2:00PM Water Cooler 11/29/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I am being lazy today because it is the Friday after Thanksgiving. –lambert


“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

Here is a second counter for the Iowa Caucus, which is obviously just around the corner:

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Biden (D)(1): “Did Joe Biden Overstate Democratic Voters’ Opposition To ‘Medicare For All’?” [Kaiser Health News]. “When the subject of ‘Medicare for All’ came up during the Democratic debate last week, former Vice President Joe Biden claimed that the majority of his party does not favor it.

‘The fact is that right now the vast majority of Democrats do not support Medicare for All,’ he said, adding, ‘It couldn’t pass the United States Senate right now with Democrats. It couldn’t pass the House.’… The KFF Health Tracking Poll, done monthly, indicates Democrats’ support for Medicare for All has weakened, but not entirely. Its most recent version, published in November, revealed large majorities of Democrats support a public option (88%) and Medicare for All (77%), while a January poll showed 85% of Democrats backed a Medicare buy-in.” • Yes, with #MedicareForAll at a mere 77%, despite root and branch opposition to it from all branches of the establishment, we should certainly pre-compromise with ourselves and settle for the pissant public option.

Trump (R)(1): “Trump Will Likely Win Reelection in 2020” (PDF) [Musa al-Gharbi, Academia.edu]. The baseline: “Eleven presidents have been electedsince then: Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush IIand Obama. Eight administrations won arenewed mandate: Truman, Eisenhower, JFK/LBJ, Nixon, Reagan,Clinton, Bush II and Obama. Three presidents inthis period stood for reelection and lost: Ford (who served out the rest of Nixon’s 2nd term), Carter, and Bush I. That is, the base-rate for presidential reelections is 8:3. Prima facie,Trump would have a 72.7% chance of being reelected in 2020. However, looking more closely at thosewho failed to win re-election, most were continuations of previous administrations: Ford followed after two terms of Nixon (and lost his bid to win a full term of his own). Bush I followed after two terms of Reagan (and was elected to one full term of his own). In the modern political era there was literally only one instance where there was a change of party in the White House that persisted for less than 8 years: the administration of Jimmy Carter from 1976-80. Viewed in this way, the base-rate of reelection looks more like 8:1–meaning the ex ante likelihood of Trump winning reelection in 2020 would be about 88.8%.” • Of course, you could argue that Trump is uniquely bad, or that liberal Democrats are uniquely outraged, or that Sanders is uniquely equipped to make a revolution. Nevertheless. Interesting article

Trump (R)(2): “Recession fears recede in boost to Trump” [The Hill]. “After a summer dip, consumer spending has roared back to life heading into the holiday shopping season, giving the stock market a boost and fending off recession fears with less than a year until the 2020 elections. The improving economic picture could be a boon for President Trump, who has made the economy a central argument for his reelection. Recent economic data stands in contrast to just a few months ago, when economists were worried that consumer spending would be the next shoe to drop after manufacturing hit a slump and as investment was in the midst of contracting.” • I dunno, I dunno. What happens when Coyote looks down?

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Realignment and Legitimacy

“Huey Long and the Power of Populism” [Current Affairs]. “America, Long explained, was the barbecue. God had set the table, but Rockefeller, Mellon, and the rest of the robber barons had carried off nine-tenths of the food, leaving the scraps for everyone else. It was about time, he said, to call them back to the table with their heaping plates and make them share it out. He concluded the speech with a promise that, under his program, ‘none shall be too big, none shall be too poor; none shall work too much, none shall be idle. No luxurious mansions empty, none walking the streets, none impoverished, none in pestilence, none in want.'” • Where do I sign up? The rest of the article is a bit more nuanced…

“Brett Kavanaugh’s latest opinion should terrify Democrats” [Vox]. “Beginning in the latter half of the Obama administration, Federalist Society gatherings grew increasingly fixated on diminishing the power of federal agencies to regulate businesses and the public — an agenda that would severely weaken seminal laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. On Monday, Justice Brett Kavanaugh signaled that he is on board with this agenda.” • Normally, I skip over stories with “terrifying” in the headline, but this rings true. Of course, liberal Democrats should have fought all Federalist Society nominees tooth and nail on ideological grounds over the last few decades…. Unless they share the same ideology, of course.

