2:00PM Water Cooler 8/28/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Trade

“The freight railway route from China to Europe is not generating business volume” [Freight Waves]. “The much popularized Chinese one belt one road (OBOR) strategy seems to have hiccups on its path, as evidenced from the statements made by the state-run China Railway admitting that several of the intermodal containers on trains connecting China to Europe run empty. Empty intermodal containers have been a perennial problem that Beijing has had to contend with on this trade route ever since services commenced a few years ago…. The problem with the railway system is that it has not convinced exporters on its apparent utility of being faster than maritime and cheaper than air transport. Most of the exports to the EU from China are manufactured in cities near the eastern coast of China; from that area it makes more sense to ship freight by sea rather than rail. ”

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

Alert reader dk (not to be confused with DK) has developed the following chart: Since the RCP poll aggregator had a nice chart, but kept changing its polls (and didn’t include Reuters/IPSOS, which the DNC uses to game select debate participants), and the FiveThirtyEight aggregation seemed better, but lacked charts, he came up with an aggregator of his own, driven, as I understand it, by all the 528 polls, but without any secret sauce at all, and allowing some user customization. Here, I have filtered out all the candidates but the top five, and used a “stair step” presentation, which, although a little jarring, conveys the idea that polls are only slices in time; it’s the voters who move in curves, whereas the polls really are jagged proxies for whatever is happening out there in the dark matter of the electorate:

And here are the numbers as of 8/28/2019, 12:15 PM EDT:

The relative positions of Biden, Sanders, and Warren remain the same. However, Biden’s trendline is clear. I think DK has started a really neat project, and in the near future we’ll seek your feedback (within reason) for the tool “live.” UPDATE: We now have the option of adding dots to the trendlines.

* * *

2020

Biden (D)(1): “Joe Biden is my Harvard, not my ‘safety school.’ He really is my favorite 2020 Democrat.” [USA Today]. “At a wedding in New York, changing planes in Washington, over coffee in Boston and on my porch in Kansas City, what I hear from pro-Joe Democrats is hardly resignation. Nor is it some complicated, defeatist calculus about how appealing non-Trump-loving Republicans might find him. Don’t underestimate Biden: He knows what America needs and how to get it done. A childhood friend in Illinois talks about how blessedly comfortable Biden makes her feel — and if you think “comfortable” means meh, you must have slept through the past three fun-filled years. His authenticity and experience are exactly what the country needs now, says a former colleague in Florida. And best of all, he would have no learning curve, so he could get right to work undoing the damage caused by what’s-his-name, says a therapist in North Carolina. ‘He’s a good, honorable, smart, decent, civil man who has dedicated his entire life to public service,’ says Morna Murray, executive director of the Rhode Island Disability Law Center and former senior counsel to Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. ‘He was a great senator and vice president, and I’m pretty sure it does not get much better than that!'” •

Biden (D)(2): “Joe Biden: It Would Be an Insult to My Dead Son for Everyone to Have Healthcare” [Vice]. A Biden ad: “In all, the ad is saying that healthcare is personal to Joe Biden because his son died; that as a father, he believes the best and most legitimate way to honor his dead son’s legacy would be to implement further incremental regulatory reform, along the lines of what Barack Obama did; and that people who disagree and think that radical reform is necessary—among them, presumably, the 80 percent or so of Democrats who say it’s important to nominate a presidential candidate who supports Medicare for All—are dishonoring his son’s legacy. A hell of a pitch!”

Biden (D)(3): “The One Where Everyone Goes After Biden” [McSweeney’s]. Missed this review of the last debate: “Biden is asked about the fact that more immigrants were deported under Obama than during Trump’s first two years of presidency. Protestors interrupt the debate to reiterate this fact in a more confusing manner. Biden laughs and then says, “Well, Castro was in Obama’s administration too!” Castro pulls out a water balloon and lobs it at Biden. As the water cascades down Biden’s forehead, Castro replies, “One of us has learned the lessons of the past and one hasn’t.” Biden responds by throwing his hands up and making a “would you look at this guy” face to the audience, who tries not to make eye contact in return.”

UPDATE Sanders (D)(1): “Bernie Sanders Hails Volunteer Army As Advantage Over Rivals” [HuffPo]. “Staff and volunteers for the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have organized and hosted over 11,000 events, including more than 2,000 in California, the campaign announced Tuesday evening. The vast majority of the events have been organized by volunteers, according to the campaign…. the Sanders campaign sees [this] as a secret weapon as it seeks to stand out in a crowded field of candidates: a “distributed” ― or volunteer-run ― organizing system that it innovated in the 2016 race and has since fine-tuned…. The conceit of distributed organizing, which has its fair share of skeptics, is that campaigns can amplify by orders of magnitude the effect of the staff they employ directly by empowering exceptionally motivated volunteers to run their own house parties, lead their own canvasses and develop, and monitor their own voter contacts by phone and text message. It differs from traditional campaign volunteering in terms of the resources and technology the Sanders campaign, and others inspired by it, have expended on creating an infrastructure to facilitate the work of its most dedicated supporters…. It will be difficult to fully measure the organizing technique’s effectiveness prior to Feb. 3, when Sanders competes in Iowa’s Democratic caucus.” • Or “measure” at all.

UPDATE Sanders (D)(2): “Bernie Sanders Isn’t Going to Tear Down Elizabeth Warren: ‘That’s Not What I Do'” [Vice]. Sanders: “I would suggest in my defense that I’ve been doing this for, as you indicated a few moments ago —check me out, and people may find me a little bit boring and repetitious — but I have been fighting these fights for about 30 years.” • Drop the self-deprecation!

UPDATE Sanders (D)(3): “Bernie Sanders Boxing Scouting Report: Gotta Keep Those Hands Up” [The Big Lead]. “Bernie Sanders is in very good shape for a man who will turn 78 in a few days. People from all points of the political spectrum can agree on that. He’s repeatedly put his basketball skills on display and not long ago showed he has some promise as a baseball prospect. There are some limitations to his sporting prowess, though. Like boxing. Here’s the presidential hopeful working a speed bag and, in turn, getting a bit worked himself.” [video]. “For reasons beyond comprehension, Sanders decided to punch on a level plane with his right hand when we all know he’s most comfortable attacking upward and from the left. Bizarre strategy.” ¨• Heh.

Warren (D)(1): “Elizabethan Warren knows the power of words” [WaPo]. Post theatre critic on Warren: “The vocal modulation. The oratorical rhythm. The instinct for a good story: She’s got the ingredients for a magnetic performance. And she delivers. When Warren speaks, you lean in. ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen’ is not exactly where the talk goes in her 45-minute strut upon the Tempe stage on this August evening in the Marquee Theatre, capacity 2,500. It is so packed, some of the crowd must remain outside in the 100-degree heat. Still, the sense of drama Warren radiates replicates the momentum of an actor at the climactic point of a play. Her speech may not convey the compact lyrical eloquence of Marc Antony, but the sights and sounds of her presentation deliver the centrifugal emotional force of a potent soliloquy.” • Readers, have any of you attended a Warren rally?

Warren (D)(2): “Where is Elizabeth Warren’s health care plan?” [WaPo]. “I would be shocked if Warren and her policy team aren’t well aware of the shape of public opinion, even as they’re trying to come up with the most effective plan they can. That might account for why she has released plans on so many other issues but not on this one. (I’ve asked the Warren campaign when she will release a plan and will update if they answer.) The longer she waits, the more time she has to see how things shake out and come up with something that will solve the system’s problems without engendering too much of a campaign backlash. But she won’t be able to wait for much longer.” • So I guess Warren won’t be attacking Sanders from the left, and endorsing Jayapal’s bill.

“Sanders-Warren Niceties Mask Growing Tension and Suspicion Among Allies” [Bloomberg]. “The two New England senators — Sanders represents Vermont and Warren Massachusetts — poll well with those who identify as liberal. Warren does better with older voters and loyal Democrats, while Sanders is stronger with younger people and disaffected voters who say they feel ignored by both parties.” • Leaves out income and credentials. Do better, Bloomberg!

