2:00PM Water Cooler 10/31/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


While U.S.-China trade tensions weighed on results at Hasbro Inc., rival Mattel Inc. saw a sharp jump in quarterly profit and says looming levies on Chinese goods including toys had minimal impact on its bottom line” [Wall Street Journal]. “Many retailers agreed to buy Mattel’s products in China rather than ask the toy maker to import them to the U.S. and store them in warehouses stateside. The company says it also has less exposure to trade tensions than some because less than two-thirds of its products sold in the U.S. are imported from China, compared with the industry average of 85%. Over at Hasbro, retailers canceled direct import orders and required the toy maker to import the products themselves, adding to shipping and inventory costs.


“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

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Alert reader dk (not to be confused with DK) is in the process of developing the following interactive chart. Here is (are) the latest Dem Primary Polling as of 10/31/2019, 12:00 PM EDT

I know it’s early days, and we haven’t even had a primary vote yet, but with all the debates and the newsflow and the polls and the DNC manipulation it feels like we’re already in the midst of an election. I’m starting to think that the real story is why the heck is Joe Biden still cruising serenely along in the lead? Is everybody who was wrong about Trump — and that was almost everybody — wrong about Biden too? What kind of world are we living in? And here are the poll results, as of 10/31/2019, 12:00 PM EDT:

The state polling is still miserably inadequate, and there are no new polls of note.

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.”

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Biden (D)(1): “Joe Biden claims he’s getting ‘beat up because I’m not the socialist’ as Democrats worry his presidential primary campaign will flop in Iowa caucuses” [Daily Mail]. “Joe Biden claims he’s getting ‘beat up’ in the Democratic presidential primary ‘because I’m not the socialist’ – unlike rival Bernie Sanders. The former vice president made his claim at a fundraiser in Florida on Monday night at a time when the socialist label has been thrown around as an insult in the primary process.” • As so often with the fearsome Daily Mail, this is a surprisingly good wrap-up, well worth a read.

Biden (D)(2): “Joe Biden to attend Seattle fundraiser co-hosted by Amazon general counsel” [Seattle Times]. “Former Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to return to Seattle next month for a pair of fundraisers, including one co-hosted by Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky. Biden will attend a late-afternoon reception on Nov. 15 in the Madison Park neighborhood, hosted by Seattle philanthropist Janet Ketcham, with tickets starting at $1,000 and ranging to $2,800, according to an invitation. A second fundraiser is set for that evening at the Queen Anne neighborhood home of Zapolsky and his wife, Lynn Hubbard, a community volunteer and a former attorney, with admission set at $2,800 per person, according to an invitation. Co-chairs at each fundraising event are expected to raise $25,000. Biden’s tapping of financial help from a top Amazon leader comes as his polling and fundraising edges have faded in the Democratic presidential primary. It’s also another sign of increasing political engagement by Amazon and its executives locally and nationally.” • That’s nice. I’m starting to admire Biden at this point; he gives zero f*cks. And he’s still in the lead!

Buttigieg (D)(1): “Buttigieg distances himself from his McKinsey consulting days” [Politico]. “For years, Buttigieg’s stint at McKinsey & Company, the international management consulting firm, formed a key part of his political biography — from selling Hoosiers on his “experience around economics and business” as a green, 28-year-old candidate for Indiana state treasurer to talking earlier this year about the “perspective” he gained as part of the business world. But the resume line has faded from Buttigieg’s stump speech amid revelations about McKinsey’s work with authoritarian governments and growing skepticism of large corporations.” • Presumably Mayor Pete has asked McKinsey to release him from his NDA, so we can examine is record?

UPDATE Buttigieg (D)(2): “Pete Buttigieg Is Still Fighting the Last War” [The New Republic]. “This is among the many things about Buttigieg—next to the talk about freedom and security, the educational credentials, the military service, and his invocations of religion—that make it seem as though he’s been engineered as a response to Republican Party of 2004. He offers the kind of rhetoric one imagines the Democratic Party might have leaned into if Obama’s rise had never occurred—less soaring and more concerned with countering Republican suggestions of weakness. This is perhaps what made his early talk about not caring what Republicans say about Democrats so short-lived and personally untenable. Buttigieg has spent much of his life caring very deeply about what Republicans say—so deeply, in fact, that he is still doggedly fighting the rhetorical battles of the Bush presidency, a marooned soldier who hasn’t been told the war is over.”

Gabbard (D)(1): “Tulsi Gabbard is having a moment, and the party is getting nervous” [Yahoo News]. “According to New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait, that threat is becoming clearer every day. Citing an op-ed published by Gabbard in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal — and singling out a passage in which the congresswoman claims that “whether Mrs. Clinton’s name is on the ballot or not, her foreign policy will be, as many of the Democratic candidates adhere to her [hawkish] doctrine” — Chait argues that Gabbard is now “heavily hinting at a spoiler campaign to help Trump.”” • Who is this Jonathan Chait dude, anyhow?

UPDATE Gabbard (D)(2):

Come on, man.

Sanders (D)(1):

Notice the difference between The Onion’s headline and Politico’s.

Sanders (D)(2): “The surprise voting bloc Bernie is banking on to win the nomination” [Politico]. “That might sound like a crazy thing to say about the 78-year-old senator from one of the whitest states in the country. But Latino activists say they hear all the time from voters in their community who are high on Sanders, and that’s backed by polling showing him leading or tied among Latinos. Sanders won the highly coveted endorsement of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. His campaign co-chair is San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. Afro-Latina rapper Cardi B is a fan…. ‘They’re enormously important,’ Sanders said in an interview with POLITICO. ‘We are seeing the Latino population growing very significantly. We’re seeing young people getting involved in the political process in a very important way. The challenge that we face is that, historically, voter turnout in the Latino community is not very high. So we are doing everything we can in a variety of ways to organize.'” • Hope the Sanders app has a multilingual UI/UX….

Sanders (D)(3): “Bernie Sanders on socialism, taxes and why he thinks fossil fuel executives are ‘criminals'” (interview) [CNBC].

John Harwood: One health question as we start. Has what you went through affected you emotionally, how you think about life or what’s important?

Bernie Sanders: As somebody who has had great endurance as a kid — I was a long-distance runner, thank God I’ve been healthy as a horse — it was a little bit shocking to me when the doctor there told me, “Hey, you’re having a heart attack.” I could not believe that that was the case.

I don’t want to be overly political in saying this, but my life is political. I went into the hospital and I didn’t worry about whether I could afford to pay. I have good insurance. And I’m sitting there, and thinking somebody else here has that same discomfort, and they’re sitting and thinking, “Should I go into the hospital and end up with a large bill? Maybe it’ll get better tomorrow, maybe I’ll forget about it.” Some of those people die or suffer permanent health damage. That’s one of those things that I thought about.

Sanders (D)(4): Stoller is correct:

Maybe not from Yale? Or Harvard? Imagine the screaming!

Trump (R)(1): “Poll: Who’s sticking with President Trump, through trouble and tweets? His seemingly unshakable base.”[USA Today]. “Americans are split in [a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll] about whether Trump should be convicted by the Senate in an impeachment trial and removed from office: 46% in favor and 47% against. Having close to half of registered voters support his eviction from the White House is politically perilous territory for any president, of course. Despite damaging new testimony, however, 30% to 40% of those surveyed remain solidly on Trump’s side…. The president’s solid core of supporters don’t comprise a majority of the electorate, but they do provide a political foundation that energizes him – witness his speeches that stretch an hour and longer at raucous rallies – and helps limit defections from other GOP officials.”

Williamson (D)(1): “Marianne Williamson places campaign ad on reparations in South Carolina” [CNN]. “‘The first enslaved persons are brought over in 1619, slavery not abolished until 1865. That’s 250 years, followed by another hundred years of institutionalized violence against black people,’ Williamson says in the video. ‘That’s 350 years of institutionalized violence,’ she continues. ‘That’s longer than this country has been in existence.’ ‘Paying reparations for slavery will not fix everything,’ Williamson says. ‘But America will not have the future that we want if we’re not willing to clean up the past, to clean up this original character defect of racism.'” • Character defect?!?