Our Famously Free Press

“Ex-MSNBC host says network is ‘shameless’ in coverage of Sanders, Yang, Gabbard” [FOX]. “Former MSNBC host Krystal Ball ripped into her former employer on Monday, arguing that it had ‘officially lost the left’ and was ‘shameless’ in its unfair coverage of anti-establishment Democrats. ‘[T]he network is absolutely shameless in the way that it covers the 3 anti-establishment candidates, Bernie [Sanders], Tulsi [Gabbard], and [Andrew] Yang,’ she said, according to The Hill. She was referring to three of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for 2020. ‘Every interview with Tulsi must include the obligatory ‘Assad apologist’ question and conspiracies about her running third party or being a Russian asset abound. In These Times [magazine] recently did an analysis of Bernie’s primetime coverage on the network and found that he is mentioned one-third as often as Biden and far more negatively than any other candidate.’ She also complained that outside of host Steve Kornacki, the network ‘never took’ Sanders seriously ‘or covered him like a real challenge to Hillary’ in 2016.” • The boundaries of the Party are pretty sketchy, and one might as well include MSNBC inside them.

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of note today.

Honey for the Bears: “Why Superyacht Sales Are Key to the Global Economy” [Bloomberg]. “[Flashy superyachts for the megarich] often seen as a barometer of consumer spending, and as the holiday shopping season gets in full swing, all eyes are on American wallets… Bloomberg reporter Michael Sasso visits a big boat show in Florida only to discover that sales aren’t looking so great.” • But maybe they’re all buying seats on rocket ships to Mars or bunkers in New Zealand.

Hedge Funds: “The Curious Case of Aurelius Capital v. Puerto Rico” [New York Times]. “That a firm holding a paltry 0.5 percent of the island’s debt could trigger even one of Francisco’s hypothetical scenarios reveals the disproportionate power that this tiny corner of Wall Street has accrued over the past generation. Largely out of view, distressed-debt hedge funds have honed a set of tools for recovering bad foreign debt, turning courts into collection agents. The tools work so well, and with such sophistication, that it was probably a matter of time before they were requisitioned from abroad and applied to a territory of U.S. citizens.” • Hmm. I wonder if Aurelius is thinking of turning its attention to student debt. Worth reading for their involvement with Puerto Rico (see NC here).

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 78 Extreme Greed (previous close: 78 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 69 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 26 at 1:00pm. Last updated Nov 29 at 12:50pm. So Mr. Market came back from the Thanksgiving table still greedy.

The Biosphere

“Caring for family is what motivates people worldwide” [Medical Xpress]. “An international team of researchers led by evolutionary and social psychologists from Arizona State University surveyed over 7,000 people from 27 different countries about what motivates them, and the findings go against 40 years of research. The study will be published on December 3 in Perspectives on Psychological Science. ‘People consistently rated kin care and mate retention as the most important motivations in their lives, and we found this over and over, in all 27 countries that participated,’ said Ahra Ko, an ASU psychology graduate student and first author on the paper. ‘The findings replicated in regions with collectivistic cultures, such as Korea and China, and in regions with individualistic cultures like Europe and the US.’ The study included people from diverse countries—ranging from Australia and Bulgaria to Thailand and Uganda—that covered all continents except Antarctica.” • Makes “population control” not so easy, especially where children are not only earners but a social insurance program.

