2:00PM Water Cooler 9/9/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“U.S. manufacturers are investing less in their factories and workforces as they cope with uncertainty from the trade dispute with China…. [S}ome companies are putting business plans on hold and others are cutting capital spending, decisions that will ripple across supply chains as suppliers adjust to a leaner purchasing market” [Wall Street Journal]. “Truck maker Navistar International Corp. expects to spend 25% less on capital projects this year compared to last year, and Caterpillar Inc.’s capital spending dropped 16% in the June quarter from the year before. U.S. imports of capital goods also fell in July to the lowest level since 2017. Company executives says the shifting contours of the tariffs between the U.S. and China have made it more difficult to forecast sales and costs, and making a choice to invest more of a gamble.” • Animal spirits….

“The conflicting signals over the grain are among the complications U.S. farm exporters face as they adjust to diminished agriculture purchases from China. Corn is one of many commodities at the heart of restructuring supply chains as a result of the U.S.-China trade dispute, and the search for new markets shows how tough it will be for farmers to match production to demand in foreign markets” [Wall Street Journal]. “Farmers turned to more corn production after China stopped buying U.S. soybeans, creating an inventory surplus that has sent prices tumbling.”


“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) is in the process of developing the following interactive chart:

And here is (are) the latest poll(s) as of 9/9/2019, 12:00 PM EDT

Biden up, Warren and Sanders exchange the lead again. And the polling detail:

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 2019-08-30: Now the polls aggregated (all available) are shown at the bottom of the poll; unlike RCP, there is no “secret sauce” for poll selection. We also give more detail about each poll than RCP, and allow candidates to be selected or deselected. That’s three reasons what dk is doing beats RCP, and if we can make the individual polls selectable/highlightable, that will be four reasons. With more to come, grid willing.

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Harris (D)(1): “Internal Kamala Harris document acknowledges ‘Summer Slump'” [Politico]. “A briefing memo accidentally left behind at a restaurant here showed Kamala Harris’ staff expected her to be grilled on her lack of presence in the state as well as her campaign’s ‘summer slump.’… The document had several pages of talking points, including: “NH absolutely a priority for my campaign — excited to be back for the convention and other events around the state,” and, “Note: Recent polling- Boston Globe/Suffolk (8/1-8/4) Biden 21%, Sanders 17%, Warren 14%, YOU 8%.” • I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here, except possibly the “YOU,” oft-repeated.

UPDATE Harris (D)(2): “Teamsters Union Splits From Uber and Lyft on California Worker Rights Law” [Bloomberg]. “One asset for Uber is Laphonza Butler. She was president of one of the SEIU’s largest local unions until last year and is now a partner at SCRB Strategies, a California-based business and political consulting firm. There, Butler has advised and represented Uber in its dealings with organized labor on employment issues and also serves as an adviser to the presidential campaign of Kamala Harris, the Democratic senator from California.” • Well, well, well.

Sanford (R)(1): “And Sanford Makes Three: The Former S.C. Governor Enters GOP Primary To Challenge Trump” [Inside Sources]. “Former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford made it official on Sunday: He’s joining the GOP presidential primary field. The announcement comes just hours after his home-state GOP announced they won’t even be holding a presidential primary next year….Sanford has been discussing a possible run for weeks, and he spent two days in New Hampshire last month talking to party leaders and activists — including a stop at the Center Right Meeting in Manchester hosted by former NH House Speaker Bill O’Brien…. Sanford enters a field that already featured former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, not to mention an incumbent Republican with close to 90 percent support within the GOP….. President Trump reacted to the announcement via Twitter on Monday morning, mocking Sanford over the infamous ‘Appalachian Trail’ incident when, as governor, he was caught having an extramarital affair and labeling his primary opponents ‘The Three Stooges.'” • Sanford, when on the Appalachian Trail, did not call his primary opponents “The Three Stooges.” Commas are your friend!

UPDATE Sanders (D)(1): “Bernie Sanders better organized, more focused in SC than four years ago” [Post and Courier]. “What is noticeably different from 2016 is that Sanders is also more assertive in trying to connect with South Carolina’s black communities, which are expected to make up more than 60 percent of the primary turnout. For instance, he used an August stop at the Greenview neighborhood in Columbia to release what he called his ‘comprehensive plan to reform the entire American criminal justice system.’… Then there was his visit to Denmark, a tiny South Carolina community of 3,000 where a fight is continuing over the quality of the water. More than half of the Sanders’ campaign staff in South Carolina is African American, [Sanders’ South Carolina communications director Michael Wukela] said. … In the audience was Judy Dozier, a 68-year-old nurse assistant from Georgetown who said she was attending her first presidential political rally ever…. ‘He is trying to help,’ she said. ‘He is not trying to hurt.'”

Sanders (D)(2):

The Sanders campaign did the same thing in Iowa. Last campaign we had a lot of reader reports on signage. I guess this year we need reports from the field on door-knocking — both the knockers and the knocked!

Warren (D)(1): “Warren endorses Texas Democrat Cuellar’s primary challenger” [The Hill (RH)]. “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Monday endorsed Jessica Cisneros, a Democratic primary challenger to Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)…. Cisneros launched her campaign in June and was immediately endorsed by Justice Democrats, the group that helped Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in her primary bid against 10-term incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.). The liberal advocacy group has made Cuellar a top target since January, bashing his voting record.” • Tacking left after meeting with Clinton?

Warren (D)(2): “How Elizabeth Warren Raised Big Money Before She Denounced Big Money” [New York Times]. “[E]arly this year, Ms. Warren made a bold bet that would delight the left: She announced she was quitting this big-money circuit in the 2020 presidential primary, vowing not to attend private fund-raisers or dial up rich donors anymore. Admirers and activists praised her stand — but few noted the fact that she had built a financial cushion by pocketing big checks the years before…. The open secret of Ms. Warren’s campaign is that her big-money fund-raising through 2018 helped lay the foundation for her anti-big-money run for the presidency. Last winter and spring, she transferred $10.4 million in leftover funds from her 2018 Senate campaign to underwrite her 2020 run, a portion of which was raised from the same donor class she is now running against.” • The only venue I’ve previously seen this story was the Gloucester Times, to which we linked on June 17, 2019.

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“Inside Democrats’ 2020 Trump war room” [Axios]. “The DNC research team has mined thousands of lawsuits from nearly 50 states as part of a massive new trove on President Trump that will be weaponized through pols and reporters in key battlegrounds….. The research includes roughly 7,000 lawsuits, as well an extensive document detailing every time then-candidate Trump told supporters at his 2016 campaign rallies that Mexico would pay for the wall…. A source familiar said this document will likely find its way to local reporters, groups and Democrats in battleground states as Trump diverts funds from the military to pay for his border wall…. Using Trump’s specific actions and broken promises is how DNC chairman Tom Perez is advising party officials and surrogates to define him in states he won in 2016 that they think are crucial to their 2020 election efforts.” • Never get in a pissing match with a skunk….

Health Care


Rahm landed on his feet with “New York investment banking boutique Centerview Partners” (see, e.g., “Centerview builds record on pharma deals“). So I’m happy for him.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Exxon Mobil Is Funding Centrist Democratic Think Tank, Disclosures Reveal” [The Intercept]. “The Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist Democratic think tank that grew out of the party’s pro-business wing in the 1980s and ’90s, received $50,000 from Exxon Mobil in 2018 via its parent organization, the Third Way Foundation, according to the oil giant’s 2018 Worldwide Giving Report.” • Ka-ching.

Brake light clinics:

I can’t emphasize enough how much I like this DSA program. In addition to preventing some number of black people, who are often stopped by cops for minor traffic infractions, from getting whacked, DSA members are actually meeting people who, well, need their brakelights fixed (as opposed to, say, needing somebody to give their dissertation a reading). Also, serving the working class is what socialists should do.

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of interest today.

Real Estate: “Foreign Investment in U.S. Commercial Property Drops Almost 50%” [Bloomberg]. “Deals totaled $16.9 billion, down from a record $32.7 billion in the same period last year, according to a report by CBRE Group Inc. Much of the decline was in spending on large mergers and acquisitions, which tumbled 83%, the brokerage said. Individual asset and portfolio sales fell 26%.”

Retail: “Lord & Taylor Will Be Sold to Le Tote, a Clothing Rental Start-Up” [New York Times]. “It’s a surprising marriage, especially given the relatively low profile of Le Tote. The San Francisco-based company, started in 2012, lacks the name recognition of Rent the Runway, the best-known clothing rental business, and has raised only $75 million in venture capital. (It is still securing financing for the purchase.) It is one-tenth the size of Lord & Taylor based on revenue, Mr. Tondon said….. The idea emerged from discussions Le Tote was having with Lord & Taylor about helping the chain develop rental and subscription services, he said. Clothing and accessory rentals have been on a tear recently, attracting interest from high-end designers to mall chains like American Eagle. The start-up grew to believe it could use its technology and data know-how to personalize store visits and online shopping for Lord & Taylor customers, while injecting new fuel into its rental offering.” • Heaven forfend customers should go to a store and be helped by a competent and knowledgeable salesperson!