Our Famously Free Press


Also issue ads. This is good, but now all the money that would have been spent on ads will be spent on troll armies.


“House approves road map for Trump impeachment” [The Week]. “The House voted 232-196 Thursday to approve Democrats’ terms for an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The vote on the resolution was largely along party lines, though Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) did side with Democrats, and two Democrats did disapprove the plan. The vote came after reports spelled out the increased rights Trump would be afforded under the resolution, and as Republicans criticize House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for not taking the vote sooner. The resolution provides an impeachment “road map” that lets House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) call for hearings with witnesses and lets Republicans request subpoenas, among other things. It also includes increased rights for Trump, which can be rescinded if he continues to block Democratic subpoenas.”

“Democrats are giving Trump more impeachment rights than Clinton or Nixon got — but there’s a catch” [The Week]. “The Judiciary Committee is distributing charts listing ‘every protection that Clinton and Nixon got’ and showing “that the Democrats will give Trump those — and even more,” he added. But there’s a catch: Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) can rescind some of those rights if Trump refuses to hand over documents or blocks witnesses.”

“Pelosi is Blowing Smoke, But Where’s the Fire?” [The American Conservative]. “Trump then released the memorandum of conversation between himself and Ukrainian president Zelensky. This is the U.S. government’s record of what was said and as such will form near 100 percent of what Dems will use to impeach. After all, it is the only primary document in the case…. To impeach, one must conclude from the text above that a) Trump asking for information, however far-fetched, on possible foreign interference in the 2016 election was wrong (and then explain why the Dems conducted a three year investigation of the same); b) Trump asking for an investigation into whether then-Vice President and perhaps soon President Biden used his office for personal gain is of no interest to the people of the United States, even if that same information were also of interest to Trump (and account for Dems asking in 2018 the Ukraine to cooperate to dig up dirt on Trump, and allowing that a Ukrainian investigation would supposedly exonerate Biden); c) that Trump made clear to Zelensky aid was contingent on these investigations and; d) explain why the aid paid out soon after the call without any investigation. The base problem is Trump never said he was withholding aid in the July 25 call…. That leads to a second base problem. Nothing happened. Trump never asked the attorney general to contact Zelensky. It is unclear who if anyone Guiliani spoke with, but either way the Ukrainians never investigated anything. This impeachment will be the first in American history without any underlying actual crime taking place on the ground. Democrats seek to impeach Trump for talking about something, and never doing something, that itself may not be a real offense anyway. If you hear echoes of Russiagate, obstructing something that wasn’t actually obstructed, you have sharp ears.” • Worth reading in full, though I think — sadly — that where we are now, realpolitik is far more important than “high crimes and misdemeanors,” however defined, and no matter which narrative emerges triumphant. Do note, however, that Trump is many things, but not dumb; he did, after all. attack and best two party establishments. If he released the so-called “transcript” — granted, complete with ellipses, but why add a red flag like that in the first place? — that can only be because he thinks it will help him toward some objective he desires.

Health Care

Accept no substitutes:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Friend or foe? Washington is vexed by an uninvited visitor” [Los Angeles Times]. “Even in an intrigue-filled capital accustomed to shadowy visitors with vague intentions, one that recently took up residence at a very fancy address here is particularly unnerving. It arrived without warning and refuses to leave. It moves slowly but stubbornly, like some members of Congress. Government scientists are still trying to sort out if it is friend or foe…. Not since a spaceship parked downtown in the 1950s sci-fi classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still” has Washington been so confused by an uninvited guest as it is by the bacteria, fungi and algae creeping over the once-gleaming dome of the Jefferson Memorial, leaving black splotches in its wake. The outbreak of “biofilm,” as the mysterious microbial mix is known, is more confusing than even Rudolph W. Giuliani. The Jefferson Memorial and a hallowed shrine at Arlington National Cemetery have been stained with dark blotches. Biofilm is beginning to emerge at several other fabled memorials, including the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, though they have not been visibly marred.” • The symbolism is pretty obvious…

UPDATE He’s a real Democrat!

Stats Watch

Jobless Claims, week of October 26, 2019: “Jobless claims remain very stable and consistent with strong demand for labor” [Econoday].

Challenger Job-Cut Report, October 2019: “Layoff announcements rose in October but were still on trend,” [Econoday]. “Altogether, technology companies accounted for nearly 16,000 of October’s announcements with health care also high at 5,400 as hospitals cite lower Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. But retail, a sector adjusting to new technologies, has announced the most cuts this year…. Altogether, however, October’s announcements confirm steady conditions in the labor market ahead of tomorrow’s employment report.”

Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, October 2019: “It’s often hot or cold for Chicago’s PMI sample and October, likely due to the GM strike, was a very cold month” [Econoday]. “the leading indicator among the report’s details, that is the new order index, is at a 10-year low and a very depressed score… Order scores in the 30s are usually seen at times of economic crisis which this sample may be suffering from the GM strike which, however, has been tentatively settled in what might prove to be a major positive for November’s report.”

Employment Cost Index, Q3 2019: “An increase in wages & salaries along with higher benefits made for an uptick in employer costs during the third quarter” [Econoday]. “An increase in wages & salaries along with higher benefits made for an uptick in employer costs during the third quarter.”

Personal Income and Outlays, September 2019: “Moderate if not moderation is the theme from September’s sweep of personal income, consumer spending, and PCE inflation data” [Econoday]. “This report is soft and is on the weak side of the Federal Reserve’s outlook for the economy, based on yesterday’s press conference by Jerome Powell who is expecting a little more punch. Whether consumer spending improves in October will go a long way to establishing expectations whether the Fed in December cuts rates once again.”

Commodities: “Zimbabwe Eyes Platinum-Led Revival. Miners See Little Chance” [Bloomberg]. “Since Emmerson Mnangagwa took over as leader of the country following a coup in late 2017, platinum projects valued at more than $8 billion have been announced by Cypriot and Russian investors. Still, two decades of political and economic instability and a government with a track record of seizing privately owned assets makes many in the industry skeptical about the new ventures.”

Big Ag: “China’s hunger for protein is causing big swings in global meat markets. The lifting of a four-year-old Chinese ban on U.S. poultry shipments sent stocks of producers such as Tyson Foods Inc. surging and chicken prices are expected to follow… signaling market hopes for a surge in exports” [Wall Street Journal]. “The U.S.-China accord comes as an outbreak of African swine fever has slashed some 40% of China’s hog herd, pushing domestic pork prices up by 69% from the prior year and setting off a hunt for alternative protein sources. China’s chicken imports are projected to more than double in 2020, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Ample U.S. poultry supplies have dragged down domestic prices, and American poultry executives are licking their chops at the opportunity to fill China’s pork gap with exports of dark-meat chicken.”

Big Ag: “Grain Quality Questions Linger” [Ag Pro]. “It’s just one setback after another this season. From major planting delays, too wet or too dry mid-season to early frost and wet harvest, it seems like this crop just can’t catch a break. As grain comes pouring into elevators and on-farm storage quality concerns are mounting. ‘There will be issues when poor quality grain is being put into storage for a longer period than normal,’ said Tom Dahl, president of the American Association of Grain Inspection and Weighing Agencies, in a recent press release. ‘Producers and users need to understand that these poor quality conditions can affect storability and long-term quality condition.'”

Shipping: “AAR: U.S. Traffic Not Improving” [Railway Age]. “It appears we’re still in a freight recession, as total carloads for the week ended Oct. 26 were 243,321 carloads, down 9.4% compared with the same week in 2018, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 269,826 containers and trailers, down 8.3% compared to 2018. None of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2018. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2018 included commodities such as coal, down 14,797 carloads, to 73,184; grain, down 2,152 carloads, to 21,135; and metallic ores and metals, down 2,064 carloads, to 21,291.”

