2:00PM Water Cooler 5/9/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Trade

“A Mysterious Account in China Seems to Have an Inside Track on Trade Talks” [Bloomberg]. “For many China observers, one question has popped up since a pair of President Donald Trump’s tweets roiled Chinese stocks this week: Who or what is Taoran Notes? As most of China’s media fell into collective silence Monday following Trump’s threat to escalate the trade war, Taoran Notes, a once obscure account on Tencent Holdings’ WeChat platform, somehow escaped the intensified censorship. It became one of the few voices offering an opinion on China’s negotiation strategy. In a 1,500-character commentary published Monday, Taoran warned the U.S. not to fantasize about China making concessions that will damage its own interests. The comment was later re-published by the WeChat account of People’s Daily, a rare move for the official newspaper of the Communist Party.” • From the article, this seems to the site. Do we have any Mandarin readers who’d care to update?

“Tariffs Will Cut China Growth by One Point, Citi Says” [Bloomberg]. “An increase of tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods would cut 0.5 percentage points off China’s growth over one to two years, and the impact could more than double if duties are slapped on all its shipments to the U.S. That’s according to Citigroup Global Markets Inc economist Cesar Rojas, who also wrote in a May 8 note that raising tariffs on $200 billion of China’s goods to 25 percent from 10 percent on Friday would slice 0.2 percentage points off global growth over the same period. The impact on global expansion also would also double if duties of 25 percent are slapped on the remaining Chinese imports, he said.”

“Has Trump’s ‘Art of the Deal’ met its match in Xi Jinping’s long game? FBI’s former crisis negotiator breaks it down” [South China Morning Post]. “[James Chip Massey, a former crisis negotiator at the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who now advises CEOs on business negotiations,] pointedly disagreed with Trump’s assessment of Chinese President Xi Jinping as a ‘world class poker player’. ‘Xi is a world-class chess player,’ Massey said, who has been a featured speaker at the Carnegie New Leaders programme, the US Military Academy at West Point, and to law enforcement and business organisations around the US. ‘He is well-versed in strategy and [can read] the mind of his opponent. And he is patient. From what I’ve seen so far, I’m not convinced that President Trump has an equivalent amount of discipline or patience, or an appreciation for the strategic instruments that successful international relations require.'” • On the one hand, sure. On the other, the people with the “appreciation for the strategic instruments that successful international relations require” also handed our industrial base over to China, gutting flyover. So, dilemmas wherever you look.

Why didn’t I think of this:

Politics

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

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

2020

“2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination” [RealClearPolitics] (RCP average of five polls). Biden up 20, everybody else down.

“*” = New candidate.

* * *

Readers, that impeachment section with the table took longer than I thought. I will return shortly with a festival of Biden, etc. –lambert UPDATE I read up on the “Protect Democracy” project, and got wrapped around the axle. UPDATE All done. Life’s rich pageant!

Biden (D)(1):

Biden (D)(2): Union guy:


Buttigieg (D)(1): “Buttigieg is the only top 2020 candidate not offering staffers health care yet” [NBC News]. “But as he staffs up a national campaign, the upstart Democratic presidential candidate isn’t providing health care coverage to any of his own campaign workers, an NBC News review of his campaign spending disclosures shows. Instead, Buttigieg is providing a monthly stipend to workers to buy insurance on their own through the Obamacare exchanges, his campaign said, with plans to offer health care in the future. The practice stands in contrast to the other leading presidential candidates this year, as Democrats have made a point of aligning their internal practices with the policies and values they are emphasizing on the campaign trail.” • What Buttigieg’s staffers need is a union. Sanders staffers have one.

O’Rourke (D)(1): “Jeff Berman’s delegate strategy helped make Barack Obama president” [Politico]. “The low-profile Democratic lawyer who played a central role in Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s election campaigns, and who literally wrote the book on the obscure and crucial art of delegate selection, has gone to work for Beto O’Rourke… The hire of the detail-oriented, fastidious Berman also indicates that O’Rourke plans to emulate Obama in building a technical campaign machine under the surface of what he hopes will feel like a movement.” • Brokered convention, anyone?

Sanders (D)(1): “Open Forum: Drivers for ride-booking services deserve better pay and job protections” [San Francisco Chronicle]. “We can no longer accept a situation in which a tiny handful of Americans become extraordinarily wealthy by paying their workers starvation wages. Today, the median worker at these ride-booking services makes between $8.55 and $10 an hour. And yet in 2017, Lyft’s CEO made more than $41 million and Uber’s CEO was paid $45 million last year. Additionally, Uber executives this week are expected to become instant millionaires from the company’s multibillion-dollar initial public offering on Wall Street… And now, shock of all shocks, President Trump — the man who campaigned as a champion of workers — is actively helping companies rip off workers…. Trump’s administration not only rescinded previous rules designed to classify gig economy workers as full-time employees, his Labor Department just this past week issued a ‘get out of jail free card’ to employers such as Uber and Lyft to let them keep classifying their workers as ‘independent contractors.’ That makes it harder for these workers to join unions, and harder for workers to sue when they are being fleeced.” • Right in Pelosi’s backyard, too. Cheeky!

Sanders (D)(2): “Bernie Sanders’s political revolution on foreign policy, explained” [Vox]. “It took every ounce of political will fighting Saudi Arabia’s powerful lobby, a legacy of hawkish anti-Iran lawmakers — both Democratic and Republican — and President Trump’s personal affinity for MBS to pass the War Powers Resolution through the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-run House, where it was led by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) (who is, incidentally, now Sanders’s presidential campaign co-chair). It was the first time Congress has ever adopted such a resolution, directing Trump to remove troops involved in a war Congress never authorized. When it passed, Sanders went on Fox News and urged Trump to sign it. The next day, Trump vetoed the resolution. Even so, for Sanders, the War Powers Resolution has served as a clarifying issue for his 2020 foreign policy message. The fight against the Yemen war fits so perfectly within his worldview that to listen to him explain it, you can hear the echoes of his famed speeches about millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street. ‘MBS, who I think has the unique distinction of owning the largest home in the world and the largest yacht in the world — he should not be determining American military and foreign policy,’ Sanders told me with a smile.” And from the coiner of the term, “The Blob,” Ben Rhodes: “‘It’s no small achievement to essentially unite the entire Democratic caucus in both houses behind this progressive position and also to peel off a little bit of Republican support,’ Rhodes said. ‘It shows there is actually progressive momentum in the Democratic Party that wasn’t there when Obama was in office.'” • No kidding, but I imagine the Sanders campaign will take it.

Sanders (D)(3): “Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez Propose 15% Cap on Credit Card Interest” [Bloomberg]. • I’m glad to see AOC back in the fray, but shouldn’t that decimal point be moved one digit right left? As in 1.5%? But more importantly: “The two self-identified democratic-socialists are set to propose legislation on Thursday capping rates on credit card and other consumer loans and letting post offices offer low-cost basic financial services, such as loans and checking and savings accounts.” • Awesome!!!! And stealing Elizabeth Warren’s issue, too. (Plus I can see AOC demolishing the usual yammering about the Post Office and big gummint with a video about how much she loves the Post Office (maybe while sending a package). I see nothing wrong with the Post Office that funding won’t cure; it’s obviously an enormously tough and effective institution. Oh, and put a WiFi antenna on top of every Post Office building so there’s free municipal WiFi. Why not?