Shipping: “Trucking companies appear to be bracing along with factory owners for a slower goods-producing U.S. economy. Trucking fleets slashed payrolls by 4,500 jobs last month” [Wall Street Journal]. “The halt in hiring after a four-month expansion coincides with tepid job expansion in businesses that push parts and finished products through distribution networks and the pace of hiring slowed across the logistics field. Goods-producing companies added just 12,000 jobs to the country’s hiring growth in August, and employment in manufacturing rose by only 3,000 jobs. A big share of that growth came in a transportation-equipment sector that is already projecting production cutbacks in the coming months. Many big fleet operators have signaled they are focused on maintaining pricing leverage they won following last year’s surge in freight demand even as shipping cools down. The latest jobs figures aren’t likely to turn instead to adding capacity.”

UPDATE The Bezzle: “The People Paid to Dox Airbnb Addresses” [Vice]. “But a cottage industry of tech companies dedicated to uncovering the exact addresses of Airbnb and HomeAway properties has popped up, and is paying human contractors to find these addresses using Google Maps, Zillow, White Pages, Facebook, and other online sources and give them to governments, Motherboard has learned. City governments say they need these addresses to make sure Airbnbs are in compliance with local regulations… ” • And the “cottage industry” uses pieceworkers hired on Mechanical Turk. For example: “A current contractor leaked Motherboard an internal training video for those working for Host Compliance. When working on a task, contractors are presented with a Google Maps style interface, with yellow and orange pins on top of buildings, according to the video. Orange pins are ones that the automatic part of the system has determined are likely rental properties, the video narrator says. Contractors can use people search tools such as WhitePages.com embedded within the Host Compliance panel to conduct searches.” Hilariously, Tote Bag Radio falls for the PR of Host Compliance, writing: “Host Compliance uses artificial intelligence software to figure out the address and owner.”

UPDATE The Bezzle: “Uber And Lyft Take A Lot More From Drivers Than They Say [Jalopnik]. “Jalopnik asked drivers to send us fare receipts showing a breakdown of how much the rider paid for the trip, how much of that fare Uber or Lyft kept, and what the driver earned…. In total, we received 14,756 fares…. Of all the fares Jalopnik examined, Uber kept 35 percent of the revenue, while Lyft kept 38 percent. These numbers are roughly in line with a previous study by Lawrence Mishel at the Economic Policy Institute which concluded Uber’s take rate to be roughly one-third, or 33 percent…. Those take rates are 10.6 percent and 8.5 percent higher than Uber and Lyft’s publicly reported figures, respectively.”

Tech: “Apple, Foxconn Broke a Chinese Labor Law to Build Latest iPhones” [Bloomberg]. “Apple Inc. and manufacturing partner Foxconn violated a Chinese labor rule by using too many temporary staff in the world’s largest iPhone factory, the companies confirmed following a report that also alleged harsh working conditions. The claims came from China Labor Watch, which issued the report ahead of an Apple event on Tuesday to announce new iPhones. The non-profit advocacy group investigates conditions in Chinese factories, and says it has uncovered other alleged labor rights violations by Apple partners in the past. For its latest report, CLW said undercover investigators worked in Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant in China, including one who was employed there for four years. One of the main findings: Temporary staff, known as dispatch workers, made up about 50% the workforce in August. Chinese labor law stipulates a maximum of 10%, CLW noted.”

UPDATE Tech: “How Cam Models Changed the Porn World Forever” [Vice]. “”This is all part of my actual bedroom, where I eat, sleep, and fuck,” [adult cam star Ela Darling] says in the video. It looks like a room you’d come back to after any date, not the filming studio of an industry-pioneering cam model and chief marketing officer of PVR, a virtual reality porn technology company. But the casualness of the setting doesn’t make it accidental. Darling is catering to a market that seeks the fantasy of the real: messy, silly, mundane life. ‘When people want content directly from a performer, they want something that’s authentic,’ Darling said over the phone. ‘They don’t want some big staged scene, they want something that feels like getting a glimpse into your life, into your sex life.'” • Significant because many (all?) content innovation begins with erotica, and propagates from there.

UPDATE Tech: “Bang Bros Bought a Huge Porn Doxing Forum and Set Fire to It” [Vice]. • Next stop, entire data centers?


Why does Google — I know why, but hear me out — put paid results at the top? Why not just put them in a sidebar, to the right?

Fodder for the Bulls: “This is the factor that’s likely to determine whether there’s a U.S. recession” [Washington Post]. “Where things go from here largely hinges on a single factor: the almighty consumer. Broadly speaking, economic growth in the United States is driven by three factors — spending by consumers, the government and businesses. At the moment, businesses have pulled back because of the trade war, and government spending is not expected to change much, especially with a two-year budget deal in place. That leaves the consumer as the most significant variable that can change the country’s fortunes… The concern is that after businesses stop spending, they typically pare down hiring — or even start layoffs. That would be a devastating blow to those who lose their jobs, and it has wider psychological effects. Even for those who are still employed, negative headlines about market drops, mass layoffs and gloomy expectations can spook Americans into tightening their belts.” • Now, if there were a Jobs Guarantee…

UPDATE Fodder for the Bulls: “Are We Headed for a Recession?” [Dean Baker, Jacobin]. “At the most basic level, it is important to recognize that some sectors are very cyclical, meaning they grow rapidly in upturns and fall sharply in recessions, and others tend not to fluctuate very much over the course of a business cycle. The cyclical group is led by housing construction, durable goods consumption (cars and big household appliances), nonresidential construction, equipment investment, and inventories. These components of demand tend to plunge in a recession. On the other hand, we have several components of demand that are mostly unresponsive to the business cycle. Spending on consumer services (largely medical spending and rent) varies little over the course of the business cycle. Spending on consumer services fell just 0.3 percent in 2009 and actually rose through all prior postwar recessions. This point about the varying cyclicality of different sectors matters for recession predictions because the highly cyclical components have shrunk sharply as a share of the economy in the last four decades, as the less cyclical components have grown.”

UPDATE Honey for the Bears: “Maybe Warren Buffett Is Warning Us About Something” [Bloomberg]. “he vast cash hoard of his company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., has been vaster only once before — just before the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. And Buffett has already told us how he likes to gauge the stock market’s relative value, Nir writes: He compares it to GDP. And, uh, this is pretty ugly.” Handy chart:

Readers, do you have views on this chart? (Note that I think Buffet made his real money on left-hand, pre-90s side of the chart, not the right).

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 44 Fear (previous close: 35, Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 23 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 9 at 12:39pm. Note that the index is not always updated daily, sadly.

Rapture Index: Closes down one on Earthquakes. “The lack of activity has downgraded this category.” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 184. Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing.

The Biosphere

“Fires in the Amazon: What’s Agriculture Got to Do with It?” [Modern Farming]. “While there are some sustainable agricultural endeavors in the Amazon, such as tapping rubber trees and harvesting native foods (such as acai, hearts of palm and brazil nuts), cattle ranching and soybean production (largely grown to feed cattle) are by far the biggest forms of agricultural land use…. Soy fields and cow pastures require the removal of trees, of course, and fire is often the easiest method…. Grileiro, roughly translated, means “land grabber” in Portuguese. These are folks who go into virgin forest and clear it for the purposes of claiming ownership — if you can show that you’ve been using the land, it’s possible to gain ownership through a form of squatter’s rights — often selling the land to farmers once they have done so. This would never fly in more developed countries, but because the Amazon is such a vast and largely unpoliced frontier, and because the land registry is notoriously corrupt, grilagem (“land grabbing”) is a common and profitable form of organized crime. What Can You Do? Buy local beef.” • Doing well by doing good…

“Alaska’s Sea Ice Completely Melted for First Time in Recorded History” [Truthout]. “Also for the first time in recorded history, Alaska’s sea ice has melted completely away. That means there was no sea ice whatsoever within 150 miles of its shores, according to the National Weather Service, as the northernmost state cooked under record-breaking heat through the summer.”

“Pollinators – Chocolate midge” [National Park Service]. “Every bite of chocolate we eat starts off as seeds in pods that grow on Theobroma cacao, a tree whose name translates to “cacao, food of the gods.” Enter chocolate midges—without the midges, there would be no chocolate!… The native habitat of chocolate midges is dense, shady rain forests, so the midges seldom seek the sunnier, unnatural arrangement of cacao trees in commercial plantations for pollination. Also, within commercial plantations, the time of peak flower abundance is out of sync with the peaking of midge populations. To make matters even less attractive to the midges, wild cacao flowers have more than 75 distinct aroma ingredients, while cultivated cacao flowers have only a few…. Like many other pollinators, chocolate midges suffer from loss of habitat, as large tracts of natural rainforest are replaced by cacao plantations. Approximately one third of the world crop of cacao is lost every year because of plant pests and diseases. Pesticides and herbicides may be used to combat crop loss, resulting in contaminated waters and soils and an increased loss of biodiversity.”

You want fires? Here’s a fire. Thomas Pepys on the Great Fire of London in 1666. Thread:

(One of the minor pleasures of Twitter is bots sending out excerpts from works of literature, works of great painter, etc.)

