truck hiring to 2,400 jobs was strong by historical standards, and gave trucking 36,000 new jobs over the past year.”

Shipping: “China’s big investment in Africa’s natural resources is extending into shipping. Cosco Shipping Corp. is looking at buying some 25 large bulk vessels to move bauxite from the West African country of Guinea” [Wall Street Journal]. “The talks between Cosco’s bulk shipping unit and Chinese shipyards highlight how the country’s maritime operations are increasingly interwoven with broader national industrial policy. From shipyards to port investments, China’s shipping businesses are building the scale to handle more of the country’s trade demand. Experts say the order of the biggest capesize vessels will be one of the largest ever for dry-bulk ships.”

Transportation: “Panasonic Says Gigafactory Profit in Sight as Tesla Ramps Output” [Industry Week]. “Panasonic Corp. is on the verge of turning a profit at the giant U.S. battery factory it operates with Tesla Inc., finally yielding returns for a Japanese company shelling out billions to make power cells for Elon Musk. Panasonic already makes money on batteries for the Model S and Model X, which it produces domestically, President Kazuhiro Tsuga said in an interview. It’s now ramping up output at the two-year-old Gigafactory in Nevada, which is dedicated to making batteries for the Model 3 but still losing money, he said.”

Tech: “Apple will no longer report iPhone numbers after growth went to 0%, and analysts are now worried iPhone sales may decline” [Business Insider]. “If Apple is worried the iPhone is entering a decline, then not reporting its sales numbers helps it avoid that negative PR. On Friday, many analysts openly worried in notes to clients that the move was an indicator that iPhone growth was over and that negative unit sales growth lay ahead.” • Not sure Apple has another “hit” in the product pipeline. And the most salient feature of both the new iPads* and MacBooks looks like the price jump, to me. But if the iPhone is a cash cow, the iPad is a question mark, and the MacBook is a dog, where does that leave Apple as a company? Where’s the star? NOTE * Sure, I’d like to be able to hook up the iPad to a monitor I can color correct, but that’s hardly “one more thing” level, it it?

Tech: Instagram:

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 182. Testing whether 180 is a floor.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Why Detroit ’67 Matters Now” [Belt Magazine]. “The 1967 Detroit Rebellion matters today because the core issues remain the same: police brutality, structural poverty, racial segregation, and pervasive bitterness between citizens of our country. The lessons of the ’67 Detroit Rebellion, and of similar uprisings in Newark, Watts, and throughout the country, are as important now as they were fifty years ago. They beg deeper questions about who we are as Americans, where we are going as a society, and what we should do about persistent problems of inequality.” • That black and white picture of LBJ in his Oval Office chair brings back memories… And MacNamara with his slicked-back hair….

Imperial Collapse Watch

The Battle of the Somme:

America hasn’t really taken casualties, even by this standard (far short of Russia in World War II).

Neoliberal Epidemics

“How a traumatized America finds relief in hate” [Philadelphia Inquirer]. “The connecting line between addiction and hate, according to Maté, is trauma. “‘What happened in Pittsburgh is a manifestation of trauma,’ [Dr. Gabor Maté] told the Inquirer. ‘There is no mass killer who wasn’t a traumatized person.’…. “The research is absolutely clear,’ Maté says. ‘The more inequality in a society, the more hate, the more dysfunction, the more mental illness, the more physical illness.‘ It should come as no surprise, then, that we see more addiction and more mass shootings since ‘the inequality is rising all the time.’ Violence against racial, ethnic, or religious groups ‘is a manifestation of a society that foments division amongst people and sets people against each other.'”

“Opinion: What’s causing the epidemic in drug-related deaths among whites?” [MarketWatch]. “If drug availability — rather than despair — is the immediate cause of the increase in drug-related deaths, efforts to improve economic conditions in distressed locations — while definitely desirable — will not solve the problem.” • And how convenient that would be.

“Merck Pulls Out Of Agreement To Supply Life-Saving Vaccine To Millions Of Kids” [NPR]. “The pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. Inc. is ending a long-term agreement to supply a lifesaving vaccine for children in West Africa. At the same time, the company has started sending the vaccine to China, where it will likely be sold for a much higher price. The vaccine is for a deadly form of diarrhea, called rotavirus, which kills about 200,000 young children and babies each year. Merck’s decision means it will fall short of its commitment to supply its rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq, to four low-income countries in 2018 and 2019, according to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. By 2020, the company will completely stop delivering its vaccine. ‘This was difficult decision for us, which did not come lightly,’ Merck wrote to NPR in an email.” • Ka-ching.