Trump (R)(1): “Trump political machine sets massive fundraising target” [Politico]. “President Donald Trump’s outside political machine is setting a $300 million fundraising goal and is pitching major GOP donors on a plan to target six swing states that are likely to decide the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the group’s blueprint…. With Democrats embroiled in a crowded primary, the Trump 2020 financial network is beginning to take shape. On Tuesday, around 250 Republican bundlers from across the country met in Washington for a retreat sponsored by the Trump campaign. Senior party figures including Vice President Mike Pence and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel attended… Republican officials briefed attendees on plans to build a traditional fundraising program that would include establishment-aligned bundlers who snubbed Trump in 2016.” • Sounds like the Trump campaign isn’t placing its bets on small donors. But I bet impeachment will help with that!

Warren (D)(1): “My comprehensive plan to end the opioid crisis” [Medium]. “Life expectancy in the United States dropped again in 2017, part of the longest sustained decline in a century — one largely driven by the opioid epidemic. More than 685,000 Americans have died from a drug overdose in the United States this century, and it’s getting worse… Life expectancy in the United States dropped again in 2017, part of the longest sustained decline in a century — one largely driven by the opioid epidemic. More than 685,000 Americans have died from a drug overdose in the United States this century, and it’s getting worse…. The CARE Act proposal is modeled on the Ryan White CARE Act, providing resources directly to first responders, public health departments, and communities on the front lines of this crisis — so that they have the resources to provide prevention, treatment, and recovery services for those who need it most…. This week, I’ll visit Kermit, West Virginia, a small town located along the Kentucky-West Virginia border. Kermit has been hard-hit by the opioid epidemic — and not by accident. Over a period of just a few years, this town of only 400 people was flooded with approximately 13 million prescription opioid pills, all delivered to a single local pharmacy — that’s more than 30,000 pills per resident… I have a plan to pay for it: my ultra millionaire tax on the richest 75,000 families in America.” • Finally, Warren is singing my song!

NH: “Trump Bigger Factor than Obama for 2020 Dem Primary Voters” [Monmouth]. “In a field of 24 announced and potential candidates, Biden holds a clear lead with 36% support of registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters who are likely to participate in the February 2020 primary. He is followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 18%.” More importantly: “The overwhelming majority (68%) of likely Democratic voters prefer to have a nominee who would be a strong candidate against Trump even if they disagree with that candidate on most issues. If they were forced to choose, just 25% say they would favor a Democratic candidate who they are aligned with on the issues even if that person would have a hard time beating Trump. Among those who say having a nominee that builds on Obama’s legacy is very important to them, 79% prioritize beating Trump while just 15% say they want a candidate who they agree with on the issues even if he or she would be weaker against the incumbent.” • Reifying “electability.” Worse, a beauty contest for electability. Trump wasn’t electable. And here we are (although, to be fair, Trump had Clinton’s help).

Impeachment

“Statement by Former Federal Prosecutors” [Medium]. From the statement:

Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.

The Mueller report describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge: conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming. These include:

· The President’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort;

· The President’s efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct; and

· The President’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign.

Lambert here: IANAL, but I notice the thrice-repeated word “effort.” Apparently, these efforts all came to nothing, or else the prosecutors would surely have listed them in their indictment. It’s the same with all Trump’s business dealings with Russia, such as they are; they never came to anything, either. No hotels, nothing. So I’m not sure that impeaching Trump for pufferies of smoke, as opposed to real fire, would make sense in, well, the West Wing. (Nixon, for example, wiped destroyed physical evidence. So far as I know, Trump has done nothing like that.) There is also, so far as I know, no universally respected figure to sort the smoke from the fire: There is no Sam Ervin, for example; and no Judge Sirica, so it’s hard to see how the whole effort won’t be framed, and rightly, as a partisan effort. And please don’t talk to me about “the rule of law” or “saving the Republic” when Obama didn’t prosecute any bankers for accounting control fraud after the Crash, and torturers, perjurers, and entrapment artists like Brennan, Clapper, and Mueller are all over the airwaves.

Trying to put myself in Pelosi’s shoes: RussiaRussiaRussia did no harm in the midterms (41 seats!), so maybe impeachment will have the same effect. The only real worry is suburban Republicans; the Prosecutors’ letter and similar should help with that. On the bright side: Impeachment will suck away all the oxygen from #MedicareForAll, Green New Deal, etc; will amplify calls for war with Russia; will justify continued McCarthyism; and will strengthen the control of our allies in the intelligence community of Presidential selection and election legitimacy. Best of all, since Republicans hold the Senate, our stand on “principle” will go nowhere, so (1) we won’t have to govern, and (2) the donor class won’t be upset, although (3) there will be plenty of small donor money and #Resistance oomph. Really, what’s not to like?

Stepping out of Pelosi’s shoes, I thought I’d see if the data from at the Statement told me anything. I downloaded the CSV and made this table:

Three things: First, the letter is truly bipartisan — in fact, more Republicans than Democrats! In consequence, the professional classes really hate Trump. But then we knew that. Finally: I should actually compliment the “career prosecutor” signatories who put their name to the Letter; that shows courage. That said, and again, Toto, we’re not in the West Wing anymore. If they, or anybody, thinks that the rule of law was in great shape until Trump came along, they’re living in a fantasy world.

“Hundreds of Former Federal Prosecutors Would Indict Donald Trump” [John Cassidy, The New Yorker]. “[T]he letter was aimed at William Barr, the current Attorney General, as well as Trump. Indeed, the letter can be interpreted as an unprecedented rebuke of a sitting Attorney General from former employees of the department he oversees…. As early as next week, or, perhaps more likely, after he has joined the ranks of former Justice Department employees, later this month, Mueller himself may get the chance to say in public whether he, too, agrees with this assertion.” • So, cornering Mueller! And: “Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that helped to organize and publicize the letter at the request of this group, and verify the identity of its signatories, was founded by two lawyers who worked in the White House under Barack Obama.” • Oh. I looked at the About page of their site–

“What is Protect Democracy?” [Protect Democracy]. One nugget: “The Protect Democracy Project focuses on research and public education to confront threats to our democracy, as well as litigation.” If they’re engaged in litigation, I can’t find any mention of it on their site. Perhaps it’s been stood up in consideration of litigation to come? More: “Protect Democracy was conceived by a group of former White House and Administration lawyers and experienced constitutional litigators, all with a deep understanding of how the federal government works. As we were the ones tasked with implementing and enforcing the norms that have constrained presidential power for decades, we know what those guardrails are and when those in power may be tempted to violate them. As we defended past presidents against legitimate oversight and illegitimate attacks, we also know how to leverage tools outside government to prevent the exploitation of power within it. One thing that we know about those tools, however, is they require an engaged public—they require all of us to unite to make them effective.” • Read the whole thing; it’s an interesting exercise in cant. Hats off to the Norms Fairy! Also, unity (unconsciously belied, hilariously, by the blue color scheme). And of course you could ask “Where were you when ____” all day with these guys. Like: “Where were you when Obama whacked a U.S. citizen with no due process?” Or “Where were you when Holder decided that “collateral consequences” made it impossible to prosecute big banks?” The gall, the incredible gall.