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“The Lost Promise of Reconstruction” [Eric Foner, New York Times]. “Many Americans feel that we are living at a time like the end of the 19th century, when, in the words of Frederick Douglass, ‘principles which we all thought to have been firmly and permanently settled’ were ‘boldly assaulted and overthrown.’ Douglass was referring to the rights enshrined in three constitutional amendments ratified between 1865 and 1870. The 13th Amendment irrevocably abolished slavery. The 14th constitutionalized the principles of birthright citizenship and equality before the law. The 15th sought to guarantee the right to vote for black men throughout the reunited nation. All three empowered Congress to enforce their provisions, radically shifting the balance of power from the states to the nation. the amendments should be seen not simply as changes to an existing structure but as a second American founding, which created a fundamentally new Constitution…. The task of definition fell to the Supreme Court. And in a series of decisions familiar today only to specialists (with the exception of Plessy) — the Slaughter-House Cases, Cruikshank, Hall v. DeCuir, the Civil Rights Cases, Plessy v. Ferguson, Giles v. Harris — the court drastically restricted the scope of the second founding.”

Health Care

Yellow peril meets anti-vax. Check the left-hand image:

I don’t know quite what to make of that. Nothing good.

Guillotine Watch

UPDATE “Bye Bye Mast Bros: Controversial Confectionary Hipsters Decamp For Mount Kisco” [Gothamist]. “Pour one out for chocolate’s least favorite hipsters, local beards Rick and Michael Mast, whom Eater reports will be moving their “bean-to-bar” Brooklyn chocolate factory to Mount Kisco, New York. Meanwhile, the Mast Brothers have already closed their Williamsburg storefront, at 111 North 3rd Street. Run out of town by mobs of hipster luddites duped into buying overpriced, industrial chocolate melted down and then dressed up in expensive terrazzo-print paper, perhaps? Who’s to say!”

Groves of Academe

“MIT Media Lab Agrees To Return All Of Jeffrey Epstein’s Donated Girls” [The Onion]. • Read all the way to the end.

“On Joi and MIT” [Lawrence Lessig, Medium]. Lessig creates a typology of people who want to “give” to universities, one of which is Type 3: “Type 3 is people who are criminals, but whose wealth does not derive from their crime. This is Epstein, but not just Epstein.” Then: “But what I — and Joi—missed then was the great risk of great harm that this gift would create. Sure, it wasn’t blood money, and sure, because anonymous, the gift wasn’t used to burnish Epstein’s reputation. But the gift was a ticking time bomb. At some point, it was destined to be discovered. And when it was discovered, it would do real and substantial pain to the people within the Media Lab who would come to see that they were supported in part by the gift of a pedophile.” • Lessig seems unable to focus on the idea that the real problem is donations as such; that is, the very notion of private universities. Both this story (MIT) and the story below (Liberty University), and, potentially, the story below tha (Johns Hopkins) could be said to raise the same issue.

“‘Someone’s Gotta Tell the Freakin’ Truth’: Jerry Falwell’s Aides Break Their Silence” [Politico]. “‘We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund,’ said a senior university official with inside knowledge of Liberty’s finances. ‘We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.'” •. Lol. Ever heard of NYU? And then there’s this: “With Falwell Sr., ‘you could feel his passion and love for the Lord and others. He knew everyone’s names, their stories and struggles. He was genuine and loving. And that love bled from the campus,’ a former longtime university official said. “It’s a cold place now.'” • As long as I’ve been following the Christian right, all the way back to the administration of George Bush, the Second of His Name, the “genuine and loving” part has been surprisingly small. And corruption has bulked surprisingly large (Matt 6:19-20).

“Johns Hopkins has launched the first center devoted exclusively to researching psychedelic drugs in the U.S.” [CNN]. “Johns Hopkins has a had a psychedelic research group since 2000. This center will be a step forward for the group, allowing them to move forward with even more psychedelic-focused research. ‘This very substantial level of funding should enable a quantum leap in psychedelic-focused research,” said James Potash, director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, in a statement. “It will accelerate the process of sorting out what works and what doesn’t.’… The center is funded by a group of private donors, who collectively donated $17 million to start the center.” • Oh.

“Cheating, Inc.: How Writing Papers for American College Students Has Become a Lucrative Profession Overseas” [New York Times]. “Since federal prosecutors charged a group of rich parents and coaches this year in a sprawling fraud and bribery scheme, the advantages that wealthy American students enjoy in college admissions have been scrutinized. Less attention has been paid to the tricks some well-off students use to skate by once they are enrolled…. The essay-for-hire industry has expanded significantly in developing countries with many English speakers, fast internet connections and more college graduates than jobs, especially Kenya, India and Ukraine. A Facebook group for academic writers in Kenya has over 50,000 members…. Contract cheating is harder to detect than plagiarism because ghostwritten essays will not be flagged when compared with a database of previously submitted essays; they are generally original works — simply written by the wrong person.”

#NotAllDeans. A great story. Thread:

Class Warfare

“As billions flow to farmers, Trump administration faces internal concerns over unprecedented bailout” [WaPo]. • Now, if it were banks that were being bailed out…

Everything’s going according to plan:

News of the Wired

Punctuation wars:

The enormous wave of endorphin that came when I discovered, lo these many years ago, that I could do proper em-dashes and proper typographer’s quotation marks on the Mac probably locked me into the platform forever. Big moment!

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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 (TH):

TH writes: “Though I’ve since looked up ‘Valley Oak Tree’ when I learned of its species, I’ve yet to find any mention of the tree emitting a scent. It produces acorns, not flowers that I’ve ever noticed. Seventeen years on, yes, I still look forward to that first deep breath of vanilla scented air upon each arrival, and, yes, we’ve had to trim it to keep it from interfering with wires or resting on roof tiles, but it’s never been such a nuisance as to warrant that awful dreaded word, REMOVAL.” Lovely backlighting and bokeh!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Wukchumni

    What Can You Do? Buy local beef.
    Valencia (juice) oranges are also grown in former Amazon rainforest, so make sure the orange juice you buy doesn’t come from there.

    Although the Navel orange came from Brazil originally, they can’t be grown there now.

    1. BoyDownTheLane

      “What Can You Do? Buy local beef.”

      How many beef ranches exist in Maine? Maine’s foodstuffs [excepting lobsters, aqua cultural goods, and local veggies)come in by Interstate across one bridge (vulnerability in logistics = high). I know of one farm that raises meat in Central Mass. and I’ve priced their goods, so I don’t shop there. The supermarket I use gets its beef from the Midwest. Has anyone seen what’s happened to the Midwest in the last two or three years? Geo-engineered floods, droughts and the impact of tariffs….

      Okay, I have to go feed Angus again….

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > by Interstate across one bridge (vulnerability in logistics = high).

        But when we secede, easy to defend!

        I’m sure Maine isn’t self-sufficient in any kind of foodstuffs at all. But in the 19th C, we were the breadbasket of New England, and could be again. As for beef, meat should be treated as a condiment. I’m sure we could become self-sufficient in some sort of meat again, with some compromises on dietary habits.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      When beef is too ecologically expensive, green people eat chicken (less flatulent).

      (The substitution effect)

    3. Lee

      Brazilian beef drama:

      Brazil shipped about 152.7 million pounds of beef to the USA in 2016. Only Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Mexico exported more beef to the USA last year. Since March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has been inspecting all meat products arriving from Brazil.Jun 23, 2017
      However in 2017, after 1.9 million pounds of Brazilian beef products were cited by USDA inspectors as “public health concerns,” the United States suspended importation of Brazilian beef. Jul 3, 2018
      A recent meeting between President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro set specifications into motion that could lead to the return of Brazilian beef to United States markets if the processing facilities pass inspection. Mar 28, 2019

    1. JohnnyGL

      Yes, that’s correct. For the last few decades, there’s been little daylight between the parties on economic issues (with Repubs pushing a bit more on tax cuts and spending cuts and Dems a little less).

      The primary cleavages between the parties has been on social issues. This means there’s prob a decent number of voters that lean right on econ in team dem and lean left on econ in team repub.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        There definitely is a class divide, but Team Blue does hammer two messages relentlessly: the all powerful nature of the GOP (with different versions such as Obama was so powerless) and how Hillary and Sanders were two peas in a pod. There is a huge portion of the loyal Team Blue electorate that believes people such as BIden are pro-good things and are only foiled by Team Red.

        1. Phacops

          That Dems push the meme that repubs are all powerful, methinks that this is the result of two things:
          – a majority of Dems actually agree with repub economic policy,
          – and,Dem leadership prefers being ineffective than actually governing.

          Just got a call from a Dem planning to run for Michigan’s 1st district. Had to remind him that in 2020 only progressives or socialists will be getting my money and vote.

      2. neo-realist

        I’ve always had the impression that pretty much everybody on team repub lean to the right on economic issues–you would be hard pressed to find republicans who support social spending to uplift the poor, infrastructure spending ( a lot of them seem to think that some Ayn Rand superman will step forward to build mass transit or the bridges rather than pols who focus spending priorities in those areas), and cutting social security.

        Team dem you’ve got more left/right diversity on economic issues — you’ve got “the squad” on one hand and you’ve got Pelosi and Schumer neo-libs on the other.

        1. JohnnyGL

          One of my favorite detailed analyses of where the electorate wanted to be on issues around the 2016 election.

          Check out the scatterplot with the red dots. There’s a lot that lean left on various economic issues.

          Honestly, do you know a lot of Republicans? There’s the whacko Ayn Rand types and upper-class Tory types that genuinely believe you get what you deserve, but there’s also a lot….especially in blue states…that just hate corrupt dems and how full of crap they are. They might get a bit hawkish on immigration, and spit out a few too many Fox News talking points, but many want answers on healthcare and education and wouldn’t mind seeing a few billionaire oligarchs get roughed up in the process. Many more would love to see the military adventurism reigned in.