Class Warfare

“Strikes and Picket Lines, Explained” [Teen Vogue]. “The past month has seen multiple sports teams run afoul with one of the most important current labor actions in America: a massive nationwide hotel work stoppage happening right now, with more than 7,700 members of a hospitality workers’ union on strike…. Why is it such a big deal that they and their unionized cohorts crossed the Marriott picket line? Why does the concept “never cross a picket line” matter? What does it mean to “go out on strike” or to be a “scab”? Let’s break it down using these recent examples.” • How come we’re seeing this in Teen Vogue, and not, say, in the Washington Post or the New York Times? More: “Instead, stand with striking workers, donate to strike funds when you can, and never cross a picket line! • At this point, we remember that liberal Democrat royalty Bill and Hillary Clinton crossed a picket line on their first date. How romantic! I’m sure they felt a bond….

* * *

“Google CEO Pichai Says He’s Still the Boss Amid Employee Revolts” [Bloomberg]. “‘We don’t run the company by referendum,’ Pichai said at a conference in New York on Thursday. ‘There are many good things about giving employees a lot of voice, out of that we have done well.’ The internal dynamics may appear chaotic to outsiders, but they’re not as intense as some have characterized them to be, he added.”

Google on strikes:

“Don’t expect a Google-style walkout at banks anytime soon” [Financial News]. “Thousands of [Google] employees left notes on their desks explaining they had walked out in solidarity with other Googlers and contractors. Could that show of mutual support ever happen on Wall Street, or in the City of London? In short, no. The Google protest was meant to signal the need for more employee empowerment. But most investment bankers don’t go into the industry — which demands long hours and high stress — for empowerment. They go into it for the lucrative pay packets, and those ensure that they toe the line.” • So, investment bankers are the labor aristocrats, not Google engineers? Hmm.

* * *

Just doing their jobs:

News of the Wired

“Welcome to http://TextEditors.org, your home for text editor reviews, analysis, and commentary by the community at large. Home of the largest collection of text editor information on the web.” [TextEditors.org]. • All my old favorites are there. And the 1995-style site design couldn’t be improved upon.

I recently spent a long time looking at images — paintings, really, even if digital — from Simon Stålenhag’s new book. This is from an already-published book:

Brilliant Japanese take on Halloween. Thread:

Another example: “This woman has come as a customer in a crowded food court, who went to get cups of water first, and now can’t find anywhere to sit.” • I’m sure examples could be multiplied…

In the final stage of its life-cycle, the parasite mimics the host it has hollowed out and eaten:

* * *

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 (Eureka Springs):

Eureka Springs writes: “Persimmon Seed, fall 2018 in Northwest Arkansas. Supposedly the spoon means get ready to shovel a lot of snow this winter.”

* * *

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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.

85 comments

  1. GERMO

    Re: “Strikes and Picket Lines, Explained” [Teen Vogue]

    All the political stuff that’s in Teen Vogue = cure for despair

    Reply
    1. Mattski

      Is it consistently progressive like that? Wondered would it be a thing for my daughter. No doubt they’re pushing a lot of gear, but she’s no idiot, appreciates a good contradiction when she sees one.

      Reply
  2. Roger Smith

    Watch the film the Israel lobby didn’t want you to see [Electronic Intifada]

    EI hosts the first two parts of an Al Jazeera under cover documentary about the U.S. Israel Lobby. There is some really great stuff in here, sickening, especially for how much these corrupt puppets have been screaming Bloody Russia for the last two years. Meanwhile Israel is spying on poor college students and touting about how they can determine where they live.

    Reply
    1. Corbin Dallas

      Thanks! I knew this was going to leak soon. I’d like a link to a downloadable copy, however.. Hope EI will release that too.

      Reply
      1. Roger Smith

        I would like this too. The way these are embedded/hosted prevents me from using my usual flash video downloaded.

        Reply
    2. Summer

      “Meanwhile Israel is spying on poor college students and touting about how they can determine where they live.”

      And USA is ridiculously corrupt enough to allow it.