Realignment and Legitmacy

Meet the Blue Dogs empowered by the mid-terms:

“Meet the Democratic Counterrevolution’s Self-Appointed Leader” [The Intercept]. “Breaking down Tlaib, Omar, and their allies on the left has been one of Gottheimer’s primary goals since the November elections. He has worked assiduously to carve out a role in the Democratic caucus as something of an avenger, a centrist proud of his centrism and willing to take the fight directly to the squad of freshmen trying to push the party in a progressive direction. He even has a name for his handpicked adversaries: ‘the herbal tea party.'” • “[T]he herbal tea party” is pretty good. I wonder if it was developed for him professionally? Funny how this “unity” thing goes only one way…

And:

Ouch:

Donors? The electeds? Media and intelligence community assets? Factions in the oligarchy? Lots of people care!

Concrete material benefits:

As I keep saying: Get on out there and serve the working class. Who else does that? Republicans? Democrats?

Stats Watch

International Trade, March 2019: “Pulled down in part by a sharp narrowing in the deficit with China, the US monthly trade deficit came in at a relatively moderate $50.0 billion in March. This is slightly lower than expectations” [Econoday]. “Today’s report comes on the same day that US and China trade talks are entering what may be their final and unamicable resolution. Going into a possible tariff war, the imbalance in cross-border trade remained a heavy but lightening burden for the US economy.”

Jobless Claims, week of May 4, 2019: “Initial unemployment claims may have pivoted higher, in line with this year’s lay-off data in the Challenger report” [Econoday]. “Initial unemployment claims may have pivoted higher, in line with this year’s lay-off data in the Challenger report and a factor that may likely limited expectations for US payroll growth.”

Producer Price Index (Final Demand), April 2019: “Producer prices were moderate in April but probably a little less so than the headlines suggest” [Econoday]. “Pointing to positive pressure for rates is a strong bounce back in fees for portfolio management services, a factor related to the strength of financial markets which Jerome Powell cited at last week’s FOMC that would likely help move the core PCE index from its annual 1.6 percent rate back toward 2 percent.”

Real Estate: “‘Dead Malls’ Are Still Being Used To Satisfy Consumers: Amazon’s Approach” [Yahoo News]. “Amazon is buying out abandoned malls, the same malls that they put out of business, and converting them into fulfillment centers. These “ghost malls” provide many advantages to Amazon’s fulfillment centers conversions. Malls provide the fulfillment center with sufficient size needed to run their extensive operations. The malls are usually located in residential areas allowing Amazon to get its goods out to consumers quicker and more efficiently. Malls are typically built close to highways to make it easier/quicker for consumers to make it there in a timely fashion. This is useful to Amazon’s converted fulfillment centers for obvious logistical reasons, goods are able to come and go from the distribution centers seamlessly. These abandoned malls all have the necessary infrastructure already in place, such as sewage, electrical lines, gas lines, and water. Having this infrastructure already established makes Amazon’s conversion quicker and allowing the fulfillment center to be up and running sooner. Amazon is able to transition these forsaken voids in communities into productive business centers that create quality jobs for residence. This shift in retail from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce is precisely that: just a shift. These malls are still being used to fulfill consumer needs, it is just done in a different way.” • Except the public space aspect of the mall is gone.

Manufacturing: “Former Boeing Engineers Say Relentless Cost-Cutting Sacrificed Safety” [Bloomberg]. • This article is a must-read, but this near the end is important: “Now Boeing is seeking FAA approval for the 777X as an update of an existing model, the 777. Internal tensions about this approach are being exposed in the proceedings of a wrongful termination suit brought by a former Boeing engineer, Michael Neely, who claims he was fired in 2016 after citing design and safety problems. Neely had been working for Boeing’s space and defense operation in Alabama when he was brought to the Seattle area to help define a plan to adapt an electrical load management system from an earlier model of the 777. Disagreements escalated as a deadline approached for Boeing to send plans for the system to the electrical contractor, a GE unit. Neely argued that reusing the previous system, essentially an enormously complicated and computerized version of a fuse box, wasn’t adequate for the new design and didn’t meet FAA standards, according to emails filed in the suit. Within months, GE, too, had objected, saying the system would need to be significantly expanded.” • Yikes. Remember the battery fires on the 787? And then, they buried the lead. The final paragraph:

[Muilenburg] his public comments about the 737 Max, though, he has shown an extremely limited range of vocabulary, and he frequently boils his plan down to this: a software update. He insists that the design and certification process for the Max went exactly as planned. On March 27, Boeing invited 200 airline representatives, regulators, and pilots to Seattle for a first look at the changes it had made to the MCAS software. A day before, a group of engineers was summoned to a session with Muilenburg and Kevin McAllister, head of the commercial airplanes business. McAllister spoke emotionally, and a staffer wept in the background. Then Muilenburg fielded five or six questions with the same artfully vague responses he’s provided reporters. A company spokesman says Muilenburg was greeted warmly. An engineer present had a different take: It was, he told colleagues, “a nothingburger.”

Muilenburg won’t leave until he’s carried out first or defenestrated. So I guess that’s what’s will have to happen!

Manufacturing: “Here’s How This Key Boeing Supplier Is Coping With the 737 MAX Grounding” [Yahoo Finance]. “Spirit, a one-time wholly owned subsidiary of Boeing, is still highly dependent on the company. Spirit is responsible for about 70% of the 737’s structure, as well as a range of engine components and wing parts, and the 737 accounts for about half of Spirit’s annual sales…. Boeing and Spirit in April signed an agreement that allowed Spirit to keep current production levels in place, with all airframes above Boeing’s production rate being paid for upon completion but stored at Spirit facilities.” • Hmm. I wonder if anybody’s watching Spirit’s facilities to see if they’re filling up (like shorts watch Tesla lots).

The Biosphere

“Study: U.S. Fossil Fuel Subsidies Exceed Pentagon Spending” [Rolling Stone]. “The United States has spent more subsidizing fossil fuels in recent years than it has on defense spending, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF found that direct and indirect subsidies for coal, oil and gas in the U.S. reached $649 billion in 2015. Pentagon spending that same year was $599 billion.” • How ya gonna pay for it?

“Grading conservation: Which reserves defend forests?” [Science Daily]. “A group of scientists from Michigan State University (MSU) have focused on what makes a protected area the most effective at preventing deforestation. Preserving forests means more trees to suck up greenhouse gasses, as well as prevent erosion, mitigate flooding, purify water and quell sandstorms…. The group evaluated the effectiveness of China’s 472 protected areas in reducing deforestation from 2000 to 2015. The study, reported in this month’s journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research, concluded that had not the reserves been established, the protected area’s deforested parts would have been 50 percent larger. The estimated amount of carbon sequestered by those forests that avoided deforestation within protected areas was about 1,271 megatons per year. A tree can sequester one ton of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 40 years old, according to North Carolina State University.” • Hmm. A forest, as opposed to a plantation, surely sequesters more carbon than its trees alone?

“Mapping the world’s free-flowing rivers” [Nature]. “Free-flowing rivers (FFRs) support diverse, complex and dynamic ecosystems globally, providing important societal and economic services…. Only 37 per cent of rivers longer than 1,000 kilometres remain free-flowing over their entire length and 23 per cent flow uninterrupted to the ocean. Very long FFRs are largely restricted to remote regions of the Arctic and of the Amazon and Congo basins. In densely populated areas only few very long rivers remain free-flowing, such as the Irrawaddy and Salween.”

