2:00PM Water Cooler 1/25/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Wilbur Ross Says U.S., China ‘Miles and Miles’ From Resolving Trade War” [Bloomberg]. “‘People shouldn’t think that the events of next week are going to be the solution to all of the issues between the United States and China. It’s too complicated a topic,’ Ross said. ‘I believe that China would like to make a deal. I believe that we would like to make a deal. But it has to be a deal that works for both parties.'”

“Party is over for dirt-cheap solar panels, says China executive” [Reuters]. “Solar panel prices tumbled around 30 percent last year after China, the world’s largest producer, cut subsidies to shrink its bloated solar industry, pushing smaller manufacturers to the brink of collapse. To raise cash and stay afloat, manufacturers cleared inventory and diverted sales offshore, sending prices into a downward spiral – offering up a windfall for solar power generators and investors in solar farms… Luo said solar panel prices were already stabilizing and he expected them to rebound by 10 to 15 percent as the Chinese industry consolidates over the next year or two. Given panels represent close to half of a solar farm’s installation costs, that threatens to eat into the returns of investors. China is home to almost a third of the world’s cumulative installed solar capacity and its manufacturers dominate the industry, despite being slapped with anti-dumping tariffs and getting caught up more recently in the U.S.-China trade war.”


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51


“Is Elizabeth Warren’s Wealth Tax Constitutional?” [Kevin Drum, Mother Jones]. “The 16th Amendment allows the federal government to levy direct income taxes, even if the income is derived from real or personal property, but a direct federal tax on property itself is still forbidden by the Constitution unless it’s proportional to the population of each state—which I’m sure is something Warren doesn’t have in mind.”

“5 Things To Know About Kamala Harris” (video) [The Onion].

Sanders on Venezuela:

Pretty weak tea. Surely our sanctions have something to do with the state of Venezuela’s economy? Thing is, we “interfere” in Latin America all the time; it’s not some sort of intermittent thing.

Clintonites still doing enforcement:

New Cold War

I loved Spy Magazine so much:

Hard to believe that Manafort and Stone changed their schtick at all for Trump (or that they’re uniquely corrupt, for that matter).

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Trump Administration memo opens door to mass sickout by ATC” [The Air Current]. “A sharp increasing in staffing issues at ATC centers around the U.S. may signal a tipping point in the month-long partial government shutdown. An interpretation of an Office of Personnel Management memorandum obtained by The Air Current related to Senate bill 24 — the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019 — circulated Thursday amongst air traffic controllers nationally, opening the door to an unofficial sick-out by essential staff responsible for the country’s airspace navigation. The bill, signed on January 16 by President Trump, ensures that furloughed government employees will be paid at the conclusion of the government shutdown…. The interpretation circulated by a NATCA staffer at Boston Center of OPM’s official guidance for “excepted employees” under the law to permit approved leave as a furlough, meaning sick leave will be paid back and to staff and not charged against their overall bank of leave.” And then this:

“I would never imply that we’re going to abuse sick leave, and the mere suggestion that we’re doing so to get free leave is considered a job action punishable by law…however it is cold and flu season and our contractual protections regarding sick leave still apply so I personally wouldn’t be surprised if people’s self assessment regarding their fitness for duty becomes much more stringent,” said one controller.

Very dry humor. This may be happening:

Here is the FAA’s flight delay site (assuming the data is good). And the FAA says everything is fine:

And it may be! Strategically, this again heightens the fact that our complex transportation network is extremely vulnerable to disruption by collective action. It would be deeply ironiic if the neoliberal era, which could be dated as starting with Reagan firing striking air traffic controllers, was ended by air traffic controllers calling in sick.

More on transport:

So look on the bright side: The Acela is empty.

* * *

Stoller on Democrats (1):


“Leading liberal thinktank will no longer accept funds from UAE” [Guardian]. “The Center for American Progress, one of the most prominent liberal thinktanks in Washington, will no longer accept funding from the United Arab Emirates, the Guardian has learned. The group said it is parting ways with what it views to be anti-democratic governments across the globe, seeking to distinguish itself from the authoritarian regimes with which Donald Trump’s administration has developed a close rapport.” •. They’ve done it for years, but suddenly it’s wrong because Trump. Also, the article doesn’t say they’ve stopped taking anonymous population…

Stoller on Democrats (2). The hook is an AOC attribution remark re: Jason Furman — gotta get the detail right — but Stoller places Furman in context:

The whole thread is important, but especially the conclusion:

Yes, imagine if Trump were disciplined, and had political operatives as good as, say, Karl Rove.

Stats Watch

Durable Goods Orders, December 2018: Delayed by the government shutdown [Econoday].

New Home Sales, December 2018: Delayed by the government shutdown [Econoday].

UPDATE The Bezzle: “Reality Check :: Facebook, Inc” [Plainsite (Deschain)] (full report). “Yet as bad as things have been of late for Facebook, with endless privacy breaches and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election hanging over Menlo Park like a spectre, we believe that the situation is far worse than investors realize. Facebook has been lying to the public about the scale of its problem with fake accounts, which likely exceed 50% of its network. Its official metrics—many of which it has stopped reporting quarterly—are self-contradictory and even farcical. The company has lost control of its own product.” • Quite the polemic, and big if true. Readers?

The Bezzle: “Second Former L.A. Charter School Official Facing Federal Charges” [My News LA]. “The former CEO of Los Angeles charter school network Celerity Educational Group is expected to be arraigned next month on federal charges of conspiracy to misappropriate and embezzle public funds. Grace Canada, 45, of Torrance is the second ex-Celerity official to be charged with corruption by Los Angeles federal prosecutors. Celerity founder Vielka McFarlane pleaded guilty earlier this month to a conspiracy charge that she misspent $2.5 million in public education funds intended for students.” • At some point, charters should become an issue in teachers’ strikes.

The Bezzle: “Tesla Reportedly Expects to Have Cash to Make Big Debt Payment” [Yahoo Finance (Bob)]. “Not only has Tesla’s cash balance decreased from $3.4 billion at the end of the company’s fourth quarter of 2017 to $3 billion by the third quarter of 2018, but Tesla has a massive debt payment due in March of this year. This debt combined with Tesla’s recent update saying it will take significant efforts and “some luck” to achieve “a tiny profit” in its first quarter show why the company’s cash is such a hot topic. But Fox Business News, citing company insiders, is reporting on Thursday that Tesla thinks it will have the cash required to make this payment without needing to raise any capital.” • That’s nice.

The Bezzle: “The mysterious story of former Theranos president Sunny Balwani, who former employees saw as an ‘enforcer’ and now faces criminal charges of wire fraud” [Business Insider]. “The relationship [between Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and former Theranos president Sunny Balwani[ was one of the reasons [Wall Street Journal reporter John] Carreyrou knew he had a big story on his hands. In 2015, Carreyrou said he read a New Yorker interview with then-Theranos board member Henry Kissinger. Kissinger said in the interview he tried to set Elizabeth up on dates, not realizing that she was in a relationship. ‘It instantly became clear to me that she was lying to her board about this romantic relationship that she was having with the number two of the company, who by the way, was also about 20 years older,’ Carreyrou told Business Insider.” • Now I can’t unsee the picture of Henry Kissinger trying to set up Elizabeth Holmes on dates.

Tech: “‘Businesses Will Not Be Able to Hide’: Spy Satellites May Give Edge From Above” [New York Times]. “Orbital Insight, in Palo Alto, Calif., is one of the first companies to build a business around cube satellite data. Sitting in Orbital’s offices on a recent afternoon, James Crawford, the company’s founder and chief executive, who goes by Jimi, opened his laptop and pulled up a report on three big-name retailers: J. C. Penney, Macy’s and Sears…. Based on the company’s satellite data, a color-coded line graph showed a steady drop in the number of cars parked outside the thousands of stores operated by the three retailers. The drop was particularly steep for Sears, which had filed for bankruptcy just days earlier. “This is one of the reasons they’ve been under so much pressure,” Mr. Crawford said…. Mr. Crawford believes the satellite analysis will ultimately lead to more efficient markets and a better understanding of the global economy. Fred Abrahams, a researcher with the advocacy group Human Rights Watch, sees it as a check on the world’s companies and governments.” • Not for tracking, say, pollution, carbon, dumping, etc.


Mr. Market: “Goldman, Morgan Stanley Ask to Cancel Trades After $41 Billion Flash Crash” [Bloomberg]. “Some of the amendment requests were to settle the trades at a higher price, according to the people, who asked not to be named discussing a sensitive topic. It wasn’t clear whether the at-market sell orders from Goldman and Morgan Stanley triggered the brief plunge or whether other factors in the pre-open auction were at play, some of the people said. Spokesmen for Goldman and Morgan Stanley declined to comment.”

Honey for the Bears: “Americans stopped buying homes in 2018, mortgage lenders are getting crushed, and an economic storm could be brewing” [Business Insider]. “As 2018 headed toward its close, Americans’ appetite for buying homes fell off a cliff. In December, US existing-home sales cratered to 4.99 million, 10.3% below the mark from the year-ago period, according to data released earlier this week by the National Association of Realtors.That’s the steepest decline in more than seven years… At Wells Fargo, mortgage-banking income fell by 50%, to $467 million, in the fourth quarter, while originations declined by 28%, to $38 billion. JPMorgan, meanwhile, saw mortgage income fall to $203 million, a 46% drop from the same period last year. Originations fell by 30%, to $17.2 billion…. Significant housing declines have foreshadowed nine of the 11 post-World War II recessions in the US, according to another note by UBS from December examining the housing slowdown.”

The Biosphere

Excellent talking point:

“Fighting Climate Change with a Green TVA” [People’s Policy Project]. “The TVA, which was originally established during FDR’s New Deal, is the largest public power company in the country…. Around 54 percent of its current energy production comes from non-carbon sources, with the bulk of that coming from nuclear…. Put simply: the TVA knows how to successfully produce large amounts of carbon-free electricity. So it should be up to the task of helping to decarbonize the electricity supply in its current service area and across the country…. The TVA also has a special power that no other climate policy can take advantage of: it issues its own bonds…. The TVA is the federal government’s power company and the federal government should use its direct authority to make it into the kind of power company the country and the earth needs.”

“Climate Change Is a Public Health Emergency” [Scientific American]. Eight examples. The conclusion: “Despite all of this, it is also important to realize that tackling climate change presents “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century” and that the barriers to achieving this are primarily sociopolitical (rather than economic or technical). Actions to mitigate climate change offer a wealth of immediate and local health benefits that include reducing air and water pollution from fossil fuel combustion, designing cities to include more green spaces and with active commuters in mind, avoiding massive costs in health care and emergency relief, and ensuring energy, food and water security. Put simply, if you care about your health, you should care about climate change too.”