* * *

GA: “Stacey Abrams says she won’t run for Georgia Senate seat” [The Hill]. “Abrams’s announcement that she would forego a run for Isakson’s seat is the second time in a matter of weeks that she has ruled out a Senate bid. She was previously considered a top recruit to challenge Perdue in 2020, but declined to launch a campaign, saying that she would instead focus on combating voter suppression through her advocacy group Fair Fight. Still, there’s speculation that Abrams could be a top pick for the Democrats’ vice presidential nomination in 2020.” • Quick! But “still”?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Mississippi officials confirm multiple cases of voting machines changing votes in GOP governor runoff” [The Hill]. “State officials have confirmed at least three reports of voting machines in two counties changing voters’ picks in Mississippi’s GOP gubernatorial primary runoff…. The issues emerged Tuesday morning, with one Facebook user posting a video showing a touch-screen voting machine changing their selection from Waller to Reeves. ‘It is not letting me vote for who I want to vote for,’ the voter says in the video. ‘How can that happen?’ a woman in the background asks.” • Good news in the run-up to 2020!

Health Care

“Poll: Dems more likely to support candidate who backs Medicare for All over fixing Obamacare” [Politico]. “According the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll out Wednesday, 65 percent of Democratic primary voters would be more likely to support a candidate who wants to institute a single-payer health care system like Medicare for All; 13 percent said they’d be less likely to back a candidate based on that support. While the Democratic base has essentially demanded that its White House hopefuls offer up a plan for universal health care, the party has devolved into infighting over the nuances of such plans, centering almost entirely on the role of private insurers in the health care market.” • “Nuance.” Nuance?

Stats Watch

Survey of Business Uncertainty, August 2019: “In a month of sharp swings in the financial markets and spikes in US-China trade tensions, the August index for business uncertainty rose” [Econoday]. “This index hit a low of 80.2 in March this year and has mostly been on the climb since…. Sales growth is the weakest component within expectations.”

State Street Investor Confidence Index, August 2019: “Global institutional investors reduced their exposure to equities at an accelerated pace in August” [Econoday]. “Driving the risk aversion were growing concerns about the global economic slowdown amid widespread declines in global manufacturing and monetary and trade policy uncertainty.”

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of August 23, 2019: “After a burst higher on lower mortgage rates, refinancing activity fell” [Econoday].

Tech: “‘If you have an addiction, you’re screwed’ – How Facebook and social casinos target the vulnerable” [Reveal News]. “Reveal examines how Facebook is partnering with social casino games to monitor and analyze the behavior of vulnerable players. The companies are using big data and advanced software to predict which people will spend massive amounts of money on the games and then targeting these people with aggressive marketing. For some people, these games result in financial ruin…. And the kicker? She can’t win any money in the game. It’s not traditional gambling. Players can never cash out their virtual chips for real money. They’re paying only to buy more chips, which allows them to spend extra time in the game. “So this is, in some ways, pure addiction,” says Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. Social casino games, such as slot machines and poker games on Facebook and mobile devices, have become a $5 billion-a-year business, with revenues nearly as large as all the Las Vegas Strip casinos combined. But because the games are classified as entertainment, they are not subject to any gambling regulations. So there is nothing stopping tech companies from monitoring, analyzing – and targeting – those with addictive personalities.” • Nothing, especially not ethics or a sense of empathy…

Tech: “This Nobel Prize-Winning Idea Is Instead Piling Debt on Millions” [Bloomberg]. “Sub-Saharan Africa has proven the most fertile ground for microlending through mobile devices. In 2018, there were 395.7 million mobile-money accounts in the region, or almost half of the world total; the $26.8 billion handled represents two-thirds of the total transactions, according to GSMA, which represents 750 mobile operators around the world…. By far, the dominant force is M-Pesa, the payments platform of Vodafone Plc’s Safaricom unit. … The option to deposit and borrow can be activated within the M-Pesa wallet… The expansion in consumer debt has an inevitable dark side. While yotal lending by banks grew 5% to 2.5 trillion shillings in the year ending June 2018, non-performing loans climbed 27% to 298 billion shillings, according to the central bank. Two-thirds of Kenyan borrowers are in debt stress—those caught in a debt spiral or those who have to sell an asset or reduce food spending to repay loans.” • Remember this?

Manufacturing: “Boeing’s Crashes Expose Systemic Failings” [Der Spiegel]. This is brutal, a must-read. This caught my eye: “And this all comes at a time when the Airbus-Boeing duopoly has been developing cracks. The two may still be the world’s undisputed aerospace leaders, but companies in China, Russia and Japan are in the process of grabbing a bigger piece of the pie. Furthermore, it has become easier to build airplanes because a highly specialized global market of suppliers has developed that can deliver almost any part in the desired quality at the desired moment in time. The times when airplane construction was a calling card of unattainable technological excellence are coming to an end. Things are becoming more difficult, especially for Boeing.” • Uh oh….

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 20 Extreme Fear (previous close: 16, Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 25 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 28 at 12:28pm. Note that the index is not always updated daily, sadly.

The Biosphere

Asteroid Ryugu:

Ryugu to scale:

UPDATE “Lifecycle of a Leaf” [Current Affairs]. Oy:

Input #1: Since like all other leaves, arugula starts as a seed, these seeds were likely extracted and bulk-sorted in a mechanized process using fossil fuel energy. Then they were shipped using diesel fuel to the field (input #2) in California or possibly Arizona, since 98 percent of packaged salad greens are grown within those two states. By this point, the ground has been stripped and prepared with internal combustion engine vehicles (#3) into which the seeds are planted with precision seeders (#4). Water is sprayed in vast quantities—agriculture uses 80 percent of California’s human-use water—through pumps powered typically by (you guessed it) fossil fuels (#5) until seedlings break the ground. Laborers traverse the field, sometimes with vehicles (#6), applying pesticides synthesized from—and manufactured with—petroleum (#7): herbicides to kill weeds, fungicides to kill fungus, and pesticides to kill insects and rodents. Petroleum-derived fertilizers (#8), too, have been applied in a mechanized process (#9). When they’re ready, the arugula leaves are cut with big diesel-fueled vehicles (#10) and transported to a processing facility that is powered by, most likely, coal (#11). There, the leaves are sorted on conveyors (#12), washed in industrial washers (#13), dried in industrial dryers (#14), and then packaged with machines (#15) into plastic (#16) containers.

Then the packaged greens are put on a truck (#17), then onto a diesel-powered, refrigerated train (#18), and shipped across the country to a grid-powered distribution center (#19) , let’s say Hunts Point, a sprawling food-warehousing complex in the Bronx. There they are moved with a forklift (#20) to a truck (#21) that takes them to a supermarket where they sit on a refrigerated shelf (#22), are then plopped in your basket, chucked in your electric refrigerator (#23), and partially consumed in exactly one meal before you forget about it.

But wait! The cycle isn’t complete.

UPDATE “Life in deep Earth totals 15 to 23 billion tons of carbon—hundreds of times more than humans” [Phys.org]. From 2018, still germane: “[S]cientists with the Deep Carbon Observatory today reported several transformational discoveries, including how much and what kinds of life exist in the deep subsurface under the greatest extremes of pressure, temperature, and low nutrient availability. Drilling 2.5 kilometers into the seafloor, and sampling microbes from continental mines and boreholes more than 5 km deep, scientists have used the results to construct models of the ecosystem deep within the planet. With insights from now hundreds of sites under the continents and seas, they have approximated the size of the deep biosphere—2 to 2.3 billion cubic km (almost twice the volume of all oceans) – as well as the carbon mass of deep life: 15 to 23 billion tonnes (an average of at least 7.5 tonnes of carbon per cu km subsurface).”

Black Injustice Tipping Point

No:

“No” because Rosa Parks was “hot” exactly the way she was, not idealized and abstracted in doll form. Next we’ll be calling Parks “iconic.”

Neoliberal Epidemics

A propos J-LS’s post today:

Everything’s going according to plan!

Guillotine Watch

“‘NO EXCESSIVE BARKING’: A Chevy Chase dog park divides the rich and powerful” [WaPo]. “To stop outsiders from driving to Chevy Chase Village and parking on the Bourkes’ street — taking the spots where the family liked their lawn maintenance service to park — the dog park was wiped from the village website.” • And lots more like this!