      Reply
    3. clarky90

      “Israeli court fines two Kiwi activists $23,600 over Lorde boycott letter”

      https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/israeli-court-fines-two-kiwi-activists-23-600-over-lorde-boycott-letter

      “… the decision sends a message that “no one can boycott Israel without paying for it.”

      Darshan-Leitner said she intended to enforce the judgment through “international treaties” and go after the women’s bank accounts, either in New Zealand or if they try to travel abroad.”

      “….All three ticket holders had received refunds for the tickets…..”

      Reply
  3. toshiro_mifune

    I dig Simon Stålenhag. Just got The Electric State, he’s like a Science Fiction version of Greg Crewdson

    Reply
  4. hemeantwell

    Two years ago we visited the British War Museum during the 100th anniversary of the Somme. We were astonished to hear the guide offer rationalizations, the main one being that the Germans were so unsettled by the drain on their manpower that they intensified their submarine warfare campaign, which eventually brought in the US to ensure Germany’s defeat. I see that one hasn’t yet surfaced at Wikipedia, so perhaps the guide was freelancing.

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      During the many years of the Vietnam war, the United States lost about 60,000 people through combat operations. On the first morning of the Somme offensive, the British Army lost about 20,000 dead and 40,000 wounded for a total of 60,000 casualties in the space of a few hours. It was the Black day of the British Army and it is said that the old British Victorian Army died at the Somme.

      Reply
      1. Not From Here

        Battle of Antietam 24,000. USA does pretty good at slaughtering it’s own, it just takes a civil war. Sobering thought in this period of time.

        Reply
        1. Tom Stone

          My grandmother’s older brother died on the first day of the Somme, Thomas Rasmussen.
          Mention of the Somme or Tarawa where my Mother’s Fiancee died before reaching the beach brought a long silence at Family gatherings well into the 1980’s.
          As to the USA, several Civil War battles had horrendous casualties including Antietam.
          I wish those calling for War and especially Civil War would spend some time in a VA Hospital as volunteers, it might wake them up.

          Reply
          1. JBird4049

            America hasn’t really taken casualties, even by this standard (far short of Russia in World War II)

            The American population at the start of the Civil War was roughly 31.5 million. Deaths due to the war are roughly just under one million add at least that many wounded for about two million total. That is 1/16 or 6% of the entire American male population. Not at as bad as WW2 Soviet Union but nothing to brush off.

            Reply
        2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          And at about the same time as the U.S. Civil War the Taiping Rebellion killed between 15-30 million., but you”d never know it by reading the history books.

          Reply
          1. JBird4049

            True that. Some stuff just seems to go down the memory hole. Like the Opium Wars. The glorious British Empire as a murderous blackmailing drug dealer.

            Reply
    2. Roland

      It is possible to rationalize the Somme campaign, especially in the context of the other major Allied offensives of the summer and fall of 1916.

      When you read the memoirs of the top German commanders, Falkenhayn, Hindenburg, and Ludendorff, you find out how serious the situation looked, from their point of view, by the autumn of that year.

      In a blog comment one cannot venture into detail, but just to list a sequence of gravely consequential decisions, resulting from the Germans’ 1916 predicament:

      Falkenhayn got sacked. The Somme defenses were abandoned, and the Germans retired to the “Siegfried” position, which was based on a different tactical doctrine. Germany embarked on an crash armaments expansion (“Hindenburg Programme”) that depressed civilian consumption during the notorious “Turnip Winter.” The decision was made to escalate the naval campaign against neutrals. The Central Powers also made a formal peace offer.

      Luckily for the Central Powers, the Russian railway system had broken down by late 1916 (over half the locomotives were out of service at the beginning of 1917). The Russian high command could no longer supply their armies and feed the towns at the same time. Damned either way, they chose to supply the armies. Urban food prices soared, such that even the best-paid munitions workers couldn’t afford to eat. So they revolted. After all, at that point what could defeat do to them that victory wouldn’t do to them anyway?

      Reply
  5. Martin Finnucane

    RE Sober Halloween. Just brilliant. The descriptions of some of the characters are fantastic, e.g.: Guy has come as someone who has just arrived at Haneda Airport, and feels a bit cold. (Not totally freezing, just a bit cold.)

    Reply
  6. Left in Wisconsin

    So, investment bankers are the labor aristocrats, not Google engineers? Hmm.