          1. neo-realist

            Republicans in the street want answers, but don’t want ones that involve comprehensive coverage of the masses that involve taking money away from the MIC nor taxing wealthy people more. Nor do they want massive spending on education to ensure that teachers are paid like professional and that poor districts receive as much money as the wealthy ones. They also continue to default to voting for republicans for whom tax cuts and privatization of public services cure all problems.

            When they start supporting Sanders types of candidates, then i’ll believe they want change for the better..

        2. jrs

          Probably generally true, but I’ve seen polls with odd things like 10% of Republicans support a GND, 10% of Republicans support M4A etc. etc. What are they doing in the R party though, beats me. For all I know 10% of Republicans are really Democratic socialists, they just don’t know it :)

        3. Lambert Strether Post author

          > hard pressed to find republicans who support social spending to uplift the poor,

          See the Sanders tweet of WaPo’s chart under “Class Warfare” and ask yourself what (liberal) Democrat “support” means in real terms.

  2. NotTimothyGeithner

    Re: “YOU” and Harris

    Harris didn’t win a competitive race, coming up through patronage, and then a collapse of a front runner, leaving her as the quickest replacement. I wonder if she’s having difficulty with the nature of a campaign.

    1. Elizabeth Romero

      She is far from the most progressive candidate in the district. Personally I would think twice about voting for anyone who cannot talk about the work she did for the CIA. Check out Teresa Ledger Fernandez, who I think is a much better choce than Valarie Plame Wilson.

        1. Elizabeth Romero

          She was beat up because her husband told the truth about yellow cake. If he hadn’t embarrased Bush, she would still be working for the CIA.

          1. John k

            IMO it is possible to be a progressive and work for cia, granted likely not a majority.
            Anybody whose family tells the truth at great cost the their careers gets benefit of doubt.
            Naturally, best to check all alternatives.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          I remember having read about how Agent Plame was working with ( perhaps heading?) a CIA proprietary (front) company called Brewster Jennings. Among other things, Brewster Jennings was keeping track of Iranian progress or non-progress on weaponizable nuclear research.

          When the BushAdmin revenge-blew Agent Plame’s cover, the BushAdmin also blew Brewster-Jennings’s cover and destroyed the value of Brewster Jennings as a spy-tool for seeing what the IranGov was doing with nuclear research. I also dimly remember once having read that the “reporter” Robert Novak wrote not one, but TWO articles about Agent Plame . . . a couple of days apart. The second article circled back and very deliberately and by name exposed the name of Brewster Jennings as being the CIA proprietary through which Plame worked.

          I never did do the hours of brute-force reading of all Novak’s articles from right around that time to see if that is in fact true.


          Of course there is a little-noted claim that Plame and Brewster Jennings were pre-outed 2 years before all this by others and for other reasons. That too would take long hard reading to form any opinions about. But here is a link to a seemingly level-headed article I just now randomly found from which I just now learned of this whole other layer of “who-and-why” outage-theory.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            As a side effect, Marcy Wheeler’s coverage of the Plame investigation rocketed FireDogLake’s traffic into the big leagues. Sadly, the dynamic of “This will finally bring Bush down!” was very similar to RussiaGate, which was also a dry hole.

    2. jo6pac

      Thanks dcblogger and I think I’ll send VP $5.00.

      ER, thanks for the name TLF but on her site she says affordable health care to me that’s code for another gate keeper. I do hope not but.

      VP in congress will make deep state nervous since she knows them very well and they can to her any more harm than the dark lord and bush the lesser did already.

      1. hunkerdown

        Who was her husband, though? Oh, that wacky walrus John Bolton! And they know where her children live.

    3. McDee

      I live in NM-3. I am delighted the wretched Ben Ray Lujan will not be our member of Congress anymore. He is running for the Senate seat vacated by the retiring Tom Udall. I will support NM Sec of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver for the Senate nod. She supports the things Lujan fought against, i.e. progressive reform.
      As for Plame , does driving a car backwards real fast qualify one for Congress? Anyway, being in the CIA is something for which one should ask forgiveness, rather than tout as a “qualification”

      1. pretzelattack

        i don’t know much about her politics, but exposing wmd lies at the cost of one’s career qualifies one for some respect.

  3. Nealser

    The public briefing after the Brexit meeting today between Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar is something worth watching.

    Ireland’s Leo Varadkar warns UK PM Boris Johnson “if there is no deal, it will cause disruption for British and Irish people alike”, adding “there’s no such thing as a clean break, or just getting it done”, when it comes to #Brexit

  4. diptherio

    Economic history buffs will find this interesting, as well as anyone interested in economic alternatives to industrial capitalism:

    Solidarity Economy Roads

    The participation of the whole family in production took many different forms: farm labor in all its aspects and seasonal differences; raising and tending to livestock and fowl; preparation and conservation of food and drink; construction, maintenance, repair and improvement of housing and other structures; weaving and other artisanal labor; care for the sick; participation in social and ceremonial activities, and more. The distinction between productive labor and essential useful activities was difficult to draw given the interweaving of the different aspects of subsistence and reproduction of family life. The notion of “employment” is obviously inadequate to describe the labor force in those conditions, as is “unemployment,” as all the available labor force was put to use in the production process, whatever the productivity of the people involved. Not working was understood to represent laziness or vagrancy.

    Labor from outside the family group was used on occasion, in certain economic activities and at certain times of year in which the need for labor exceeded that available in the family. Some family members also worked outside the home or for others, when their own resources and means were insufficient to provide that necessary for subsistence, and in seasons when the supply of labor was greater than the need. But the principal economic activities were those performed in the home or its immediate surroundings. The need to do wage work for third parties characterized the extremely poor and those who had not escaped the situation of servitude. For thousands of years, only the poorest of the poor lived on wages: those whose domestic economy was inadequate to sustain themselves and their families. Work in the family economy and autonomous subsistence labor were the principal means of survival; offering one’s labor power to others, entering the heteronomous or external economy of dependent wage labor, was a recourse used only when the former was insufficient.

    For those like me who don’t recognize the word, “heteronomous” means directed by an outside entity (the opposite of autonomous).

    1. Lost in OR

      Funny how words can trigger. Industrial capitalism. Does Industrial capitalism have a worse track record than Industrial socialism? Industrial communism? Industrial anyotherism?

      What if we placed the ism on Industrial? Does Industrialism in any optional flavor change the results? I don’t think it does. But then, where does that leave me?

      Hunting and gathering?

      1. diptherio

        I think industrial capitalism is as good a two-word description of our present system as any…which is what is being discussed, btw, not life in China or Cuba. Specifically, Razeto is discussing the history and present situation in Latin America.

        My main take-away was that the development of our economy (whatever you want to label it) resulted in the breakdown of traditional household economies and the creation of the nuclear family that is presently the norm. The results were increased dependence on work outside the household, remunerated monetarily (i.e. wage labor), and the concomitant de-valuation of work still done within the household. The economic sphere was split off from the household sphere with negative results for all around. Nowadays we view the household as almost entirely a space of consumption, whereas previously it was a productive unit in its own right. (I noticed this in the village in Nepal, where pre-industrial lifestyles still reign) I think we don’t adequately appreciate the importance of this fact and how it has effected our relations with each other, which is why I was happy to see it addressed so well in this article.

        1. Lost in OR

          I agree with your takeaway. The disintegration of family and community life is an outcome of an industrial economy.

          My point is that that disintegration is not isolated to capitalist economies. The discounting of externalities is consistent throughout industrial economies. There is some destructive nature of “industrialism” that needs to be reckoned with. There is also some destructive nature of “capitalism ” that needs to be reckoned with. They are not necessarily the same reckonings. Unnecessarily tying them together muddies the reckoning.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > the household as almost entirely a space of consumption, whereas previously it was a productive unit in its own right.

          Still is, for many farmers in Southeast Asia, despite traffic to and from the big cities, and despite the financialization of supplies like seeds and fertilizer,

      2. Oregoncharles

        @ Lost –
        That leaves you with an agrarian society, like Denmark in the 50’s and 60’s. (Don’t know about now, but they’re more civilized than we are.)

        I agree with your point that the problem is industrialization; some of the “socialist” (well, not really) economies were as bad as Industrial Revolution England. Still, the way it’s organized does matter. A tightly-regulated system based on worker ownership and control would be better, if only because they have to live with the consequences. By tightly regulated, I mean preventing monopoly and pollution. In fact, I suspect monopolization is a core part of the problem; that’s one thing that was wrong with Communism – it was a state monopoly.

      3. Mo's Bike Shop

        Industrial Capitalism reshaped our lived landscape from Enclosures to Pinkertons. You couldn’t go back to the farm anymore. Socialism (in all it’s flavors) was a response.

        Cycles are going to cycle, we will eventually be depending more on ‘natural’ economies as fossil energy tails off. If we enable autonomy as much as we can now, the results will be better than waiting until there are fewer resources. The future will treat Capitalism and its ‘financial innovations’ like any other system that borks the planet.

      4. drumlin woodchuckles

        There is a long distance between hunting-gathering and industrial civilizationism. The Incas weren’t hunter-gatherers, nor were the Indian Nations who terraformed parts of the Amazon Basin. But they weren’t Industrial Civilizationists.