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“How one reporter got the Sandra Bland cell phone video” [Columbia Journalism Review]. “After all the open cases around the incident had wrapped up, [Brian Collister, a lead investigative reporter for KXAN,] decided to file a records request to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)….. In September of that year, following a series of records requests, Collister got his scoop: a 39-second video shot by Bland on her cell phone during her traffic stop. The video, which Collister obtained that month, captures Brian Encinia, a state trooper, drawing a stun gun on her at close range. “Get out of the car!” he shouts. “I will light you up!” Encinia tells her to get off the phone. Bland says “I have a right to record” before apparently complying with the demand.” • A couple of morals to this story: (1) Public Records Requests are extremely important; I can’t imagine why eliites haven’t choked them off; and (2) local TV stations seem to have picked up some of the slack on reporting from local newspapers. Readers, would you agree?

“Reconstruction, one of the most misunderstood chapters in American history” [CBS]. “[Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates] said Reconstruction is one of the most misunderstood chapters in American history, when black men could vote, and would be elected to represent Southerners in Congress. [Correspondent Mo] Rocca said, ‘You go and you ask people on the street who the first black person was elected to the U.S. Congress, they’re gonna guess it’s the 1960s, the 1970s.’ ‘And they would never guess it was Hiram Revels from Mississippi,’ said Gates. Hiram Rhodes Revels was born free and served as a chaplain to black regiments during the Civil War. On February 25, 1870 he was sworn in as a Senator from Mississippi, an office once held by Jefferson Davis, who left the U.S. Senate to become president of the Confederate States of America.” • I wonder if there’s a statue of Revels anywhere. Like the Capitol Rotunda. Apparently not. And I won’t hold his being a college adminstrator against him!

MMT

“House Republicans Say Democrats Should Answer for MMT in Hearing” [Bloomberg]. • This is probably driving the sort of Democrat who thinks Republicans can be placated crazy.

News of the Wired

“Workers Love AirPods Because Employers Stole Their Walls” [The Atlantic]. “Now that open offices are the norm, their limitations have become clear. Research indicates that removing partitions is actually much worse for collaborative work and productivity than closed offices ever were. But something as expensive and logistically complicated as an office design is difficult to walk back, so, as Jeff Goldblum wisely intones in Jurassic Park, life finds a way. In offices where there are no walls, millions of workers have embraced a work-around to reclaim a little bit of privacy: wireless headphones.”

“Took On the American Cheeseburger, and It Defeated Me” [McSweeney’s Internet Tendency]. • Ouch.

“Rural areas drive increases in global obesity” [Nature]. “But some research findings have indicated that the levels of overweight and obesity are increasing faster in rural than in urban areas, even in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)4. This is likely to be linked to the fact that rural areas in LMICs have begun to resemble urban areas, because the modern food supply is now available5 (Fig. 1) in combination with cheap mechanized devices for farming and transport. Ultra-processed foods are becoming part of the diets of poor people in these countries, and there are reports that infants are even being fed with these foods.”

“126 Minutes With Ani DiFranco The folk singer on her memoir, Hadestown, and reckoning with the 1990s’ [Vulture]. “‘Everywhere we went,’ DiFranco writes, ‘some woman seemed to be dedicating herself to protecting some other theoretical woman who might be triggered or feel tacitly oppressed by some tiny detail of the known universe … the quest to make everyone seem happy all the time seemed to have led to a world of micromanagement.'” • An interesting artist; she started her own label when she was twenty so she’d never have to take corporate money. Impressive! I had stepped off the popular music train when she came rolling along, sadly. DiFranco seems to have had an interesting career and an interesting life.

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (JF):

With the cryptic note: “Pictures.” I should do more with bulbs, but my much loved invasives take over their space…

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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.

120 comments

      1. ChrisPacific

        What could go wrong?

        That’s one heck of a file photo. Republicans bestriding the Earth like giants, and a huge flying saucer type halo over John Thune.

        Reply
    1. Cal2

      Then how about some donations to his campaign? Tell those GOP lawmakers to put their money where mouth is.

      Bernie Sanders, plus a good V.P. like Tulsi, kicks Trump’s ass.
      An identarian loser like Kamala, serves as Trump’s carpet into the Oval Office.

      Like the corporate Defense establishment Democrats who would rather lose to Trump
      than elect Bernie, a real Democrat,
      these sound like corporate financial Republicans who would rather lose to Bernie than win with Trump.

      Great! Let’s harness their help.

      Reply
    2. sierra7

      The controlling faction of the Dem party will NEVER allow BS to be the primary 2020 presidential contender for the Dems. Period. Why do you think all the present coverage of Biden?????????
      The Dems have guaranteed the re-election of DT by their actions or non-actions towards “the commons”.

      Reply
    3. Mattski

      As Bernie himself says, we need a movement–not a savior from on high. Without tens of millions of people united around a vision a Bernie presidency, which would carry long hard odds from day one anyway, would go nowhere. If it’s only about playing the presidential electoral game, that’s a dead end anyway.

      Reply
    1. Cal2

      More incompetence for San Francisco city government whose failing schools have driven parents out of the city or to private schools. More dogs in S.F. then school age children.
      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/21/us/san-francisco-children.html
      But, illegals get to vote in local school board elections.

      New updates on the feces location and car break in maps are in the works.
      https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamandrzejewski/2019/04/15/mapping-san-franciscos-human-waste-challenge-132562-case-reports-since-2008/

      Fourth worst traffic congestion of any city in the world.

      The brand new East Bay Terminal is still condemned, highest HIV rate in the country, raving lunatics run rampant in the best shopping areas, Market Street, the “Chomps ‘de Lice” of the city is worse than Times Square in the 1970s.

      San Francisco city “government” is a series of self-serving welfare, identarian and tech business “communities”, plus real estate development interests, electing district supervisors with no overall vision or community values.
      District elections are the death knell of cities.

      Reply
    2. Robert McGregor

      teacher with breast cancer forced to pay for her own substitute”

      I can do that one better!–applying the first principle of “Lambert’s Two Principles of Neoliberalism:”

      1) “Because Markets:” New aggressive procedures identity tumors/irregularities that could not be previously identified, and actually may or may not be dangerous and requiring of treatment. Guess what? The doctors recommend treatment. I didn’t see the patient’s age, but she teaches 2nd grade. The odds are she is young. Many young women are being diagnosed with cancer which may or may not be dangerous–sorry I don’t have links handy, but there is lots of info out there. (There is a fallacy called “Stage Migration” involving this medical phenomenon) So, “Because Markets!” The Markets push her towards treatment. The Markets also say, “Pay for her own substitute.”

      Reply
  1. petal

    Ani DiFranco, the pride of Buffalo, NY! I am not sure I’d call her stuff popular music, definitely in the alternative section. I first heard her a long time ago on a tiny, non-commercial educational station(WBER) that plays alternative music in a suburb of Rochester, NY, and I don’t think I have ever heard her music on commercial stations. Her starting Righteous Babe was a big deal in both the independent and women’s music scenes. Pretty cool.

    Reply
  2. Lee

    When a president uses the subjunctive mood, does it constitute a legally binding or a possibly unlawful order? Paging Jonathan Turley.

    Reply
  3. NotReallyHere

    Nicely put on the federal prosecutors’ letter.

    If he weren’t president he would be indicted. But he IS the president. He has the power to hire and fire special investigators and set the terms of the investigation as he wishes. The term “effort” gives the game away.

    They really can’t accept that he’s the man. It must still burn them up.