Manufacturing: “The French plane maker slashed its delivery target for the year over production problems… even as a flurry of new orders pushes it past rival Boeing Co. Both manufacturers have been ramping up production to meet surging demand for narrow-body planes, with Boeing taking a big hit from the March grounding of its best-selling such jet, the 737 MAX” [Wall Street Journal]. “But Airbus is still recovering from delays last year by engine suppliers that hampered delivery of its narrow-body A320neo jets, and has had challenges building bigger versions for longer flights. A more than 7,000-order backlog now leaves Airbus little room to accommodate new orders as it seeks to capitalize on Boeing’s woes.”

Manufacturing: “Faury looks to transform Airbus” [Leeham News & Analysis]. “Guillaume Faury assumed his office as chief executive officer of the Airbus Group at a time when the company was trying to emerge from years-long scandals over bribery and corruption probes and the industry was only beginning to reel from the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX.”

Manufacturing: “Manufacturing Is Now Smallest Share of U.S. Economy in 72 Years” [Bloomberg]. “Manufacturing made up 11% of gross domestic product in the second quarter, the smallest share in data going back to 1947 and down from 11.1% in the prior period, a Commerce Department report showed Tuesday…. While manufacturing has added about half a million workers on the whole since Trump took office, states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that helped him win in 2016 are now losing factory jobs amid a persistent trade war with China and a weaker global economy.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 71 Greed (previous close: 75, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 57 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 31 at 12:19pm.

The Biosphere

“One Wildfire Metric Threatens to Upend PG&E’s Bankruptcy” [Bloomberg]. “PG&E Corp. investors looking to learn their fate may not get the answer from the bankrupt power company. Instead, the key data point could pop up within days on the website of California’s forestry service. That’s where firefighters are tracking how many structures the Kincade fire has damaged and destroyed — 147 as of Tuesday morning. If the tally tops 500, and it turns out that PG&E equipment started the fire, the backers of two competing reorganization plans for the San Francisco-based utility giant have the right to withdraw because of the soaring liability.” • 500 is a very small number!


“Formal U.S. Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement Looms” [Scientific American]. “One week from today, President Trump gets his earliest opportunity to make good on his pledge to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement. The president made it clear last week that his plans had not changed, telling an audience in Pittsburgh that staying in the climate pact would have the effect of ‘shutting down’ American energy companies while allowing foreign firms to ‘pollute with impunity.'”

“Gullah Geechee worry their unique island culture won’t survive climate change” [Grist]. “Fiercer storms and the encroaching seas are gnawing away at the Gullah Geechee nation, a distinct cultural group that historically dwelt on a 425-mile stretch of coastline from Jacksonville, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida. Today, the bulk of this community, descendants of African slaves and native Americans, resides only on the low-lying fringes of South Carolina and Georgia… The plight of the Gullah Geechee is echoed in other distinct cultures across the U.S. that find themselves on the frontline of the climate crisis. Often forced onto land vulnerable to drought or flooding by colonial dispossession and a lack of political clout, these communities face an overwhelming threat to their way of life.”

“Neanderthals were master fire-starters, cave chemistry suggests” [Chemistry World]. “Neanderthals were masters at making and controlling fires, suggests new research that found distinctive hydrocarbons from ancient hearths in a cave inhabited up to 60,000 years ago. The study gives weight to the theory that Neanderthals and other early humans were skilled at making fires, rather than just exploiting natural wildfires…. The mastery of fire by early humans is a hot topic. A 2016 study suggested Neanderthals used powdered magnesium dioxide as a fire lighter, and a 2018 study led by [Archaeologist Andrew Sorensen from the University of Leiden, the Netherlands] proposed that distinctive marks on Neanderthal tools from around 50,000 years ago were evidence of fire-making.”

“How the earliest mammals thrived alongside dinosaurs” [Nature]. “Kayentatherium‘s skeleton is mammal-like in many ways, but the fossil suggested that it still reproduced very much like a reptile, giving birth to large litters of small-brained offspring. By contrast, ‘mammal moms invest a lot in a smaller number of babies, each of which has a better chance of surviving’, says [Eva Hoffman, a palaeontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City]. Mammal babies spend longer under their parents’ care, developing relatively large brains, whereas these fossil hatchlings had well-developed bones and teeth, hinting that they could fend for themselves and were not nourished by milk, as all mammals are today. The find is among a mass of discoveries in the past 10–20 years that are illuminating milestones in mammalian evolution. Although major finds are emerging all over the world, the largest number are coming out of China; together, they have overturned the now dated belief that dinosaur-era mammals were small, unremarkable insectivores, eking out a life in the shadows of the giant reptiles.”

Our Famously Free Press

“Very, Very Large and Very Underserved”: John Heilemann’s New Venture Is Betting People Want More Political Video on Their Phone Vanity Fair

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch



“Verb-noun vs noun-verb” [Red Blob Game’s Blob]. “Sometime in my teens I got to meet Lord British (Richard Garriott) and Iolo the Bard (David Watson). My mom was shopping, and I went to the computer aisle to browse the games I couldn’t afford. Richard and Iolo were talking about Ultima 6. Nobody else was there, so I got to talk to them for half an hour! I learned about OOP, UI, testing, systems thinking, and more. Really cool! They told me about how they coded puzzles to look for the state of the world (nouns) instead of the player actions (verbs). For example, there was a puzzle where they expected players to cast Telekinesis (ᚩᚣᛕ ORT POR YLEM) on a lever on the other side of a chasm. Instead, during playtesting, they saw that one player killed a party member, tossed the body over the chasm, cast Resurrect (ᛁᛗᚳ IN MANI CORP), then have the party member pull the lever.”

“Play like me: Similarity in playfulness promotes social play” [PLOS One]. From the abstract: “Social play is associated with the experience of positive emotions in higher vertebrates and may be used as a measure of animal welfare…. This study investigated how forming groups based on known differences in the personality trait ‘playfulness’ (i.e., the longer-term propensity of an individual to actively play from adolescence to early adulthood) affects social play…. Groups made of animals with similar playfulness, even those initially scoring relatively low in this trait, seemed to be more successful in establishing play relationships during adolescence.”

Halloween Watch

“Who Invented The ‘Bedsheet Ghost’?” [Daily Beast]. “There is perhaps no Halloween costume more clichéd than the easy-peasy “bedsheet ghost,” the most primitive of which can be fashioned with nothing but white linens and scissors for eyeholes…. French medium and photographer Edouard Buguet spent a year in jail for fraud in 1874, when it was discovered his renowned ghost photos actually captured shrouded dummies. Decades later, Scottish medium Helen Duncan released photos of herself with a ‘ghost’ that ended up being a doll beneath a white sheet….. [O]ur contemporary vision of the ‘bedsheet ghost’ certainly owes more to the pranksters and frauds than to any earnest homage to Victorian spectres or Celtic paganism…. ”

Speaking of cats:

Hard to imagine Disney producing this today:

Class Warfare

“Ford Reaches a Tentative Deal With UAW on New Pact, Averting a Strike” [Industry Week]. “Ford Motor Co. reached a tentative agreement with the United Auto Workers union on a new labor contract for its U.S. workers, likely avoiding a strike that cost crosstown rival General Motors Co. billions of dollars. The accord includes $6 billion of product investment in U.S. facilities and the creation and retention of more than 8,500 jobs… ‘Pure electric vehicles require 40% fewer hours to assemble the powertrain than internal combustion vehicles,’ said Mark Wakefield, head of the automotive practice at consultant AlixPartners. ‘So the automakers and their workers have some difficult EV realities to tackle over the next few years.'”