        So examples exist. And we don’t have to be artificially consistent. We can picky-choosy between advanced this and retro that. We could wind industrial civilizationism back to artisandustrial culturism .. . if we were to decide such a possibility could actually exist.

      1. Matt N

        I recommend Kim Moody’s book “On New Terrain” in regards to the continuing relevance of industrial capitalism. “Platform Capitalism” by Nick Srnicek, too, since it shows how much the “internet of things” is fundamentally about industrial production and distribution.

    2. Acacia

      Already in the early twentieth century, a number of Marxist thinkers (e.g. Hilferding) were arguing that finance capitalism was becoming dominant. Looking at the present landscape, it would seem that some of their analyses have been vindicated by history.

      The other, more recent trend is what has been called “information capitalism”, coming out of Japanese studies of information society that appeared in the 1960s. That would include Google, Facebook, et al.

      In any case, it’s important to understand how we got here.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > For thousands of years, only the poorest of the poor lived on wages: those whose domestic economy was inadequate to sustain themselves and their families. Work in the family economy and autonomous subsistence labor were the principal means of survival; offering one’s labor power to others, entering the heteronomous or external economy of dependent wage labor, was a recourse used only when the former was insufficient.

      (See The Death of the Hired Man, by Robert Frost.)

      So being a wage laborer was far worse than being a peasant. Interesting. (Seems likely this is a bit gendered, though; I’m tgithinking of Lowell, MA “mill girls,” or Filipina helpers.

      1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

        Prior to the English Revolution there were many large groups of landless people with families mainly due to the early 17th century enclosures. They tended to wander the country in search of whatever relief they could find. This put a huge strain on the countries local ability to care for the poor, which had previously worked fairly well for the time. There is evidence that some took advantage of this pool of labour for manufacturing which started to develop into mass production.

        These people were largely for the King, but for the most didn’t take part in the later fighting which was left to those who were once called the ” Middling” sort of people. The above was made all the worse due to armies living off the land which in itself caused much hardship.

        On the female side it was Russian female factory workers who lit the spark that led to Lenin’s German supported train journey, while the peasants just carried on doing what they had always done through feeding the country.

  5. toshiro_mifune

    Johns Hopkins has launched the first center devoted exclusively to researching psychedelic drugs

    IDK, I had some friends pretty devoted to the research in the late 80s.

    In all seriousness; Its both good to see research taking place again and sad that it took 50+ years to finally drop all the baggage from the 60s.

    1. ambrit

      No mention of the CIA led MK-Ultra program, which ‘explored’ the use of psychedelics from as early as the 1950s.
      Could this have anything to do with the supposedly common use of ‘microdosing’ of LSD as a personal study enabler?
      Academe is just catching up with the “real” world? Hah!

      1. WJ

        It would be naive not to think that the establishment rehabilitation of psychedelic drugs means the rehabilitation of MKULTRA-like programs as well. Or maybe I’m just being an Eeyore.

        1. ambrit

          We used to get Owsley in New Orleans in the early ’70s. Cleanest ‘product’ available. No residual chemicals “bad trip” effects. That and Mr. Natural blotter.
          There was a Golden Age.

          1. sleepy

            Back then we’d drive over to the Ms coast from New Orleans to a friend’s cow pasture, pick up a bunch of cow patties sprouting psilocybin mushrooms, and grow them in our backyard for present and future use. All natural and free to boot!

            1. ambrit

              I have never laughed so hard for so long. I ended up with a sore throat the next day.
              We ‘harvested’ ours from a cow field on the Northshore. Somewhere near Goodbee if I remember correctly.

          1. Wukchumni

            Circa 1971, my 5th grade class was told the dangers of ‘reds & whites’ and no i’m not talking early 1920’s Russians.

          2. ambrit

            The problem with ‘windowpane’ was that it came in four way hits and, if you were not careful, you could take four hits at once and really wig out. I saw that happen several times.

      1. barrisj

        Yes, several friends and I were engaged in LSD “research” on the local level in the early-mid ‘70s…our verdict: best thing since sliced bread.

  6. Plenue

    “As long as I’ve been following the Christian right, all the way back to the administration of George Bush, the Second of His Name, the “genuine and loving” part has been surprisingly small.”

    When your entire religion rests on the notion that ‘infinite love’ is conditional, well, that bleeds through into real-world behavior.

    1. Blowncue

      The investigative piece on Jerry Falwell Jr is a fairly thorough and enjoyable read. In addition to the extensive allegations of self-dealing, and grandson’s partying in Miami, is an allegation that Junior brags about his sexual exploits with his wife while sharing racy photos of said wife. For all the intimations about such ungodly behavior at no point is there an allegation that he was unfaithful.

      I can think of a bevy of small New England liberal arts colleges with anemic or absent endowments who could do a whole lot worse than sending a few officials on a best practices sightseeing tour.

      I have this image of Larry Flynt talking to Jerry Junior by phone from opposite ends of the train in Snowpiercer.

  7. Plenue

    Since no one seems to have mentioned this yet, the trailer for the second season of the Jack Ryan show, courtesy of Amazon:


    If this were satire, I think it would look exactly the same. Venezuela as existential threat, Russia supplying them with nukes, stupidly asking why the country is a mess with no mention of our mass-murdering sanctions. This crosses over from just asinine into being actively obscene.

    Wendell Pierce continues to disappoint. A mighty long fall from The Wire and Treme.

    Anyway, good to see the CIA-Amazon deal is still bearing fruit.

    1. Carolinian

      Wonder if H’wood is going to add China to their stock villains list. After all half their film financing now seems to come from there.

    2. JohnnyGL

      I actually caught that ad the other day. As cynical as I am, still shocked me.

      Always getting ready for the next war and preparing the narrative script for deployment.

    3. The Rev Kev

      Saw the same trailer a few days ago and could only shake my head. I suppose on the bright side that Hollywood could reboot the “Red Dawn” film one more time but this time round have Venezuelan troops occupying a big chunk of the American south-west while a band of plucky teenagers wage guerrilla war on them. I was going to suggest that perhaps Rambo could come out of retirement to help them but I saw last night how he would be too busy in the upcoming “Rambo V” film. Groan! God damn you Hollywood.

      1. ambrit

        Oh yes. She also acts from time to time, as in the Louis Malle film; “Pretty Baby.” Almost like “Madama Butterfly” without the wings.
        Here’s hoping that she doesn’t end up like a similar ‘personality,’ Mata Hari.

  8. editor else


    They call them “smart quotes,” but I call them “civilized quotes.”

    It was the en-dash capability that thrilled me; though I hate the tiny drop-down “advanced symbol” screen (they are not symbols, by the by), and the limited supply of diacritics.

  9. Pavel

    I, too, recall the joys of early Mac use (starting with the Macintosh Plus in my case — for around $3000… real money in those days) and exploring typography for a newsletter, using en- and em-dashes, ligatures etc with some lovely fonts I purchased for the project. Much of the content was tabular data so I found a delightful version of one of the first telephone directory typefaces (Bell Gothic).

    Now I work only digitally and have had to learn the basics of Unicode. I confess at first it sounded fantastic but as with a lot of computer software and Grand Schemes, e.g. XML and the godforsaken XHTML it seems to have taken on a bloated life of its own. Amazing that it handles so many character sets and languages, but as the example above illustrates it has just gone mad!

  10. NotTimothyGeithner

    The problem isn’t limited to private universities. The hospital isn’t content to hide behind the personalities of the doctors and nurse, now its adding the school too.


    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      And Team Blue Governor Blackface, donor to George W. Bush, is on the board of UVA Health…

  11. Lambert Strether Post author

    I got a late start, so I added some updates. Please refresh your browsers. A lot of them are in the Stats section, where bezzling has received inadequate attention for a bit. I always collect way too much material over the weekend, so I’ll even out the Politics section tomorrow….

  12. shinola

    Bernie Sanders was on “Dr. Oz” TV show this a.m. (which I watched because he was on it). Oz gave Bernie @20 minutes & seemed friendly enough towards him. Asked Bernie about his age & health (Bernie admitted to mild acid reflux) then gave him free reign to speak about M4A (improved M4A including dental, vision & hearing aid coverage). Although there was nothing new for existing Bernie supporters, I thought he gave a straight forward, easy to understand presentation of his plan and the cost/benefits of M4A. Seemed rather well received by Oz and the live audience.

    I take it as a good sign that Bernie was invited to appear on such a show. Anyone else catch the episode?

      1. ambrit

        A former ‘henchman’ of the ‘Divine Oprah.’
        He embodies the aspirational class’s fixation on personal health, longevity, and all things ‘superior.’
        Very influential in the 10% class, and lower down the curve unter-enabling class.

        1. macnamichomhairle

          His audience is actually more middle-aged and older working class women. Maybe others too, but I can attest to his stature for many in that group.

          1. ambrit

            Thanks for the update. I am not a natural ‘Oprah’ devotee. Thus, my viewpoint has a bit of ‘bias’ built in.
            Can “health consciousness” be described as crossing class lines? (Serious musing.)