    Reply
    1. JBird4049

      All this screaming and running around on the President’s evil, evil ways is annoying puppet theater. If they really, truly believed that President Trump was guilty of High Crimes and Misdemeanors” they could. Please note that the House of Representatives has the sole and complete authority to indict (impeach) the President anytime that they want to. The President cannot stop them.

      Speaker Pelosi is in charge of that House and she could probably get him impeached if she wanted to and had solid detailed information. The Republican controlled Senate would almost certainly not convict, but my word, the contortions that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be political gold. If the President was guilty and the political leadership was interested in justice.

      But they don’t. It is just a convenient way to run out the clock and keep the rubes distracted.

      These snippets are the most relevant parts in the Constitution.

      The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

      The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

      The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

      Reply
      1. NotReallyHere

        Yep… but tell that to those terminally afflicted with Trump derangement syndrome. They seem too ready to swallow any old story as long as it serves to minimize the cognitive dissonance associated with refusing to accept the results of an election while accusing the one who won – fairly and squarely according to the system in place – of being authoritarian.

        These justices and democrats – and even some senior bureaucrats – seem to believe that this particular president should not assume the rights, privileges and obligations of the office. You know – the ones that all the other presidents enjoyed.

        What is scary is that – among the Dems base – it’s working. Even Sanders calls him the most dangerous president without being called out on it. If Barr finds and proves categorically that the Russia thing was an actual hoax, I truly believe many Dems will say that its OK cos it’s Trump.

        Reply
        1. Carolinian

          If the House did impeach it wouldn’t be unprecedented. I can’t even remember what Bill Clinton was impeached for other than lying about Monica and for being hated by the DC media. One constant theme over the last twenty years has been misbehavior by the press.

          Reply
          1. JBird4049

            That’s because there wasn’t anything else. It was just his lying during his deposition by Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, as well as for lying to everyone else with his “I. Did. Not. Have. Sexual. Relations. With that woman.” like the lying womanizing weasel that he is.

            You think Hillary Clinton is polarizing? President Bill Clinton drove the Republicans insane. It was so entertaining to see.

            Reply
          2. NotReallyHere

            Yep … and that was a disgrace. Also, the main actors (Gingrich and Starr) failed to destroy Clinton. Instead they effectively cut short their own careers and strengthened the career of the Clinton clan.

            The problem with this iteration is that they are trying to impeach a president for defending himself against a possibly illegal smear campaign perpetrated by a cabal of politicians and bureaucrats. And impeaching not even for the crime of defending himself but for suggesting/attempting/asking his lawyers and advisors if he or they could do specific things to defend himself. Not ACTUALLY doing any of these things.

            Enough people see what is going on. It will end up benefiting Trump.

            Reply
        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Trump derangement syndrome

          Since I came up with the Democrats in the Bush era, I’m used to thinking of opponents as being deranged, collectively (especially some portions of the Christian right, a dominant faction in the Bush administration). But now the derangement seems to be coming from inside the house.

          At the same time, how is it possible for a person to know that they are not, themselves, deranged? The creation and management of derangement (CT, politics as team sports, call-out culture) as an, as it were, political asset class seems like it has become a feature of “our democracy” (a phrase that appears, naturellement, in the Protect Democracy About page…).

          Catullus 22. Suffenus is (to Catullus) a terrible poet who thinks he’s the greatest:

          Evidently we all are deceived the same way, nor is there anyone
          whom you are not able to see Suffenus in some way.
          To each their own error has been assigned;
          but we do not see the knapsack* which is on our back.

          The first line, in a translation that I really loved and have never been able to find after the book collection of which it was a part was lost, was rendered “Everyone has their own special delusion.” So…

          NOTE * Selection of this translation with “knapsack” very intentional.

          Reply
          1. NotReallyHere

            I am commenting too much … but when you guys give interesting, considered replies, I find I can’t resist.

            It is most definitely true that we all carry sacred delusions. I actually believe that we couldn’t be happy without many of them. That said… you appear to be a natural Bernie Bro’ (sexist pig! :-) ) and a fan of many democrat policies and yet you manage to think logically about this issue. Many many commenters here do the same (i.e. not Trump fans but disturbed by the hysterical reaction to his election) . Yet try a discussion with a rando who brings up politics and test the reaction to pointing out that he won …. good luck.

            Redux: You guys are an oasis in a desert of crazy. Thank you for that

            Reply
      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        Here is Article X from the impeachment of Andrew Johnson:

        That said Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, unmindful of the high duties of his office and the dignity and proprieties thereof, and of the harmony and courtesies which ought to exist and be maintained between the executive and legislative branches of the government of the United States, designing and intending to set aside the rightful authority and powers of Congress, did attempt to bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt and reproach the Congress of the United States, and the several branches thereof, to impair and destroy the regard and respect of all the good people of the United States for the Congress and legislative power thereof, (which all officers of the government ought inviolably to preserve and maintain,) and to excite the odium and resentment of all the good people of the United States against Congress and the laws by it duly and constitutionally enacted; and in pursuance of his said design and intent, openly and publicly, and before divers assemblages of the citizens of the United States convened in divers parts thereof to meet and receive said Andrew Johnson as the Chief Magistrate of the United States, did, on the eighteenth day of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-six, and on divers other days and times, as well before as afterward, make and deliver with a loud voice certain intemperate, inflammatory and scandalous harangues, and did therein utter loud threats and bitter menaces as well against Congress as the laws of the United States duly enacted thereby, amid the cries jeers and laughter of the multitudes then assembled and in hearing, which are set forth in the several specifications hereinafter written, in substance and effect, that is to say….

        So lack of civility really is an impeachable offense. Good to know.

        And read on for what Johnson said. I really need to read up on Reconstruction. As to the power struggle behind Johnson’s impeachment, I know very little. I don’t think much of Johnson, but that’s basically grade school teaching; I know nothing modern, nothing scholarly.

        Reply
        1. Swamp Yankee

          I just taught Reconstruction today. Andrew Johnson was a disaster. The failure of Reconstruction to achieve lasting change in the South can in important ways be laid at his feet.
          (Full disclosure: I am sympathetic to his Radical Republican enemies).

          Here’s Eric Foner, the foremost contemporary historian of Reconstruction, on the impeachment:

          http://historymatters.gmu.edu/impeach3.html

          Reply
          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            I assume so. I think an alternative future where the defeated Slave Power didn’t assassinate Lincoln and end up with a sympathetic ear in the White House might look very differetnt.

            Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > If he weren’t president he would be indicted. But he IS the president. He has the power to hire and fire special investigators and set the terms of the investigation as he wishes. The term “effort” gives the game away.

      Again, it all seems remarkably ineffectual. There was no Saturday Night Massacre; Rosenstein and Mueller were not fired, though Trump had the power to do so. So far as I know, every document asked for was provided. It is true that Trump was not questioned but (a) Hero Of The Republic™ Mueller didn’t force the issue and (b) as with Clinton, I’m not sure that forcing Trump to testify was a good idea anyhow.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        Again, I think it is supposed to be ineffectual and to be used as a distraction.

        Yes, there are probably some politicians who honestly believe that President Trump should be impeached, and many, many Americans especially among the Chattering Class and the Meritocracy would not be sad if he choked on those hamburgers that he loves so much.

        Still despite that, the House of Representatives is doing nothing about using its authority even though no one can stop them. Heck, the Emoluments Clause gives a honest reason to do so. The clause also gives a honest reason to impeach much of Congress as well so that’s out.