News of the Wired

“Why Libraries Are Eliminating Late Fees for Overdue Books” [City Labs]. “Chicago libraries will no longer collect late fees starting this month, becoming the largest public library system in the U.S. to do away with overdue fines. The city is also erasing all currently outstanding fees, which is good news to the more than 343,000 cardholders whose borrowing privileges have been revoked for accruing at least $10 in unpaid fines. Chicago is one of a growing number of cities trying to make access to libraries more equitable….. By imposing fines, and prohibiting people from borrowing books when the fines add up, the libraries are effectively driving away the very residents who need them the most…. The decision to remove fines is a growing nationwide movement. Already, dozens of U.S. libraries have fully or partially eliminated overdue fines (usually for teens and children), according to a “fine-free” map from the Urban Libraries Council (ULC).”

Like a WASP:

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 and coral 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 (PS):

PS writes: “Salvia ‘Midnight Spires’ and Tecoma x smithii, Berkeley, California.”

Bonus plant:

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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. Pavel

    I am following a bunch (not all, by any means!) of the campaign hashtags on Twitter. I noticed today at #Yang2020 that some of his “YangGang” are continually upset with MSNBC, with good reason, it seems… that channel is doing what the corporate media have done to (among others) Ron Paul way back when and Bernie more recently — omitting Yang’s name, poll results, and image from their politics screens. In the latest episode, they report Harris’s and Klobuchar’s numbers which are lower than Yang’s — but fail to mention the latter at all.

    I suppose as the home of Maddow and Russia! Russia! Russia! I am not too surprised, but it is still so blindingly obvious. If I were of Asian background I’d be even more upset.

    DISCLAIMER: Not a huge Yang supporter, though I welcome his new perspectives, non-political background, and especially his authenticity. Plus he tends actually to answer a question instead of waffling about some other topic altogether. (Liz Warren, I’m looking at you!)

    From the ridiculous (US politics) to the sublime, separately I discovered this nifty Audubon Society online quiz to figure out “What Kind of Owl Are You?”. I am apparently a Snowy Owl, which amuses me no end. :)

    What Kind of Owl Are You?

    Takes <5 minutes. Enjoy!

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I’m a Barn Owl:

      With its ghostly appearance, rasping shrieks, and habit of roosting in such places as church belfries, this bird has attracted much superstition. However, it is really a good omen for farmers who find it in their barns, for it preys chiefly on mice and rats. Discovered in its daytime retreat, the Barn Owl bobs its head and weaves back and forth, peering at the intruder. At night it is often heard calling as it flies high over farmland or marshes. One of the most widespread of all landbirds, found on six continents and many islands.

      1. laughingsong

        Apparently I am a Snowy Owl. Rulin’! That’s the best result I have ever gotten from a silly, fun quiz like this.

        1. Pavel

          Agreed, given the sweet message it gave with the result! Apparently I am “mysterious and spreading fascination around the world” or some such thing…
          Mind you, all owls are special in their own ways… absolutely amazing and beautiful animals. Check out how their eyes work on YouTube or elsewhere if you haven’t already.

        2. Jen

          Same here. I have a barred owl nesting in a tree cavity about 25 feet from my house. I refer to it as my guardian owl.

          1. John A

            I am a snowy owl. Sadly the only snowy owl I have ever seen was road kill. Apparently, they became a ‘must have pet’ in certain quarters thanks to the Harry Potter saga. The road kill own may well have been such an escapee.

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        it determined that i was a snowy owl, although i had difficulty with the choices.
        I like screech owls…specifically the Western kind(Megascops kennicottii).
        had a family of them living in a hole in the wall of my Library(beat up trailerhouse). when i got around to repairing the walls, i made them a house from a hollow section of mesquite(salvaged from my firewood cutting), and hung it in a tree near to their nest.
        they moved right in.
        when i go out in the predawn time of scampering for the jointwalk, i often see them hanging around(red, blue and green outside lights help). tiny little guys…maybe 8″…and fast.
        I often hear barn owls and great horned owls around here, especially in winter…but i never see them.

    2. jrs

      This stuff is actually huge: “Maddow and Russia! Russia! Russia!”. I mean I hear people discussing her book on Russia now and seriously. Man on the street? Nah. People who fancy themselves a cut above intellectually. And that’s what maybe makes it even more troubling, serious people are taking this stuff seriously.

      People were blabbing on about “oil … blah” and I trying to contextualize it hmm, remember Hudson’s essay here on oil and the U.S. etc., I really don’t know what my deluded self thinks serious people are reading (Hudson’s essays posted on NC and Counterpunch and the like apparently), but I guess it’s not Rachel Maddow. But I only have so much time to read books and is Maddow remotely qualified to opine on the things she thinks she’s qualified to opine about?

      Yang has some support, may not be huge but, actually people who I’d resonate better with the Maddow crowd.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        After 9/11, W and his gang marketed themselves as the serious people, and after a few years, the “libruls” began to claim, “no, we are the serious people.”

        For the most part “serious people” are effing morons. Occasionally a Chris Arnade gets out, but all those people in his book were very serious about their struggles long before Arnade put his face to it for his “front row kids” who I often found were more obsessed with gold stars than learning or why learning was important to the general society. Harvard was founded to provide literate ministers, not become a mecca.

    3. ChiGal in Carolina

      Spotted Owl

      “You’re an old soul with a particular soft spot for the solitary freedoms of the forest.”

      sounds about right, thx Pavel!

      1. newcatty

        Lovely, old soul. I am a Spotted Owl. Now am fortunate enough to live in the soft spot of the forest in my small house that I share with a Snowy Owl. We get are sympatico.

    4. ChrisAtRU

      Snowy Owl! Yay!

      “You’re mysterious and elusive, spreading fascination and a little bit of awe everywhere you show up.”

      LOL … ;-) Makes me sound waaaay more interesting than I actually am.

      1. urblintz

        i’m a snowy owl but i’d have been okay with any owl as long as I can turn my head around and look backwards!

    5. Kurt Sperry

      I didn’t take the quiz, but I identify best with burrowing owls, what they call “civette” in Italian. I’d wish to be a Great Grey Owl, but am probably not worthy.

    6. mrsyk

      I’m a Spotted Owl. Fun! We have a thriving community of Barred Owls (SW VT). They’ve done a bang up job on the rodent population.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      He even had a falling out with Sister Wendy. People who knew Tolkien and knew the reason for the fight have claimed Sister Wendy’s show would fit his vision of what Sister Wendy should have been doing with her life.

      I mean gin has a certain WASP quality, but I’ve never seen anything wrong with improving my coffee if I don’t have to go anywhere.

      1. Kurt Sperry

        Improving coffee is a worthy goal. If you find yourself in a coffee savvy bar consider, ordering a caffe’ macchiato corretto with Jack Black. About two, maybe two and a half bucks in rural Italy.

    1. ambrit

      Hey there! Commenting on various blogs is legitimate training for Trollhood. (Trolls and the Hood. That sounds about right.) One could almost make the argument that Trolldom is an intermediate step between Commenter and Blogger. As usual, when one rises above the purely emotional trigger words stage of communication, categories become, shall we say, fluid. I wonder what the IRS would classify Internet Troll as.

  2. urblintz

    I realize gut instinct counts fer nuthin’ but I ain’t seen no reason to think the polls are any better this time than last time. But given the digital voting shananigans which seem almost inevitable, I guess the polls can be made to be right one way or another… don’t matter who votes, matters who counts ’em.

    And now i find out that Bezos has his grubby fingers on election data in 40 states: https://www.msn.com/en-us/finance/news/amazons-cloud-computing-services-elections-data-in-40-states-report-finds/vi-AAIOUWP


      1. urblintz

        this might cause the propornot’s heads to explode, but…

        I found the link by way of…

        wait for it…

        Lee Camp on rt’s “redacted tonight” (incoming, deflector shields up!)

    1. Jokerstein

      It’s the counties and states that are choosing to do this. Nobody is forcing them. The software is designed, installed, and maintained by entities other than Amazon.

      1. urblintz

        thanks for the clarification. Do you have any links to a more thorough understanding of the amazon connection, or lack of, as you describe? I don’t seem to be asking the right question in my searches. Cheers!