Class Warfare

“‘I was working like a slave’: Exhausted Popeyes employees describe a harrowing situation amid chicken-sandwich chaos, including working 60-hour weeks and shifts with no breaks” [Business Insider]. “For Popeyes and Chick-fil-A, the chicken-sandwich war still rages. And at the front lines of the battle are the employees — managers, sandwich makers, shift leaders, and cashiers — some of whom are working more than 60-hour weeks and many days without breaks to quell the public’s craving for chicken sandwiches. Business Insider spoke with five Popeyes employees across the US about working at the chain during the so-called chicken wars. Workers said they were overwhelmed and exhausted, and many are considering quitting their jobs. ‘I was working like a slave in the back prepping the buns with pickles and the spicy mayo,’ said an 18-year-old Popeyes crew member in Orange County, California.” • “Like”?

“Unpaid Kentucky coal miners have been blocking a train track for 3 weeks” [CBC]. “It’s been more than three weeks since Jeff Willig got a call from his buddy Chris Sexton asking if he wanted to go stand in front of a moving train loaded with coal. ‘He called me and said, ‘Hey, they’re trying to load this train up. You want to stop this train?’ Willig told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. ‘I said, ‘Absolutely.” The two friends are coal miners who have been been out of work since Blackjewel, the company that owned the Black Mountain mine near Cumberland, Ky., shut its doors suddenly in July and filed for bankruptcy. More than 1,100 miners in Kentucky, Wyoming, West Virginia and Virginia lost their jobs with no warning. They didn’t get paid for their last week of work, and their paycheques from the previous two weeks bounced. So when the miners got word that Blackjewel was quietly shipping a trainload of coal, worth at least $1 million US, out of Black Mountain — coal the miners took out of the ground — they decided to take matters into their own hands.” • Oddly, this isn’t a major story.

“Capitalism Is Making Us Sick: A Q&A With Emily Guendelsberger About Her New Book, On the Clock” [New York Magazine]. “Sarah Jones: What really struck me most about your book is that the jobs you held — at Amazon, and Convergys, and McDonald’s — were not jobs designed to let human beings be human beings. What sort of psychological effect does that have on workers? Emily Guendelsberger: That is the takeaway that I hope people have…. But I also wanted workers from these industries who read it to be able to recognize that it is all the same struggle. People in fast food should have common cause and solidarity with people who work at Amazon. I think the Fight for 15 has done a really great job of showing fast-food workers that this is one fight. It’s not just unionizing McDonald’s or just unionizing Burger King, it’s all fast food. And I think that the inescapability of the sort of computer business systems and timing and monitoring systems that I talk about in the book, I tried to draw sort of a thread between them….. The feedback I expected to get on the book was just people saying that millennials don’t have any work ethic, people don’t know how to work hard, it’s their own fault if they can’t keep these jobs, no one’s holding a gun to their head. But honestly the response that I’ve gotten from almost everybody who’s actually had one of these jobs is, wow, I didn’t realize it was this similar in other industries. I thought it was just my job that sucked.”

“Afraid of the Dark” (book reviews) [The Baffler]. Dark markets. “Not content with destroying the environment, criminals are sabotaging efforts to save it. The EU’s European Commission has a ‘cap and trade’ policy, involving carbon credits, which carbon-efficient firms can sell to polluting firms. Hackers broke into the EC’s carbon registry and stole credits, which they sold while also claiming rebates for VATs which they hadn’t paid, all to the tune of $6.5 billion. Moreover, ‘Interpol believes that the $176 billion carbon market is vulnerable to other forms of criminal penetration, such as securities fraud, transfer mispricing, and the sale of nonexistent carbon credits.’…. Everything about the dark web is chilling. Whatever legitimate activities may go on there (if any), it appears to be primarily a supermarket for narcotics, child porn, human trafficking, weapons, and malware. The fabled dark site Silk Road processed six hundred thousand messages per month, translating into an unknown number of orders, and in its two years of operation facilitated the sale of $1.2 billion in drugs, arms, and malware, paid for in Bitcoin. Malware in particular is a growing market. Half a billion records are stolen each year, and five years ago an astonishing one in ten Americans over sixteen had their identity stolen.”

News of the Wired

“Sumerian: The Languages of Berkeley: An Online Exhibition” [Berkeley Library]. “Sumerian was spoken in the most southern part of ancient Mesopotamia. With its oldest texts dating to no later than 3000 BCE, it has the distinction of being the first attested language known to us. After its death as a spoken language, about 2000 BCE, it continued to be studied in the Mesopotamian school system for another thousand years. Sumerian literature is the oldest preserved literature in the world, and some of its compositions still have the power to move us today. Sumerian also has the honor of being a ‘language isolate.’ It has no obvious relatives, living or dead. It must have had relatives in the past, but these have all died out, without any of them being recorded.” • “Must have had”? Fitting this into my Snow Crash framework….

Statistics!

“Optimists Live Longer” [Medium]. • No way!

* * *

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 (via):

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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.

155 comments

    1. Plenue

      Kaizo is a terrible phenomenon that seems bent on sucking any actual joy out of games in the name of bragging rights.

      Reply
  1. Fiery Hunt

    Hey Lambert: sent you an email (actually 3…oops) yesterday for an address to send check to.
    Check your spam, por favor!

    Reply
      1. Summer

        RE: Optimists live longer…

        The link to Yves’ article….she got 305 comments on that one. Touched on something there….

        Reply
        1. Lee

          I like William Golding on this:

          Basically I’m an optimist. Intellectually I can see man’s balance is about fifty-fifty, and his chances of blowing himself up are about one to one. I can’t see this any way but intellectually. I’m just emotionally unable to believe that he will do this. This means that I am by nature an optimist and by intellectual conviction a pessimist, I suppose.
          https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/William_Golding

          That the author of Lord of the Flies is constitutionally optimistic is oddly pleasing. On good days I feel much the same.

          Reply
      2. Lee

        As long as we are on the topic, I sent you a check months ago that never cleared my account. Please! Take my money! I’ll send you another one if you can figure out what went wrong with the last one and let me know via email.

        Reply
  2. Summer

    RE: Unpaid Kentucky Coal Miners Blocking Train shipment

    “Oddly, this isn’t a major story.”

    That would get in the way of the dubious narrative about how the American consumer is supposed to be rescuing another epic global economic fail.

    Reply
  3. ambrit

    Re. the ‘Rosa Parks’ doll. When one becomes represented by a physical manifestation (of a person or associated ideal,) one has become a literal “ikon.”
    So, yes, ‘Rosa Parks’ is indeed now “iconic.”

    Reply
    1. RubyDog

      Interesting that the racial features of the doll have been neutralized so that she could literally pass for any race. Suppose it sells better that way.

      Reply
      1. ObjectiveFunction

        Yes indeed, one might draw an unkind comparison between the appearance of that rather South Asian looking ‘African American’ doll and the actual vs. claimed heritage of certain shapeshifting Presidential candidates….

        This also prods the open wound of the sad historic tendency of darker complected men of many races, including Black Americans, to choose lighter skinned mates (e.g. “high yella”) over darker and more ‘ethnic’ looking ones when their wealth and status allowed. (To his credit, our last President was a noteable exception to that rule).

        Reply
        1. Procopius

          I have read that the same phenomenon occurs in Liberia. In fact, from what I have read, political power resides with the lighter-skinned people. I don’t remember related comments from other African countries. Here in Thailand there is a strong negative feeling toward darker skin. Seems to be world-wide.

          Reply
  4. Tim

    ‘If you have an addiction, you’re screwed’

    This is the perfect one liner to beat into my kids (6 and 8) heads until they are out on their own. Preparing them for the “real world, USA style.”

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      I’ve been addicted to sunflower seeds in the shell since way back, and usually go with the 1200 step process in eating them.

      Truth is, it’s more of my teeth & tongue’s addiction.

      Reply
  5. nippersmom

    Sarah Riggs Amico, who ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2018, is running for Perdue’s seat. I did vote for her for Lt. Gov, but have concerns about her Senate run; in her announcement email she said, “We deserve to have access to healthcare.” (emphasis mine)

    No, Ms. Riggs Amico, we deserve to have healthcare.

    Reply
    1. petal

      At his event, Biden and the two women who spoke before him kept using the word “access”. Over and over. Such a scam.
      I can access a grocery store. Doesn’t mean I can afford to buy anything in it.

      Reply
    2. McDee

      Here in New Mexico Sec of State Maggie Toulouse-Oliver is running for the Dem US Senate nomination against the wretched Ben Ray Lujan.