    I could never figure out what the term “labor aristocracy” meant. In the UAW, the skilled trades were the aristocrats because – to wildly overgeneralize – they thought they were better than the line workers and they thought the strength of the union depended on them. (I personally think the second was true.) But they weren’t aristocrats in the lazy, non-working sense. And, while they were better paid than the line workers, it was generally acknowledged that the union flattened wage differentials over time, so that the pay differential between skilled and unskilled work was much less with the union than it would have been otherwise. So you can’t really say they were just in it for the money. The work they did was infinitely more satisfying than working on the line.

    Reply
    1. Procopius

      The AFofL used to consider themselves a kind of Labor Aristocracy, and absolutely did not want the industrial workers. They were “craft” unions, plumbers, carpenters, people with serious skills. John L. Lewis set up the Comittee for Industrial Organizations in the AFofL, and it later grew into the Congress of Indutrial Organizations but had to break away from the craft unions. It took many years for the two organizations to realize they needed to work together. Looking back on it, I’m surprised at how pro-labor my high school teachers all were. Maybe because we were in an all-white suburb of Detroit, or maybe because of reaction to Tailgunner Joe McCarthy.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Especially for the field workers who are going to pull 48 hours! When I did it, the day seemed to be twice as long.

        Reply
  7. Oregoncharles

    ““Opinion: What’s causing the epidemic in drug-related deaths among whites?””

    There is more than one tragedy here. We just had sad news: my sister-in-law’s mother just died. To make it worse, she died in great pain, and perhaps because of the pain, because her caregivers “couldn’t” prescribe the Oxycontin that in fact helped her. This is a dying, 90-yr-old lady. As if addiction was really an issue for her.

    I remember what came before the opioid crisis: repeated articles about the difficulty of getting adequate pain relief for people in terrible condition. Now we’ve gone right back to that problem, in a panicked reaction to having made it much too easy – mostly, I suspect, via back-door, more or less illegal channels.

    This seems to be a pervasive national character defect: we can’t perceive and deal with a problem (child abuse and sexual harassment spring to mind) without flying completely off the handle and making it worse. Why can’t a sweet old lady get the pain relief she needs, without other, mostly younger people getting far more than they need? Of course, the moral panic is only part of the problem; flagrant cheating by Big Pharma and gangster activity is the other part. Just taking the profit motive out of the picture might help.

    Reply
    1. Amfortas the hippie

      that’s insane.
      zero tolerance.
      as a sufferer of chronic pain for almost 30 years(13 adequately medicated(I mean besides lots of alcohol)) I can certainly empathise. I became a nurse’s aide for my great grandma’s last 3 years(side benefit, I was able to be a stay at home dad, as Nanny was right next door). she was incoherent and all but immobile during that whole period, and when I would ask the nurse if she was in pain, and the answer was always, “who can tell?”. The rub was they were afraid of the drugs…fears of addiction were mentioned, remarkably…although the main concern was determining the right dose(no feedback from the patient–nurses were afraid of OD-ing her)
      That was 14 years ago, before the current hysteria…but they were becoming afraid of these drugs even then in such circumstances.
      I have been strangely fortunate. I’ve known both my doctor and my pharmacist for 20 or so years…so my idiosyncrasies are known and accepted, and my long hair and beard are normal, by now.
      So I’ve had little difficulty(touch wood!) getting the meds I need to move around every day. Something like 4% of folks who take prescription opioids end up addicted…but they’re more than ready to punish people like your mother in law(!?) and I for the problems of a few.
      The entire focus of the healthcare system is flawed, and in the last two months of hospital lurking, I’ve not met a single person…patient, nurse, doctor, surgeon…even suits!…who says they like things the way they are.
      we should be able to do better.

      Reply
      1. Oregoncharles

        In case anyone here has to deal with an actual opiate overdose, which usually means the patient is unconscious: IV caffeine will wake the person up WITHOUT canceling the pain control. American healthcare people will likely be as unfamiliar with the idea as the nurse who told us about it, so it might take some convincing, but she saw it work. A European doctor prescribed it, and she had him administer it, too. The usual opiate antidote cancels pain reduction, too; the nurse described it as a very rude way to wake someone up.

        This came up during our LONG medical siege, when our son had a bone marrow transplant. At 12. He was given an overdose, once, but it didn’t knock him out. Ornery kid.

        And best of luck to you and your wife, Amfortas, in your own medical siege.