    2. Pavel

      I read somewhere that Bezos’s first name for a company was “Relentless” and he registered the respective domain name. This may be an urban myth but it certainly seems to sum up his modus operandi.

      Bookstores… record stores… electronics… supermarkets… the Washington Post… CIA contracts… military contracts… election data…

      Where will he stop? Who will stop him?

      1. JTMcPhee

        Death stops us all. But then I understand Bezos and other squillionaites have “people” who are figuring out how to prolong those squillionaires’ lives FOREVER, either in the flesh or as code in the Matrix… https://www.forbes.com/sites/russalanprince/2018/01/02/who-wants-to-live-forever-the-super-rich-thats-who-and-most-everyone-else/#63fe2ab64ab2

        Mopes will not be afforded this opportunity.

        Then there’s this, of course: https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-exactly-boys-savage-chant-192605

  3. anEnt

    It is clarifying that the unconstitutional domestic dragnets and citizen assassination are not under consideration for Trump’s impeachment. Nixon’s impeachment articles were focused on his surveillance abuses. Where is our Senator Church?

  4. Covergirl

    I spent many, many years as an internal auditor for PG&E. The link to the faux journo’s tweet under the biosphere section doesn’t help anyone. Not least because it’s a huge, unproven assumption from someone who knows nothing about the industry. To be clear, if asked by investigators, I would gladly empty more than one closet of skeletons. But PG&E and other regulated monopolies are antiquated structures created to address the problems of times gone by. They are only evil because people think they have a right to not pay attention.

    Yes PG&E is a corrupt institution, but who made it that way? If you said “everyone” then you get a cookie. Vilifying PG&E will do nothing to ameliorate the ravages of neo-liberal, quasi-conservative end stage capitalism. If people really, actually cared, they would educate themselves, then start a dialectic that examines assumptions about social good and the responsibilities that come with rights. You cannot free the investor class from scrutiny without consequences. And consequences of poor thinking, abrogation of responsibility, and vindictive back-biting are rarely desirable.

    1. Danny

      So Covergirl,
      What would the Chinese do to PG&E executives? Bullet in the back of the head, or firing squad? I like the North Korean’s flair for the dramatic, shred them with anti-aircraft fire.

      What, in your opinion, happens to the rate payers’ responsibility to continue paying for the bonds that PG&E took out to pay off the families of barbecued relatives and destroyed property, should they be broken up into smaller municipal run alternatives?

      “State senator Bill Dodd, D, authored SB 901 back in April, 2018 that passes PG&E fire liability on to customers and authorizes PG&E to use a type of state-authorized bond to pay off the more than 200 lawsuits filed against the company over the fires and hundreds of deaths. However, no reverse condemnation of PG&E for damages is possible. Signed into law Sept 21, 2018 by Governor Jerry Brown.”

      Would rate payers continue to have to fund the bonds, or, would court adjudicated victims get first claim on local revenues from newly fractured company?

      1. hunkerdown

        That’s the problem, isn’t it? That there’s no deterrent value in firing them since they’re already on someone else’s payroll, however diffuse that may be. Personally, I prefer bringing the free helicopter rides back to them.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The answer, on the one hand, is it’s everyone’s responsibility, as Covergirl says.

        On the other hand, increasingly, people feel they are not being heard.

        So, we have principle (the former) vs. details on the ground (the latter).

        Ideally, we don’t see the preferred method of that North Korean guy. We see it in places where there are even bigger problems troubling the people there.

      3. Covergirl

        I dunno Danny. What would the EU do to municipalities that showed the temerity to question the economic beliefs of central bankers? Advocating violence just makes you irrelevant because it offers no solution. Casting dispersions on others nations strikes me as lacking in self reflection.

        What makes you believe that running shared infrastructure across multiple responsible entities will work better? BART?

        When so many people whinge about big gubmint, how does that align with breaking up a monopoly and putting it under local control where the cheerleaders that get elected at local levels are regularly outplayed by sophisticated actors? What about purchasing forward power contracts? How do you think Modesto city council would do there?

    2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      What a great comment, thank you.

      To the extent we seek culpability, isn’t it usually the owners that are looked to? And yes the big hand of gummint since it is a *regulated* industry.

      (I blame Reagan, since he did so much to advance the idea that *regulation* is an unalloyed evil. Turns out The State really is required to protect the 99% from the logical conclusions of shareholder capitalism).

    3. Wukchumni

      The whole sordid episode reminds me of Enron* gaming the state power grid, causing blackouts in the process.

      It was the last time perps from a too big to fail went to jail, in the aftermath of malfeasance.

      History repeats, and sometimes rhymes.

      * Minute Maid Park in Houston was once called Enron Field.

  5. Wukchumni

    In a world of long ago, when it was too wet to plant crops @ the usual time in the late spring-early summer, and then out of nowhere untimely biting cold temps ruined what was growing in the ground in the late fall, that’d be quite the recipe for disaster.

    Oh well, there’s always stone soup for sustenance.

  6. Synoia

    In order to relieve shyness, J. R. R. Tolkien would ask his students at an 11am tutorial, ‘Do you think it’s too early for gin?’ before pouring them a glass.

    Gin and Tonic probably. Neat Gin is not very palatable.

    1. Jackson

      Speak for yourself LOL. Neat gin is a basic martini(with two drops vermouth) and a couple of olives. Star of Bombay is extremely smooth.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I wasn’t brought up with this “two drops” weak sh*t. Opening the vermouth bottle and then recapping it in the presence of the vermouth was more than enough.

        1. Nordberg

          Same as you Lambert. Wafting the vapors with ones hand towards the glass was acceptable as well.

        2. Duke, Hawkeye, and Trapper Fan

          Agree on this. My guess is that the Swampmen in M*A*S*H would agree with you too.

        3. neighbor7

          Apparently Luis Buñuel let a ray of light shine through a bottle of vermouth onto his glass of gin. Just like a filmmaker…

        4. skippy

          In my experience the perspective is couched as waving the vermouth cap over the the glass was considered the correct ritual.

          I say that as someone enjoying a Fijian Ratu spiced rum with a splash of Charlies homemade lemon aid and topped off with S. Pellegrino on rocks.

  7. Judith

    For people near NYC.

    I saw this poster on Margaret Kimberley’s twitter:

    Big Apple Coffee Party Presents
    Propaganda – How Propaganda Manufactures Consent
    Tuesday, November 19, 2019
    Community Church of New York
    40 East 35 Street, NYC
    7:00 – 9:00 pm (doors open 6:30 pm)
    Panelists: Max Blumenthal, Margaret Kimberly, Aaron Mate, Lee Camp
    Email or call to let them know you are coming BigAppleCoffeeParty@gmail.com or 212.252.2619

    1. Baby Gerald

      Thanks for sharing this, Judith. I just emailed an rsvp. That’s a great panel they’ve put together.

    2. JTMcPhee

      The Alphabets know that a few of us mopes know their game, and they know nowhere near enough of us mopes do, and they also have seen that more than enough of us will happily go along or join up with the Alphabets for all the usual reasons. The Alpabettians know or are pretty darn sure from long experience that the sheep will keep following Judas goats up the chute…

  8. Phacops

    Thank you for reminding me about the Onion’s story about Bernie. Ever since first picking up the mag in Madison Wisconsin I’ve been amazed how they express truth through humor never shying away from what we leave unsaid.

  9. Divadab

    Re: Neanderthal fire-making

    It’s pretty well accepted that two early masteries allowed early humans to leave Africa and expand all over Eurasia by about 2 million years ago: mastery of fire and mastery of a stone toolkit for hunting and processing big game. These people have been labeled « homo erectus «  (of which Neanderthal was a local European version) – but I’m pretty sure they’d do ok today as regular people especially considering present devolutionary trends.

    Anyway speaking as an evolved Neanderthal…….

    1. Wukchumni

      I’d like to give a shout out to Bic lighters, for about a buck-buck fifty you can have hundreds of quests for fire, and love the exquisite ergonomic art-deco rounded shape that fits perfectly in your hand, Neanderthal or otherwise.