“This demographic catastrophe will hit us all” [Unherd]. “Birth rates of well below replacement level are now commonplace in the developed world. For instance, Italy’s is about 1.4. If such a rate is maintained over three generations then that means the second generation will be 70% of the size of the first, and the third generation half the size of the first. That’s quite the demographic slide, but consider what happens if the birth rate drops even lower to approximately 1. If that is maintained over three generations, then the second generation will be half the size of the first, and the third a mere quarter. In other words a fall in the fertility rate from 1.4 to 1, which South Korea shows is possible, doubles the rate at which new generations halve in size.” • Isn’t this good, in terms of not overwhelming the carrying capacity of the biosphere? Certainly better than a mass die-off!

“Human evolution’s ties to tectonics” [Nature]. “[Lewis Dartnell] asks how Earth has affected us, through our long evolution to big brains, small jaws and scrawny bodies that somehow cooperate with each other enough to make us the planet’s dominant eukaryotic species. All this began, Dartnell argues, with the tectonic processes that created the East African Rift — the area that today runs from Somalia and Ethiopia down to the coast of Mozambique. The uplift of mountains here caused a rain shadow that dried and warmed East Africa, turned jungle into a park-like savannah, and enticed early hominins to leave the trees and become game hunters, runners, thinkers, cooks and, eventually, empire builders…. only an acquaintance with Earth science allows people to understand whether there is a risk in building their houses on the Russian River floodplain in California or an eroding cliff in Goa, India; how the sediment under a house might withstand a magnitude-8.0 earthquake; whether the aquifers in a valley’s hills are sufficient to sustain a golf course; and whether its soils can support plant communities that won’t turn into a fatal tinderbox during dry years of a climatic cycle. In our current geopolitical climate, this knowledge is more important than ever.”  • Another book to read…

Health Care

“Millennials Ditching The Doctor; What’s At Stake” [WLNY]. “More and more millennials are ditching the doctor and many don’t even have a primary care physician, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation…. “I think there’s a few reasons. I think the primary one happens to be access to care,” he said. ‘We found that millennials tend to want to have access to care right away, they want it immediately and they want to be able to see a doctor quickly.’ ‘When they feel well, they don’t want to go to the doctors, and they don’t,’ he continued. ‘So then when they feel unwell, they’re like I want to see a doctor right away and not wait for weeks for an appointment.'” • Crazy millennials! They want to see a doctor right away, as if they lived in Canada or the UK or France!

“Apple is in talks with private Medicare plans about bringing its watch to at-risk seniors” [CNBC]. “Health experts say that seniors are an ideal market for the Apple Watch, which has introduced features that can be used by anyone, but are most beneficial to seniors, including fall detection and cardiac arrhythmia monitoring. It also makes sense as a business model for insurers, as seniors are a particularly lucrative market…. ‘It’s the segment of health insurance with the highest dollar revenue and margin per member,’ explains Augustin Ruta, a health insurance consultant at A2 Strategy Group. Ruta also noted that Medicare members enrolled in these private plans tend to have lower churn rates, which gives insurers more of an incentive to invest in members’ long-term health outcomes.”

Our Famously Free Press

Excellent, must-read thread on the collapse of the newspaper business:

Access journalism and material interest:

“Can’t Afford to Tell the Truth” [London Review of Books]. “The World Service newsroom used to have a commitment to accuracy so extreme it touched on the absurd. The story goes that one duty editor refused to report on a fire in the Strand which he could see with his own eyes until it was confirmed by Reuters. Despite such rigidities, and in part because of them, the BBC World Service news was famously trustworthy. In addition, the channel had dedicated correspondents, stringers and writers whose deep knowledge of the countries on which they reported resulted in consistently well-informed, clearly written, accurate output. Some of that quality remains, but much of its output today consists of scraps offered by domestic journalists – a source of contamination, in Moore’s words – who consider the World Service a waste of their time. Since the BBC’s upper echelons rarely, if ever, listen to the station, contributing to the World Service does nothing to enhance a reporter’s career prospects. Moore’s account of its decline, overseen by incompetent, ill-motivated and grossly overpaid managers, will be too detailed for some. Emails from on high that most staff deleted unopened are reproduced and closely analysed. He is furious that the senior executives who dismantled the best aspects of the World Service were paid so much while having so little to offer.” • Everything Is Like CalPERS.

“Gannett lays off journalists across the country” [Poynter (MR)]. “Gannett began slashing jobs all across the country Wednesday in a cost-cutting move that was anticipated even before the recent news that a hedge-fund company was planning to buy the chain…. Gannett owns USA Today and 109 other local media companies.” • Very bad.

“It doesn’t take a ton of nasty comments to sink a reader’s perception of a news site” [Nieman Labs]. “Experiments with more than 1,500 testers showed that people who only saw uncivil comments had diminished loyalty, value, and overall positive attitudes toward the news site in question. Readers who encountered majority-civil comments weren’t as disheartened, but with the internet these days, that can be a hurdle… The comment sections aren’t playing games; they’re part of the battle to rebuild trust.”

“No, tech companies shouldn’t fund journalism” [Columbia Journalism Review]. “Facebook announced it would spend $300 million over three years on journalistic content, partnerships, and programs. The announcement commits the social network to match the funding rival tech giant Google said it would spend on such programs—but more importantly increases the already-dangerous co-dependency between big tech and newsrooms…. For much of its history, journalism was supported by patronage: the golden era of vastly-profitable journalism which could still serve the public interest was a mere few decades, or a profession dating back centuries. Advertising allowed journalism to get away from that, but a return to patronage—via tech firms—isn’t the answer…. A social media levy is an attempt to duck difficult questions about how we fund public interest journalism, a way to ask government to step in and fund journalism without having the tough conversation of what that means and how it works. We need to hold big tech to account. We need to find a sustainable model for quality journalism. And to achieve either, we really should try to keep those conversations separate.”

Guillotine Watch

“How Elon Musk’s secretive foundation hands out his billions” [Guardian]. “The entire website of Elon Musk’s private charitable foundation is shorter than many of the Tesla CEO’s contentious tweets…. Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal how the foundation has put that vague mission statement into practice. Together, the documents show that many of the organization’s donations have gone far beyond its stated scope. Some have benefited the billionaire’s own initiatives and, indirectly, his family, while others have tackled his pet peeves – the foundation has given more money to artificial intelligence research than to any of the more traditional charities it says it supports… Recipients have included a school attended by Musk’s own children, a charity managed by his brother, a protest group fighting gridlock on Musk’s commute to SpaceX, and even an art project at Musk’s favorite festival, Burning Man.”

Class Warfare

“‘AI’ to hit hardest in U.S. heartland and among less-skilled: study” (charts) [Reuters (EM)]. “The spread of computer-driven technology into middle-wage jobs like trucking, construction, and office work, and some lower-skilled occupations like food preparation and service, will also further divide the fast-growing cities where skilled workers are moving and other areas, and separate the high- skilled workers whose jobs are less prone to automation from everyone else regardless of location, the study found.”

“Remembering Erik Olin Wright” [Dissent]. “Decades of research culminated in his 2010 magnum opus Envisioning Real Utopias. For Wright, ‘real utopias’ were democratic and egalitarian ‘real-world alternatives that can be constructed in the world as it is that also prefigure the world as it could be, and which help move us in that direction.’ Such institutions range from Wikipedia to the Mondragon federation of worker cooperatives in Spain. The short version of Wright’s thesis is that the left can erode capitalism with these institutions, while taming capitalism in the political sphere. The long-term result is socialism.”

“From Women’s Strikes to a New Class Movement: The Third Feminist Wave” [Viewpoint]. “For E.P. Thompson, ‘class’ is a historical category before being a theoretical one, a category that must therefore be articulated starting from the empirical observation of individual and collective concrete behaviors that – over time – express a class character and create class institutions (trade unions, parties, associations, etc.). This means that the notion of class is dynamic, referring to a historical process rather than expressing the essence of a static entity. In other words, understood as a historical category, the notion of class cannot be reduced to the sociological categorization of social groups on the basis of classificatory and quantitative criteria. For example, the definitions of the working class as the set of all wage workers or of all those who, employed or not, have no other resources than the sale of their labor-power, although not in themselves false, are vague, abstract, and incomplete. In short, these definitions contain an element of truth, but if taken as complete definitions they lead to analytical misunderstandings and political errors with relevant consequences. On the contrary, for Thompson class is the point of arrival and not the starting point of a process of formation. As paradoxical as it may seem, class is the product of class struggle and not its presupposition.” • Important!

News of the Wired

“The Medieval Origins of the Modern Footnote” [medievalbooks] (from 2014). “[A]s long as notes were few and short, a reader could simply insert them – interlinearly – over the relevant word or passage…. Cleverly, in this system the very position of the remark identified the word to which it referred. However, as the number and size of such comments increased, it became impossible to place them between the lines. The great blank space provided by the margins was now drafted into service. It is here that the absence of a proper reference system was felt. As the marginal body of remarks and critique began to accumulate, the page became a real messy place, a labyrinth in which it became impossible for readers to find specific pieces of information (Fig. 3). In came the footnote.” • Footnotes, in modern usage, are profoundly democratic, because the enable readers to check sources, and not simply rely on the authority of the author.

“No One Is Prepared for Hagfish Slime” [The Atlantic (DK)]. “Hagfish produce slime the way humans produce opinions—readily, swiftly, defensively, and prodigiously… Typically, a hagfish will release less than a teaspoon of gunk from the 100 or so slime glands that line its flanks. And in less than half a second, that little amount will expand by 10,000 times—enough to fill a sizable bucket. Reach in, and every move of your hand will drag the water with it…. Astonishingly, to create a liter of slime, a hagfish has to release only 40 milligrams of mucus and protein—1,000 times less dry material than human saliva contains. That’s why the slime, though strong and elastic enough to coat a hand, feels so incorporeal.” • Maybe if the Twitter had a totem animal… That said, hagfish slime is a fascinating subtance!

* * *

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 (Carla):

Carla writes: “Finally, some snow in the NE Ohio January. These purple cone flower seeds feed the birds.”

Plus a non-plant photo from sunny Los Angeles (TF):

TF writes: “Seemed appropriate for Water Cooler. Touching and heartbreaking.”

* * *

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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. DJG

      JohnnyGL: Here’s Greenwald’s article at the Intercept, with the video embedded


      Undoubtedly, the U S of A already has Bolsonaro on the case in Venezuela. The U S seems to have recruited Salvini of Italy, too. The Coalition of the Scoundrels.

      Bernie better do better than he is doing, or he is going to get his fingers berned. I see that the population of Venezuela is 27 million, the size of Iraq. We see how well that much-needed intervention went.