        Reply
        1. Amfortas the hippie

          backatcha, man.
          she got a medicaid card in the mail today, to my astonishment.(about 3 weeks since the phone interview)
          a portion of the weight lifted and floated away.
          Now we can concentrate on worrying incessantly about important things.
          which is how it should be in these terrible situations.

          Reply
  8. Summer

    Re: Apple iphone sales drop…

    Not good news. I never went for the iPhone users would suck it up a bit longer. I don’t want to know what their next big hype is. Not enough oxygen in the world.

    Reply
      1. Summer

        Why don’t they partner up with Google and lay some more fiber for this entertainment content bubble we’re living through?
        Enough money between them not to need govt subsidization.

        Reply
    1. Elizabeth Burton

      They’ve launched a service to repair older Apple products—the link to that was posted last week one day. They can’t persuade power users to buy the crappy new models, so it dawned on some genius that “Hey, there are people who’ve been complaining for years they can’t get their older stuff repaired. Let’s do that and make them pay through the nose for it. Win-win!”

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        At least it prevents some newer stuff from being made. Just that much less pollution, just that much less carbon emissions. If paying through the nose is the price of degroaf, perhaps it is a price worth paying.

        Reply
    2. John

      Actually, iPhone sales were up very slightly, year-on-year. Since non-iPhone sales were down several percent Apple gained market share.

      At the September event they stated that iPhones were made to last longer and they were supporting them longer. iOS 12 can be installed on five year old iPhones.

      Reply
  9. Oregoncharles

    “So, investment bankers are the labor aristocrats, not Google engineers? Hmm.”

    Or bankers are a lot easier to replace. I’m thinking of Yves’ point that people like software engineers can hold their employers hostage – if only because interrupting a project in the midst is very expensive and disruptive.

    Reply
  10. clarky90

    Re “Identity appropriation”

    George Soros has publicly stated that (1) he does not believe in God, and (2) he is not a practicing Jew.

    Yet, ANY criticism (or even discussion) of Soros, is met with howls of, “this is repugnant antisemitism!”. How can Soros renounce God, the Commandments and the Jewish community, and still ask for protection as an oppressed “Jewish person”? Chutzpa?

    “Jewish Sections” (Yevsektsiya) were also set up in the branches of the Communist Party. Jewish members of the party who were prepared to work among their fellow Jews were organized in these sections. The function of the Yevsektsiya was to “impose the proletarian dictatorship among the Jewish masses.” The older Jewish members of the Communist Party were mostly assimilationists who did not want any contact with their people. However, as the success of the Bolsheviks and the efficiency of their terror measures became increasingly evident, they were joined by sections of Jewish socialist parties (the Bund, the United Jewish Socialist Workers’ Party, the Po’alei Zion) as well as by individual Jews. These brought with them ideas on the fostering of a secular Jewish culture in Yiddish and an envenomed hatred toward the Jewish religion, the Hebrew language, the Bible, and the Zionist movement. The Communist Party put them in control of the Jewish population centers, at the same time stressing that their activity was only a temporary measure for as long as it would be required.

    The first activity of the Yevsektsiya was the liquidation of the religious and national organization of the Jews of Russia. In August 1919 the Jewish communities were dissolved and their properties confiscated. The general anti-religious policy took the form, in relation to the Jews, of persecution of traditional Jewish culture and education, of prohibiting the religious instruction of children, the closure of hadarim and yeshivot, and the seizure of synagogues which were converted into clubs, workshops, or warehouses. A violent campaign against the Jewish religion and its leaders was conducted and heavy taxes were imposed on the rabbis and other religious officials in order to compel them to resign from their positions. In these activities the Yevsektsiya encountered the opposition of the religious masses…”

    http://www.berdichev.org/jewish_history_8.htm

    We have recently seen a similar confusion with Elizabeth Warren. She cynically claimed special status and favors as an indigenous USAian, but had never participated in the life and culture of the Cherokee Nation. She does not even speak the language.

    Our lives must be congruent.

    “Evil appears as good in the minds of those whom God leads to destruction”. Antigone (Sophocles)

    Reply
    1. Adam Eran

      The anti-Soros right wing meme signals disapproval of anything rich, left of Kochs (although Soros and Kochs are both funding anti-incarceration), and Jewish heritage is just a bonus.