        Reply
      2. NotReallyHere

        Yep. Thin gruel indeed, but I suppose they believe they have to play with what they’ve got. Heaven forfend they would actually, you know reconsider their de-legitimize strategy and begin to engage on policy.

        I really like your take on how the intelligence community is getting into every aspect of our political system and there is no outcry about it, co ya know Trump. If the military had this much power over our elections it would cause uproar, but because it’s the intelligence arm of our national defense – and it’s Russia/Trump – it seems less threatening. It isn’t of course.

        And the smartest thing Trump did was to refuse to testify in person, forcing Mueller to write the questions down. Every one was a perjury trap.

        Reply
  4. Tim

    “Except the public space aspect of the mall is gone. ”

    Nah, they can fill that with RFID coded boxes too, don’t worry about it.

    sarc/

    Reply
    1. Oregoncharles

      Malls are not public space. They’re private property, so can regulate political activity. As in censor and pick sides. Really, the internet is considerably more public.

      Not going to be missed.

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Heh heh, I knew somebody would make that argument. I agree that Malls are technically private space with Mall Cops, etc. And yet, there are or were Mall Walkers, people hang out there, etc. So in that, non-technical sense, a space where people come together. Which you can’t really do on the Internet, hard as we try,

        Reply
        1. Arizona Slim

          Well, Lambert and everyone else, I think we need to work on this people coming together thing.

          I, for one, have enjoyed the two NC meetups that I organized in Tucson. Methinks that other meeter-uppers feel the same way.

          Reply
        2. Oregoncharles

          The local Grower’s Markets are a wonderful social event (don’t think you’ll get through quickly – all your friends are there), on a city street. Even continues in the winter, at the fairgrounds, but I haven’t been to those.

          If you miss the malls, try the Grower’s Market. Much more constructive, in many ways.

          Reply
          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            I don’t miss them, exactly, because they’re too far away for me to get to them by public transportation. If Grower’s Markets are farmer’s markets, they’re intermittent, and there’s no place to just sit. Perhaps things are different on the West Coast.

            Reply
            1. Oregoncharles

              Ours is alongside a park, so there are places to sit near it. A desirable arrangement that I hadn’t thought about before.

              Yes, the malls were designed to encourage hanging out, presumably on the theory that people would spend money if they were there. They consciously imitated true public spaces like plazas or town squares. Trying to revive those would probably be the most productive response to the death of the malls. But it can be harder than you’d think, as Eugene has learned.

              Intermittency is a disadvantage. Ours are twice a week, with some neighborhood ones, as well. They would be more frequent if they were people’s main source of food.

              Reply
            1. Criffany

              Interestingly enough, malls are still going strong outside the US, especially Asia. Bangkok alone has constructed 4+ huge ones recently. Often there are more actual necessities (groceries, banks, even doctors) inside, plus free AC. Also, as far as I know e-commerce hasn’t taken off to the same extent in SE Asia yet.

              Reply
                1. Procopius

                  I’m not sure that what we call “malls” in Bangkok are the same as the “malls” in the States. They’re multistory buildings with dozens of stores in them, some large chain operations and others individual entrepreneurs working on a shoestring. They are great for girl-watching, though. My favorite was MBK.

                  Reply
  5. Carolinian

    Re Mueller–so some Dems want to impeach him for, in effect, resisting arrest while driving while Trump even though no actual crime (other than resisting) took place. Not since OJ’s Bronco chase will the public be presented with such a dilemma. Was running a natural and understandable instinct or proof of guilt? Needless to say this attack on Trump in defense of legal authority–and only legal authority–is an attack from the right. But then Russiagate was always an attack from the right. Some of us are old enough to remember when the left wanted to be friends with Russia.

    Reply
      1. Carolinian

        On Counterpunch, where they occasionally beat the drums for impeachment, they say the emoluments clause–in other words nothing to do with Mueller or the Russia interference Mueller was charged with investigating.

        The problem is it’s still a false charge because the people making it could care less whether Trump is slightly increasing his riches by being president. It’s true they did finally get Al Capone on tax charges rather than murder but he did murder people. Trump’s crime is that he has put fear in the establishment and fear breeds hatred. He has done lots of bad things in his role of president but they are the same bad things his predecessors did but that were forgiven or ignored and eventually even got them hugs.

        Reply
  6. Tim

    “U.S. Fossil Fuel Subsidies Exceed Pentagon Spending”

    I’m confused. You add the two together, you don’t compare them.

    Reply
  7. SlayTheSmaugs

    I’m glad to read that vacant malls have another life, I love reuse. I hate Amazon and no longer shop with them, and I want it to be broken up/have its power broken down to size, but I’m guessing the re-use could hold by analogy–mall as final warehouse for consumer goods ordered on line (wtf with the term ‘fulfillment center’?) Not sure ‘dream come true’ vibe is really the right one for getting a retail order delivered.

    Reply
  8. Tim

    “Hmm. I wonder if anybody’s watching Spirit’s facilities to see if they’re filling up (like shorts watch Tesla lots)” maybe, but land’s pretty cheap in Wichita, have no reason to doubt the plan. Toughest time will be manufacturing the holding fixtures, which would have never existing in the quantities now required.

    Reply
  9. Xihuitl

    Re: “(1) Public Records Requests are extremely important; I can’t imagine why elites haven’t choked them off”

    They have and they do.

    Texas public records get harder and harder to acquire.

    See also, same excuse:

    “It’s been over eight years since Jonathan Ellis, an investigative reporter at the Argus Leader, filed what he thought was a routine Freedom of Information Act request. He wanted five years of reimbursement data from the Agriculture Department (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)–a program that helps people with low incomes buy food from grocery stores. USDA refused to release the information on the grounds that it was confidential business information exempt from records requests.”

    Reply
  10. petal

    And for any Car Talk fans out there, a special event will be held June 28th at 530p in Harvard Square-a plaque will be unveiled, and the DC&H window will be preserved. Everyone is welcome!

    Reply
      1. roxy

        For many years Tom and Ray sold a bumper sticker that said “Hang up and drive.” More pertinent than ever now.

        Reply
  11. Summer

    Re: What is Protect Democracy

    “Hats off to the Norms Fairy!”

    The Norms Fairy Brigade are manu of the same people that tell everybody else to adjust to “disruption.” Disruption is what they dish oit but can’t take themselves.

    Reply
    1. clarky90

      Re; “The Protect Democracy Project focuses on research and public education to confront threats to our democracy….” Oh My!

      “…. In this scam, “a fortune teller” uses cold reading skills to detect that a client is genuinely troubled …. The fortune teller informs the mark that he is the victim of a curse, and that for a fee, a spell can be cast to remove the curse.………. ”

      List_of_confidence_tricks

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_confidence_tricks

      Contents
      1 Get-rich-quick schemes
      1.1 The “Money-Box Scheme”
      1.2 Salting
      1.3 Spanish Prisoner
      2 Persuasion tricks
      2.1 Grandparent scam
      2.2 Romance scam
      2.3 Fortune-telling fraud
      3 Gold brick scams……
      …..on and on……….aka, .innovation and disruption

      Reply
  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Getting ready to bring Burrito Brigade burritos and homemade hot sauce to hungry 4J teachers. They have a long march to Salem today and need the fuel! #RedForEd

    —-

    Those hot sauce bottles are not glass…

    Reply
    1. Christopher Fay

      There are some good aspects of plastic compared to glass, lighter, don’t shatter, squeezable; and they’re reusable as is glass. Some times plastic used to make things not burn up is okay. Or should we be arguing about that?