      1. maxi

        Undoubtedly, the U S of A already has Bolsonaro on the case in Venezuela

        rightfully so – action is needed. no, not necessarily a military coop, although it’s entertaining to read the “plans already in place”. unlike the US, Brazil is in a situation where the massive Venezuelan migration is causing some serious headaches.

        for those of us in South America whose countries, metropolitan areas, and infrastructure are now supporting hundreds- or thousands-percent increases in Venezuelan immigrants, things are a bit different. of course, the USA enjoys generous geographical things in between them and Venezuela, so they’ll not feel the same ill effects, whilst continuing their sanctions, causing mass exodus.

        given that NC doesn’t seem to extol illegal immigration due to its effects on those of lesser means in the US, i’m curious what – other than dreaming up the MIC invasion scenario – the NC collective suggests be done about Venezuelans who are very willing to undercut local populations and make use of freely offered services and infrastructure that they had no hand in supporting directly. that includes Brazil, by the way.

        1. ambrit

          Well, for starters, the Neo-liberal infected Southern countries could throw all those rapacious parasites who hire those displaced Venezuelans so as to drive down wages into jail, or shoot them. If the Right is perfectly comfortable with using coercive violence to impose it’s desired policies, then the Left can do the same.
          The main problem with your argument that I see is that you are conflating the interests of the working classes of El Norte with the interests of the Oligarchs del Norte. They are now almost completely at odds.
          Interestingly, the main natural resource in Venezuela that I have read about is it’s crude oil stocks. One of the continuing scandals about such resources over the years is how the wealthy have stolen that patrimony from the people of the nation. Venezuela has attempted to redress the balance. Look at who has screamed and schemed the hardest to block the Venezuelan Socialist movement. Yep. Wealth and it’s handmaidens.
          If you have such an aversion to the fleeing hordes from Venezuela, and don’t try to downplay the impact outside actions have had on all this, then train and arm the Venezuelan workers and send them back home to defend their revolution.

        2. ambrit

          Short form: Stop trying to overthrow a duly elected government. Obama tried it in Syria and it has not necessarily turned out as planned.

        3. Grant

          You might not know this, but Colombia has the largest internally displaced population of any country in the world (about six million) and has, by a mile, the worst human rights record in the Western hemisphere. It is Venezuela’s neighbor.
          Don’t hear tons about the humanitarian crisis there. Could be our massive support of that horrific government, but what do I know? Up until recently, around six million Colombians were living in Venezuela. Colombia has seen large net migration out of the country as well, and they have been given billions of dollars by the US, not subject to withering economic war and attacks against their democracy. They have been given ten billion since 2000 alone, and have received more US military and financial aid than any country in the world, outside of Israel and Egypt. Colombia also happens to be the deadliest place for union organizers in the world and has been for decades, among the deadliest places for journalists, the the right wing paramilitaries have killed thousands of leftist politician and candidates, activists, and human rights workers. 80 priests have been killed since the 1980’s, mainly for the crime of trying to fight for the poor, and there is a cultural genocide against indigenous groups (which our own State Department even acknowledges) because of violent land grabs by right wing paramilitaries. But, again, it hasn’t been under attack by the US, its narco/death squad state has been propped up by the US. Brazil, by the way, isn’t going to be a picnic in the coming years, and was a human rights horror show in its own right until just a few decades ago:

          Here is the net migration rate: of these countries. Find Brazil and Colombia on the list, and keep up too. Let’s see how these numbers change as Bolsonaro solidifies power. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2112rank.html

        4. Lambert Strether Post author

          > action is needed

          That doesn’t presuppose that the United States should take it. I’m hard-pressed to think of an example where US intervention, especially in Latin America, has turned out net positive for the locals, if you throw the oligarchs out of the picture. Intervention includes everything else we do, including fixing elections, training the local police, etc.

          1. Procopius

            “… training the local police, …” For some reason that reminds me of The School of the Americas, whose mission was to “train South American military officers in counterinsurgency tactics.” This was not the kind of counterinsurgency the U.S. Army was talking about just a few years ago in Iraq and Afghanistan. This was the counterinsurgency the U.S. Army used against the Indian tribes/nations – Massacre. They included torture to obtain “intelligence,” which should have demonstrated how unreliable information obtained by torture is but apparently didn’t. Maybe they just enjoyed inflicting pain on random people they scooped up.

  1. voteforno6

    It’s interesting that DCA is one of the airports that has FAA staffing issues. I’m sure that it’s a coincidence that a lot of Congress-critters fly in and out of that airport.

  2. Jason Boxman

    Needless to say, I just booked Amtrak for my trip to Philadelphia.

    At least for the week in question, the cheap Acela seats were certainly full at the times I looked. I opted to take the slower North Eastern for cheaper seats.

    The train was packed for Thanksgiving, so fewer people will be a pleasant surprise.

      1. Jason Boxman

        I enjoyed my trip back from DC on the Acela, it was certainly an hour and a half faster, 6.5 hours vs. 8 hours on the way down. I don’t know if it’s worth the price premium, besides the shorter transit time.

        Being able to get up and walk around is nice, as is the food car. I’ve only heard stories of the full service meal cars that used to exist.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Does the Acela travel fast enough that it causes its own serious air-resistance against its own forward motion? If it does, then it is using more energy-per-mile to travel a set distance than what the slower-moving North Eastern referenced just above uses per mile to travel that same set distance.

          In which case, if so, people using the Acela emit more travel-carbon than people using the North Eastern emit over the exact same distance.

          ” Slow down, ya move too fast . . . ya gotta make the Carbon last . . . “

  3. diptherio

    On both the AI and envisioning real utopias front, a friend of mine recently wrote this short story in The Verge: Monsters Come Howling in Their Season

    It’s set in a near future cooperative commonwealth in the US Virgin Islands, where they have developed a publicly owned AI assistant to coordinate disaster relief.

    They also did and interview with him, about the ideas in the story:
    Cadwell Turnbull on the implications of a collectively owned AI system

    Nothing short of a cooperative effort will save us. I’m all for support from local and national government, but that alone won’t preserve the communities most affected by climate change, which are often communities of color. Disaster capitalism thrives on the ruin of these communities, and big pockets have been shown to sway the priorities of government.

    But community ownership provides a different ethos. There’s a strong incentive to fortify one’s home against disaster, so it makes sense to extend that culture of ownership to the community one inhabits. If the community owns its homes and businesses collectively, they’ll protect them as a community. It can’t just be a few land and business owners in charge of that decision; they will act for their own benefit. It has to be democratic and decentralized. Each person must have a stake in it and a larger foundation of cooperation to turn to in times of crisis. An individual might not be able to afford to shutter their windows and fasten their roofs, but a community foundation funded by community members and business could do that. It can’t work if the communities don’t collectively own the infrastructure. Long-term disaster preparation needs cooperative practice.

  4. Alex Morfesis

    And this is why the clowns that be who think hiding in old Zeeland and just doing an after the deluge moment are not to be bothered with…government to reopen as the precariate at the faa in charge of getting the “betters” of our grand krapitalist system from point a to point z decide to do a risky riskadore and insist about this here guvmint shutdown…

    “Splain lucy…”

    1. Carolinian

      Meanwhile that other strike being ignored by the MSM continues

      The WSWS has now received reports that a second country—Canada, joining the US—has now been impacted by the Matamoros strike. An autoworker reported to the WSWS that the Oakville Ford Assembly Complex near Toronto, Canada has had intermittent auto part shortages this week, including for door looms which are used for the Ford Mustang. A Flat Rock Assembly Plant worker in Detroit, Michigan, told our reporters that production there will be canceled next week due to a shortage of parts.


      Mexican auto workers make ridiculously low wages. Here’s an account, albeit a few years old

      A report in Vanguardia says Mexican auto workers are paid on average between US $3.60 and $3.90 an hour to work on the asssembly line. The country with the next lowest pay is Taiwan where the average rate is $7.50 per hour. Poland is next at $7.80, followed by Brazil at $11.40.

      At the other end of the scale are Germany, where the average pay rate for assembly line workers is $52 an hour. Belgium follows at $41.70 and Canada is next at $40.40.


      I believe it was Audi that a few months ago was offering to build a new luxury car plant in Mexico that would pay the princely sum of $5 an hour. Since the Dems in particular are constantly expressing concern for our neighbors below the border perhaps they should tell the American plants, at least, to stop exploiting their workers.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Since the ClintoPelosi Dems in particular conspired with the Republicans to turn NAFTA from a dream into reality, don’t expect the ClintoPelosi Dems in particular to do any such of a thing.

    1. jrs

      one wonders what he was ever fighting for, but then one does anyway, as we never had any proposals that even might make sense to enforce immigration, like identify verification at point of hire.

      But now:
      ““We do not need 2,000 miles of concrete wall from sea to shining sea. We never did”

      I don’t disagree, but what do any Trump supporters (well those that are left anyway) even think it was Trump promised at this point? To shut down the government willy nilly for nothing at all? And what do they think he even meant by “build the wall”?

      1. jrs

        and I get half foily and think maybe the point of shutting the government down was indeed to shut the government down period.

        But then I remember that Trump is afterall several cards short of a deck, and there may be no masterminds, but just the sad mind of a narcissists in too deep.

        1. JohnnyGL

          I suspect Pelosi and Schumer laid a trap for him and he jumped into it and got surprised that they wouldn’t cave….they usually do on most issues….judge appointments, for instance.

          The got him stuck with a choice between losing face and a clear power-grab (declaring state of emergency) — which even he wasn’t prepared to do.

          In a way, I suppose Pelosi and Schumer should get some credit….they played a nasty round of political poker and drew blood. Trump’s poll numbers were starting to deteriorate rapidly. He probably had to fold or raise….and raising seemed maniacal.


      2. jonhoops

        Trump supporters believe what Trump tells them to believe. They will immediately defend the new Flexian Trump position of the hour, and deny that he ever held any other position. The truth and hypocrisy have no meaning to Trump or his followers.

        As he famously said, he could shoot someone in the middle of Times Square and they would still defend him.

        1. Anon

          You are confusing Trump supporters with Clinton supporters and mindless chamber of commerce Republicans. His supporters are extremely upset and want his head. (family friendly version)

          1. Jonhoops

            I throw all of these Cult of personality followers in pretty much the same bucket.

            Team Trumpers

            No reasoning with any of them or the cognitively dissonant flexian positions they hold.

      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        He was fighting to regain the support of Rush Limbaugh, Anesh D’Coulter, and other commentators and radio hosts like that-there. Because “the base” will support what the commentators support.

        So if he has won back the base and the commentators, then he won what he was fighting for. And if they let him spin a Beautiful Wall-load of Money for Smart Barrier Borders as being the same as a Beautiful Wall; then he has won at every level.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          The Democrats want to build a smart wall (there’s that word).