      Meanwhile, here’s the political spending from the 2016 election cycle:

      Kochs: $889,000,000

      Soros: $25,000,000 (roughly 3% of Koch’s spending)

      What’s hilarious, at least to me, is the idea of Soros, a currency speculator, as a lefty. Talk about relocating the Overton window!

      Reply
    2. jrs

      No, just no. Even if he’s not religious he’s of Jewish ethnicity and that has been discriminated against (just ask the 3rd Reich if they didn’t care about that but only cared about one’s religious beliefs – hahaha – no sorry history says you are wrong). Now Soros can be criticized, just like Obama is not immune from criticism due to being black, but race and ethnicity has no place in legitimate criticism of either.

      Reply
      1. clarky90

        That is my point! “The Communist Party Jewish Sections” (Yevsektsiya) were ethnically Jewish people who became Marxist materialists. They were primarily young Activists. They renounced the religion, culture and language (Hebrew) of their forebears. They often changed their names (identity) to further distance themselves from their ethnicity.

        Lev Bronstein changed his name to Leon Trotsky….

        The Yevsektsiya were formed by Lenin in the fall of 1918. They were not Nazis, or white supremacist, but, rather, Jewish Bolsheviks tasked, with destroying Jewish tradition, culture, language and worship . They foreshadowed Hitler by 20 years.

        The ethnicity of the Yevsektsiya does not excuse or mitigate their crimes against their own families and communities. It makes the crime far worse.

        Esther Frumkin (Yevsektsiya leader, born Khaye Lifshits) said;

        “You do not understand the danger Jews face,” she told them. “If the Russian people begin to think that we are partial to the Jews it will be harmful to Jews. It is for the sake of Jews that we are completely objective in our dealing with the clergy, Jew and non-Jew alike. The danger is that the masses may think that Judaism is exempt from anti-religious propaganda. Therefore, Jewish Communists must be even more ruthless with rabbis than non-Jewish Communists are with priests.”

        Reply
      2. Darthbobber

        And a very large number of the more scurrilous pieces make a point of referring to him as a Jewish financier, as if that just seals the evilness. Hard to miss, unless one is willfully blind.

        Reply
  11. JTMcPhee

    About hand-marked paper ballots, hand counted in public, presumably marked in secret: a few links in the vein of “what could possibly go wrong?”

    “Video Of vicious thug stuffing ballot boxes,”
    https://mobile.wnd.com/2014/10/video-man-stuffs-hundreds-of-ballots-into-box/

    “Election fraud, Chicago style,” https://www.salon.com/2016/02/14/election_fraud_chicago_style_illinois_decades_old_notoriety_for_election_corruption_is_legendary/

    And that’s a tiny bit of the “stories” in the election fraud category.

    One natural person citizen, one vote? Nice aspiration… “A republic, if you can keep it” may be an apocryphal quote, but looking around today at the Oligarchy and the likely knowledge of the speaker of what happened to the Roman version, likely to have been said.

    Reply
    1. Peter VE

      Did you watch the video at the link? It has nothing to do with stuffing ballot boxes, it’s a store owner shooting a suspected shoplifter.

      Reply
  12. SerenityNow

    Regarding Walmart’s “Town Centers”–

    I’m sure most are already familiar with the trend of malls turning inside out and appearing to mimic a traditional old timey main street. Initially these are very popular among the consumer classes, but over time they run into problems because of their lack of flexibility. The original main streets/town centers had a mix of building sizes (that could be further added on to or subdivided) and owners, which meant differently-sized businesses and uses could come and go with the ebb and flow of economic cycles. These new conglomerate-run consumer disney worlds, on the other hand, are in their final form on a single piece of property from the moment they open their doors, and it will be very hard for anything but boilerplate retail/eateries to operate there. Or who knows, maybe the consumer boom will keep on going?

    Reply
  13. Tom_Doak

    Not to discount the horror of the Great War, but I’m pretty sure that tweet from Greg Colton about the battle of the Somme got the math wrong. The squares on the map are “250 meters squared”, but that is 62,500 square meters, not 250. So he calculated the body count density wrong by a factor of 250.

    Your comment is still correct, though; Americans have never taken casualties on a scale anything like other nations have (and do).