“More reasons air pollution will send you to the hospital” [CNN]. “Even at levels below international air quality guidelines, short-term exposure to pollution can send you to the hospital for more reasons than scientists originally thought, a new study finds. The pollution investigated, known as fine particulate matter or particle pollution — with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers and smaller — is a mix of solid and liquid droplets found in the air, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. It’s so tiny — 1/20th of the width of a human hair — that you cannot see it, and it can travel past your body’s usual defenses. This form of pollution can be very damaging to your health because once you breathe it in, the particles can get stuck in your lungs or work their way into your bloodstream, causing irritation and inflammation that can lead to respiratory problems and other diseases. Some of the sources of this particulate matter are coal- and natural gas-fired plants, cars, agriculture, unpaved roads and construction sites, with the pollution then coming in the form of dirt, dust, soot or smoke.”

“California snow-bound highway reopens but storm snarls Thanksgiving travel” [Reuters]. • As alert reader Wukchumni pointed out, that snow could have been smothering some controlled burns. Oh well.

Health Care

“Clashes among top HHS officials undermine Trump agenda” [Politico]. “President Donald Trump’s health secretary, Alex Azar, and his Medicare chief, Seema Verma, are increasingly at odds, and their feuding has delayed the president’s long-promised replacement proposal for Obamacare and disrupted other health care initiatives central to Trump’s reelection campaign, according to administration officials. Verma spent about six months developing a Trump administration alternative to the Affordable Care Act, only to have Azar nix the proposal before it could be presented to Trump this summer, sending the administration back to the drawing board, senior officials told POLITICO. Azar believed Verma’s plan would actually strengthen Obamacare, not kill it.”

“Anthem Blue Cross draws heavy fines in California over how it handles complaints” [Los Angeles Times]. “The fines against Anthem are related to many of the 553 enforcement actions that the department has taken against the health plan for violations such as taking too long to respond to enrollee grievances, inappropriately denying claims and not covering the cost of out-of-network care that should have been covered. The sanctions against Anthem make up more than one-third of the 1,432 enforcement actions the department issued.”

Thanksgiving Post Mortem

Alert reader JU: “‘Our’ flock of wild turkeys who moved in…”

Wild turkeys are said to be very intelligent, and to perform elaborate dances as a mating ritual in the spring.

“Yes, Practicing Gratitude Comes With Legit Health Benefits” [Runner’s World]. “Research has shown that making time to practice gratitude helps improve your sleep, reduce your blood pressure, lower your levels of inflammation, and heal from injury faster.” • A compendium…

“Customers are slamming Macy’s, Best Buy, and Target for opening stores on Thanksgiving” [Business Insider]. “At least 35 retailers won’t be opening for Thanksgiving this year, however, amid evidence this shopping day doesn’t carry the same weight it once did. As consumers are increasingly shopping for deals online, they feel less of a need to line up outside stores for one big day of shopping. Moreover, they’re used to having deals year-round, which takes the pressure off Black Friday.” • I loathe Black Friday: Degrading scenes of people wrestling for shoddy merchandise.

A heartwarming story:

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“UNC to give Silent Sam statue to Sons of Confederate Veterans” [News and Observer]. The headline misses a key part of the story: “Silent Sam, the Confederate statue that stood on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus before it was torn down by protesters in 2018, is now in the hands of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. And the organization will have access to up to $2.5 million to transport and preserve the monument through a charitable trust set up by the UNC System. The allowed expenses could also include a facility to house and display the monument. The money is coming from accruing interest from the UNC System’s endowment that’s built through donations, not tax-payer money.” • Wouldn’t it have been simpler and cheaper to cut it up and sell it for scrap? Also, UNC is a public university. All UNC money is public money, including the endowment, and the interest on it, although I grant boosters and donors may not think of it that way.

Guillotine Watch

“Australia’s first underwater hotel to open on Great Barrier Reef” [Xinhua]. “Set to take Australia’s long-standing tourism hot spot to ‘another level,’ Luke Walker, CEO of the experiential travel company Journey Beyond, said creating the aquarium-like space without harming the ecosystem was the top priority of the 14-month construction process. ‘It’s a balance of allowing people to immerse themselves in this World Heritage-listed natural wonder without doing any damage,’ he told the Australian Associated Press on Thursday. ‘In everything we do, the sustainability of the reef is part of the conversation, it’s a live topic on the table with any decision we make.'” • Note that down for when the inevitable disaster appears.