      Reply
  13. Brindle

    Sounds like Biden is desirous of a coronation glide path–no passionate discussion of candidates (especially his) past records and actions taken. He is the most “put me to sleep” candidate out there–and I think he is proud of that.

    Reply
    1. jrs

      He went straight to the general election in his strategy, not even bothering with the primary. He does that because the ONLY candidate he looks better than is Trump, it’s like having to stand next to the circus freak to win the beauty contest and then expecting us all to be: “oh hmm not so ugly afterall …the elephant man does indeed look worse ..”

      If he were compete with the actual primary candidates it would be clear that he was the most hideous of them all (maybe Gillibrand, that’s a tough one there … Beto up there but even then)

      Reply
    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      If Biden is in the spotlight currently, the best strategy for establishment Democrats is still to make sure that no one they don’t like gets over 50%.

      Reply
    3. Phacops

      My stomach turns thinking about Biden. Moreso because it speaks to his supporter’s need to make our lives a bit meaner and precarious. I refuse to believe that they are ignorant of his worldview and the damage he has done to our society. I guess that I see support for Biden as the result of an unfettered reptilian emotional brain in full control of the meat puppets it inhabits.

      Reply
    4. The Rev Kev

      Well, he is the “most qualified” candidate. And it is his turn. And just because he is very old, that does not mean that he is constantly going to be doing stupid stuff, right?

      Reply
  14. allan

    Grasset forfeiture: Florida City Tries To Steal an Elderly Man’s House Over Uncut Grass [Reason]

    The city of Dunedin, Florida, wants to foreclose on a private home because the owner, Jim Ficken, owes the city over $29,000 in fines. The crime for which he is threatened with home loss? Having his lawn grass be too tall (over 10 inches) for a period of eight weeks last summer. The city fined him $500 per day of violation, with no warning.

    Ficken was out of town at the time, settling his mother’s estate. Ficken hired a handyman to deal with his lawn while he tended to his dying mother and then to her estate, but in a cruel twist, the handyman also died during the Fickens’ ordeal, leaving the lawn uncut. …

    In the hereafter, Joseph Heller writhes in envy.

    Reply
    1. dearieme

      It’s not too late to start deterring people who run cities along those lines, you know.

      I repeat a quotation from WKPD about a town near us.

      However, in 1381 during the Great Uprising, the Abbey was sacked and looted again. This time, the Prior was executed; his severed head was placed on a pike in the Great Market.

      Reply
      1. John

        Excellent and timely historical reference. Do city minions check their brain at the door when they take a job, or is this laziness, or stupidity, and sheer meanness?

        Reply
        1. Briny

          It’s called Zero Tolerance and, frequently, the minions have Zero Choice in the matter, by law or by regulation. Home Owner Associations and schools were where the legal kinks were worked out.

          And, heh, the City gets a nice spot of revenue in the process!

          Reply
      2. richard

        Was watching a j. dore live show last night, and one of his panel recommended gibbeting (if I am spelling that right) dick cheney, letting his bones sway outside washington forever as encouragement in newly arriving pols. The crowd (of course) erupted in support.

        Reply
  15. Randy Middleclass

    I find it funny that all these prosecutors wouldn’t indict people over laundering 10’s of billions of dollars in drug money, but they would indict somebody over the phantasmagoric “Russian” investigation.

    Reply
  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    XI loves me
    XI loves me not
    XI loves me
    XI loves me not

    —-

    XI or six, is not considered a lucky number.

    Eight, or XIII, on the other hand, is.

    Speaking of Roman Numerals, and Romans, they once had a year of six emperors, a year of five emperors, and a year of four emperors.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to XI. Look, right across the board, XI, XI, XI and…

      Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to X?

      Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.

      Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder?

      Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not X. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at X. You’re on X here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on X on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?

      Reply
  17. Darius

    For a No Labels advocate, Gottheimer is heavy on labels. Herbal Tea Party. Everything has to be about cultural tropes and identity. It’s all back to tie-dyed longhaired hippies, meaningless to anyone younger than 45. Meanwhile, DSA actually is doing things to improve people’s lives. Gottheimer has to steer everything away from program, because he doesn’t have any. At least that he can talk about in mixed company.

    Reply
  18. DJG

    Hmmmmm. Reifying “electability.”

    What is going on here is that the Democratic Party leadership, such as it is, wants control of the process. So there’s good old mystification of experience. Only Steny Hoyer, wise man and zombie politician, and his ilk can tell us who is electable. And in the current bare ruined choirs of the Clintonian Democratic Party, my-turn-ism and money grubbing matter more than policy. Hence Biden. Hence Harris.

    From below, the party faithful, and I’m seeing more and more indications that the Democratic Party is either a fan club or a cult, or both, want to be taken seriously. So they burble about electability, and then when the latest scoundrel gets elected, they have fan-clubby spasms of joy at victory and vacuous regrets that their lives have not improved. Hence O’Rourke. Hence Buttigieg.

    Or, to put it briefly, “electability” is feudalism. We all bask in the gilded luminescence of Joe Biden, paladin of Democracy. And of his footman, Mayor Pete of the handsome buskins.

    Reply
    1. richard

      good post
      “fan club or a cult”
      I vote cult, which is really just a fan club with fatwahs

      Reply
      1. DJG

        Lambert Strether: Yes, I read your comment this morning, which is very good. Reference to Catullus is very snazzy. The old Romans were hard-headed. I re-read Lucretius, On the Nature of the Universe, regularly. And Ovid, on how we all metamorphose, is a revelation.

        Lucretius is good for changing one’s mindset because the Epicureans believed that people pursued pleasure–although Epikouros had highly complicated ideas of pleasure. In the end, one was supposed to calm the mind, control the urge toward pleasure, and have no fear: And the current mass hysteria (sorry, but I just ran into some hysteric Hillarycrat Upper-Middle-Class White Ladies who will sacrifice anything to get revenge on Bernie) may be managed (may–you also may be more rational than I am) or it may be a kind of cult.

        I can’t see how the Hillarycrats aren’t a cult. I will allow that they are like the Dixiecrats–seeking a long-ago paradise in which the Right Kinds of People were oppressed. But the U.S. South has engaged in cult behavior and in feudalism.

        You are taking an overview: What caused Indivisible to arise? Subsidies and opportunism. But I am seeing the paranoid style of U.S. politics and the apocalyptic style of U.S. religion, much of it attending to the boundless needs of Saint Hillary, Virgin and Martyr, and her feckless wing of the Democratic Party.

        Reply
  19. Steely Glint

    Biosphere: A day late, but as to yesterdays global map of manure, just take a look at Iowa’s problem.
    https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-wednesday-edition-1.5118294/meet-the-n-s-teenager-who-sang-blackbird-by-the-beatles-entirely-in-mi-kmaq-1.5118296?cmp=rss
    The watershed map is great, and also this; Managing the waste from these animals is possibly our state’s most challenging environmental problem. Of course we have a lot of cropland to apply this waste, but the time windows in which farmers have to do this in without damaging the crops with equipment are usually not large. Wet, cold and hot weather can all limit application. As a result, there are only a precious few weeks in a year when this Mt. Everest of waste can be applied to corn and soybean fields.