      1. Kurt Sperry

        A mini-Bic is one of the great industrial designs of the past 50 years. It didn’t invent anything new, but it cannot be significantly improved upon. Truly mature designs are rare.

        1. polecat

          I found it an amazing stroke of marketing genius, that for such a cool product, constantly losing them was a critical feature in their continual replacement – a kind of planned ‘non’-obsolescence .. so much so, that eventually, if one needed to ‘Flick Their Bic’, all they had to do was scan a room .. any room ….. and just by thinking in primary colors, a quite serviceable Bic, or several, would materialise before one’s very eyes !! Crisis averted.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      . These people have been labeled « homo erectus « (of which Neanderthal was a local European version)

      I thought Neanderthals and modern humans evolved from a common ancester (Homo Erectus). Both are Sapiens.

      That is, The Neanderthal man was NOT a local European version of Home Erectus, but their descedants.

      Perhaps my understanding is not correct/up to date, or maybe I am not reading the comment correctly.

      1. Divadab

        Ah of course all human lineages are descended from homo erectus. Neanderthal is one descendent but isn’t it interesting that all human lineages are cross fertile and have been for hundreds of thousands of years- Even if separated by thousands of generations. My point is that labels we apply as if we are talking about separate species- Neanderthal, denisovan, for example, were cross fertile with each other and with all varieties of modern human. So all are the same species.

    3. Jessica

      Fire turned humans from prey into predators.
      In remains older than humanity’s mastery of fire, they find bits of humans in lion and tiger scat. After humanity’s mastery of fire, they find bits of lions and tigers in human scat.

  10. Lost in or

    “Why Libraries Are Eliminating Late Fees for Overdue Books”

    My (truly awesome) library has been automatically renewing my late returns for another three weeks. My $3.43 outstanding liability has been on the books for about a year. Public service at it’s best. I love it!

    1. Kevin

      Sounds like your library has books!
      Our library looks like a Russian grocery store. I’m about and hour west of Chicago. It’s pathetic.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          If you are on the waiting list for a book, I think you would like the person currently has it checked out to have his or her allocated time, and then give you a chance to read it.

          But it there is not one waiting for your book/CD/DVD/etc, then you should be able to continue to renew it, even after 3 renewals.

        2. chuckster

          So what exactly is the motivation to return a book if there is no ramification for not doing so? I wonder what size budget the Chicago Library system has?

          1. Carey

            “..we no longer own™ that book, and also no longer
            have the means to buy it.”

            (former library worker here, and I love public libraries.)

          2. a different chris

            I would think that you don’t want your house cluttered up with all the books you endeavored to read. But you don’t necessarily want to just pitch them when you are done, because you are never quite done with a good book.

            So you get free storage, plus (if you don’t even want to bring the book home) a warm extension of your own living room to pursue whatever floats your boat. Someplace to go when you still want to be alone but out of the house.

            I am a computer-based person so this isn’t important for me, but I do understand.

          3. Joey

            Can’t check out another until return of first limits cost to one book per citizen without fines to the well meaning.

            1. chuckster

              The “well meaning” include about 10% of the city’s population who have run up fees of $10 or more. That’s not just a couple days late, that’s Alzheimer’s territory.

              343,000 cardholders whose borrowing privileges have been revoked for accruing at least $10 in unpaid fines.

    1. Danny

      Boycotting Exxon until Prince William Sound is clean after the Exxon Valdez disaster?

      They are often hiding behind the newly minted “Valero” name.

      Don’t you love “Altria”, sort of sounds like “Altruistic”. That’s the name of the murderers at Phillip Morris and other tobacco companies that have doomed millions of people to slow lung cancer deaths, or house fires.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      People change their names all the time.

      Stalin was not his childhood name.

      And to be not so German, but more English, it was changed to Windsor, in the case for another family.

    3. The Rev Kev

      Blackwater has changed their name a coupla times but they will always be thought of as Blackwater as in mercs-for-hire. Fun fact. John Ashcroft – George Bush’s Attorney General – is on the present Board of Directors. Birds of a feather I guess.

  11. Aron Blue

    Re: Tolkien

    Yes let’s relieve shyness with alcohol.. that always works out so well in the long-term..

    1. cuibono

      seemed to work out pretty well for him in the “LONG TERM”

      As did Morphine before surgery for Dr Halsted…

  12. Carolinian


    In other words, Gabbard is refashioning herself as a “troll candidate” — someone more interested in getting attention by airing grievances against her ostensible allies (i.e., Democrats) than in defeating her ostensible opponents (i.e., Republicans). Actual online trolls — including Russian state media — are taking notice.

    Yes in MSM binary world if you are not helping the Dems you must be for the Republicans or even Putin (oh wait that’s Hillary’s binary world). They construct a false premise and make their judgments accordingly.

    Of course it’s possible that Gabbard is not playing the game at all and is sincere about her issue (foreign policy reform) and regards the system itself–with its fake two party competition–as the opponent. In that she would be correct.

    1. russell1200

      My guess is that if she runs third party, she gets the support of the never-Trump crowd.

      The never-Trump crowd, plus whomever is protesting whomever winds up as the Democratic Candidate, might make for an a reasonable number of folks.

      1. a different chris

        The never-Trump crowd – is that the people that will harangue and harangue Trump until *any* Democrat is nominated, then purse their lips for awhile, and then find some weird reason the very last week of October to say “well we had to vote for Trump the Democrat was even worse than I could imagine!”.

        Because I’m pretty sure that’s gonna be an accurate description of them. Honestly who do you think Justin Amash is going to vote for? Joe Biden? Seriously?

      2. Jessica

        I suspect that she peels off more Trump voters who voted for him as the dove compared to Hillary Clinton. Especially the folks whose kids and neighbors do the actual fighting and dying.
        Aren’t the never-Trumpers more classic mainstream Republicans, you know, the kind who hate government except when it is killing someone?

    2. Ted

      I think Tulsi has a sense that the same disgruntlement that had people turn out for Bernie and Trump during the primary season of 2016 is alive and well going into 2020 (only deeper than 4 years ago). Bernie’s shift from demanding accountability from the 1% and fighting rank and unrestrained corruption in Washington in 2016 to a much narrower campaign around changing who pays for health care and student tuition has left an opening. Tulsi is young enough to still have her finger on the pulse of those who live outside of the deep state bubble (perhaps another benefit of representing a district in Hawaii).

      IMO the democrats jumped the shark on an arrogant doubling down on their arrogant and out of touch (and just plain nasty) elitism from 2016 that so characterizes Versailles on the Potamac with their impeachment nonsense. So, they (dems) are effectively toast in 2020 unless they nominate someone like Tulsi. They won’t, so it’s president Trump or Pence for four more years. (A majority if Americans have not forgotten how to raise their middle fingers). This is of course assuming the deep state does not cancel the elections in 2016 due to RussiaRussiaRussia.

  13. Wukchumni

    “Many retailers agreed to buy Mattel’s products in China rather than ask the toy maker to import them to the U.S. and store them in warehouses stateside.


    I heard ‘Skirting The Tariff’ is this holiday’s most popular board game.

  14. dearieme

    ‘Producers and users need to understand that these poor quality conditions can affect storability and long-term quality condition.’

    You tell ’em, Tom. After all there’s not the slightest chance that farmers and their customers already know this.

    So the automakers and their workers have some difficult EV realities to tackle over the next few years.

    That depends on how well the EVs sell.

    1. nippersdad

      Farmers may know about it, but your average bread consumer prolly hasn’t had to think about it since the other witch hunt era that witch hunts are named for. A mild ergot poisoning might be kind of fun, and would explain a lot.

      Happy Halloween to all in the NC commentariat!