Class Warfare

“Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is Now a Movie” (interview) [Justin Pemberton, Worth]. Pemberton: “The one percent slogan actually comes from French Revolution. That’s where the Occupy Movement got it from. I didn’t know that until I started making this film, but that was one of the things Thomas told me. In Paris just before World War I, 1 percent of the people owned 70 percent of the land. One of the things he found most alarming is that the level of inequality in America and in Britain today is at the same levels it was in France and Britain before World War I.” • Hmm. I’m not sure of heard that factoid on the 1% anywhere. Can readers confirm?

“Oracle finally responds to wage discrimination claims… by suing US Department of Labor” [The Register]. “With one hand holding the constitution and the other bashing its chest, the database giant warned perilously that ‘the rise of the modern administrative state has altered our government structure’ but that it had ‘not undone our constitutional structure.'” • Sounds like Oracle is heading for the Supreme Court. Which might agree with them.

“Sonoma County allows portable toilets at Joe Rodota Trail homeless camp in Santa Rosa” [Press Democrat]. “One of her predecessors representing the west county, former Supervisor Ernie Carpenter, said homelessness has grown so visible in the county — with camps along roadways, spread throughout the lower Russian River and on various corners of public and private land — that it can’t be overlooked by local officials…. The outhouses, delivered Tuesday, were sought by a group allied with Homeless Action, the local organization pushing for establishment of sanctioned encampments. The restrooms will be paid for by Sonoma Applied Village Services, the allied group, which is trying to raise money for the effort.” • “Sanctioned encampments” sounds next door to “normal,” to me.

News of the Wired

“Russian dairy farmers gave cows VR goggles with hopes they would be happier and make better milk” [CNN]. “The [Ministry of Agriculture of the Moscow region] rationalizes it like this: Studies have shown that cows’ environmental conditions can impact the milk produced, specifically improving its quality or increasing its quantity. So, a team of developers, with the help of veterinarians and consultants for dairy production, made some oversized VR glasses for cows. They adapted the human versions to account for cows’ different head shapes and eyesight, the news release says. And then voila! Cow VR glasses. And what were these cows experiencing with their new VR glasses? A wild, expansive field beneath the summer sun. A cow’s (virtual) paradise. So far, it’s unclear if the glasses have helped milk production — further study will be needed for that. But a first test did reveal a decrease in anxiety and an increase in the emotional mood of the herd.”

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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 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 (KL):

KL writes: “Bee on echinacea.”

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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. WheresOurTeddy

    Re: Biden on M4A – “It couldn’t pass the United States Senate right now with Democrats.”

    Look at Joe, still trying to gaslight people into thinking the Senate represents the will of the people rather than the will of the ruling class.

    Joe is running 4th in New Hampshire. And not a “strong 4th”

    1. ptb

      “It couldn’t pass the United States Senate right now with Democrats”

      Note to Biden:
      It’s called Leadership. You got the public sentiment within the party for the issue, by a 50% margin (~75 to 25). You got proof that the policy works because the whole industrialized world already has it, and dollar for dollar, they’re healthier as a result. If you think there’s no way to make that work, get off the damn stage.

    2. Pelham

      If Trump had said a majority of Democrats didin’t support M4A, he’d be accused of lying. So why isn’t Biden getting that kind of treatment?

      Granted, there’s a good chance Biden didn’t intentionally tell a lie. He may well be uninformed. No excuse, though. The media should be consistent and slam him with the LIAR label to be summarily dismissed and given the Sanders down-the-memory-hole treatment.

    3. The Rev Kev

      No, No. Joe is right. The majority of his party does not favor it. But by that he meant the party itself and not the actual Democrat voters and the rank & file of the party. And they are all beholden to their donors from the healthcare industry.