          Robert Southey, The Battle of Blenheim:

          “They say it was a shocking sight
          After the field was won;
          For many thousand bodies here
          Lay rotting in the sun;
          But things like that, you know, must be
          After a famous victory.

          “Great praise the Duke of Marlbro’ won,
          And our good Prince Eugene.”
          “Why, ’twas a very wicked thing!”
          Said little Wilhelmine.
          “Nay… nay… my little girl,” quoth he,
          “It was a famous victory.

          “And everybody praised the Duke
          Who this great fight did win.”
          “But what good came of it at last?”
          Quoth little Peterkin.
          “Why that I cannot tell,” said he,
          But ’twas a famous victory.”

          Origin of that tagline….

      4. Ptb

        Well you see, it’s Mexico’s fault. They were gonna pay for this dazzling continent-spanning structure, and if they did, there would’ve been no problem at all with Chuck and Nancy (those spoilsports…). Then, when we last expected it, the Mexicans changed their mind, so here we are…

        How’s that?

      5. Tangled up in Texas

        It’s all theater. If they were serious about illegals they would do more than round them up or build walls to keep them out. They would impose harsh penalties on the employers that hire them.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > They would impose harsh penalties on the employers that hire them.

          You’d think the Democrats could get some tech team in Silicon Valley to get right on that…

    2. Carolinian

      A Washington Post-ABC News opinion poll published on Friday showed public disapproval of Trump has swelled 5 percentage points to 58 percent over three months

      That’s not exactly a titanic collapse. Also this is only a three week deal.

      1. stefan

        One wonders why the President didn’t push his wall when Republicans controlled both the Senate and the House.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Because the government shutdown drowns government in a bathtub — short-term, by halting functions, and long-term, by inducing workers to leave. Ideologically that’s been a goal of conservatives for many years, and I’m sure it plays very well at the high-end of the Republican donor class.

        2. dcrane

          It’s not obvious that the DC Republicans would want to give Trump his wall either. Trump’s takeover of the GOP slot in 2016 was hostile, after all. Some of them, at least, must harbor hopes of leveraging in Pence, or someone else for 2020.

          Better to be seen fighting the Dems for the wall.

    3. Wukchumni

      It was enjoyable watching him squirm in his presser, careful to never take the blame for something that should’ve never happened that was entirely his fault.

    4. Elizabeth Burton

      Of course he did. And so did McConnell and all the rest of the playground battlers.

      The Super Bowl is next weekend. If it doesn’t come off, the NFL will be forced to refund millions in ticket sales. The airlines ditto. In Atlanta, the hotels and restaurants and other tourism-related industries will lose yet more millions, and the city of Atlanta and the government of Georgia will likewise suffer millions in lost tax revenues.

      So, suddenly, we have a “temporary spending bill” with a term of three weeks. And all the cheerleaders praising Nancy Pelosi to the skies for her skill and courage.

      Excuse me…I need to go somewhere and be sick.

    5. Richard

      Well, if he’d really wanted it, there was always that majority he had in both houses for 2 years. Or was the tax cut more important? Don’t pay attention to any of his goddamned words; watch his actions. Same with anyone, of course.

    6. Lambert Strether Post author

      I’m a little shocked to see nobody giving credit to the Air Traffic Controllers and the stewardesses on this thread. (Of course, my Twitter feed is wall-to-walll Pelosi triumphalism). IOW, the story is not “Trump Caved” (except for the clucking chickens of the political class). The story is that labor flexed some muscle (and not Big Labor, either).

      Incidentally, I got the date and the terrain right. January 16:

      However, I think the shutdown — although not the ideology behind it — has a hard date beyond which it cannot continue: The Superbowl (February 3). If there’s an omnishambles at Hartsfield–Jackson in Atlanta due to a combination of problems with air traffic control, TSA, or even (heaven forfend) aircraft inspection problems leading to mechanical failure, Trump is going to look extremely bad on national television (which I think is something he understands).

      I didn’t make a crisp call on collective action by workers, I’m guessing because Reagan fired the air traffic controllers, and I missed the role of the stewardesses (they didn’t appear on my Twitter feed until after I posted this) so I can’t do a happy dance, really.

      1. Jonathan Holland Becnel


        Excellent Nostrodoman Skills, Brother!

        The Blind Preacher would be proud!

        (paul atreides ref btw)

  5. Carey

    I am surprised but pleased to see that Matt Stoller piece at WaPo.

    The David Sirota quote from Twitter is a really good thought-worm, too; here it is again, because it’s so damn good:

    ” If your career relies on monetizing your relationships with people in power, then you have a financial interest in destroying any political candidate who threatens to toss your monetizeable contacts out of power.”


    — David Sirota (@davidsirota) January 18, 2019

    1. notabanker

      Important piece I think, not because it is revelatory but because it is in WaPo. Very well written imo.

  6. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    C-student AI?

    “‘AI’ to hit hardest in U.S. heartland and among less-skilled: study” (charts) [Reuters (EM)].

    How come AI can only victimize the less-skilled?

    If it was really smart, wouldn’t you think that it would be able to threaten Nobel-prize winners?

    “Pick on someone your own size?!?!?!?”

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The other, less desirable, option is for humans to become more like robots, in every way possible.

        “Please sir, I eat less than a typcial robot, and I will try to consume less energy than a solar powered robot, so I can be greener.”

    1. Synoia

      I believe Lawyers, or Law as a profession, is toast to AI.

      It will be interesting when an AI starts pointing at conflicts between laws, and filing briefs to the Courts (more AI) to resolve some much loved loopholes in the law.

      Hello Chief Justice Roberts, meet your new boss computer.

      On the subject of loss of jobs…what appears not mentioned is that’s a loss of customers….

      There are few business which could survive a 10% loss of customers, without significant (cost cutting) layoffs, which has the appearance of a death spiral.

      Should we be discussing “The Coming AI induced Depression.”

      1. voteforno6

        I don’t know about this whole AI thing…I’m a little skeptical about the claims made about technologies that haven’t even been developed yet (such as “autonomous” vehicles).

        1. Summer

          They don’t have to develop AI to be “all that.”
          They just have to convince us it is “all that.”
          People will be transferring their own emotions onto the machine.
          It will be like revgressing to childhood with an imaginary friend.

          1. JBird4049

            I am honestly somewhat confused about some people’s AI mania.

            Despite thousands of years of study, we don’t yet understand intelligence, wisdom, or even commonsense. Yet, a technology that has not yet been proven to work even as reliably, or as intelligently, as the average person, that is often bias written in code, to replace human to save money and make more profit despite, if successful, having destroying much, if not most, of the economy will make AI mostly redundant or unnecessary.

            This has the same feeling as the neoliberal drive to cheapen, crapify, simplify and cram something into a set pattern of few choices to deal with the assumed range of problems, issues, or demands.

            It also offloads control and responsibility onto the AI. “It not my fault we nuked Beirut, it was the AI!” So right as the changing climate, political instability, social unrest, and economic uncertainty increase the possibility of kinds of varying degrees of collapse, our Beloved Overlords want to replace everyone with untested, and not really needed, AI.

            Because profit.

            Do I have this right?

        2. Jonhoops

          For those skeptical about AI advances, I think you need to search for “2 minute papers “ on YouTube.

          Some impressive advances rapidly happening, especially in image processing. Lots of ways that jobs will be affected if you have any imagination. AI and machine learning don’t have to become human level aware to impact things. They just have to match the humans in whatever narrow task they are given, then because the can do it at scale and way faster they take over that task.

          1. Summer

            All fine and dandy. But even within a narrow range, humans attach meaning to so many things. That also plays into the whole “accountability” aspect.

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            > I think you need to search for “2 minute papers

            Um, I don’t like having my needs defined by others, and I don’t like being assigned tasks (also against site policy).

            Wouldn’t you agree it would be a better strategy to pick one such “2 minute paper,” link to it, and defend your choice?

            1. jonhoops

              I’m wary of posting links in the comments as that seems to get posts sent to the virtual shredder. But if links are ok I’ll gladly use them.

              This “2 Minute Paper” video is about using AI to create realistic human images. I can see a day soon where ad agencies will not need models of photographers, as they will be able to generate artificial human images to order.

              Or this video on machine learning to create image mattes. One of the most labor intensive jobs in visual effects is rotoscoping (creating masks so you can separate the characters from the background). In fact the army of effects artists you see in the credits of all the big super hero movies are mostly involved in doing roto work. There is already a beta AI Roto plugin for doing this in Nuke (the most used vfx compositing software). I see roto work being mostly automated within 3 years.

              2 Minute paper video on this research
              Image Matting With Deep Neural Networks | Two Minute Papers #209

              So there are a few examples in my own domain that are coming down the pike and will have real world employment consequences very soon.

                1. tegnost

                  no one has seemed to work out how people with no job will be able to buy anything. This tech triumphalism re computers will do everything better than any human can. I not that recently sat through an npr interview (couldn’t escape it) where a virtual reality artist was saying that there will be no artists as good as his virtually produced ai enhanced art. The world you’re trying to create is a horrible world and I don’t care if it makes you a ton of dough, it’s also making lots and lots of poor people who will likely engage in the art of smashing your fragile edifice.

    2. Jen

      Opinion piece in Newsweek. I know one of the authors – he’s big in the machine learning field as relates to biomedical research.

      “A lack of natural evolution is a critical weak point for AI. While AI is superb at finding correlations, it is quite bad at understanding causation. Judea Pearl, who has won the Turing Award—computing’s Nobel Prize—recently noted that AI excels at detecting associations, such as this: “Customers who bought toothpaste also bought a toothbrush.”

      But in this case, we see also that AI has a clear limiting factor: it has trouble answering why a customer bought the toothbrush. And if you go a little further, AI’s proficiency falls even more: “If a customer did not buy toothpaste, would she still buy a toothbrush?”


      1. John

        It’s unfortunate that this technology was named artificial intelligence in the first place. These are very interesting algorithms but they are not intelligent the way people are. I believe that someday we’ll replicate human intelligence. Right now we don’t know how we think which makes it impossible to copy.

        Nevertheless, AI will become more and more capable performing repetitive tasks.

        1. Charlie

          ” I believe that someday we’ll replicate human intelligence. Right now we don’t know how we think which makes it impossible to copy.”

          This begs the question, “Whose way of thinking?” Why, our overlords, of course.

    3. Procopius

      It’s been many years since there were programs that can do much of what paralegals used to be hired to do. I dunno, maybe paralegals are still in demand because they can make or fetch coffee as well as write common legal documents and even do some research, but I’ll bet they’re being paid less. I would suppose AI programs can do even more. I have read that there is a program (the youngs insist on calling them apps, but they are computer programs) which will contest your parking ticket for you and has turned out to be very successful. I don’t think it’s AI, either.