      I read a short piece about her in the New Mexican that said she supports GND and M4A
      .
      I went to her campaign webiste and GND was there. Also the phrase “…making sure everyone has access to healthcare through Medicare for All.” That sounds suspicious to me. Like a little wiggle room for future “compromise” to back a plan that provides “access” through something other than M4A.

      There’s something in ther too about “working families”. That’s a term that rubs me the wrong way. A lot of working people are single. Don’t they count?

      Am I being too cynical, or is that even possible anymore?

      Reply
      1. Procopius

        No matter how cynical you are, it’s always worse than you think, but I also thing we need to be more flexible about what’s acceptable. There’s going to be a lot of backing and filling and horse trading going on. I can imagine several mechanisms that would achieve the same effect. The only thing that matters to me is that when anyone goes to a doctor or a hospital they do not pay, and they do not receive a bill later. Whether this is done through the existing Medicare framework (I actually think Medicaid would be better except it’s controlled by states) or through highly regulated private insurance companies is not important to me. Universal health care. I agree with you that the word “access” has become a highly suspect weasel word.

        Reply
  6. Glen

    Just to let the Dems and the DNC know – I cannot vote for a Dem candidate that does not support GND, M4A, free college, raising taxes on the rich…

    Well, to cut to the chase, Bernie has my vote, none of the rest do. If you want my vote nominate Bernie.

    I DO NOT vote the lesser of two evils. You will not get my vote any other way.

    Reply
    1. Amfortas the hippie

      i’m with you on all of that.
      now…how to fit that attractively on my tailgate with only black and yellow paint to hand…..

      Reply
        1. WJ

          I think the only way to combat “lesser evilism” rhetorically is to deny the premise: i.e. deny that it is so obvious that Joe Biden is a “lesser evil” than Donald Trump.

          If you *grant* the premise, you then have to explain how *your* decision not to vote for the “less evil” major party candidate is not of net benefit to the “more evil” candidate. This puts you in a tough position, rhetorically.

          So bite the bullet and deny that Biden or Harris or (limit case?) Warren obviously represents the “lesser evil” in a contest with Trump. It is possible to do this in good conscience in my opinion.

          Neither Biden nor Harris nor Warren are anti-interventionists. Trump ran on an anti-interventionist platform and while that quickly went to sh*t it has still restrained him arguably when push has come to shove re Venezuela and Iran. He does not want to start another active military conflict. Neither Biden nor Harris nor Warren seem superior to Trump on this score and Biden and Harris are in my opinion clearly worse.

          Economically, Biden and Harris represent a return to Clinton-Obama style bullsh*ttery, and this is not observably different in its effects from Trump’s own policies. Warren is *possibly* “less evil” than Trump here but–and I am sorry to have to write this–it is becoming less and less clear to me that this is obviously so. The sudden support of the donor class and their organs she’s enjoyed over the past couple weeks combined with her refusal to articulate any specific policy on healthcare suggest to me that hers would be a presidency of symbolic incrementalism, if that. Not happy to have to write this.

          Finally, Biden, Harris, and Warren would all enjoy the support of the same corrupt corporate propaganda outlets (CNN, MSNBC, Times, Post) that have attacked Trump. This would only further enable the worst aspects of the presidency of each (see the Obama effect) and would impose a false veneer of “normalcy” upon things that would provoke a strong, likely reactionary, populist response.

          So I am prepared to argue from the Left, if I am forced to do so, that no Dem candidate for president other than Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders is obviously the “lesser evil” when compared to Trump.

          Of course, I think the whole exercise is largely pointless and superficial, but if you find this argument foisted upon you, try denying the premise. This will force your interlocutor to explain concretely how the *policies* of corporate Dem candidates are “less evil” than Trump’s policies, however repulsive the *personality* of Trump happens to be.

          Reply
          1. Cal2

            You forget one wild card; beyond the ideal pairing of Bernie and Tulsi, what if Biden reaches for one last hurrah and invites Tulsi to be his V.P.?

            I’d vote for that knowing that Biden might not make the full four years and Tulsi would become president. :-)

            Reply
            1. Randy G

              Cal2 —

              Unfortunately, the odds of Biden picking Tulsi for VP appear roughly the equivalent of his sweeping up Susan Sarandon or Jill Stein for the job. Or me for that matter.

              As I am not voting for a Biden or a Harris — my philosophical response to the bleating of the ‘lesser evilists’ will be Spartan — “F—k the DNC and their pieces of crap candidates.”

              If your ‘wild card’ were to come true, and pigs started flying, I would, of course, reconsider.

              Reply
          2. Oregoncharles

            “If you *grant* the premise, you then have to explain how *your* decision not to vote for the “less evil” major party candidate is not of net benefit to the “more evil” candidate.”

            This is a false alternative, twice over. On one level, not voting is a real alternative; especially as an undervote, or even a blank ballot, it’s clearly a protest, the best we can do for “none of the above.” On another, in most states there are in fact alternative parties and candidates. Those have the advantage of indicating what you would prefer. You can also write someone in – which at least creates a nuisance.

            “Lesser evil” voting is morally questionable. In the first place, what do you think will happen if you (and a lot of people) keep voting for “evil?” We know the answer to that question, because it’s been the norm for decades and we wound up exactly where we are.

            Another way to put it is that it’s paying off a kidnapper. We know where that gets you: more kidnapping. This is especially so because, again, there are alternatives to plurality voting, which enables the extortion. RCV has been available for a long time (over a hundred years); the “major” parties oppose it precisely because they want to extort you.

            Lesser evil voting also glorifies short-term thinking. But the long term does matter, as we’re finding out, because we’re living it. It’s voting out of fear, which makes you absurdly easy to manipulate – again, something we’re living. If people stopped buying into it, the parties might actually come up with good candidates. As it is they have no reason to.

            Lesser evil voting is responsible for the political mess we find ourselves in. The experiment has been run, and now we know. It’s immoral and self-defeating.

            Reply
            1. WJ

              Yes. I agree with almost all of this. I was trying to paraphrase the rhetorical situation as perceived by your interlocutor and (unfortunately) third party observers. Logically, and real politically, I think you are right.

              Reply
            2. Amfortas the hippie

              Aye.
              “I refuse to vote for Evil, period…neither greater, nor lesser”
              such a simple idea,lol.
              2015-2017 every possible rejoinder was shot at me, and none of them even approached a rebuttal.
              but our interlocutors in this “dialog” are True Believers…like the Teabillies, Free marketers and even Birchers before them, they are adept at Not Seeing the Cracks and Holes and Smudges in and on their preferred Lenses.
              “Orthodoxy is Unconsciousness”, said Orwell….and it’s often a psychological defense from uncomfortable truths.
              So many of these folks do not want to know about the failures and cruelties of the Thing they’ve supported for so long.
              “Everything’s Fine” is today’s iteration of “TINA”.
              which…uncomfortable thought!…would make Hillary our avatar of Thatcher.
              Team Blue will Never accept that.

              Reply
      1. JCC

        My email Sig for the last couple of months is:

        “We keep voting for the lesser of two evils, but the evil keeps getting worse and worse.”
        — Dick Gregory

        And I’m sticking to it until this end of this circus.

        Reply
        1. Oregoncharles

          Good one. In fact, the evil keeps getting worse BECAUSE people vote for the “lesser evil.” What did they think would happen?

          Reply
    2. nippersmom

      They didn’t listen to us when we told them that last time. I’ll be (pleasantly) surprised if they do this time.

      Reply
    3. hester

      My way or the highway thinking. It’s why i barely am here these days. A huge middle finger to everyone else.

      Good luck w Trump’s Supreme court nominees.

      Reply
      1. Fiery Hunt

        How’d that Obama Supreme Court nominee work out for ya?

        Oh, yeah. That’s right.
        Corporate Democrats handed that one back to the Repugs by running Hillary.

        #useless

        Reply
      2. Robert Valiant

        My way or the highway thinking. It’s why i barely am here these days. A huge middle finger to everyone else.

        Now, isn’t that ironic?

        Reply
      3. scarn

        >My way or the highway thinking.

        As though people willing to make peace with neoliberalism think or act otherwise. And btw, on the left, it’s “Our way”.

        Reply
      4. Glen

        Heh, I hope you are well paid to post, or even paid by the post or by the letters in the post. Everybody’s gotta put food on the table.