      1. Synoia

        Russian dairy farmers gave cows VR goggles with hopes they would be happier and make better milk

        Watching Moovies?

        1. anon in so cal

          There have been studies suggesting that cows that are given names, and addressed using those names, produce more milk.

          (bracketing the whole issue of the dairy industry’s inherent cruelty)

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Are we applying the cruelty-judgement to the agribussiness-sector confinement-feedlotting dairy sector? The industrial dairy sector?

            Or are we being invited to apply that same judgement onto the small-herd artisanal or semi-artisanal dairy farmer-craftsman?

    1. ewmayer

      “Russian dairy farmers gave cows VR goggles with hopes they would be happier and make better milk” [CNN] — Elsie Borden got VRed / Her lactate flow to un-retard / Russian trolls her feed deluged / Now she’s a bovine Putin stooge.

      1. RMO

        Listen to me Mandrake: I bet those dirty Russians are already sneaking that VR-enhanced milk into the dairy supply here in the west – probably targeting school lunch program milk first. All to destroy Our Precious Essence!

  2. Tom Doak

    You’re reading Biden wrong. When he says, “The fact is that right now the vast majority of Democrats do not support Medicare for All,’ he said, adding, ‘It couldn’t pass the United States Senate right now with Democrats. It couldn’t pass the House,” he only means Congressional Democrats. And he is right about that. Many of them are fundamentally opposed to what their voters want.

    1. richard

      well surely those are the democrats who matter most
      their votes count for more, after all
      I was looking over washington state’s rules for allocating delegates
      and it’s all so confusing and unstraightforward
      of course I was looking on wiki :/
      anyway, the one thing that is not confusing is that elected officials are automatic delegates
      so they get a super vote that is worth roughly 100,000 times what my vote is worth
      biden is pretty damn okay with that
      “you should vote for trump”
      stop daring them, joe
      you were here 4 years ago, right?

      1. Danny

        “I have the experience…”sarcasm drips from his mouth,
        “I passed the bills!”
        “I reached across the aisle…” I’ve been in the senate at this for the last 47 years…” sneer.

        “If you want to bring change to D.C., elect me president.”

        Still trying to find even one of the 160,000,000 Americans that Joe claims are happy with their health insurance.

          1. richard

            if you want a bank job done, yes :)
            unfortunately for us, biden only pulls the kinds of bank jobs where the bankers are holding guns
            and yelling for everyone to lie on the floor and stay quiet

    2. XXYY

      It was also true that legislators didn’t favor legalizing alcohol, giving women the vote, or abolishing human slavery. Until they did.

      The goal of movement politics is to create the conditions, not just sit around and drink coffee until the conditions magically happen by themselves and you can stroll across the finish line.

      Sanders, among others, gets this. Most pundits and establishment politicians don’t.

      1. The Rev Kev

        An excellent comment this, especially the bit about strolling across the finish lines after all the magic happens.

      2. Opposite Goal

        The pundits and establishments gets very well, actually better than common man, the importance and how to create the conditions for something. Their goal is just the opposite. That is also what they are paid for.

  3. fdr-fan

    Attn Lambert:


    Joe Rogan finally got around to interviewing Tulsi, along with another vet named Jocko Willink. Tulsi does splendidly but unsurprisingly, finally allowed to complete a sentence without fighting stupid questions. Around the middle of the clip, Willink has a passionate description of the rebirth of manufacturing in Maine, which is surprising!

    1. Conrad

      #25 on trending when I clicked through just now. Not bad for a two and a half hour long interview.

      And how on earth did an ex comedian and MMA commentator become one of the better political interviewers around?

      1. WheresOurTeddy

        “And how on earth did an ex comedian and MMA commentator become one of the better political interviewers around?”