              1. ambrit

                *Slaps self on forehead.*
                Of course. I married one! (Lower middle class proto-hippy that is.) [Don’t tell her I said that. She fervently avoids class distinctions when she can.]
                Musing further; health is indeed a universal concern, thus, a natural conduit for political engagement. The M4A movement, even though not really going far enough, is then a natural path towards political success.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              In his book The Curse Of Lono, Hunter S. Thompson offered the theory that the reason so many liberals turned so hard and deep into self-fulfillment, self-health-building, etc. is because they were so defeated at every turn in every political arena that they realized they would never have any political power or influence in America ever again.

              So they redirected their time and energy into something they could maybe have an effect on .. . their own health.

              1. ambrit

                So, if I get this aright, Dr. Oz is a symptom of societal defeatism. That actually makes sense.

      2. Adam Eran

        One of Oprah’s protegees. He got a start with her dramatizing his medical points when she interviewed him with things like real organs (livers, blood vessels, etc.)

        He’s like “Dr. Phil” only medical.

        He now has a TV show promoting every quack cure known to man.

        1. ambrit

          As is usual in this sphere of human endeavour, the definition of “quack” is under fierce debate.
          For generations, the “official” practitioners of the ‘medical sciences’ have tried to define the limits of what is generally considered to be medically “reputable.” In play here is both money and power.
          As silly and outre many of the ideas floating around the meme-o-sphere are, my basic definition of what is or is not “quack” is determined only after full testing has been carried out. Since the primary weapon deployed against the ‘quacktitioners’ is ridicule, and ‘malign neglect’ on the part of the “official” medical establishment, I thus view their disdain and denigration of supposed ‘quacks’ as being the scientific analogue of an ‘ad hominem’ attack.
          Like politics, the practice of medicine could be much improved by the removal of money from the equation. Utopian, I admit, but someone has to set the “Radical Agenda.”
          Bohr may have said that; “Science advances one funeral at a time,” but medical science, as presently formulated, advances hundreds of thousands of funerals at a time.

            1. ambrit

              The popular concept of a ‘scientist’ many years ago was of an irascible ‘mad genius’ out to save the world. Today, that image has been supplanted by the image of a faceless scienti-bureaucratic non entity. That makes it easier to ‘control’ the dissemination of new discoveries. That ‘control’ includes inter scientific instrumentality information flows.
              Your formulation thus becomes: “In science, the first investigational entity with a new idea has no checks except for cheques.”

              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                I believe I first remember reading that saying as being invented by the wearer-of-many-agronomic-hats Lee Fryer, about whom I first read in the pages of Acres USA.

                He noted that “peer review” was often a mechanism for established scientific orthodoxy-enforcement mafias to prevent a new hypothesis from being effectively studied or even talked about.


      3. Blowncue

        If Marcus Welby and Oprah Winfrey had a love child and that love child went on to sell medical advice on the Home Shopping Network….

    1. JohnnyGL

      Very good place to do an appearance.

      It hits a demographic (60+) that he has trouble with. Old people watch a lot of daytime TV. He doesn’t have to win a ton of them…..just some.

      It’s the same demographic that has their view warped by the cable news blackout of Bernie. My mother, 77, is a good proxy in this respect. She says she likes him, but claims she ‘hasn’t heard much from him, lately’.

  13. BoyDownTheLane

    “Brown University has placed a fundraising director on administrative leave following a report that accused him of participating in covering up disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s connections to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab.
    Brown spokesman Brian Clark told The Providence Journal on Sunday that Peter Cohen, director of development for computer and data science, is on leave pending a review. Clark says Brown hasn’t received donations from Epstein….” More:

  14. ChiGal in Carolina

    Rahm Emanuel is a cancer on the body politic. A loathsome, festering sore. Will no one deliver us from this scourge?!

  15. PlutoniumKun


    Yellow peril meets anti-vax.

    This reminds me of reading one historian of pre-War Japan (Kenneth Pyle) who argued that anti-Asian sentiment in California, particularly in school policy (excluding Asian-American kids from public schools), was a major driver in Japanese politics in the 1920’s and 30’s. Essentially, what was considered a ‘local’ issue in US politics, and ignored in Washington, was highlighted in the Japanese media at the time. It supported the militarist rights argument that the US would never treat ‘the yellow man’ with the same even hand as whites (i.e. the other Imperialist powers in the Pacific). It quickly became a broad consensus in Japanese politics across the spectrum that for Japan to survive a direct conflict with the US was inevitable as there was no possibility of the sort of gentleman agreement that prevented direct conflict between the traditional Big 5 powers.

    The State Department at the time was apparently aware of the dangers (it had been warned by the US embassy in Tokyo), but it was considered inappropriate for Federal agencies to interfere with such local level issues.

    So don’t be surprised if something like this story gets a very big boost in Chinese media circles. It could have very bad consequences. These things can get very big, and very ugly.

    1. The Rev Kev

      And the China!China!China! campaign is now underway. It reminds me of something that I saw in a “Life” magazine not long after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. I was researching American life during this era when I came across it. Hatred was running pretty high against anything Japanese and cherry trees in Washington were cut down by somebody because of their association with Japanese culture. But China was our ally who looked similar to the hated Japanese. So “Life” came out with an article that included sketches to illustrate the differences between Chinese and Japanese people so that Americans could tell the difference between the two before getting their hate on.

      1. Wukchumni

        Henry Luce was born the child of missionaries in China in 1898, that had a lot to do with Life magazine’s pro-China bias.

    2. Acacia

      Look up “Alien land laws”. From 1870, Japanese, Chinese, and several other groups declared “aliens ineligible for citizenship” and prohibited from owning land in many states. Only ruled unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court in 1952, the end of the postwar US occupation of Japan.

      Kinda puts a different spin on “the melting pot”.

  16. PlutoniumKun

    “MIT Media Lab Agrees To Return All Of Jeffrey Epstein’s Donated Girls” [The Onion]. • Read all the way to the end.

    Brilliant! My biggest laugh at the week, you can always rely on the Onion.

    1. barrisj

      At press time, MIT announced plans to atone for the mistake by agreeing to make a sizable donation of girls to the Clinton Foundation.

      Ab Fab!!

          1. Wukchumni

            I don’t believe that for a second, because I saw both Elvis & Epstein @ a 7-11 in Fresno, and the King was there to buy a neighborhood gulp, and Jeffrey was there on account of a misunderstanding, he thought it was a place girls aged 7 to 11 hung out.

          2. polecat

            I keep tryin to tell everyone that he’s not dead ! He just went out for some much needed ‘dermal enhancement’ ….

    2. WJ

      And still to the best of my knowledge nobody in the media has pursued the meaning of Acosta’s strange comment that he was told that Epstein “belonged to intelligence and to leave it alone.”

      Are we all just supposed to forget that attribution? Are we all supposed to believe it’s false? Isn’t this the kind of claim The NY Times and the WA Post should be following up? Aren’t they usually so giddy to print anonymous and unchallenged assertions by members of our intelligence services? Shouldn’t this be very easily cleared up? Anybody else find this odd?

      1. ambrit

        It is, alas, a manifestation of the reach and influence of the Alphabet agencies that this is not being ‘cleared up.’
        From an old cynic’s point of view, the deafening silence attendant to the Acosta statement is standard operating procedure. Something similar was done to Bernie Sanders during the 2016 election cycle and looks to be happening to him again this cycle.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        Here’s the thing that’s really odd about Ronan Farrow’s New Yorker scoop on the Media Lab:

        Perhaps most notably, Epstein appeared to serve as an intermediary between the lab and other wealthy donors, soliciting millions of dollars in donations from individuals and organizations, including the technologist and philanthropist Bill Gates and the investor Leon Black. According to the records obtained by The New Yorker and accounts from current and former faculty and staff of the media lab, Epstein was credited with securing at least $7.5 million in donations for the lab, including two million dollars from Gates and $5.5 million from Black, gifts the e-mails describe as “directed” by Epstein or made at his behest.

        But although that’s in the lead, the story isn’t written as teased. Putting the relationships above in diagrammatic form, we have:

        As it stands, the Ronan story is the relation between Epstein and the Media Lab, not the relation between Epstein and Gates/Black. That seems odd, to say the least, given that Gates and Black are both squillionaires. At least if matters stop there, as they did with the “intelligence” and Acosta.

        1. ambrit

          First, what was Epstein’s ‘rake off’ from those millions?
          Second, wouldn’t this make Epstein an old fashioned ‘bundler?’
          Third, how did Epstein gain access to the squillionaires?
          Fourth, this is an example of the fact that there are indeed many “big clubs,” and we still aren’t members.

        2. JohnnyGL

          This is an excellent comment and exactly right. It makes precisely ZERO sense why Leon Black and Bill Gates need Epstein as a liaison to make a donation to MIT.

          Unless he’s blackmailing them…and trying to use them to launder his own soiled reputation.

          1. JohnnyGL

            In a message to the M.I.T. community, L. Rafael Reif, the president of M.I.T., wrote, “Because the accusations in the story are extremely serious, they demand an immediate, thorough and independent investigation,” and announced that M.I.T.’s general counsel would engage an outside law firm to oversee that investigation.

            This sounds like they are bringing in a firm like the one portrayed in the movie Michael Clayton. They need a janitor to engineer a cover up and a clean up operation.

            If the university actually wanted to do the right thing, they’d just start firing a bunch of people connected to fundraising/alumni donations. I don’t think they need outside help for that. Outside help WOULD be needed to help minimize risks of lawsuits, though.