        As for the rest, Bernie 2020!

        Reply
        1. polecat

          I don’t get ANY solicitations from the DNC, DCCC, or the DSCC .. Thank Zeus ! .. because I don’t give them the time of day .. and if they try ROBO-calling, well, all I can say is “good luck to that !”

          Reply
      1. Tvc15

        I’m doubling down and voting 3rd party as I did in ’16. I will vote for Sanders, but never another lesser of two evils. I’m okay burning the place down w 4 more years of Trump if the DNC jams another neoliberal down our throats. Family blog them!

        Reply
  7. shinola

    Re. the USA Today article “Joe Biden is my Harvard…” (1st article under 2020):

    WARNING! If you haven’t read the article – don’t! Truly a WTF, nausea-inducing POS hunk of hagiography.

    A sample of the the author’s, Melinda Henneberger, writing “style”:

    “Now, maybe this is not completely unlike that day in fourth grade when our teacher Miss Wiswall said, “No one in here still believes in Santa Claus, do they?” and I put my hand up and said, “I do.”

    Apparently, there is such a thing as a Biden groupie.

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      Really, more of a Biden ‘claque.’ And a paid ‘claque’ at that.
      As for “Biden groupie,” I would amend that to read, (and this applies to so many politicos now, it’s nauseating,) “XYZ gropee.”

      Reply
      1. roxy

        shinola, thanks for putting it into words, especially “nausea-inducing POS hunk of hagiography.” I read it, at least it was short. Remember, Mrs. Biden informed us only last week that “you have to swallow a little” to favor her husband.

        Reply
    2. katiebird

      and on my porch in Kansas City

      If what she says about her porch is true she must live in KCMO…. because on the Kansas side, I don’t know anyone who likes Biden.

      Reply
    3. Carolinian

      Regular Guy Joe was in my town this morning but at a small venue so I didn’t go to monitor for gaffes. If anything good in the local media will pass along.

      Reply
    4. JohnnyGL

      You left out the best part of the pro-Biden article…

      “Not because I didn’t know the other kids would laugh, and not even because I believed in Santa Claus, but because I wished I did, and wanted to stand up for innocence, or maybe just contrarianism, and against being told what to think. What if some other 9-year-old was sitting there crushed at the news? But back to Joe Biden … Him I do believe in.”

      Vote Biden: Because Fairy Tales!

      Reply
      1. Never Trump Republican Unicorn

        As someone who only exists in the minds of beltway elites when they decide to imagine a swing voter (certainly, they wouldn’t go through the drudgery of actually finding mythical swing voters), I’m glad to see Biden supporters defending fairy tales because I don’t actually exist in physical form, either! But, if I did, I’d vote Biden….because….CENTRISM and TONE and MANNERS are very important!!!

        Reply
    5. JohnnyGL

      “WARNING! If you haven’t read the article – don’t! Truly a WTF, nausea-inducing POS hunk of hagiography.” – I disagree. It’s a really funny article.

      TL;DR version –

      Vote Biden: He’s a really nice guy and people like him and the media is being mean to him like they did with Al Gore. And Santa Claus!

      A compelling argument.

      Reply
    6. Jeff W

      “WARNING! If you haven’t read the article – don’t!”

      Honestly, just reading about “how blessedly comfortable Biden makes” one of these Biden supporters “feel” was warning enough. Politics is, after all, all about feelings—who wouldn”t want to have a beer with Uncle Joe?—and not about policy or voting records or donors. (Hah! Who am I fooling? Biden makes me feel like banging my head against the desk at the utter vacuousness and idiocy of US politics, so maybe it is all about feelings.)

      Reply
    7. Fiery Hunt

      I thought the Harvard/”safe school” reference was an obvious tell. If you’ve got it made in this economy/society, Joe’s your guy…

      bleh.

      Reply
  8. flora

    re:“The freight railway route from China to Europe is not generating business volume” [Freight Waves].

    When the US Interstate highway system was being built the one reason reported in newspapers for its construction was ‘it will improve the economy with improved transport of goods’. Later we all learned that was, in fact, the secondary reason for its construction. The primary reason was military and faster transport of troops and materiel than was possible over the 2-lane highways of the time. Apparently, Eisenhower was shocked at the time it took to move men and equipment over the narrow highways in most of the country before 1950.

    So, when I looked at the silk road RR routes in China, my first though was ‘yes, economic reasons, but also military reasons.’ Before you dismiss the military use for China’s expanded RR system recall what is happening in the South China Sea. Expanded trade and expanded military reach have historically been connected.

    Reply
    1. Arizona Slim

      ISTR reading that Eisenhower’s experience in Germany, with its autobahns, was the inspiration for his advocacy of the American Interstate highway system.

      Reply
    2. JohnnyGL

      Good point to think about in historical context. We know the Chinese leadership is very historically minded and have a bad habit of intimidating their neighbors.

      Reply
      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Historically, the ‘Banquet at Hongmen’ (aka the Feast At Swan Goose Gate) has been celebrated in China, for over 2,000 years.

        The story was set in the aftermath of the fall of the First Dynasty, and the feast set off the Chu-Han Contention for control of Tianxia.

        The eventual winner, Liu Bang, yielded to the Xiangyu, even though the agreement among the various rebel armies was that whoever seized Xianyang (the capital),, as they advanced towards it, first would become the new top dog.

        Even after Liu’s yielding, Xiangyu’s men advised him not to let Liu get away, and set a trap for the latter at the Banquet. The founder of the Han dynasty in fact escaped, after having bribed Xiangyu’s uncle and having one of Liu’s own general perform a famous ‘sword dance.’

        The lesson from that particular history, for over two millennia in China, has been Liu’s yielding to buy time (he accepted Hanzhong basin plus Sichuan) to grow his army, with a help of his very capable chancellor, Xiao He*.

        *Xiao He was protrayed to run after and persuade the future great general Han Xin to return to Liu Bang, at midnight, on a Yuan Dynasty blue and white vase, that sold for then record millions of dollars for Chinese porcelain.

        Reply
    3. Oregoncharles

      I think you’re right about the Silk Road railroad; it runs through Sinkiang, Uighur territory, where there is serious ethnic unrest.

      However, I’m not sure it’s a good choice for the purpose, as railroads are easy to sabotage. “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” offers an extended course on the subject, way back in WW1.

      Reply
    4. ObjectiveFunction

      Yes, for example while ‘opening up’ Appalachia was a post New Deal program, there was little clear civilian or commercial benefit to building Interstate 81; it skirts but does not really link any metro areas of significance, and to this day it is lightly trafficked. OTOH, its military function is quite evident: to carry mechanized forces from KY-TN to the DC capital region, Philadelphia, New York and to the Canadian border if needed. Being well inland, wide and minimally tunneled, the route is not readily cut by enemy invasion or atomic bombing of seaboard cities. 1950s thinking here, remember.

      But as for a rail line providing a logistical route to supply flap-hatted and quilted Sinitic hordes as they pour across Central Asia to the shrill cries of bugles, I think this is easily overplayed. This isn’t 1914 or 1950. Anyway, Chinese youth has far more rewarding pursuits on its mind than hurling stick grenades at Uzbeks for make benefit glorious Middle Kingdom (Invade the sacred homeland of China, now that’s a different story).

      Visceral terror of swarthy hordes from the Eastern steppes is woven deep into our Western psyche, like fear of wolf packs. Our leaders are not above playing on it (yeah there’s a shocker, I know). In practice, OBOR looks to be a herd of white elephants, sinkholes where China’s windfall trade surplus goes to die in make-work schemes for its SOEs. Far from the first such great power boondoggles in history

      One man’s opinion, fwiw

      Reply
    5. Procopius

      Apparently, Eisenhower was shocked at the time it took to move men and equipment over the narrow highways in most of the country before 1950.

      I dunno. Did Hitler promote his construction of the Autobahnen as a stimulus project? I thought he made it clear at the time that they were meant to promote faster military movement, to take advantage of Germany’s “interior lines” in wartime. I would think Eisenhower and George Catlett Marshall would have noticed that. Actually, you wouldn’t move men and materiel over roads anyway. Volume would be too small. And despite civilian panic, there is no way a foreign enemy could mount an invasion across the oceans. Logistics is almost never mentioned in military histories, and yet it’s the heart of real warfare. It’s why the neocons are so desperate to get permanent bases in the Middle East. Anyway, as regards the Interstate Highway System, I think Eisenhower was using military requirements as a way to get a useful economic project past the reactionaries.

      Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      Disaster crapitalism at its finest.

      Can’t the Queen just summon BoJo and dismiss him? I ask in ignorance if British protocol.

      Reply
  9. inode_buddha

    Re the Popeyes and other fast food jobs. Last I checked, breaks are required by law at both state and federal levels. In NY it is a mandatory 15 mins at some time within the first 6 hrs of work, 2 breaks and a lunch for an 8 hr shift. How the hell are the chain operators getting away with this? I’ve been known to take my break regardless what anyone says, because I actually read and understand the fine print on the labor law poster in the break room. Management retaliates, they get a nice fat lawsuit.

    Reply
    1. aj

      I don’t think there is a national law requiring breaks and while several states have one, not all of them do. Louisiana is one that does not. While most businesses have some sort of policy, it is not a state requirement. The retail shops here are often manned by only 1 person all day who doesn’t get any time away from the register. They usually have to shut it down temporarily to even use the restroom.

      Reply
      1. Carolinian

        I believe it is a federal law for hourly employees. Those shopkeepers may be styled as “management” by the business owner. Or perhaps they are the owner.

        Reply
      2. Summer

        The ruling against Wal-Mart, around a decade ago, maybe less, had many big companies scaree about workers not taking breaks.
        What happened to that feat?

        Reply
        1. Rod

          SURPRISE- assumptions are not the LAW:
          from the US Dept of Labor:

          When must breaks and meal periods be given?
          The FLSA does not require breaks or meal periods be given to workers. Some states may have requirements for breaks or meal periods. If you work in a state which does not require breaks or meal periods, these benefits are a matter of agreement between the employer and the employee (or the employee’s representative).
          In general, the FLSA does not require breaks or meal periods be given to workers. However, all employers covered by the FLSA must comply with the Act’s break time for nursing mothers provision. Please refer to the Wage and Hour Division’s Nursing Mothers website to obtain additional information on this topic. Some states may have additional requirements for breaks or meal periods. If you work in a state which does not require breaks or meal periods, these
          benefits are a matter of agreement between the employer and the employee (or the employee’s representative).

          to be fair, I used NO LUNCH on our NC Construction Site today as a hook to differentiate between assumptions about Labor Law and actual Labor Law–which always culminated in very, very vocal and anguished responses and the inevitable DoL search to prove me wrong.

          Like I told hundreds of wannabe adult student Carpenters: Read it and Weep.

          When I began using this ploy, with every class every semester, between 2001and 2013, the Question on Lunch Break was featured in the US DoL FAQ almost front page—-today it required multiple searches to retrieve this illustration

          Reply
          1. Rod

            As a side note–only 23 States and Territories of the US require a worker break within an 8 hr block of work. 27 more States comply with the FSLA and those States employers are free to establish(or not) their own policies.

            Reply
    2. Amfortas the hippie

      i don’t know about other places, but in Texas, it’s a case of “who you gonna call?”
      the agencies don’t answer the phone, or can’t be bothered to do anything(i made these calls a few times, over a$$hole bosses that needed more than just a visits from the health department)
      other option is to sue…but in 25 years of cooking, i never made enough to even say hello to a lawyer.
      the labor law system…much like the public defender’s office(you have a right to that, too) is underfunded, understaffed, and ignored by the rest of gooberment.
      there’s no one on your side.

      in my case, i was talented enough(i did the work of 3-6 people, and could lead, too) that i could demand sundays off, and walk out for a smoke without asking…but i also never abused it. if i was needed in the kitchen, i was in the kitchen. of course, i ended up firing every boss i ever worked for, eventually,lol.
      and i avoided corporate kitchen’s like the plague…worked a few(a corporate italian place that has nice commercials about smiling chefs lovingly ladeling the lobster sauce over the linguini—when the reality is essentially tv dinners on plates(drops mike))
      i prefer mom and pops, where you know where the boss lives. just like with banking, such close involvement is a check on bad behaviour

      Reply
    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      -access to lawyers; this might be harder than is realized. How does a debt laden law school graduate set up shop in many parts of the country and make a living? Interstate Hwy fast food franchise? Which lawyer should they see? They aren’t all good or even adequate.
      -costs of lawyers (good legal work requires both expertise and labor)
      -knowledge of the employees themselves
      -budget demands; can you afford to lose your job? Is dishwasher X a problem employee?
      -the time demands on the potential plaintiff
      -is the lawsuit effort worth it? Its also a tax on time.

      We need labor laws, but we also need a federal regulatory system, a functioning press with resources on the local level, and more citizen education through functioning unions. I feel like things have been so out of whack for so long that this kind of abuse cropped up with little opposition or practical means to address it.

      Reply
      1. JohnnyGL

        Also, a lot of lawyers want cash, up-front before they’ll even talk about your case.

        Even if they take your case….they’re not looking to go to court. That’s long and expensive and as a fast-food worker, you can’t pay. The employer knows that and will stall for time, since they can wait you out. Your lawyer is looking for a quick settlement, which means only a few thousand bucks, at best, with the lawyer taking 1/3 of a cut. That way your lawyer can get the best return on his/her time invested. They’re not going to get too rough with the employer, because on the next similar case, the lawyer might be working the other side. That other side pays better.

        Unions are a much better form of protection, but yes, they’re not a panacea, either.

        Reply
        1. inode_buddha

          Costs nothing to file a complaint at the Labor Dept. Many labor cases are taken on contingency — most disability cases are. Its not like you’re using your own lawyer cash up front. They take the case if you have a case and they think they can win. HOWEVER the law is written with a “poison pill” clause such that if management retaliates, its an automatic win for the plaintiff.

          Reply
    4. Tom Stone

      Inode, I was told that Pope Yes gets away with this because of its affiliation with the Vatican.
      Trust me, I’m a Realtor.

      Reply
  10. Drake

    “Lifecycle of a Leaf” [Current Affairs]

    The modern agricultural system is, from start to finish, a set of processes for transforming petroleum into food. The only surprise to me is that we still use the sun at all.

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Ancient people were awed by the sun, the moon, the stars, etc.

      What came out of their mouths today sounds a lot like superstition. Perhaps due to difference between our subconscious awareness and conscious awareness.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        I am still awed by the sun, the moon & the stars, and the mushroomy thunderclouds yesterday about 15 miles away that had the look of a few minutes after the bomb went off in Hiroshima.

        Perhaps the better way to think of their overhead, was they never needed to buy calendars.

        Reply
        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Wuk, I learned a lot the other day from your post about your father being in the resistance, and his reluctance to talk about it decades later.

          Thanks.

          Reply
          1. Wukchumni

            Like many of his generation, the ones that saw true horrors never let it cross their lips, history bottled up with a cork on it.

            Reply
    2. Amfortas the hippie

      i thought this art. would be another paeon for high tech gee whiz neoagriculture…but i’m pleased that it wasn’t.
      pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter.
      given what we know, right now, big ag needs to be killed and busted into a billion bits…right now.

      Reply
  11. Arizona Slim

    My thoughts on the WaPo dog park story? Here goes:

    In Tucson, I think that our city’s parks and recs department did something very right. For the most part, our dog parks aren’t plopped down in residential neighborhoods. Instead, they’re inside city parks.

    One of our biggest and most popular dog parks is in Reid Park, and it is nowhere near anyone’s house. That’s as it should be.

    Speaking as someone who has been (unwillingly) subjected to nonstop barking projected into my house, I think that dog parks and residential areas don’t mix. People deserve to have the quiet use and peaceful enjoyment of their living space.

    Reply
  12. Duck1

    Not disputing that the Chinese rail effort may not have ramped up to plan. On the other hand moving empty rail cars and containers of various types seems to be an integral part of rail logistics. I live along the Columbia River and observe the traffic on Burlington Northern tracks when nearby. Mile long trains of petroleum cars, coal hoppers and grain travel westerly, and I can’t think of what would fill these things in the easterly direction. OTOH sawn lumber, imported cars and containers move easterly. I imagine some of the containers may move back to the coast empty, and may even travel on a ship empty. Obviously capitalism is collapsing because of this.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      The chimera ruse of recycling was owed to the idea that the TEUfel was in the details, that only by utilizing empty containers headed back to the middle kingdom, could it ever make any sense from a financial stratagem, not that it ever did.