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        ergot grows on rye, claviceps purpurea on barley(see:kykeon).
        i’m sure there’s a similar enthogenic fungi for wheat and corn, but i just can’t think of them.
        with wet storage conditions, more likely to be the less fun kind of mold.
        at any rate, if people are prepared, it would provide a hell of an indictment of big ag.
        i’m not in grain country(once peanuts, which have their own such issues)…is the grain inspection service currently functional?
        if not, 2 birds with one stone.
        the copy writes itself.
        “greedy big ag poisoning us, and withered regulatory state lets it happen”

  15. DJG

    Now, was this merely rhetorical?

    I’m starting to think that the real story is why the heck is Joe Biden still cruising serenely along in the lead? Is everybody who was wrong about Trump — and that was almost everybody — wrong about Biden too?

    Could it be that Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden are symptoms of stagnation? Could it be that a population that wanders around thanking law enforcement “for its service” is easily intimidated? Could it be that Biden is our own U.S. Leonid Brezhnev, who led the U.S.S.R. into its terminal stagnation?

    Which leads to a question about impeachment during this stagnant Trumpshchina. If the elites are so corrupt, except for Hillary Clinton and her 30,000 e-mail messages about yoga (Swami Hillaryananda), if the elites produce Hunter Biden and endless self-dealing, Erik Prince and private armies, Steny Hoyer and whatever it is that he does, how can the impeachment be done on anything but the narrowest grounds? Too many questions mean that consideration may become too broad.

    Luckily, Bill Clinton was impeached when it was still considered kind-a randy and roguish to sexually abuse interns.

    So I am not ruling out that Hillaryananda may indeed try another run at the Presidency.

  16. Danny

    “The new season of “Border Security: America’s Front Line” is now streaming on @Netflix!”

    Laugh at the naivete of the multitudes who still don’t comprehend that Canada and the United States are two separate countries.
    “But it’s legal in Colorado!”

    The casual travelers with facial junkyards and multiple tattoos who act outraged when they are stopped by CBP and their plans to hang in California for a while without a return ticket or itinerary are challenged.

    Bonus, Asian travelers with 20 Kilos of pork or fruit who think that if it’s for personal consumption, they don’t have to declare it as food items.

  17. jsn

    I’m increasingly certain that polling in this election is just a demographic chart of who has land lines and doesn’t screen for junk calls.

    Biden has familiarity wrapped up with land liners.

    1. upstater

      Just to add to my comment, the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency (OCIDA) is in the Syracuse NY area (i.e., severe rustbelt). It is an appointed body and has the authority to hand out multi-year tax breaks. In this case the developer is Trammell Crow, but they refuse to identify their client, but is “almost certainly” Amazon as reported. The warehouse will be 5 stories high and 3.8 million square feet. Supposedly the second largest warehouse in the world. It is going to be built on a golf course and is bounded on 3 sides by residential subdivisions and on the fourth is a school There will be hundreds of tractor trailers and thousands of cars per day

      The project was first reported in the local media in early September and has been ram-rodded through approvals, in an opaque process. No mention of how infrastructure improvements will be funded.

      OCIDA is the epitome of crony capitalism. Any sort of well-connected developer gets low or no taxes, sometimes for decades. We have a plethora of motels, office buildings and shopping malls with OCIDA tax breaks (and an accompanying plethora of vacant retail, motels and office space). Meanwhile homeowners and small business pick up the freight with some of the highest property taxes in the country (based on percentage of market value — which is LOW).

      Jeff Bezos needs our money! We need more minimum wage jobs! Onwards! Downwards!

  18. Wukchumni

    I’m doing trash pickup on the weekend on the main drag, and my last effort netted me 187 cigarette butts-easily the commonest item found in my appointed rounds.

    …how many were lit when tossed out of a car doing 50 mph passing by?


    We always find money, as in a buck here or there, and maybe a five or ten if we’re lucky. We immediately blow it all on lottery tickets.

  19. curlydan

    Wait, every time I see a CBP dog, it has a sign on it screaming, “Don’t touch the dog!” or something like that.

    To which I mentally respond, “Then get an uglier dog!”

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        yes…that does work.
        in the carpet by the door of one’s dorm room, in my case.
        i kept it in the van, too, during my wild years.

  20. Tomonthebeach

    Everybody seems to be writing essays claiming that US capitalism is broken so there is Backroom Biden running on the I’m-no-friggin-commie-socialist ticket supported by vulture capitalists the world over (it appears). Just send your checks to my son Hunter or Hillary Clinton – I’ll eventually get the money.

  21. Wukchumni

    They built a paywall around the moat of Daily Mail, and its a trashy tabloid infatuated with weird stuff such as the ‘hot felon’ and royal pish-posh, and they had the perfect hook line & sinker in presentation of stories, but i’m glad we’re divorced now. I seek nothing in the settlement.

  22. Wukchumni

    One of my sisters did an ancestry test and the results were pretty spot on, pegged her to the Tatra mountains, where my grandmother lived in a small town in the Slovakian foothills before leaving for Canada and her family had lived there for many generations. I must have a weird homing instinct as here I am in a similar situation in the Sierra Nevada, which bears quite some resemblance to the Tatras.

    I’d never do one of those tests, btw.

  23. RMO

    “Hard to imagine Disney producing this today:”

    That goes for a lot of things Disney made in the past. Anthony Perkins’ death scene from The Black Hole for example. Perkins being disemboweled by a big red robot with spinning blades for hands is still less scary than the Let It Go sequence from Frozen though. I also would hope that Disney today wouldn’t dump hundreds of live lemmings off a cliff to plummet to their deaths in order to get a shot. My relationship with Disney is probably atypical. I only own two Disney DVD’s: Alice In Wonderland and (one of my favorite movies because of the subject matter) The Boy Who Flew With Condors. I would love to get a copy of The Skytrap someday too – haven’t seen it since I was a kid but I do recall it had some amazing flying scenes courtesy of the great Art Scholl and an L-13 Blanik glider.

    1. ambrit

      Plus a lot for the Disney animated “Alice in Wonderland.” A superlative film. Also a situation where the musical numbers advanced the story. Zounds! What a thought! A musical where the music was part of the plot! That and Fantasia. The early animated films based on legitimate Folk Tales were good. Solid themes engender good films.

      1. RMO

        Thank you! I had no I could find that on YouTube! Watching it when I was a kid the plot was kind of incidental to me – I just really wanted to fly a sailplane like that. Years later I actually did learn to fly in the same type of glider they used in the movie: the Czechoslovakian L-13 Blanik. My club sold our last one in the early 2000’s and I still miss them. Lots of great sailplanes out there but the Blanik had a special appeal to me.

  24. jax read

    ‘Grain Quality Questions Linger’ dovetails nicely with the 2019 Pentagon Report titled “Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army” released on line in August and now being headlined as “U.S. Military Could Collapse in 20 Years Due to Climate Change” at sites like Futurism and Vice.

    Widespread starvation in the U.S. for a number of reasons – fuel shortages for transportation by truck, a failing electrical grid (we’re talking about you, California), stunted harvests because of drought or too much rain – is ticked off in the original report which you can read here: https://climateandsecurity.files.wordpress.com/2019/07/implications-of-climate-change-for-us-army_army-war-college_2019.pdf

  25. Tom Denman

    “Buttigieg has spent much of his life caring very deeply about what Republicans say.” from UPDATE Buttigieg (D)(2): “Pete Buttigieg Is Still Fighting the Last War” [The New Republic] above.

    Yeah, for decades the Democrats have moved further and further to the right in order to make themselves acceptable to Republican voters with the result that public policy has gotten worse and worse (and worse).

    If this keeps up in twenty years we’ll be hearing yet another Pete Buttigieg defending debtor’s prisons and advocating the institution of a “smart” form of chattel slavery as a way to encourage entrepreneurship.

  26. Wukchumni

    This is interesting local news in that nobody here seems to have known about this 2018 legislation, going into effect this Veterans Day. It honors a most interesting man.