        Dereliction of duty by the gatekeeper oligarch press, and discontent by the ever-more-discerning consumer to be served cold lies? Baby Boomers and Silent Generation dying off more by the day? People under 40 who have never experienced an economy that doesn’t suck for the non-rich?

      2. XXYY

        I’ve started listening to Rogan interviews since Sanders’s blockbuster interview a few months ago.

        The guy is actually a surprisingly good interviewer, for reasons that are hard to understand. For one thing, he is invariably friendly and respectful, which I think draws the subject out. His format also allows almost unlimited and uninterrupted time, (2-3 hours is typical), which removes time pressure and allows extended and nuanced conversation. He also has no particular agenda, and allows the conversation to go where it will, jumping in with “questions” only when a particular topic seems to be exhausted.

        The interesting thing is that anyone, either inside the media or outside it, could be doing a similar program; it’s not technically hard. But no one is.

    2. dcrane

      Rogan first interviewed her in May. This was the second time. And another good one. She is ready to be president.

      1. Perpetual war

        If I didn’t miss anything, then it is not 100% clear that USA will stop invading and bombing other countries with Gabbard. She is slippery enough to continue the bombings. She still mentions war as a last option. It is highly subjective to judge whether you have used up all diplomatic channels to achieve your goal or not.
        The wars and invasions has been about stealing natural resources, oil mainly but now lithium too, feed the MIC-swamp creatures in general and selling out state resources to american interests. In no way does she tackle the causes of the wars, only the symptoms.
        When have you tried all diplomatic channels to steal Iraq’s, Venezuela’s, Syria’s and Libya’s oil fields? What do the diplomatic tools look like? Economic strangulation? IMF on steroids?

        She needs to talk about a society getting off of oil for a starter

    1. Wukchumni

      “[Flashy superyachts for the megarich] often seen as a barometer of consumer spending…

      I noticed in NZ & Australia how fairly common it was for somebody to own an ocean going vessel, versus here not so much. I was in Melbourne in 1985 when the Aussies won the America’s Cup, and I remember friends there asking if it hurt losing it, and I was like, yeah, nobody does that kind of stuff except for rich people. They couldn’t believe it when I told them it had zero meaning to me.

      The local yacht club holds it’s regatta occasionally, set on the concrete halfpipe of the flume that brings water to the hydroelectric plant, and the way it works, is your yacht can be made out of anything, and no longer than say 2-3 feet, and must be able to hold a red Solo cup full of beer, the entire 1/2 mile race.

      Last time there were about 2 dozen boats in the race and we followed along the flume, cheering on our nautical charges while drinking beers.

      The winner was one of those oval car sponges, the only modification was carving out a hole for the Solo cup, it smoked us.

      1. RMO

        Three large yacht builders (100 foot plus) were customers of my family paint business. There was a big slowdown and panic from them as the GFC hit. One of them closed up shop here, the other two saw their business come back fairly well after about 12 months. The high value the Canadian dollar was at for quite a long time after the GFC hit was probably the only thing that slowed them down long term. I don’t see ultra luxury goods as a valid barometer of economic performance in terms of how well things are going for those of us below the 99% level.

        What seems to limit people here in the Vancouver area when it comes to owning a boat big enough that it can’t just be hauled home on a roof rack or trailer at the end of the day is mooring space. A couple of people I know bought a 26 foot sloop for $5,000 a couple of years ago. the boat itself wasn’t great (bare bones and in seaworthy but not Bristol condition) but the important thing is it already had dock space at one of the public marinas in False Creek. There’s about a five year wait list for that place. One friend of mine was a yacht broker for several years. He said he lost quite a few sales due to the inability to find anywhere for the customer to moor the thing if the sale went through. Lots of Canadian boats in the Point Roberts marina.

        1. Oregoncharles

          There’s space in the marina at Ilwaco, WA. Old fishing village, showing its age, but a new marina.

          Full disclosure: we own property there we’d love to sell.