      We really have to find some animal common enough like say deer, and convince the Chinese that a part of Bambi will get them horny.

      We’d fill those outbound containers, toot suite!

      Reply
    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Localism.

      The climatic end of the Samurai Trilogy, about Miyamoto Musashi, is the duel scene with his arch rival Sasaki on Ganryu Island.

      That early morning, he hires a boatman to row him over. On the way, he picks up a wooden oar from the boat, and, with a small knife, shapes it into a weapon.

      And with that, against Sasaki’s sword that was hammered into being by some famous master, along with taking advantage of a natural phenomenon (the sunrise, by positioning himself so as to avoid looking into it), he prevails.

      The lesson or idea is very Asian, of non-Western if you must insist – you use whatever materials you have near you.

      Reply
    3. a different chris

      I dunno. The Chinese “plan” horizon is quite long. I suspect they are surprised that anybody is even trying to evaluate it at this point.

      Reply
  13. Jerry B

    ===America’s opioid epidemic is a disaster exacerbated by corporate greed, a failing health system and lack of political will===

    While the statement above it completely on target, one factor in America’s opiod epidemic is related to two other posts on todays Water Cooler:

    ===I was working like a slave’: Exhausted Popeyes employees describe a harrowing situation amid chicken-sandwich chaos, including working 60-hour weeks and shifts with no breaks===

    ===Capitalism Is Making Us Sick: A Q&A With Emily Guendelsberger About Her New Book, On the Clock===

    I worked in plastics injection molding for roughly 25 years and stopped because my body could not take it anymore. It did not matter if I was a “white collar” engineer, the manufacturing companies treat everyone like a piece of meat/human pinata/disposable commodity. I was fortunate that my wife through her IT career had a good job doing IT support for a hospital system which helped pay the bills while I changed careers.

    The only way I could be working in plastics injection molding today is I would need to take painkiller opiods (i.e. Vicodin) every day.

    The other drugs that people take to survive in the neoliberal work world and also make people sick but do not get the media attention as they are not considered “addictive” are the NSAID’s i.e. Advil, Motrin, Aleve, etc.

    Like a NC commenter said recently “It’s an economy to die for”!

    Reply
  14. Ds1848

    Re Lifecycle of a Leaf

    The author outlines 23+ steps in the process of lettuce production where fossil fuel inputs are used, but fails to say how much this adds up to and how this compares to a locally grown alternative. You can add up all the energy inputs in growing lettuce on irrigated land and shipping it from California to New York and my guess is it would still be less than growing it in a local hydroponic warehouse on a similar scale.

    The author does not provide evidence that his ag venture was eco-friendly compared to conventional methods – instead he simply chalks its failure up to ag ventures not being sexy enough to attract investment.

    You can definitely reduce the carbon footprint of modern agriculture but that way involves telling people they can only eat what’s in season locally and, most especially, they can’t eat meat. And that’s not even addressing the rest of the developing world who depends upon our endless rows of monocrops. Who is going to win over people with this argument?

    Im against big business and all of that good stuff. The ag industry is too concentrated just like every other. But to knock the very concept of modern agriculture is just ridiculous. There are 9 billion people on this planet who need to eat. No one is getting any food without a high degree of specialization and fuel inputs.

    Reply
    1. Drake

      “There are 9 billion people on this planet who need to eat. No one is getting any food without a high degree of specialization and fuel inputs.”

      I was going to reply with something along these lines also. The trouble is, much of the system is dependent specifically on petroleum fuel inputs, which I don’t believe are replaceable. Or sustainable. Our current economic boom seems largely due to fracking, which is not even profitable for most of the companies engaged in it, and well exhaustion happens much more quickly than with conventional wells. I shudder to think what happens to that 9 billion number when cheap plentiful oil runs out. Of course we might be up to 12 billion by the time that happens.

      It’s one of the reasons I shake my head when I hear someone claim that we have 12 years to bring GG emissions down to zero. Never going to happen. I don’t think I’m exaggerating to claim that it would be catastrophic on a global level. No one is going to go there voluntarily. But we’ll almost certainly get there involuntarily at some point.

      Reply
  15. Summer

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/aug/28/boris-johnson-suspend-parliament-mps-no-deal-brexit/
    “Javid, writing in the Daily Telegraph, suggested he would not break Philip Hammond’s strict fiscal rules, saying the government could “afford to spend more on the people’s priorities – without breaking the rules around what the government should spend – and we’ll do that in a few key areas like schools, hospitals and police”.
    The chancellor said his economic priorities were health, education and policing, suggesting that other key areas including housing might miss out on major investment.
    He said: “Health and education aren’t just the names of departments – they’re lifelines of opportunity, just as they were for me. The teachers who persuaded me that I had what it takes to study economics, and put me on the path to becoming chancellor of the exchequer…”

    Yes, you read that correctly: “other key areas including housing might miss out on major investment.”

    A roof over your head has nothing to do with opportunity? Your health? Your ability to have the stability to COMPLETE an education? Corruption combined with madness is a terrible thing…

    This is an attack on the lives of people they deem undesirable with a misguided notion they have a created a society that will produce better people….

    Reply
  16. kareninca

    From a WSJ editorial (“The Federal Reserve Resistance
    A recent official (William Dudley) urges the central bank to help defeat Donald Trump.”)(https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-federal-reserve-resistance-11566948536?mod=hp_opin_pos_3)

    “There’s even an argument that the election itself falls within the Fed’s purview,” Mr. Dudley writes. “After all, Trump’s reelection arguably presents a threat to the U.S. and global economy, to the Fed’s independence and its ability to achieve its employment and inflation objectives. If the goal of monetary policy is to achieve the best long-term economic outcome, then Fed officials should consider how their decisions will affect the political outcome in 2020.”

    I thought that the Federal Reserve was supposed to be politically neutral.
    Trump seems to have a gift for to causing his every adversary to reveal his or her most damaging qualities.

    Reply
  17. Jerry B

    ===America’s opioid epidemic is a disaster exacerbated by corporate greed, a failing health system and lack of political will===

    What has also contributed to the opioid epidemic is many people are looking for “synthetic” forms of things they used to get when we had more social connections, local extended families, social capital, etc.

    In his book Affective Neuroscience, the neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp has written about the positive contribution of the natural/biological opioids our bodies produce as a result of the feelings we get when we form social bonds, early attachment and nurturance relationships with caregivers, etc.

    Love and the Social Bond: The Sources of Nurturance and Maternal Behavior
    https://stanford.edu/~knutson/ans/ansch13.pdf

    Loneliness and the Social Bond
    https://stanford.edu/~knutson/ans/ansch14.pdf

    Modern Day Capitalism and Neoliberalism have externalities that have dire consequences for many people

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      Heard that the Sacklers want to buy the country off for $12 Billion, hoping we’ll settle for pennies on a dead man’s eyes.

      Reply
      1. Polar Donkey

        In 2008, representatives from a 3 letter government agency met with the guy in Memphis who ran a major illegal drug distribution network. They offered a partnership that would switch from pot and coke to opiod distribution. He turned them down and 2 months later he got busted. The drug trade changed and those government agency representatives got their distribution network. It is obvious the US government knew this would happen and Sacklers were there to prime the pump.

        Reply
          1. JBird4049

            It would not surprise me that this is not true…but considering the Iran-Contra Scandal included a CIA cocaine smuggling operation into Los Angeles, which helped to create the Crack Epidemic, having the Feds involved with opioids is very plausible.

            Reply
  18. barrisj

    Looking in vain for MSM coverage of repeated Israeli air attacks recently across the ME — Iraq(!), Syria, Lebanon, and as usual the reason trotted out was “Iranian threats”, none of which were immediately confirmed. Any movement by Trump toward even suggesting a possible meeting with senior Iranian officials sets Bibi and the IDF off on another drone/rocket run somewhere/anywhere in the neighborhood. Granted it’s getting close to the Israeli election rerun, with Likud not looking particularly formidable, and the usual US suspects urging the US to join hands and show “loyalty” toward Israel, but a serious miscalculation by Bibi could in fact provoke, e.g., Hizbullah, or the Republican Guard, heretofore very restrained in any counteraction — verbal condemnation only — to actually let fly with a barrage of missiles and/or drones. Shit will hit the fan pronto.