    A portion of Highway 198 in Three Rivers to be renamed for Colonel Charles Young (1864-1922)

    In August 2018, California lawmakers passed Assembly Concurrent Resolution 142, establishing the Colonel Charles Young Memorial Highway in Three Rivers, near the entrance to Sequoia National Park. The bill was authored by Republican Assembly members Devon Mathis and Jim Patterson.

    The portion of highway to be designated is the three miles from Salt Creek Road to the Sequoia National Park entrance. The naming of the highway pays tribute to the memory of Colonel Charles Young, a distinguished American who dedicated his life to the service of the United States, including at Sequoia National Park.

    In 1903, Young, by then a captain, was appointed acting superintendent of Sequoia and General Grant National Parks, becoming the first black superintendent of a national park. This was pre-National Park Service when national parks were overseen by military officers appointed by the War Department.

    Young is responsible for creating the first road into the Giant Forest, finishing what the Kaweah Colony had started from the North Fork to the present-day Crystal Cave Road. In one summer, Young and the Buffalo Soldiers he commanded completed the route.


  27. Darthbobber

    So 30 to 40 percent back Trump come what may. 39.5% stuck with Hoover in 1932. 37.5% hung in with McGovern in 72.

    Might there be a lower bound that’s almost impossible to collapse below under duopoly conditions?

    1. Big River Bandido

      That number represents his base. There’s another 8-10% that’s gettable for him if his Democrat opponent is weak enough. The Democrat establishment seems to be in a cooperative mood.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      saw that yesterday.
      they try to paint the distraught former homeowner as a greedhead trying to capitalise on the disaster by getting the city/cops to pay for bigger, better house.
      i say…it just doesn’t matter. they blew up his property, with a will.
      …or have certain loudmouths just been funnin’ with 40+ years of “Property Rights Uber Alles!” ?
      i hope he gets it to scotus. it will be interesting to see how the righties contort to deny him relief.

      1. inode_buddha

        I would say they owe him one, regardless. Their screw-up destroyed his house, and he’s probably feeling rather punitive. I don’t blame him. If it was me, I would have some rather high-powered lawyers all over it. Perhaps his homeowner’s insurance lawyers will deal with the cops.

        1. ambrit

          Ha! I’ll bet the Insurance company would love to make the Authorities pay them back their pay out to the homeowner. Add some extra to make the homeowner “whole” with an appropriate ‘finders fee,’ and big business would show one reason to cut it some slack. (I know, I know, ‘Delusional Governance’ 201.)

      2. ambrit

        At least, the homeowner should be able to ‘attach’ all that military hardware the fuzz used to wreak havoc on his house.
        Giving bigger and better destructive toys to coppers seems to encourage bigger and ‘better’ police ‘procedures’ with attendant devastation.
        I’m hoping the man does send an appeal to the SCOTUS. How they handle this will tell the tale of how far down the slope towards Absolutism we have slid.

        1. RMO

          Well, there have already been cases where the police got the address wrong, broke into and severely damaged the building and injured (or killed) the innocent people who happened to be there and got away with it so I’m not all that hopeful

          There was a case of an armed man holing up in a house in my neighborhood several years back. The RCMP cordoned the house, evacuated the area around it, called in the equivalent of the SWAT team and over a period of several hours talked with the guy until he surrendered. But then, they didn’t have an armored vehicle to batter down the walls just sitting around waiting for a chance to be used.

  28. notabanker

    Wow, 40% fewer hours to build EV’s and US labor costs are yuge. That must mean massive price drops on EV’s for the consumer, amirite?

    1. Another Scott

      And that just cover the labor hours at assembly plants. EVs should require significantly fewer parts (hence fewer things to assemble and assembly hours). Parts facilities are going to be decimated by EVs.

  29. Amfortas the hippie

    thing in politico about changing mores:

    “It seems inevitable that a generation of future elected officials will have documented their lives in photos and videos that could potentially be used against them down the line. And zip files holding images of an up-and-coming congressman may wind up in journalists’ inboxes, prompting newsroom discussions about what is truly revelatory and what’s simply salacious. ”

    and the gerontocracy scolds on the same issue:

    “Our darling Katie. It’s so sad,” Pelosi said, according to two Democratic sources with knowledge of the meeting. “It goes to show you, we should say to young candidates, and to kids in kindergarten really, be careful when transmitting photos.”


    I knew nothing of rep. hill before i saw this the other day.
    but appears that she was already openly bisexual, which itself is indicative of a large shift in mores and folkways.
    the movie studio in everyone’s pocket was always going to induce confusion about what’s acceptable, and what’s not(see: cops not liking to be recorded,lol)
    may we use these kinds of ejaculations to rediscover things like privacy and discretion….if your neighbor sunbathes naked in his/her enclosed back yard, and you happen to witness it through a chink in the foliage, an older person might call the cops…while a younger one will move on.
    my kids’ cohorts(17 & 13) think very differently about all of this kind of thing than my generation did, let alone my folks’ generation….selfies, documenting everydamnedthing online, sexting, and on and on and on…
    attitudes change.
    like ignoring farts in church, there’s methods for living together…and they need to be updated at times.

  30. Carey

    Very thorough piece from Peter Lemme on 737 MAX’s MCAS, a couple of days ago- ‘Flawed Assumptions Pave a Path to Disaster’:

    “..For every Boeing airplane until the 737 MAX, uncommanded stabilizer runaway is stopped by column motion only. But for the MAX, with MCAS malfunction, the pilot has to also apply manual electric trim within the same three second window.

    “..The MCAS malfunction hazard should have been elevated to HAZARDOUS because the aft column cutout was removed, and worsened by tripling the stab trim rate, which made severe mistrim likely, especially with persistent malfunction..”


    1. RMO

      His coverage is extremely good. In-depth and technical (as would be expected from someone who works in the avionics field) but well worth the time to read. There are also other items of interest outside of the MAX debacle for anyone interested in the field in general.

  31. Summer

    RE: “An increase in wages & salaries along with higher benefits made for an uptick in employer costs during the third quarter.”

    I think the rubber will meet the road on housing costs because of this. In cities especially, the employers will eventually say “Damn! How much do you expect me to pay people to be able to afford housing ? WTF?”

  32. anon in so cal

    So, the whistleblower was identified weeks ago? Somehow I missed it.

    “a registered Democrat held over from the Obama White House, previously worked with former Vice President Joe Biden and former CIA Director John Brennan, a vocal critic of Trump who helped initiate the Russia “collusion” investigation of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election”

    Apologies if this was already posted.

  33. Amfortas the hippie

    many little towns in my neck of the woods employ speed traps for politically cost-free revenue generation(they know the locals and don’t pull them over)
    i thought of that(and a bunch of other horrible stuff) when i ran across this:

    the future is here, and it doesn’t appear to be friendly

    1. ambrit

      I used to live in one of the most notorious speed trap towns in Louisiana; Sun.
      One fine day, a rich fellow was ‘caught’ in the speed trap and ticketed. Being desirous of staying rich, he bankrolled a good lawyer to fight the speed trap itself. The upshot was that the State Supreme Court ruled that a municipality cannot use ‘irregular’ income to budget towards payroll. The coppers had to have their yearly salary guaranteed from a continuing source of revenue, such as property taxes and such. The money from tickets had to go in the general fund and treated as ‘one off’ income. That speed trap was modified quickly. Now it happens to drivers in steps instead of one fell swoop as before.
      Even after living there for six years, the locals would still call me; “One of them come heres.” (Pronounced; ‘cum hyar.’)
      The stealth stuff will filter out into the ‘counter culture’ population sooner or later.

      1. The Rev Kev

        ‘One of them come heres’

        I heard about a valley in the eastern United States that was one of the first settled from Colonial times. A family that had lived there for over a century were still referred to as ‘newcomers’.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          ive been in this place for more than 25 years, and am still regarded as a ferriner.
          this is mollified, somewhat, by marrying into an old(if mexican) family.
          so i’m accepted, now, like a hairy wart on great grandma’s chin…nothing to do about it but,lol

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