  7. Carla

    Re: the “demographic catastrophe” — seems like very good news to me.

    What the world needs now isn’t just love — it’s fewer of us!

    1. Carl

      The demographic catastrophe story is an evergreen; this stuff has been going on for a long time, as has the handwringing about how fewer people is somehow bad.

      1. False Solace

        It’s pretty obvious that fertility declines when women observe that society punishes child-rearing. If pretty much all developed nations are in the same boat with less than replacement fertility, and pretty much all have the same inadequate support systems for parents, I think what we have is a system of benign childbirth neglect patched up with immigration. It’s all good. Instead of paying for your own countrymen to raise expensive children, import cheaper ones from overseas willing to work for cheap. Keyword cheap.

        If all societies have the same problem which somehow never gets fixed, it’s clearly working for the powerful. If not they would change it. That’s what power means.

  8. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    “Is Elizabeth Warren’s Wealth Tax Constitutional?” [Kevin Drum, Mother Jones]. “The 16th Amendment allows the federal government to levy direct income taxes, even if the income is derived from real or personal property, but a direct federal tax on property itself is still forbidden by the Constitution unless it’s proportional to the population of each state—which I’m sure is something Warren doesn’t have in mind.”

    Proportional to the pouplation of each state.


    That would favor those states with higher iwealth per capita.

    The states with lots of people, but not possessing as much, would be subsidizing smaller but richer states.

    1. PKMKII

      Don’t most high-population states have higher numbers of rich people (New York, California, Texas, Florida)?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I was thinking mabye something like Oklahoma with about 3.9 million population at per capita income (not wealth though) of $48.5K vs. Connecticut with about 3.5 million at per capita income of $72.2K (all numbers from Wikipedia).

        Proportional to population would mean higher wealth tax will be levied against the former state, , though, in general, people are less wealthy there. And likely few number of super rich people there, as well, though that would depend on each state’s wealth distribution.

        It could well be that there more super rich people in OK than in MA.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The thing is, I have learned more here than I did in college.

        Are we being ignored here due to a lack of accreditation?

        1. Carolinian

          The thing is, I have learned more here than I did in college.

          We are all here to learn. Thanks, hosts!

        2. jrs

          “Life long learning” in U.S. speak just meets endless learning on your own dime and your own time to keep employed. Nothing more.

          Exhausting and draining of a precious and scarce resource even more valuable than the money spend on tuition: (non-working) time. One has to do what one has to do to earn a living of course, but I wouldn’t cheer it. But this is Denmark we’re talking about, and so it doesn’t really map that well to the U.S.

        3. PeterVE

          If NC get’s accredited, it’ll be all downhill. Ms. Smith will have to spend her time filling out endless forms, hiring a chief diversity officer, and fundraising to build the new rink for the NC Ducks hockey team.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Easily fixed, just put a credit-hours-limit on the amount of Free Credit Hours.

      Or some other hard limit to prevent eternal Free College-hood.

  9. djrichard

    “This demographic catastrophe will hit us all” [Unherd]. “Birth rates of well below replacement level are now commonplace in the developed world. … In other words a fall in the fertility rate from 1.4 to 1, which South Korea shows is possible, doubles the rate at which new generations halve in size.”

    More on South Korea. Also has a graph projecting population decline.

    Some of the reasons for Korea’s low birth rate are similar to those in Japan in the early 90’s. Couples do not want to have a large family because of rising costs of living, including housing and education. South Koreans have the world’s longest working hours, so they do not have time for a family or private life. At the same time there is also a high unemployment rate among young people. Women do not want to have children early in their lives because of the career, unavailability of maternity-leave and little participation of men in child raising and housework. On average, women have their first child at the age of 31. Many Koreans think that marriage is just an option. Half of the singles are under 40 and they do not feel the need to start a family. This phenomenon could also be explained with a large share of atheists and believers of no formal religion.

      1. Wukchumni

        Cause we have to have a big enough population to start creating trillionnaires?

        Most certainly, there’s quite a number only a zero away.

      2. jrs

        apparently we’re all supposed to live on a fairly ascetic diet (because population), but if that population stopped growing by leaps and bounds it’s suddenly a “crisis”. Yea the trillionaires must be laughing.

      3. djrichard

        For a forecasted population graph for the world, by country (more or less), see https://www.newsecuritybeat.org/2011/05/ten-billion-un-updates-population-projections/

        Looks like we peak in 2100. At which point, I’m assuming the ennui of South Korea and Japan will be promulgated to the rest of the world. I’m guessing that’s when our western-style “new economy” is fully adopted by the rest of the world, where
        – everyone reaches their max debt load
        – everyone’s job reaches max precariousness

        In which case, if we want to get there faster, we just need to let capitalism do its thing. So I think what you suggest needs to be flipped around. The more billionaires (and trillionaires), the less the population growth.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > The more billionaires (and trillionaires), the less the population growth.

          The bigger the tapeworm, the less the nutrition.

          OTOH, if we had to choose between that and cooking the planet…

          1. JBird4049

            OTOH, if we had to choose between that and cooking the planet…

            Other way around, I think, we’re cooking the planet to feed the tapeworms, not to feed the body that they’re in.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      It is not a catastrophe, it is an opportunity to float the world population down to a sustainable level without any Jackpots on the way down.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Exactly – if we’re lucky.

        And crossing the bridge before we get to it: how do you get the birthrate back UP, after you reach the target population?

        A strictly seat-of-the-pants calculation suggests that we’ve overshot the carrying capacity, at least for a decent standard of living, by about 4- fold. The overshoot is degrading the carrying capacity, so that might be over-oiptimistic.

  10. ewmayer

    Age bias law does not cover job applicants: U.S. appeals court | Reuters

    My non-lawyer take: Substitute ‘race’ for ‘age’ in the article and see how the ruling comes off:

    ‘In an 8-4 decision, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said the “plain language” of the Race Discrimination in Employment Act (“RDEA”), which forbids discrimination against people based on ethnicity, showed that Congress intended that law to cover current employees, not outside job applicants.’

    So in those terms, it’s perfectly fine to ‘stop the darkies from getting in the door’, but should they manage to do so nonetheless, you can’t discriminate against them after that. Seems fair!

    1. jrs

      They have been weakening age discrimination laws for years (they is mostly Republicans to be truthful). Then they wonder why middle aged people end up killing themselves after spending years looking for work they are systematically discriminated against for.

      1. How is it legal

        They have been weakening age discrimination laws for years (they is mostly Republicans to be truthful)

        I’ll add to that comment:

        They have been weakening age discrimination laws for years (they is mostly Republicans to be truthful). While the most predominant Blue State Legislators, particularly in California, have sat back, taken total advantage of that fact, and done nothing whatsoever to fight back against it and mitigate ATTEMPTED Suicides, and the Deaths of Despair [1]

        That’s not even to mention the lack of their voices on the fact that most single females – who have no inheritance, alimony, huge supportive family network, or connections – can no longer afford to live a dignified life in pretty much the entire state of California due to an age-old, still uncorrected, huge discrepancy in male versus female wages and hiring. In California, LGBT™ ‘Policy’ has been sickeningly used to utterly obscure the fact that the vast majority of biological females have been economically crippled and discriminated against since this country’s inception, in both Blue States™, and Red States™. .

        [1] Outside of making it way, way harder to complete a suicide – the California Republic wouldn’t want that record on top of already having the Nation’s record for poverty amongst Billionaires, and Millionaire Legislators – while doing absolutely nothing whatsoever to address the reasons for the suicide attempts, and Deaths of Despair (slow motion suicides); though there have been way deep, Legislative ingratiating bows to the Mental Health, Incarceration and Pharma Industries. The suicide attempts have been increasingly rampant among teens in wealthy neighborhoods like Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Morgan Hill and among those neighboring ‘retirement age’ (particularly renters).

  11. Eclair

    Re: Uber and Lyft in Seattle being most used in most congested zip codes with most public transportation.

    We live in one of the second most congested zip codes in Seattle and prefer walking or using public transportation. But, here’s the rub: I can walk 5 minutes from our condo, hop on an express bus to downtown (north-south) and be at the Seattle Public Market in about 20 minutes … non-peak times.

    However, if I want to travel east-west, cross town, it becomes a nightmare. I experimented with bussing over to Magnussen Park, about a 20 minute car ride. After one transfer and 45 minutes later I was still waiting for the final bus to take me to my destination. And I was, as the crow flies, less than a mile from our condo. I could have walked it in 20 minutes. Same thing applies for traveling west. So, using Uber/Lyft for those east/west journeys does make sense if one is pressed for time.

    So, as we chose shopping, dental and medical care offices, etc., I pick ones within walking distance, or on the north-south axis. Full Disclosure: I would rather crawl to my destination than use Uber/Lyft.

    1. Carla

      “Full Disclosure: I would rather crawl to my destination than use Uber/Lyft.”

      Eclair, I’m proud of you. For complicated reasons, we had to use Lyft once — but so far, it’s our only time, and we’ll try to keep it that way. (Crawling home from the airport, with luggage, after 11:00 p.m., would be quite the challenge.)

  12. RUKidding

    The non-plant photo choked me up. So sad. I volunteer with a homeless nonprofit in Sacramento. Many homeless do actually have jobs, but housing costs have skyrocketed here like everywhere else in CA, so they simply cannot afford a roof over their heads. It’s a horrible situation, and one which shows little sign of abatement in the near to mid-term future.

    Just sucks.

    Thanks. Picture says a 1000 words etc.

      1. Roger Smith

        Access to affordable housing! Perhaps we could create some sort of market where private real-estate owners are subsidized and offer housing options based on local individual areas?

        1. crittermom

          That already exists in subsidized housing.

          Waiting lists are more than a year most anywhere that I’m aware of. Some can easily be 3 yrs or more now. Too much demand.

          And that’s for an apt.
          A studio apt, in many cases.

          I suspect it’s much longer for an individual house since there are fewer.

          I knew an elderly couple in the previous area I lived who had numerous (very old) house trailers they rented out with govt subsidies.

          They were never empty, yet no doubt far–really far–from being up to code. I know of many places like that in more outlying areas.

          That doesn’t matter to those in need of shelter. The current housing market is a breeding ground for slum lords.

          Landlords that have a decent place can make much more money as an air bnb, while dealing with a ‘higher class of people’.

        2. Massinissa

          Is ‘access to housing’ like ‘access to healthcare’? Where we use neoliberal ‘market solutions’ to provide the ‘access’?

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      I saw in it a testament to the quirky spirit and capacity to rise above of even the most downtrodden.

      Or do we think it was faked, a sort of “installation” to make a point?