  17. scarn

    Want to know what Democratic Party machine politics look like in a state that the party controls? Read this re Laphonza Butler. Combine the cozy relationships listed therein with today’s Bloomberg article about ridesharing and unions, and it’s clear how easy it is for these operatives to drive policy that harms the working class. Bernie appears to want to stop this sort of thing, attacking the party center from his own base of power. Can someone like Warren, who’s base of power exists because she can appeal to the machine while embracing Bernie’s right flank, change the machine itself? I assume her campaign is staffed by people like Butler: smart, driven, methodical, and fundamentally pro-ruling class.

  18. Synapsid

    TH and all who love oaks, and flowers:

    On today’s plant, an oak, we read “It produces acorns, not flowers that I’ve ever noticed.”

    The oak flower produces the acorn just as the cherry flower produces the cherry. It’s the female flower as does it. Many oaks in flower have strings of small male flowers that are easy to spot but you have to search for the female ones. One Spring long ago I borrowed a ladder and climbed up into an oak looking for female flowers, and found them to be tiny and modest and green before they had opened. They were in the angles between twigs and the larger branches the twigs grew from.

    Have a try; it’s good wholesome fun.

  19. jawbone

    Anyone encountering effects of Trump’s most recent tariffs on Chinese imports? My local $ store here in northish New Jersey has had to add price stickers to handle the increases from $1. Most are for $1.50 up to $2.50. Also, some items which used to have multiples have gone down to just one or two items.

        1. ambrit

          One fairly reliable metric for the financial condition of the various socio-economic classes in one’s community is the volume and composition of the population of shoppers at the local thrift stores. For example, has anyone here been to a Goodwill store lately? The change over from straight thrift store to pseudo boutique venue has borne fruit. Here, in our university town, I have recently seen multiple groups of university students, occasionally with their parents, (with chequebook, naturally,) haunting the thrift stores, but especially the Goodwill, kiting out for their ‘new life’ of ‘independence.’
          The prices at the “chain” thrift stores started to trend upwards several years ago as new-fangled management personnel took over the running of said chains. Now the prices of merchandise at these particular stores are tied to the e-bay prices of the merchandise. This tends to result in higher prices than previously encountered for individual items.
          Another unexpected consequence of the internet; a deepening immiseration of the poor and working classes.

  20. dk

    Re: Google ads

    Looked into this some time ago reading about companies selling cheapo health insurance packages by buying up the ad placement for the term “healthcare.gov” (emphasis mine):

    Google healthcare.gov and the first three to five results that show up above the federal government’s marketplace website are ads, mostly for insurance quote websites with official-sounding names.

    Websites bid for their ad to show up when people search for certain keywords.

    Between 2014 and 2017, more than 2,800 advertisers spent $46.6 million sponsoring about two dozen ACA-related search keywords, according to analysis by Kantar, a data and market research company.

    Six websites outspent the federal government, which put $1.4 million into Google ads for healthcare.gov in 2017, according to Kantar.


    Here’s a marketing company’s infographic on Google ad placement and keyword auctioning:

    Wordstream isn’t one to bite the feeding hand too hard, here they discuss the Basecamp ad:

    There’s no point in debating why Google allows search advertisers to bid on their competitors’ brand names: It’s simply another way for the company to make money. Considering how much money Google would make even if they didn’t allow competitive ads—and considering the fact that Google has made their own brand name off-limits—we understand Fried’s frustration.

    That being said, competitor targeting (a.k.a. paid search conquesting) isn’t an inherently bad tactic—even if does feel a bit … wrong. In some cases, it allows advertisers in competitive industries to gain some additional exposure for their brands.

    It’s not black-and-white, but for now, it’s the way it is


  21. Oregoncharles

    ““Johns Hopkins has launched the first center devoted exclusively to researching psychedelic drugs in the U.S.” [CNN]…. The center is funded by a group of private donors, who collectively donated $17 million to start the center.” • Oh.”

    Who do you think is going to fund it? The DEA?

    This type of research has been actively, dishonestly repressed for a long time. I’m not inclined to look this gift horse in the mouth.

    To be fair: worth keeping an eye on; in practice, the tell will be their results.

  22. JohnnyGL


    Whew, CPAC has the same delusions about bringing down the Chinese govt. that they do about Venezuela, Iran, etc. Really amazing level of delusion.

    I sympathize with the HK protestors, but ‘allies’ like this aren’t going to help them. Of course, like any group of protesters, I’m sure there’s a mixed group of drivers motivating them, and they’re not exclusively flag-waiving, US-lovers as described here.

  23. Synoia

    “One asset for Uber is Laphonza Butler. She was president of one of the SEIU’s largest local unions until last year and is now a partner at SCRB Strategies, a California-based business and political consulting firm.

    Should that be SCAB Strategies?

  24. Watt4Bob

    From the NY Times piece on Warren’s money;

    Last winter and spring, she transferred $10.4 million in leftover funds from her 2018 Senate campaign to underwrite her 2020 run, a portion of which was raised from the same donor class she is now running against.”

    W4B, Emphasis mine.

    From the Gloucester Times article linked;

    A review of Warren’s reports to the Federal Election Commission suggests that pledge is disingenuous.

    Warren’s presidential campaign collected $6 million in the first quarter of this year, banking 213,000 contributions from 135,000 donors, with an average donation of $28, her campaign said.

    She also transferred into her account $10 million in leftover campaign cash from her run for Senate last year, and a political committee she operates with other candidates, according to disclosures filed with the FEC.

    Those two previous campaign accounts included about $400,000 in PAC contributions made by labor unions, trade groups and other special interests over the past two years. Among the contributors were the American Federation of Teachers, EMILY’s List, Utility Workers of America, the AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and the United Auto Workers.


    The NYT, and Gloucester Times are saying that of the $16 million dollars in Warren’s campaign chest, the $400,000 that was contributed by unions and Planned Parenthood stand as proof that she is accepting money from “the same donor class she is now running against.”

    I’d also point out that if they could have found any more ‘questionable donations‘, they surely would have, so we’re left with $400k out of $16 million, excuse me if I’m not convinced that Warren is being “disingenuous“.

    IMHO, Teachers, Utility workers, Emily’s List, Auto workers, AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood are not the “the same donor class she is now running against.”.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but the NYT, and Gloucester Times have not proved their point, and should quit with the smarmy, dishonest tactics until they can, and do.

    1. WJ

      “Warren’s presidential campaign collected $6 million in the first quarter of this year, banking 213,000 contributions from 135,000 donors, with an average donation of $28, her campaign said.”

      I’m interested in seeing a more detailed explanation of Warren’s “135,000 donors.” Are we sure these are 135,000 separate human beings? How many max gifts did Warren receive? Etc.
      I’m not saying that Warren is pulling a Beto here, but I’m not sure I know enough of the details to be sure she isn’t.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I wonder. Remember when a major bank was found guilty of creating bank accounts in their customer’s names but without the knowledge of those customers? I think that there were perhaps tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of these phantom accounts. The details escape me for the moment on this sorry episode but did anybody think to check what was done with those phantom bank accounts? Could they have been used to make donations to political candidates and causes? For a political campaign a contribution from such a source would appear to be from an individual donor.

  25. ewmayer

    “Truck maker Navistar International Corp. expects to spend 25% less on capital projects this year compared to last year…” — In Wolf Richter’s recent post Orders for Heavy Trucks Plunged 80% in August, he notes

    “During the ordering boom for Class 8 trucks in 2018, orders had peaked at over 52,000 a month in July and August, powered by fears among trucking companies that they would not have enough equipment to move all the freight resulting from the boom that turned out to be short-lived, caused in part because companies had tried to front-run the expected and announced tariffs by loading up on goods and piling up inventories.”

    …so e.g. Navistar’s cutbacks make perfect sense in that regard. IOW, much of last year’s boom was driven by tariff-uncertainty and the resulting frontrunning-importation binge, thus this year’s cutbacks are less tariff-related uncertainty than simply an entirely predictable mini-bust following last year’s boom.

  26. ambrit

    I’m somewhat ‘pizzled’ about the Pepys quote. The locution “…called us up…” doesn’t sound like something a seventeenth century scholar would have used. Is this just a mangled ‘updating’ of the original for “moderne” audiences, or is it an outright forgery?
    Methinks there is somewhat oblique here.

      1. polecat

        Well, Pepys was quite the ‘randy’ dandy of his day, as I recall .. so the maid was most likely not just window dressing …

        No fire looker was he … He WAS the fire !

  27. ewmayer

    “This is the factor that’s likely to determine whether there’s a U.S. recession” [Washington Post] … Even for those who are still employed, negative headlines about market drops, mass layoffs and gloomy expectations can spook Americans into tightening their belts.” — You mean, negative headlines like the please-please-please-let-there-be-a-market-rash-and-recession-before-the-2020-election scribblers at the like of WaPo are busily trotting out? If I didn’t know better I might think they’re trying to talk us into the very recession they are concern-trolling about. Thankfully, I’m not that cynical. /s

  28. Wukchumni

    UPDATE The Bezzle: “The People Paid to Dox Airbnb Addresses”

    At our town hall meeting, Tulare County officials announced that there would be a ‘one-time’ $500 fee for all short term vacation rentals (in addition to 10% transit occupancy tax already levied) and when those people with rentals asked what they’d get for the effort, said officials got real squirmy and managed to say nothing.