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      I propose a category error here: when the imperial troops are in uniform and engaged in that Milo Minderbinder enterprise, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milo_Minderbinder for those not familiar with “Catch-22”, that most of us refer to blandly and blindly as “war,” they are no longer “Americans” but rather “cannon fodder” with looting, raping and murder privileges, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_during_the_occupation_of_Germany and http://serbianna.com/blogs/savich/archives/23 and in Vietnam and subsequent imperial “projections of power,” https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/03/rape-wartime-vietnam/.

      And their identification is with their immediate Band of Brothers (now including Sisters). Same can be said of the millions that end up in the meat grinders of mechanized and eventually nuclear and unlimited-lethality war, whatever their nominal fealty and personal histories. No longer “citizens,” but just meat.

      “Turn loose the dogs of war,” all right…

      Reply
    2. Skip Intro

      I disagree with your math correction. If the squares are 250m on a side, then they have an area of 250m^2 (m^2 = square meters). The phrasing of “250 meters squared” is clumsy, but they are definitely areas not lengths, so the word “squared” must modify “meters” not 250.

      Reply
      1. Jessica

        The wording above is clumsy, but a square 250 meters on each side is 62,500 m^2. A square that is 250 m^2 is just over 16 meters on each side.
        A square that is 83 yards x 83 yards is just under 76 meters by 76 meters, which is 5761 m^2. It would be 250 feet by 250 feet, which some would be called a 250 foot square, though it would be 62,500 feet^2.
        Whatever the exact size, the dying was pointless and vile and helped turn humanity in a worse direction.

        Reply
  14. John Beech

    Everybody loves to hate Walmart but I’m telling you, after 15 years working in a foreign country where the PX and Commissary were my lifeline home (along with the post office), a Super Walmart is a revelation! Me? I love ours. Regarding jobs lost at Mom and Pops as they move in? BS because everybody found employment in the Walmart when those retailers closed. And those jobs weren’t paying $15/hour, either! So enough with the faux outrage about Walmart and Amazon warehouses. Retailing is a low skill job. Was before, and will be tomorrow. Want to earn more money, learn a trade, get a degree, or otherwise make yourself valuable to an employer. Or become a Republican by starting your own business and paying some taxes for a change. Enough with the whining!

    Reply
    1. perpetualWAR

      “paying some taxes for a change”

      You do realize that many people don’t pay [family blog] taxes BECAUSE THEY DON’T MAKE ENOUGH WAGES.

      GTFOH

      Reply
      1. jrs

        I hear the planet is going for 2 degrees … or more.

        but seriously, John Beech is giving out old moldy career advice from at least a couple decades ago, that may have been more relevant then, and thinking it says much that is meaningful about surviving current economic conditions.

        Reply
        1. Richard

          jrs: I was here 20 years ago, and paying attention. Beech’s “advice”, really just hateful virtue signaling intended to make Beech feel better, was just as worthless then.

          Reply
    2. Eureka Springs

      Wow. Is kick a man/woman while they’re down a path to a medal of honor these days?

      I recall many supermarket employees back in the day who could support their entire family on one income, have a modest mortgage, still have paid vacations and a few nice things. Now they leave wal-mart, generally not allowed to work near full time hours, head to one or two more jobs and apply for food stamps just to feign being able to get by.

      Reply
    3. The Rev Kev

      If you were doing your shopping in an PX and Commissary, then you may have worked for the most socialistic organization in America – with the discipline of a communist country to boot. If so, you would have had your food and clothing supplied to you (even if the clothing was in a boring colour range), you had free medical and dental while the government picked up your insurance tab. Any travel to any country would have been supplied free of charge even if some of the places available were not tourist hot-spots. If the worse happened they would have had a free funeral fund. On top of that you would have a guaranteed pension for life from an organization that would not be able to steal it for executive bonuses and long term health care in case of injuries and sickness during your association with that organization. So yay capitalism?

      Reply
    4. jrs

      If you like Walmart as a retailer, ok, you like the shopping experience there (many hate it), but to each their own on that one. But the economy doesn’t work the way you think it does.

      Reply
    5. drumlin woodchuckles

      Every little consumer purchase made . . . pays a tax. I suspect “John Beech” knows this. I suspect “John Beech” is running some kind of psychological manipulation operation here.

      Reply
  15. Tomonthebeach

    “Progressivism is Popular and Conservatism is Not!”

    Wouldn’t it be nice if insurance companies went back to insuring LIFE rather than deciding who lives and dies with healthcare?