  13. cm

    Outrageous Facebook story about their deliberate decision to get kids to unknowningly use their parents credit cards:

    Facebook orchestrated a multi-year effort that duped children and their parents out of money, in some cases hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and then often refused to give the money back, according to court documents unsealed tonight in response to a Reveal legal action.

    The records are part of a class action lawsuit focused on how Facebook targeted children in an effort to expand revenue for online games, such as Angry Birds, PetVille and Ninja Saga.

    The more than 135 pages of unsealed documents, which include internal Facebook memos, secret strategies and employee emails, paint a troubling picture of how the social media giant conducted business.

  14. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    “Climate Change Is a Public Health Emergency” [Scientific American].


    Nothing in the article above about one of the keys to living longer being low caloric intake.

    That is, less food consumption.

    Plus less consumption of other things in general is also good for the planet.

    Together, it will improve public health as well (less eating and less buying//hoarding of goods).

    *It does talk about food insecurity…not growing enough to meet expected populatuion and thus (though as mentioned above, not neceesarily so) food demand increase.

  15. kareninca

    I think that this just maxes me out, for the year (https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2019/01/25/hospitals-and-nightly-wealth-screenings-are-these-grateful-patients-or-played/):

    “The rich are “different than you and me,” the Gilded Age author F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously observed. And, apparently, these days that difference extends to how they are treated by nonprofit hospitals, reports Phil Galewitz in the New York Times.

    Many hospitals conduct nightly wealth screenings—using software that culls public data such as property records, contributions to political campaigns and other charities—to gauge which patients are most likely to be the source of large donations.

    Those who seem promising targets for fundraising may receive a visit from a hospital executive in their rooms, as well as extra amenities like a bathrobe or a nicer waiting area for their families.
    There’s more: “Some hospitals train doctors and nurses to identify patients who have expressed gratitude for their care, and then put the patients in touch with staff fundraisers,” Galewitz explains. . . .

    You may have also heard of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Passed in 1996, its purpose is to protect patient health privacy, but apparently a 2013 change in the law facilitates grateful donor programs, enabling hospital records departments “to share with staff fundraisers some personal details of patients, including their health insurance status, the department treating them, the name of their physician, and the outcome of their care.”

    You know those papers that you fail to read and groggily sign when you’re admitted to a hospital? Well, often they include a permission slip allowing hospitals to share financial data with staff fundraisers.”

    1. Alex morfesis

      Oh come on now…hospital worrying about fund raising instead of
      patients ?…next you will complain Phil Donahue’s wife raises 1.5 billion for a hospital that never has more than 70 beds with kids in that tiny hospital of less than 100 beds…and mostly treats certain kids by screening them and staying focused on an illness which nationally has a survival rate of over 85%…those 4000 staffers on 40 plus acres need those funds to one day…yes one day…find a way to…

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      The next step would be to ease the quicker death of patients too non-rich to even BE plausible donation prospects.

    3. ChiGal in Carolina

      As I have noted before, HIPAA is not about privacy though that’s how they marketed it to us. Portability = REMOVING barriers to sharing patient info. Accountability = for the purpose of BILLING.

  16. B_Hunt

    Concerning a Green TVA. The TVA has done great things, but don’t overestimate it’s ability to do them again. Yes, it did set the world record, still standing, I believe, for quickest construction of a hydroelectric dam. I think it was the Douglas Dam in WWII, but that was 70 years ago, and it’s been decades since TVA has built any other dams. As for its Nuclear facilities. It took over 30 years to get Watts Bar 2 online, and the Hartsville facility has been sitting around abandoned since the 80s.

    I don’t think TVA is any worse than most other power companies at delivering green energy in the Nuclear/Hydro fields, but I doubt they still possess the human or organizational skill sets/experience to produce exceptional facilities in rapid time frames. That said, TVA is great in many ways, for instance, the power distributors it serves are all non-profits by law, and their customers have some of the lowest electric rates in the nation. Caveat Emptor: cheap electricity isn’t going to solve our ecological crises, but it may compound it!

  17. Matt

    I implore Lambert to be very careful about 1) encouraging leftist candidates like Bernie to be too dovish on Venezuela and 2) implying that the situation in Venezuela has been caused by US sanctions. Maduro is no Allende, which is to say that this is poor ground to fight for replacing the Monroe Doctrine. And it has been reported to the moon and back how Maduro and Chavez ruined the Venezuelan economy long before the current US sanctions were implemented.

    AOC and the new dems need to take a page from Bernie on this one. Bernie’s strategy of urging caution while pointing out the problems with the Maduro regime is spot on as far as electability. Foreign policy is his weak point, as it is for the all new dems. If Bernie does not strike a moderate tone on foreign policy, he’ll be seen as too radical and won’t have a chance in the primary or the general.

    Just my two cents; many grains of salt recommended.

    1. Yves Smith

      The US has no business engaging in regime change, particulalry in a country where the elections are not less clean than those of the US. The guy we are backing has never even run for President and has much less popular support than Maduro. I don’t see why this is hard to understand.

      1. Matt

        I remember hearing similar arguments when Chavez was first elected there. There were UN monitors and, I think, Jimmy Carter observing that election and declaring it fair. There were rumors about intimidation and coercion, but nothing panned out. And the same unclean hands argument was made regarding our elections because of the 2000 election. Those arguments were quite effective at that time.

        Now, with Maduro, we know there were problems with the last election. He has jailed political opponents, banned the real opposition candidates from running against him, and people are fleeing, literally by the millions due to the conditions there. Every major country in the region has abandoned their support of Maduro, and the opposition maintains significant support despite state controlled media and fear of the government, which is the largest employer left, i believe (could be wrong and am including state run industry). We had a disinformation campaign in out last election, but no jailing of political opponents and no fear of government reprisal. I truly hope that everyone would question that Maduro received 68% of the vote when his people were starving to death.

        I generally agree with you about regime change, especially in the manner in which it has been carried out in the past. However, there comes a point, and reasoable minds can disagree where that point lies, when standing on the sidelines means standing on the wrong side of history. I don’t know if we are at that point yet, but it would be unwise, considering the situation in Venezuela at present, for a presidential candidate, or future one (maybe AOC, we shalll see), to foreclose action. And unless we can think of a better way, regime change may be our best option in this case.

        Thanks for replying. I very much respect your opinion even if I disagree.

        1. Yves Smith

          Since when do the neighbors have a vote on how a democracy runs its affairs? By that argument, the US should oust the democratically elected government in Israel because virtually everyone in the region is opposed to its government.

          And how about how Israel treats Palestinians?

          More counterarguments:

          There are three reasons why the US should keep its hands off Venezuela.

          First, the US lacks any moral standing to tell or force other countries what to do. On what basis can a country that resembles an oligarchy more than a democracy (this according to top political scientists and former president Jimmy Carter) criticize other countries for flouting democratic norms? How can anyone believe that such concerns are the real reason for US actions in Venezuela when the US supports governments in countries like Saudi Arabia, Honduras, and Haiti that have atrocious records on electoral democracy and human rights? Is it possible for anyone to believe that the Trump administration truly cares about ordinary Venezuelans’ wellbeing given its profound disregard for the wellbeing of US citizens living in Puerto Rico, Detroit, and elsewhere?

          Second, a US-backed coup in Venezuela would be illegal under international law, which prohibits any country from infringing upon another nation’s territorial sovereignty. Foreign interventions have been justified on the basis of “humanitarianism.” But the US cannot plausibly claim that it’s motivated by such concerns since US sanctions have worsened Venezuelans’ suffering — and in fact were designed to do so.

          Third, the likelihood that a military coup would achieve the Trump administration’s purported goals of “restoring democracy” and “ending the humanitarian crisis” is vanishingly low. Two distinct outcomes are far more likely: one, the Maduro administration, and its more repressive and authoritarian tendencies, would be strengthened due to legitimate security concerns and the “rally round the flag” effect imperialist aggression often has; or two, a bloody civil war would erupt.


          And as CEPR, hardly a flamethrowing bunch of lefties, points out:

          Lest we forget, Maduro—often described by U.S. politicians and pundits as a dictator—was democratically elected in snap elections carried out a month after the death of his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, in early 2013. As a presidential term lasts six years in Venezuela, his current constitutional mandate will end in early 2019.


          This looks like an attempt to re-run Ukraine, when we fomented a coup shortly before elections were due to take place. Why not let Maduro be ousted through the ballot box if he’s as unpopular as you say? For instance:


        2. pjay

          There have been a number of good links on the Venezuelan situation posted at NC today (and some good comments in the links as well). Few if any of them have excused Maduro for his mistakes, but they do provide a larger context for understanding the situation — one in which the US. plays a huge role. I also have a friend from Venezuela with good contacts. The election results were skewed due to the boycott (in part pushed by the U.S.), but it was legal. Maduro does have significant opposition. But if you think the U.S. attempt at regime change has *anything* to do with concern for the Venezuela people, or would better the situation of the majority, then I would respectfully suggest looking at the history of such attempts in Latin America (or anywhere).

        3. blowncue

          One can get off the sidelines by supplying humanitarian aid without engaging in regime change. As for the judgment that Sanders’ response was comparatively “weak tea” –

          Sanders should brew a double espresso and lead off with slamming regime change?

          So when Univision comes back again and tars Sanders a second time for supporting a “socialist tyrant who destroys economic livelihoods,” can I expect a post in the Water Cooler accusing women, establishment types and anti-Castro holdovers of kneecapping Sanders in an unholy trinity? It’s always someone else’s fault.

          Yes, Sanders could have echoed Francisco Rodriguez in Foreign Policy’s January 12, 2018 issue. In fact, he ought to distill Rodriguez’s arguments into a six-tweet-long “real solution” that not only insulates him from being tarred with the too-cozy-with-Castro brush, but demonstrates that he is the anti-establishment figure who can provide real solutions, not ineffectual chaos.

          But he has time to get the messaging right. Leading off with emphasizing support for the rule of law and acknowledging Maduro’s role in producing economic destruction was smart politics. Do you want him to win? Or do you want him to walk into a buzzsaw, then issue more angry commentary from Water Cooler Temple Number 11, with such chestnuts as “MeTools?” I’m glad the Water Cooler isn’t running Sanders’ communication strategy.

          Trump is getting hammered on the shutdown. But Sanders should give Trump an opportunity to deflect attention from that? It’s good when Corbyn lets the Tories garrote themselves, but bad when Sanders holds back?

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > One can get off the sidelines by supplying humanitarian aid without engaging in regime change. As for the judgment that Sanders’ response was comparatively “weak tea” –

            If you can’t mention US sanctions, that’s weak tea, regardless of the motive for brewing it. As for Univision, they’re gonna say what they’re gonna say, regardless of what Sanders says or does. No reason to let them get into your head. Liberals do this all the time: “Oh, what will the Republicans say?!?!?” Well, the Republicans are gonna say what they say, and what they always say. It’s a bad habit of thought, and staying hunched in a defensive posture is bad for your spine.