    Just a blatant money grab, 200x $500 = $100k in the 5th poorest County in the state.

  29. Ford Prefect

    RE: Buffet’s favorite indicator chart

    Most of Warren Buffet’s holdings are focused on US stocks, so the various valuations indicate that he would be holding big cash holdings right now based on his past history. And yes, most of Berkshire Hathaway’s big returns were pre-2008 and especially the periods of the 1950s/60s and 80s/90s when value investing did very well. It looks like he is hanging onto cash now in anticipation of US stock market valuation declines like 2003 or 2009 (rock-bottom 1982 stock valuations are unlikely for many years due to current low inflation and interest rates). His insurance businesses spin out a lot of cash every year that he reinvests (or holds). His stock doesn’t pay a dividend.

    There are other valuation indicators that show the same valuation relationships between now and other times – all these are remarkably consistent with one another. https://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/2019/09/04/market-remains-overvalued

    The problem is that they are pretty much useless for short-term timing of the stock market. However, they are pretty good at showing what relative real total returns of US stocks are likely to look like over the next 5-10 years.

    i use all these charts as a measure of risk in the market relative to how much real total return (price plus dividends) over the next 5-10 years to set my portfolio asset allocation that generally remains unchanged for several years at a time.

    At current levels, I assume that we are likely to have 0% to -10% real total returns in the US stock market over the next 5 years and -5 to +5% real total returns in the US stock market over the next 10 years. In the long run (20+ years), I assume we will be somewhere close to long-term averages (@ 7% real return).

    Keep in mind that the “safe” alternatives of cash and short-term and intermediate US Treasuries are set to yield about 0% real return over the next 5-10 years (10 year T-bond = inflation right now), so there is no easy money in these markets right now.

    International developed and emerging market stocks have significantly lower valuation ratios (close to average), so they have a much better chance of positive returns over the next 5-10 years. The US dollar is very high now, so a decline in the US dollar over the next few years would also boost the price of international stocks in US dollars which makes them a decent hedge against inflation.

    So returns of typical portfolios with a mix of US stocks, international stocks, and bonds are likely to muddle along over the next 5-10 years, but not fall off the face of the earth or skyrocket (I would be ecstatic with a 5% return of a balanced mix of those assets over the next 5-10 years – I am assuming 0% real return of a balanced portfolio over the next 5 years). Pension funds assuming 7-8% returns over the next 10 years have a low probability of coming close to those expected returns, so expect increasing pension crises, especially if US stocks tilt toward the bottom end of the expected range of returns – that is when Buffet would view the market as an all-you-can-eat buffet for feasting upon and his cash hoard would plunge.

    1. John k

      Hussman, pessimist since at least 2007, has an interesting long term return on equities chart.
      Personally I like the long bond until the next recession, whenever it begins, then look for good entry into equities domestic and foreign… have to include change in bond value for total return. Given low eu rates, might see even lower long rates here at some point…

      1. Ford Prefect

        The one thing that has saved some perma-bears over the past decade has been the ongoing bull market for the 30-year T-bond. If they had their money in that, then they have made some money over the past decade. If they had it in other things expecting high inflation or stock market declines, they have generally gotten their heads handed to them. However, many of them din’t hold the long bonds because they were expecting high deficits to kick inflation into gear which would decimate the long bond.

        My primary hedges over the past decade have been intermediate bonds and international stocks, including emerging. International vs US out performance tends to run in multi-year segments so the diversification usually takes a decade or so to pay off. Interestingly, you can get US stocks, international stocks, and intermediate bonds easily through Target Date funds.

  30. Wukchumni

    “Farmers turned to more corn production after China stopped buying U.S. soybeans, creating an inventory surplus that has sent prices tumbling.”
    Aren’t soybeans a more profitable crop than corn on an acre planted basis?

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Well, they are profitable if you can sell them. But if China won’t buy them any more now, and other buyers already have other sources, then you can’t sell them at all, meaning they are not profitable at all.

      ( I suspect specialty growers who were growing and selling Organic soybeans and/or NoGMO Franken-Free soybeans to specialty markets are still doing so. But I don’t know for sure).

  31. Acacia

    There was an article (or link) on NC a month or two back about how many “environmentally conscious” practices are more or less a drop in the bucket and reform is needed at a much higher level. I failed to bookmark this. Anybody recall the link?

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      But the system can only be tortured into permitting reform at a much higher level by the steady pain-infliction pressure of many millions of people organized to extort these reforms from a hostile and unwilling system.

      And if the performance of “environmentally conscious” practices by many millions of people can weld these people into a culture/movement/political warfigting force, then the performance of “environmentally conscious” practices would be a way for these many millions of people to get the reforms-at-a-much-higher-level they want to get.

    1. Jeff W

      Somewhat unbelievably by Sydney Ember, who is not exactly known for her Sanders-favorable pieces. One might cynically suggest that one Sanders piece not overtly biased against him might be employed to “inoculate” her from charges of bias in several others—but I’ll take what I can get.

      1. Carey

        “One might cynically suggest that one Sanders piece not overtly biased against him might be employed to “inoculate” her [S Ember] from charges of bias..”

        Yes, my first thought on seeing her name was “what’s the angle here?”, but wanted to get others’

  32. Blowncue

    So here’s a bedtime story for you.

    Once upon a time, there was an employee who got along swimmingly with his team lead. For several years they delivered outstanding performance.

    This employee was nothing if not driven, always itching to be used as an instrument for success. Not out of self-centeredness but from a genuine desire to win.

    One day his team lead overlooked him In the heat of battle. Furious at what he perceived to be a squandered opportunity, he took his frustration out at the water cooler. And when I say water cooler I mean the literal equivalent.

    His team lead in turn criticized him publicly. Our employee took great offense at this. His team lead dismissed the employee’s complaint.

    The employee escalated his disagreement, now also public, and eventually stopped coming to the office.

    Was our employee fired? No, instead he was spun off to a different company, if you will.

    Unfortunately our employee did not wipe his feet at the new company’s door. Instead, he failed repeatedly to show up for work, ignored assignments, violated confidentiality, failed to show for meetings, and attempted to throttle his manager. and when I say throttle I mean literally throttle his manager.

    Was our employee carried out by a four-man security team, one for each limb? Not at all!

    No, instead he was docked pay and told that he would be paid in a manner consistent with your average employment at will scheme. In short, he would be paid weekly.

    Our employee told his company to get stuffed.

    Whereupon he was promptly hired by one of the finest companies in America for the tidy sum of 15 million dollars. This company, in fact the entire industry, knew of this employee’s performance issues at this point.

    What’s more, his new team lead invited him to live with both him and his wife as part of his relocation package. Conviviality should ensue, unless our employee finds himself in that sunken place and takes to social media.

    Industry followers are astounded. Many exclaim that while it is true our volatile employee was literally knocked unconscious and is now at risk for a progressive permanent disability, many of those followers observe that they have taken a lot more shit for a lot less money. Including injury.

    They shouldn’t be astounded. The company owner wanted a happy ending.

    And when Mr. Kraft wants a happy ending, Mr. Kraft gets a happy ending.

    If Boris Johnson wanted to succeed in a ruthless consolidation he shouldn’t have hired Dominic Cummings.

    He should have gone with Bill Belichick.

    1. eg

      While this behaviour will come as a shock for NFL fans, long time NBA followers could have warned them that this day was coming.

    2. ewmayer

      You omit one key point of interest in your otherwise-delightful bedtime tale of workplace foibles and intrigue. Let’s call the 3 companies – original employer, “doormat’ waystation employer and “one of the finest” employer as A,B,C. Now the intriguing thing is that when separation became inevtiable, said disgruntled employee told employer A that he wished to take a job at employer C. Employer A refused to grant the request, as it considered employer C to be a key business rival, and pointed to a no-compete clause in employee’s contract. So Mr. Disgruntled ended up at employer B, a fine corporation to work for, to be sure, but not one with anything like the track record of success enjoyed by employer C. So rumor has it that Mr. Disgruntled started exploring ways to get himself terminated by employer B, and with the internet at his fingertips, quickly found a stratagem which the Bard might have termed “the old antic-disposition ploy”, which yielded the memorable saying “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t”. Because in the end, no company can force an employee to work. So employer B alas ends up playing the innocent dupe in this little shell-game drama, which ends with employer A’s no-compete clause mooted and Mr. Disgruntled at employer C. It only remains to be seen whether said union proves a happy one. It should be noted that employer C has a fairly unique track record with taking in talented but problematic employees for other companies and making use of the ‘talented’ while keeping the ‘problematic’ at bay.

      1. ewmayer

        Addendum: The move to employer C, while still lucrative, represents a rough halving of pay for Mr. Disgruntled. NYT:

        “According to Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, the receiver signed a one-year deal, which will guarantee him $9 million this season and the potential to earn as much as $15 million.

        It’s far short of the money Brown lost following his short tenure with the Oakland Raiders , that ended with the team voiding more than $29 million guaranteed money and releasing him.”

        So clearly, money was not the motivation.

  33. peepers

    From the NYT story on Warren’s previous big-money fundraisers: “Ms. Warren has said her ban on fund-raisers only applies to the primary. Should she win the nomination, she would return to the events to compete with Republicans. ”

    That’s news to me!!

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