    Reply
  16. curlydan

    “where does that leave Apple as a company?” Price inelasticity, my friend. It’s usually your friend within a company.

    You know that 50GB of iCloud storage you’re buying each month for $0.99. Guess what? It could be $1.49, and the customer likely will pay it–or at least make % price increase more than the % quantity decrease. The $0.99 app becomes a $1.29 app. The $0.99 song becomes a $1.29 song.

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      If the iPhone accounts for 59% of Apple’s revenue, would it have not been a wise decision to diversify by making great tablets and laptops as well? Not abandon them and dumb them down while making the operating system opaque? That way, if iPhone sales went down, they could depend on a steady revenue stream from at least their laptops alone to give them time, money & resources to change their product lines.

      Reply
    2. Hepativore

      You see, this is why it is easier to just get a microSD card. You can rip the audio in mp3 format from youtube videos using various websites on the internet and download it to the microSD card in addition to using your device like a USB drive. This is why I refuse to buy a device without a microSD slot as I can take my files anywhere I go offline without needing a data connection. I know many device makers are trying to get rid of the microSD slot in order to “encourage” storing files on the Cloud, but they can pry my microSD card from my cold, dead, hands.

      Reply
  17. VietnamVet

    One day to go. Both political parties are using fear to get selected. GOP scapegoats Hondurans. Democrats blame the Russians. Both are crazy. Democrats especially since Russia has 1,600 operational strategic nuclear warheads. Neither party can be positive or moral or provide benefits for American citizens. That costs money which is being hoarded by their plutocratic superiors.

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      Hoarded? $14 trillion to banksters, $14 trillion for wars, maybe another $14 trillion in offshore accounts, all that money, money, money. And the planet is what, forked?

      And we mopes are supposed to go along with the game? Up the chute to the killing floor…

      Reply
      1. VietnamVet

        The 700 trillion of virtual dollars and derivatives sole purpose is to increase corporate executive bonuses. If freely converted in actual resources and labor, they would be worth much less. The costs of destroying the earth with a nuclear war or winnowing mankind down by billions to be able to live on a day’s worth of solar energy are so great that hoarding wealth so a very few persons can feel good today is insane.

        Reply
    2. polecat

      Cthulhu looks better by the day. I’d rather writhe in an eternally painful and piercing tentacular embrace, then have to put up with the on going farce that is our vaunted election ‘process’ !

      Reply
  18. The Rev Kev

    Tomorrow the waiting is over and those in the US get to finally vote in the midterms. No news there. For some weird reason, I have had a very old song rattling around my mind the past two days when reading about your midterms (proving my mind is a cultural wasteland) so to share the joy, here it is-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bGE8248N7Y

    Reply
  19. John k

    I read an opinion saying polls are wrong when a group that normally doesn’t vote, like the young, is persuaded to go to the polls.
    He thinks the young will turn out, resulting in a house swing of 38-50.
    My thought is this wil be most pronounced with progressive candidates, particularly if they are black or Hispanic. If so, dems would win Ga and Fl gov, and maybe Tx senate.

    Reply
  20. allan

    Make Dirty Tricks Great Again:

    A Mysterious Facebook Group Is Using Bernie Sanders’ Image to Urge Democrats to Vote for the Green Party
    [Pro Publica]

    A Facebook page for a group called “America Progress Now” is running ads online urging progressives to vote for Green Party candidates in seven competitive races in the Midwest. …

    The page features ads with images of prominent progressive politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

    Problem is, America Progress Now hasn’t registered with the Federal Election Commission, as all groups making independent political expenditures are required to do. Six of the Green Party candidates being promoted by America Progress Now say they have no affiliation with the Facebook page, and most say they’ve never heard of the group.

    And there’s no sign of America Progress Now at the address listed on its Facebook page. When we visited 605 E. 132nd St. in the Bronx on Monday morning, none of the tenants we spoke to had ever heard of America Progress Now. …

    Hard to imagine who would benefit from this …

    Donald Segretti, Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and Roger Stone approve of this message.

    Reply
  21. Big Tap

    Let’s say the Democrats do win back the House as many predict. Who is new Speaker? A number of Democrats running pledged that they would not vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker. If the Democrats only have a small majority say 7 seats it would take only 4 Democrats to scuttle her chances. I seem to remember at least 5 or more Dems campaigned on this issue.

    Reply

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