        4. Lambert Strether Post author

          > And unless we can think of a better way, regime change may be our best option in this case.

          The argument of empires going back, no doubt, to the Assyrians. Nothing in our long history of interventions makes me think that this intervention is going to be better for the locals for whose benefit the intervention is to be putatively carried out. Vietnam? Chile? Honduras? Haiti? Iraq? Syria? Libya? Afghanistan? Either we don’t know how to bring about these benefits, or we decide not to, or — the most likely option — the ostensible humanitarian windowdressing has nothing to do with the real reasons.

    2. voteforno6

      I would think that, after 2016, we could throw all notions of “electability” out the window.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      I agree it’s complicated. But I think there’s a lot of space between rolling back the Monroe Doctrine and pointing out that the United States d*cking around with Venezuela’s economy is part of the problem. If Sanders is papering over a political issue that will shortly return to a state of chronic festering instead of acute pain — for example, if Guaido doesn’t have the chops or the base to take power, and the countries that recognized his Presidency start walking it back and blaming Trump for jumping the gun, so the coup fails — well and good, but if you can’t mention that sanctions are part of the problem with Venezuela’s economy, then you’re not doing serious analysis (granted, not Sanders’ goal in this instance).

      Not to say that Venezuela doesn’t have its own internal problems (see NC here and here), but that’s not all down to Chavez and Maduro either.

      1. blowncue

        He’s not papering over anything. He’s deploying a communications strategy that avoids giving Univision the opportunity to tar him a second time with the too-cozy-for-Castro brush. I elaborate in another post that may or may not show up in the comment thread. He has time to amplify his message to provide a real solution that replaces sanctions with aid.

        The opposition to Sanders will attempt to paint him as loving economy-destroying dictators. That canard could damage him. Corbyn is smart to let the opposition garrote themselves, but Sanders should go further and give Trump a chance to deflect attention from getting hammered by the shutdown?

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          As I say more politely above, this is horse-race style thinking that seems savvy, but is in fact idiotic, not to say reac[tive|tionary].

          Univision is gonna say what they say about Castro, regardless of what Sanders says, since they’ve been saying the same thing for thirty years anyhow. (Imagine of the MMTers had decided on their strategy of paradigm change, and their very first thought was “What will mainstream economists say?” They never would have gotten off the ground.)

          You’ll note that, unlike you, I did not proffer or assume a communications strategy for Sanders; I said his tweet was “weak tea,” which it objectively is; if you don’t mention, at the very minimum, the role US sanctions play in the Venezuelan economy, that’s weak tea. It just is.

          However, if we must speak of strategy, I guarantee you that being driven by what Univision talking heads — or any mainstream talking heads — might say is a recipe for disaster. For one thing, Sanders already knows this; that’s why he set up his very successful digital communications “empire”, which bypasses the mainstream entirely, including Univision.* For another, it’s deeply insulting to voters, since it presumes they cannot accept more realistic messaging. (My personal view is that American voters — at least those who send their children off to fight and die, and those children too, of course — are sick and tired of the endless wars. Trump votes correlated to troop casualties, let us remember. IMSHO, those votes are there for the taking by Sanders, although not by militarist liberal Democrats.)

          Smarter Sanders enforcers, please.

          NOTE * Obviously, if this material isn’t available in Spanish, it should be.

    4. ChrisPacific

      Much the same arguments were used regarding the authorization of force in Iraq. At the time voting against it was considered radical, career limiting and basically everything you suggest.

      Most of the Democrats voted for it, which I thought at the time was a cynical and craven political move on their part, although I’ve since realized that it wasn’t an act for most of them.

  18. Arizona Slim

    Ditching the doctor? Well, people, I’m no millenial, but I’ve done the same thing.

    Why? Lousy care.

    Last time I went to see a doc was last October. Was in severe pain because of a back injury, but the guy was more interested in putting me through a barrage of screening tests and immunizations that had nothing to do with the reason why I was in his examining room. I even had to break in and say, “Let’s solve the problem I came here for!”

    He did a perfunctory exam, and only made a partial diagnosis. I’m still dealing with the part he missed.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I am surprised no one is currently promoting or offering for imagination a workable medical tricorder.

      It shouldn’t be that hard, in the age of near-zero interest rate policy, to get funding for that scheme.

          1. notabanker

            Evidently, millenials are not a profitable enough demographic:
            “seniors are a particularly lucrative market…. ‘It’s the segment of health insurance with the highest dollar revenue and margin per member,’ explains Augustin Ruta, a health insurance consultant at A2 Strategy Group. Ruta also noted that Medicare members enrolled in these private plans tend to have lower churn rates, which gives insurers more of an incentive to invest in members’ long-term health outcomes.”

    2. Carolinian

      You and my brother. He said he grew tired of his doctor ticking off boxes on a tablet instead of paying attention to his health complaints. If it doesn’t show up on one of their tests they aren’t interested.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Your comment reminded me of a section from a biographical book called “The Making of a Surgeon”. The author, who was training at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, was discussing a patient with a senior doctor. The senior doctor had suggested a cause of the patient’s sickness but the author was saying that the charts did not indicate any such diagnosis. The senior doctor told him to look at the patient instead as it was not the chart that was not sick.

    3. Oregoncharles

      They don’t do well with that type of injury – I have my own horror story: a frozen shoulder; the treatment, physical therapy, made it much, much worse. I didn’t go back for a couple of years.

      Other practitioners might be more to the point – massage or chiropractic? Ask your friends what helps.

  19. Hameloose Cannon

    [Warren, Tax, Mother Jones] Article I, Section 8: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States[.] Taxes don’t have to be uniform. Might the reference to apportionment be from “Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Company”, 157 U.S. 429 (1895)? 16th amendment superseded this decision in 1913. –Real crack reporting Kevin from Mother Jones. Does his search engine run on steam? Are the Wobblies not recognizing bourgeois search terms? It’s like if Bernie doesn’t have a platitude about it, then it mustn’t be possible?

    1. Duck1

      Yeah, the estate tax was levied on the sum of money and property value in the estate. Gee, wonder why it was so abhorrent to the rich.

    2. Darthbobber

      Kevin Drum being the author, if Sanders supported something it would really, really be impossible, as Drum has been blaming Sanders for all democratic problems for quite some time. As for the rag, truth in advertising should have required it to rename itself no later than about 20 years ago.

      Drum’s just mailing this one in. He doesn’t even claim to actually know the answer himself.

  20. Summer

    They put off the shutdown kabuki until after the Super Bowl. Guess they heard aboit the collective action about to take place around that.

    The workers affected should not go in if the shut down resumes. Stay home, go to the beach, whatever.
    Don’t protest. That generates economic activity even if it’s negative. Bail enriches insurance companies, any gadgets used by police get to be replaced…

    1. curlydan

      Trump weakness revealed: air travel. First thing I heard him say on infrastructure projects is “rebuild Kennedy and La Guardia”. They embarrass him. I admit, last time I was there they didn’t look great, but well over half of Americans probably don’t fly in any given year.

      I guess a crappy electrical grid, lead water pipes, and a substandard fiber network are things to fix after making his airports better and the planes fly on time.

      1. False Solace

        Trump said some good things on the campaign trail but so do all successful politicians. Elected as an outsider, once in office he rapidly assumed the same positions of all other politicians. He promised lots of infrastructure spending but sidled away when somebody told him it would cost money. Tax breaks for the rich and budget bump-ups for the DOD are somehow free, though. He’s done lots of those.

        Note you could sub the name Trump for Obama or GWB and get the same result: a fat lot of nothing. And now he’s kicking over third world anthills in Venezuela and not actually withdrawing from Syria and Afghanistan. (He’s talked about removing the troops he himself added, nothing more.) Trump better hope the Dems run a private equity billionaire against him or he gonna lose!

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Trump delayed and prevented a possible Clinton-load of arms and weapons and support from reaching the jihadis . . . for just long enough . . . that Russia was able to ramp up the support Assad needed to get the jihad defeated.

          The Coalition Of Lawful Authority ( COLA) has won the Syrian civil war and the Global Axis of Jihad ( GAJ) has lost it. And that is a positive Trumpian achievement.

          1. Hameloose Cannon

            A US foreign policy telepathic homunculoid once said, “You can’t make war without Egypt and you can’t make peace without Syria.” Syria is a state ran by clinically paranoid thrill-killers that has never made peace with anyone. If it’s not Israel, then it’s Lebanese Christians, Iraqi Ba’athists, the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey, the Kurds, the Druze, Lebanese Sunni, Sadat, any of the Hussein’s, Arafat. Everything going to be hunky dory for Syria. Just Levant-astic. The Spetznaz and al Quds Force are known for class-consciousness, just a bunch of coffee klatch social feminists, and in no way battalions of walking human rights violations. Welcome to Syria: the avulsion injury of civilizations.

            1. The Rev Kev

              Soooo, I guess that you won’t be spending your next set of holidays in Damascus then? Oh well, there is always the friendly, gentle, tolerant people of Israel or Saudi Arabia to visit then.

            2. integer

              Yes, it’s a terrible shame that the Western-backed “moderate” headchoppers didn’t win the war. If only those staged videos purporting to show the aftermath of chemical weapons attacks that were produced and directed by Hollywood’s favorite heroes, James Le Mesurier’s White Helmets, had been able to squeeze that last drop of outrage from the public, we could’ve had us another Libya.

              Syria, Then and Now: Liberated of Western-backed Terrorism Off Guardian

              1. JBird4049

                Well, yes, after the Syrian government and ISIS made it a priority to kill anyone at all moderate thereby leaving the population a choice of bad and evil. The civil war started because Assad and his cronies were corrupt abusive thugs who fired on unarmed protesters; the American destruction of Iraqi society, law, economy, and government created the vacuum for ISIS to spread into.

              1. JBird4049

                Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.

                Apocryphal but how many American Presidents, Congresscritters, military officers, and intelligence officials said similar to each other about our other thugs?

      2. Summer

        None of those infrastructure projects have started. Anything can be “said.”

        What they actually did was open up the government (for now, we’ll see how it plays) just long enough to get pass the Super Bowl.

        1. RWood

          Well, an aide answering phones for a western dem saynotoor this afternoon admitted that there probably was going to be some compromise by damn dems on wall finances.

  21. allan

    Newseum to Close D.C. Location After Sale to Johns Hopkins University [Variety]

    The Newseum, a museum dedicated to journalism and the First Amendment, and located in a prime piece of real estate along Pennsylvania Avenue, will close at the end of 2019.