  4. Hepativore

    It is amazing on how so many arguments against progressive policies coming from the Democratic Party all seem to boil down to “Shut up and get back to work, peasants!” Incrementalists do not even slowly improve things most of the time, as the neoliberal Democratic Party “incrementally” follows the Republicans rightward with every broad shift to the right on the GOP side. Today’s deregulators and supply-side economic proponents are just as likely to be Democrats as Republicans and many Democrats are probably cheering on Kavanaugh’s attacks on environmental standards as we speak.

    Our aristocracy do not even pretend to adhere to any sort of sense of noblisse oblige, unlike the feudal lords of old.

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      “Incrementalists do not even slowly improve things most of the time”

      The purpose of Neoliberalism is to manage the decline

  5. diptherio

    Wild turkeys may be intelligent, although they regularly get their heads stuck in each others mouths (or at least the males do, when they’re fighting), I can’t really say. What I can say is their elaborate rituals also, apparently take place in the fall. Or maybe all the squawking and fanning of tail feathers and chest bumping is just due to the fact that there are over 100 hanging around the cabin, here…

    Turkey manure, by the bye, makes good fertilizer in the garden. We used a bunch for our newly-installed garlic bed. Goodness knows we’ve got plenty.

    1. Darius

      The Michigan DNR began to release wild turkeys in state parks in the 80s, perhaps a century after the birds were extirpated there. Now they’re all over the place. A real thrill.

      I also recently saw a hen picking in the grass at the entrance to a supermarket parking lot on the edge of a small woodland outside Annapolis Maryland.

      Incidentally, today I saw a bald eagle perched high in a tree on a farmhouse lawn outside Upper Sandusky Ohio. It was huge. At first I thought it was an old hornets’ nest. My first sighting of one in the Great Lakes area. Another thrill.

  6. dearieme

    at the same levels it was in France and Britain before World War I

    How could anyone know? There was no land registry in England then.

    There had been a Scottish land registry for centuries but it didn’t record ownership unless the owner opted for it or when land changed hands. In other words, it was mainly a register of transactions.

  7. Wukchumni

    We had a lightning strike fire last year in Mineral King, of the sleeper persuasion. It started in early October and by November 1 smoke was chugging away, fast forward to 3 weeks later, and a storm not barely the strength of this one, smothered 2,000 burning acres and that’s all she wrote, game so over.

    The acreage was in an area with nothing in terms of human built structures, and the most hidden away Sequoia grove in the NP, the Eden Grove. Sequoias need fire to reproduce, so NPS only monitored the wildfire and took no steps to stop it’s progress, let it go as it would’ve circa 1538.


    We can pull off the same thing when we know a no doubt about storm is coming and you only get one shot at as it has to be the first one, no need to let it fester for 6 weeks though, i’m thinking more along the lines of a few days, take what you can get in bite sized nuggets of what will be firebreaks that can stop a future wildfire in its tracks at least slow it down, work with fire on the cheap, versus paying any price to put it out.

    The smoke from prescribed burns would only be an issue for a couple days, as the precip washes it out.

    I’ve walked through prepped prescribed burn areas, and it’s a production in itself with much disassembly required, making things burn how you’d like them to go, not left to limb & whim.

    Even if the first storm of the year is nothing special-not worthy of ignition, you’re good to go for successive years, with a chance to expand boundaries of previously prepped areas.

    We could stage these all over the state.

  8. marku52

    This was in comments yesterday, but it is too amazing to ignore. Free market exchanges result in oligarchy.

    “If you simulate this economy, a variant of the yard sale model, you will get a remarkable result: after a large number of transactions, one agent ends up as an “oligarch” holding practically all the wealth of the economy, and the other 999 end up with virtually nothing. It does not matter how much wealth people started with. It does not matter that all the coin flips were absolutely fair. It does not matter that the poorer agent’s expected outcome was positive in each transaction, whereas that of the richer agent was negative.”

    With a few variables added to correct for redistribution, this model predicted inequality in the developed countries very well.