    Reply
    1. Camp Lo

      The Damascus attack targeted Iranian drone operators. The attack at the Syrian-Iraqi border were militia trucks hauling Iranian drones. The Beirut attack was an assassination of the senior Hizbollah liaison to Al Qods outside a safe house. The battlefield is being prepped in a highly visible manner to discourage aggression.

      I have no idea how Netanyahu is polling, but Israelis are most comfortable when their elected officials are gridlocked, peace plans with Palestine are in tatters, and reserves are packing their bags. Call it the “gestalt” perspective. It jives with their worldview.

      Reply
  19. Summer

    Re: “Hot” Rosa Parks Doll…

    What’s the other sales tag line? “Because activism is nothing unless you look sexy…” (accessories not included $$$$).

    Are they going to have a Fannie Lou Hamer doll without the bruises from the police beating?

    Reply
  20. Summer

    Lifecycle of a Leaf” [Current Affairs]. Oy

    And this is all enabled and decided by lawyers, execs, and managers throughout the supply chain.

    Reply
  21. Summer

    RE:If you have an addiction, you’re screwed’ – How Facebook and social casinos target the vulnerable” [Reveal News].

    I think the evidence is in enough where it can be said “If you’re on Facebook, you’re screwed. If not, it’s a fight to keep it out of your life.”

    Reply
  22. fdr-fan

    I don’t buy the notion that Ike truly built the interstates for military use.

    Most big military hardware still moves on railroads.

    If the interstate system was meant for military use, it would have gone through most major military bases. But it doesn’t. Army bases and ammunition plants always have railway connections, but the interstates don’t go through them.

    The story at the time was that Ike called the system “defense” so Congress could appropriate the funds without getting fussy about constitutional limitations. This makes more sense.

    Reply
  23. ewmayer

    “This Nobel Prize-Winning Idea Is Instead Piling Debt on Millions” [Bloomberg] — the headline is trying hard to connote the irony of a “Nobel Prize-Winning Idea” being used for ill, but if one insted corrects the headline to read “This Central-Bank-Prize-Winning Idea Is Piling Debt on Millions”, the alleged irony ceases to exist. Because debt peonage is what modern banking is all about, at least at the retail level. IOW, a Capatin-Renard “I am shocked!” moment right out of Casablanca.

    Reply
  24. Wukchumni

    I see the barbarous is trending upwards, and one of the key tenets of the demise of the old standard was everybody was stony broke in the first world players that made things happen, with the exception of the USA, who also held about 80% of above ground physical supplies.

    The situation is just the opposite now, everybody is filthy rich in 1’s & 0’s, to the point where another country could end up with 80% of the physical, without the rest of the world so much as noticing.

    Reply
  25. Lou Anton

    RE: Heroin deaths map

    The 2012-16 hotspots in Illinois perfectly follow Interstate 55 from Chicago to St
    Louis, MO. From Chicago, it goes:
    Closer-in SW suburbs, some comfortable some not
    20-year declining Joliet
    Small-town farmland
    Seemingly okay-doing Springfield in the middle of the state, home to the capital, all things Lincoln, and a lot of anything else
    Small-town farmland
    Southern Illinois STL suburbs, mix of thriving metropolis, abandoned steel towns, small-town farmland

    It’s like a microcosm of the different situations where opoids thrive (in the same way a virus does).

    Reply
  26. Pat

    My mother was addicted to gambling, slot machines specifically. I have to disagree with one point. There is no protection for the addict in a casino either. Sure occasionally you might take a few hundred in winnings but the losses are everything, or almost everything. And I am not so sure she and my stepfather wouldn’t have been homeless if she had lived much longer.

    Here’s the thing in the aftermath of her death I got to read a long article in The NY Times magazine about how casinos and slot machine manufacturers were teaming with video game designers and neuroscientists to help design the look, lights, sounds and even to the optimal timing for small wins in order to keep players at the machines as long as possible.

    Let’s just say I am not seeing the big difference between that and the nefarious designs of online games regarding the manipulation of the “customer”.

    Reply
    1. Massinissa

      I believe you misunderstand: ‘regular’ gambling has always been predatory, but its getting to the point where that is even more nakedly apparent to everyone, dispensing with even the pretense of monetary reward. Of course removing that carrot might be a good thing, in that at least some people spend money gambling on promises of reward, but for some gamblers such a pretense is not even necessary. Its heavily destructive either way, one is just more readily apparent to at least some extent.

      Reply
  27. jlowe

    Nice picture of the thistle. I let them and the bugloss grow in my yard and each summer they are covered with bumblebees. Just my small part in support of pollinators. Bugloss is regulated as a noxious weed in my state and is under quarantine in my county – it molds alfalfa after it’s cut and baled. I get some small amusement from basing my pollinator garden around a noxious weed (yes, that’s what the agriculture department around here calls it).

    Reply
  28. Copeland

    Lifecycle of a leaf:

    In my Seattle garden producing arugula is easier than falling down the stairs. I cant think of an easier crop for the home garden, it grows itself in this climate. If I didn’t actively cut off seedheads much of my garden would consist of arugula. Almost no water needed -even in our usually (not this year!) dry summers- no serious pests or disease, can be harvested and eaten any time it has leaves which is most of the year. Tolerates quite a lot of freezing temps in winter and bounces right back. Really a shame that most people that want it don’t just grow it themselves, instead have it shipped from CA/AZ.

    Reply
    1. Kurt Sperry

      I can grow a number of useful plants in my yard in W. Washington with ~0 fossil fuel inputs. It’s not that difficult, it just doesn’t scale up to agribusiness scale. You only need far more and smaller farms to do it. Which is a great goal in itself. The fossil fuel inputs are made necessary by too few farms and farmers trying to supply the demand.

      Reply
  29. clonalantibody

    Where are Warren’s “Plans”? the issues page on her website consists of elevator pitches with no details or solutions. There are no bills in the Senate either. Can somebody point me to where she has any detailed plans?

    Reply
      1. clonalantibody

        Thanks for the link – her website is very hard to navigate and hard to find things, and it does not read well. The Medium site appears to be a sequential presentation of plans, with no organization and navigational capabilities.

        While the plans may be good or bad, their organization on both the website and Medium is poor

        Reply
  30. pjay

    Re: “Capitalism Is Making Us Sick”

    Sarah Jones: “What really struck me most about your book is that the jobs you held — at Amazon, and Convergys, and McDonald’s — were not jobs designed to let human beings be human beings. What sort of psychological effect does that have on workers?”

    Karl Marx: “First, the fact that labor is external to the worker, i.e., it does not belong to his intrinsic nature; that in his work, therefore, he does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind. The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is not working, and when he is working he does not feel at home… the external character of labor for the worker appears in the fact that it is not his own, but someone else’s, that it does not belong to him, that in it he belongs, not to himself, but to another… As a result, therefore, man (the worker) only feels himself freely active in his animal functions – eating, drinking, procreating, or at most in his dwelling and in dressing-up, etc.; and in his human functions he no longer feels himself to be anything but an animal. What is animal becomes human and what is human becomes animal.”

    Perhaps that was a different interview. Anyway, the more things change…

    Reply
  31. upstater

    The Der Spiegel article on the Boeing 737 Max is well worth a read! One of the best on the subject I have read.

    It contained much information that I had not seen before, plus organized past information in a cohesive whole. The issue of foreign certifications, insurance and liability is thoroughly covered.

    Reply
  32. Jack Parsons

    The carbon cap&trade thefts I hadn’t heard about. Clearly, a carbon tax would be less vulnerable…

    “five years ago an astonishing one in ten Americans over sixteen had their identity stolen.”
    Much of this identity theft is by undoc’d immigrants when they work legit jobs. The “theft” includes contributing into the Social Security accounts of the “victims”. At times in the 2000s, when the economy was driven by often illegal labor doing kitchen upgrades, these “fraudulent” contributions to Social Security were up to 10% of the total intake.

    Reply
  33. Procopius

    … a highly specialized global market of suppliers has developed that can deliver almost any part in the desired quality at the desired moment in time.

    And yet the F-35 is unable to meet an availability rate of better than 30% because spare parts are not available? What’s wrong with this picture?

    Reply

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