    The Freedom Forum, the creator and primary funder of the museum, announced the closure as part of the building’s sale to Johns Hopkins University, which will acquire the property for $372.5 million. The forum cited unsustainable operating costs.

    Jan Neuharth, the chairwoman and CEO of the Freedom Forum, said they will “explore all options to find a new home in the Washington, D.C. area.” …

    The forum signaled that the Newseum was having financial difficulties in August 2017, …

    The Newseum previously operated out of a space in Arlington, Va., after it was launched by USA Today founder Al Neuharth. …

    There is a depressing backstory to this. The Freedom Forum used to be called The Gannett Foundation.
    It was founded and headquartered for many years in Rochester, NY, where the Gannett Company
    was founded and headquartered. The Foundation supported many local non-profits and arts groups.
    But Al Neuharth, the CEO of Gannett, decided, as CEOs do,
    that the company and Foundation needed to be located in the imperial capital,
    and so he moved both to Arlington and rebranded the foundation.
    As the story says, the Newseum was first a relatively modest affair, but the moth is drawn to the flame,
    the museum equivalent of a McMansion was built and the rest is history.

    A final comment: JHU is buying a single building for $372 million?
    That’s about the same as the entire endowment of either Colorado State or the University of Hawaii.

    1. Enquiring Mind

      Bloomberg funds help? Not sure if Hizonner had strings attached to various donations that would preclude such acquisitions as that Newseum parcel. Deep-pockets benefactors needed at Colorado State and Hawaii and elsewhere, with non-CalPERSish governance.

  22. Wukchumni

    this again heightens the fact that our complex transportation network is extremely vulnerable to disruption by collective action. It would be deeply ironic if the neoliberal era, which could be dated as starting with Reagan firing striking air traffic controllers, was ended by air traffic controllers calling in sick.

    You’re onto something there, and strikes-which were relatively rare, have come back into focus, with teachers leading the way.

    1. voteforno6

      I remember seeing Kissinger waddling through an airport several years ago. What I noticed the most was how short, and how round he was.

      1. Wukchumni

        My dad spoke half a dozen languages, and his English sounded really similar to HK despite being in the country for a long time, which distressed him, for when he met people sometimes they would mention that, and he loathed Tricky Dick and you can only guess what he thought of Henry, ha!

  23. Wukchumni

    Mr. Market: “Goldman, Morgan Stanley Ask to Cancel Trades After $41 Billion Flash Crash” [Bloomberg]. “Some of the amendment requests were to settle the trades at a higher price, according to the people, who asked not to be named discussing a sensitive topic. It wasn’t clear whether the at-market sell orders from Goldman and Morgan Stanley triggered the brief plunge or whether other factors in the pre-open auction were at play, some of the people said. Spokesmen for Goldman and Morgan Stanley declined to comment.”


    I thought of this scene from Lost In America, where Albert Brooks asks the casino owner for the money he lost, back.


  24. Wukchumni

    (overheard from a senior that looks a little like Dick Tracy)

    “Apple stock price has fallen and can’t get back up, help!”
    “Apple is in talks with private Medicare plans about bringing its watch to at-risk seniors” [CNBC]. “Health experts say that seniors are an ideal market for the Apple Watch, which has introduced features that can be used by anyone, but are most beneficial to seniors, including fall detection and cardiac arrhythmia monitoring. It also makes sense as a business model for insurers, as seniors are a particularly lucrative market….

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Apple stock price has fallen and can’t get back up

      Ha. I thought that was a really odd story, but I couldn’t figure out why. But your comment made me think: Wait a minute, Apple looking for a government-granted monopoly in a government-created market? Really? Feels a little desperate. Maybe the watch sales figures aren’t as good as we’ve been led to believe?

      1. Wukchumni

        Where Apple is missing out, is the idea that you only need 1 Apple watch, when you’ve got 2 perfectly good wrists.

        Yes, going after the elderly market is a bit of a stretch, but maybe they are just slitting their risks?

  25. Massinissa

    Anyone else notice that instead of debating with anyone, Parkhomenko just replies to anyone objecting with him with pictures of animals being bored? Lol I don’t even, the clintonites don’t even put in effort anymore.

    1. notabanker

      His TL is 100% vindictive, snarky trash. If he was my teenager I’d take his phone away from him until he learned how to comport himself as an adult. These are the people running that party?

    2. Darthbobber

      The useful thing about that thread is that the level of demented nonsense now common in that circle is on full display. Though examples can be found with depressing ease.

    3. FluffytheObeseCat

      The venomous, frankly deranged level of hatred for Gabbard emanating from these insider types is slightly alarming. They still want her to pay for revealing their systemic corruption in 2016, I get that. She is slick (such a surprise in a successful politician, eh?) But their vitriolic accusations are simply unhinged. I’m accustomed to rabid, non-factual “truths” from Republicans. However, this insistent, spittle-flecked, freak show ranting from establishment Dems still has the power to disturb me.

      Can you think of any other young, female representative of color who has been (or ever would be) obliquely likened to a lizard and a toad by New York Times pundits, from both “sides” of their narrow political spectrum, in under one week?

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Can you think of any other young, female representative of color

        You don’t get to tick any identitarian boxes unless you’re a “team player.” Look at Nina Turner; she’s not really black, not really a woman…. How could she be?

        Makes me want to take another look at Gabbard, I must admit.

        1. Jessica

          Gabbard on Venezuela is saying what I wish Bernie could say. I hope she will do for foreign policy in 2020 what Bernie did for domestic policy in 2016.

  26. ambrit

    “…imagine if Trump were disciplined and…”
    My personal nightmare is “…imagine if Hillary were disciplined and…”
    Then we’d be in Deep S—.

    1. pjay

      As bad as things are (and we all know how bad that is), I *still* thank the stars that Clinton lost — for this very reason. Trump’s victory, and the ensuing chaos, has been remarkably clarifying, if not comforting.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Clinton would have greenlighted a Venezuelan coup instantly. (This isn’t Trump’s baby, although the timing was his. The Blob has wanted this for years, across administrations.)

    1. The Rev Kev

      Just finished reading that. Did you notice that this plan had the same level of detail and preparation as the attempted coup against Erdogan not long ago? Two months is not a long time for all the preparations to be carried out. Like the attempted Turkish coup, this plan looks like that it was also done by Washington operatives like Bolton and not actual professionals. I see that Russia sent in 400 contractors from the Wagner group (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wagner_Group) into Venezuela. Apart from a lot of hard men, I am betting that there are also a lot of people included that have training and experience in counter-coup operations.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Interesting. I wonder if he was one of the planners for this clusterf***. Refreshing my memory over at Wikipedia, it seems that his glory days are well behind him so maybe he is going for one more bite of the neocon cherry.
          Saw that drone attack and thought it stupid as a concept as it was so indiscriminate. I can see the discussions behind it’s selection now-

          CIA: We have a trained marksman who did two tours in Afghanistan and knows his job.

          Neocons: Don’t worry about it. Silicon Valley says that they have a drone and an app that will do the job better.

          1. Alex Morfesis

            Richie Rich Trading company, Ticino, Helvetica: Hi folks, thanks for getting in on the conference call…yeah…I know it is old news but we have once again too much oil in the pipeline and we need to disrupt another country to keep the isda off our backs…this game of keeping crashed positions in mediation mode is getting old…can we do something again in kuwait…nah…didn’t think so…yo raz, you don’t have any real political opposition in Ruskaya…think we could turn up the heat again in chechnya and…okay…okay…no need to get so testy…anyone in the mood to tackle some noise in nigeria…look…i get this idea that maduro is ripe…but its really crummy oil anyway…and…hey…how about we get some oil workers organized in the U.S. shale biz all huffy and puffy and…yes I know there is no union movement there anymore…but that is the great part of it…everyone has forgotten how to work that and…look people help me here…between natural gas and people getting urbanized…we got maybe 25 good years left and then we can just basically forget what is under the ground until the next collapse of civilization and our ancestors can inch their way back into it…but for our generation…Libya is about to come back on line sooner rather than later…Iran and Iraq are going to get back up to speed no matter what is done to keep them distracted…and the shale technology is spreading around the globe…we have anywhere from 3 million to 8 million barrels coming back live in the next 36 months…if we have to pick straws to see which country goes dark for a while so the rest of us can make some money to put monets on the wall…okay…all right…venezuela it is…but the optics are really bad on this one…couldn’t someone have done a coup in Guyana first and then use a border argument to…oh never mind…okay, fine…maduro pancakes it is…

      1. Skip Intro

        It seemed like the missing piece was that Maduro actually had to be missing or incapacitated for their constitutional charade to make any sense… Maybe they were expecting something to happen to him.

          1. The Rev Kev

            They made the same offer to Assad and his wife in Syria a coupla years back. They both decided to stay with their people and at their posts.

  27. tegnost

    It wasn’t clear whether the at-market sell orders from Goldman and Morgan Stanley triggered the brief plunge
    so the f@ckers trigger a flash crash and want what they might have lost back? Not probably going to give anything back to the rubes that lost too, just a guaranteed fleecing, what’s a farmer deserve for his labor? I think it’s called chutzpah

    1. The Rev Kev

      Thanks for that link tricia. After reading it I am trying to think of a single group that will support this plan of having their oil wealth – or should that be Bush’s term “patrimony” – flogged off to the US but am hard pressed to think of one. To work, it would men the entire board of Venezeula’s board stepping aside for Guaido’s goons and having the banking and regulatory system in Venezuela give it the OK. Nope!
      If Trump seeks to embargo that oil by not paying for it or even dropping it into Guaido’s bank account, then China & India may step in and say that they will buy it instead. China is already buying about a million barrels a day I believe. Would the IMF get themselves into the middle of all this? They must know that they would have no legal grounds for doing so and would thus lead to 2019 becoming the IMF Year of Legal Hell. I am thinking that this is going to lead to serious infighting in the US government itself, especially since groups like the Pentagon and the Justice Department were not involving in the planning. I can see far more downsides for Trump here than upsides as I believe that he will find out for himself.

  28. David Carl Grimes

    I’m wondering if Trump transformed himself into a lame duck President. Now the Corporate Democrats are reinvigorated with cries of Resistance but no real policies that will provide material benefits to the people.

  29. pjay

    Legal grounds? We don’t need no stinkin’ legal grounds…

    Weren’t you the one, Rev Kev, who posted the Pirates of the Caribbean theme somewhere earlier today? I can’t think of a more fitting soundtrack.

    1. pjay

      Oops. This was meant as a reply to Rev Kev’s Venezuelan oil comment above. But then again it could apply to a lot of today’s events.

    2. The Rev Kev

      It was and I did. Thing is, although based in Washington DC, the IMF is an international organization with other major countries as stakeholders and they would not go along with such shenanigans. It is their money too at stake in any dealings.

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