    Reply
  20. JBird4049

    I’m glad to see AOC back in the fray, but shouldn’t that decimal point be moved one digit right? As in 1.5%? But more importantly: “The two self-identified democratic-socialists are set to propose legislation on Thursday capping rates on credit card and other consumer loans…”

    I am too tired to look up it all up again, but several decades ago (80s?) the Supreme Court strucked down all the states’ usury laws.

    Previously the laws of a state’s residents overruled the laws of where a company was incorporated. Even in the South, usury laws would stop at least the highest double digit interest rates.

    Now it is where a company is incorporated. Noticed how all those companies are incorporated in a very few states like Delaware leaving states like California or Alabama alone?

    All or most of these laws are on the books, and as the Supreme Court noted at the time, Congress could have passed legislation either setting lower interest rates nationally or allowing the local laws to be in effect.

    It’s only been over thirty years, so I am sure that they will pass that legislation soon. /s

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Will capping those rates lead to less access?

      Will people suffer, consequently?

      In turn, will the focus then be shifted back to wage stagnation?

      Short term pain, long term (or medium term) gain?

      Is the current trade war also like that?

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        Payday loans and ultra high interest credit cards are not really “access” especially as banks do not seem to issue personal loans anymore and credit cards used to be very profitable even when 12% was a high interest rate. It is more like financial vampirism.

        It is not like it was thirty years ago when individual banks had loan officers who would issue personal loans or car loans after personally checking the documents and making a decision after talking to the applicant. Not anymore as it is algorithms and the almighty impersonal computer program. The finance sector is drowning in money to loan out, but they don’t want to loan it to the marks at reasonable rates. Stock buybacks and executive bonuses are the thing.

        Reply
    2. Summer

      I also believe it was the 80s when consumer credit card interest stopped being a tax write-off.

      And credit card companies started passing out credit cards to college students …NINJA credit cards. You can imagine the result. That didn’t get regulated a bit until well into the 2000s (I think…it’s the kind of thing that can be reversed in a blink of the eye).

      Reply
  21. Steely Glint

    Biosphere: a day late, but in response to Global Map of Manure, take a look at Iowa’s problem. Contains an excellent map of water sheds & the human waste equivalent of the people, hogs, laying chickens, turkeys, and dairy and beef cattle the city or state that relates to it with its human population only. Reflected is an average of N (nitrogen), P (phosphorus) and TS (total solids) waste. Only the population of the city proper is reflected, not the overall metropolitan metro area.
    Also this; “Managing the waste from these animals is possibly our state’s most challenging environmental problem. Of course we have a lot of cropland to apply this waste, but the time windows in which farmers have to do this in without damaging the crops with equipment are usually not large. Wet, cold and hot weather can all limit application. As a result, there are only a precious few weeks in a year when this Mt. Everest of waste can be applied to corn and soybean fields.”
    https://www.bleedingheartland.com/2019/05/03/iowas-real-population/

    Reply
  22. clarky90

    Re “The 747 max”.

    Watch This Before Buying a Mercedes by Scotty Kilmer (6 minutes)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZk6P5PR7b0

    Modern cars are very difficult and expensive to repair. A ten year old Mercedes is as “cheap as chips” to buy, for a very good reason.

    Conversely, 100 year old cars are still driving around, because they are easy and inexpensive to repair. Old cars are valuable. Modern cars are designed to last for about 100,000 miles, and then be thrown away; like single use Starbucks cups.

    Many of us own cars. They are a concrete example of the ubiquitous degeneration into crazy complexity, combined with a trashy build aesthetic. (Entropy, a lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.) A current Mercedes has 87 separate computers controlling it. Our cars are becoming just as un-repairable as our cell-phones!

    ditto, our airplanes.

    Reply
    1. Deschain

      My 2003 Honda still runs wonderfully. My wife just got a preowned 2016 Benz. It is a lovely car but overengineered as hell. I can already tell maintenance is going to be absurd.

      Reply
  23. chuck roast

    Yeah, I would love to see a big-time pol do an ad in a US Post office for a postal bank. Maybe he or she could find a PO with a WPA mural. Should be easy to find. Many of those old murals were painted by 30’s lefty artists and have democratic socialist themes. They celebrate community and local community economies. That guy gets my vote…and the guy that gets rid of pennies!

    Reply
  24. AbateMagicThinking But Not Money

    Re. strategic instruments:

    The only strategic instrument the US seems to have is based on the Milo Minderbinder doctrine. The Military-Industrial-Media-Complex has not cottoned on* to the fact that every business executive who buys abroad instead of producing high quality products at home is a threat to the commonwealth and the body politic that supports it.

    My other take on the situation is that by buying big in China, the US hopes to gain victory through China’s self-imposed mass-poisoning through industrial pollution.

    Pip-pip!

    *pun intended

    Reply
  25. dk

    AOC chimes in on the P.O.:

    https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1126627555497447424

    GOP is talking smack about the Post Office (of course, since they have no ideas).

    The funny thing about that: it‘s the GOP’s own “business model” that hurt them! They forced USPS to prefund pensions decades out (which makes NO sense & no solvent biz does)instead of year to year.

    Really, the biggest, boldest idea (other than war) the GOP has proposed is A Wall.

    At this rate they’re gonna propose getting us to space w/ trebuchets.

    They constantly hate, but have 0 real solutions for income inequality, healthcare, climate crisis, racial injustice, etc.

    One of the stages in my deep appreciation for the people who work at institutions like the Post Office came when I tried to take the mail carriers’ exam.
    Sample (not from the P.O.): https://www.test-guide.com/postal/free-postal-exam-questions/postal-exam-473-part-a.html
    I got a 160 just now, barely passing.

    Reply
  26. MichaelSF

    Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez Propose 15% Cap on Credit Card Interest” [Bloomberg]. • I’m glad to see AOC back in the fray, but shouldn’t that decimal point be moved one digit right? As in 1.5%?

    Wouldn’t moving the decimal point one place to the right (–>) on 15.0 make it 150.0? One digit to the left seems like what you need for 1.5

    Reply
    1. Oregoncharles

      Actually, that’s significant: Republicans are promoting Biden, and probably for the same reason the Clintons promoted Trump.

      Of course, the Clintons were wrong about that.

      Reply
      1. Tom Doak

        Not the same reason at all. Republicans know that if Biden is the nominee, then no matter whether Biden or Trump wins, their jobs and portfolios are safe. They are scared to death Sanders might be the nominee and the voters will have a say, so they are 100% behind the most ineffective Democrat, and that’s Uncle Joe.

        Reply
  27. Phil in KC

    Did Union-lovin’ Joey B give a shout out to the Uber and Lyft drivers? Or anyone else, besides Bernie? Thought not.

    Reply
  28. skippy

    Epitaph of the day …

    “Manhattan convicted Sorokin of four counts of theft of services, three counts of grand larceny and one count of attempted grand larceny following a month long trial that drew international attention and tabloid headlines about Sorokin’s courtroom fashion.

    Her defence attorney, Todd Spodek, argued Sorokin had been “buying time” and planned to settle her debts.

    He said she lacked criminal intent and was an ambitious entrepreneur.”

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-10/fake-heiress-sentenced-to-four-to-12-years-in-prison-for-fraud/11099910

    BTW whats up with that Freedom and Liberty medal for Tiger Woods ….

    Reply

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