    And the only thing that corrects this is redistribution. (of course in the real world, war or revolution are frequently necessary to reset the game)


    1. Conrad

      And the implication of that study is that who gets to be oligarch is more down to blind luck than anything else.

      Take 1024 players and run a single elimination coin flip tournament head to head. At the end of it someone will have won ten flips in a row. Not through any superior skill or knowledge. Our economic system isn’t much different.

      1. Sol

        Higher order thinking might lead one to conclude a reset must be built into any functional system.

        Assuming humans are functional (yes, yes, it’s a stretch, humor me) then collapse in the face of inaction is mathematical certainty. We can twiddle our thumbs like Johnny Bench until math catches up with us, or we can engineer a reset on our own.

        Essentially: So long as we recognize the status quo will face pain, we get to pick our pain.

        What do you think?

        1. wilroncanada

          It seems to me a gentleman named “Hudson” has been talking about this for years. I think he got his idea from the Bible, in which it was written about millennia ago.

    2. JTMcPhee

      Does anyone else remember a board game called “Monopoly ™”? Where generations have learned the rudiments of rent-seeking, and where the winner bankrupts everyone else?

      1. ambrit

        I once abused myself by watching an ‘interview’ with the man who wrote “Rich Dad Poor Dad.” He also said that Monopoly was used as a teaching tool to train him specifically to employ rent seeking strategies in his economic dealings.
        Someone I used to play board games with would, when losing big invoke either ‘Divine Intervention’ or ‘The Nuclear Option’ and “kick over” the board. What was funny and dysfunctional at the same time was that the ‘Divine Intervention’ option was actually rational in that person’s viewpoint. Alas, the underlying theory was flawed. As long as the “rules of the game” stay the same, an environment of strife and discord will continue. Either ‘leave’ the game or ‘change’ the rules. Otherwise, you are wasting your time.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Someone I used to play board games with would, when losing big invoke either ‘Divine Intervention’ or ‘The Nuclear Option’ and “kick over” the board. What was funny and dysfunctional at the same time was that the ‘Divine Intervention’ option was actually rational in that person’s viewpoint.

          Exactly like “volatility voters” in 2016.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > This was in comments yesterday, but it is too amazing to ignore. Free market exchanges result in oligarchy.

      (Water Cooler, 11/12. Just saying.)

      From the article:

      The free market is essentially a casino that you can never leave.

      And in the master’s chambers
      They gathered for the feast
      They stab it with their steely knives
      But they just can’t kill the beast

      Adding, this idea is just made for a YouTube video simulating the distribution, like this one:

      (Can’t speak to the quality of the analysis, just that the simulation can be done.)

      1. level

        The “it” that the Eagles are stabbing with their steely knives is what the rest of us call cocaine.

  9. Synoia

    Brett Kavanaugh’s latest opinion should terrify Democrats…

    Yes, and a Solution is for Congress to adopt Code Napoleon, and specify the detail for implementing Law in the Legislative Branch.

    That is, move the regulation writing part of the executive into the Legislative Branch of Government.

  10. Cat Burglar

    Good old Anthem Blue Cross. So they’re still slow walking their grievances?

    Five years ago, when they were my insurer, I got a bill for 15 percent of my annual income more than a year after my hip replacement. Knowing this violated both my policy and state law, I knew it was time to have some fun.

    The Mammoth Lakes Hospital had done a great job on my care, but they had outsourced all their billing to a contractor that I knew from previous experience couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time. “Oh, the computer must have spit that bill out by mistake over the weekend,” the first rep told me,”You got it because your insurance company did an audit of your bill, found they had paid ‘too much,” and then ‘took back’ money they had paid.” After getting an agreement to send me an acknowledgement I didn’t owe the money, we concluded.

    The acknowledgement naturally did not show up, and after another call (when I was curtly informed that they would send me an itemized bill!), it was time to go all out. After discovering Anthem had been billed a million dollars the year before because they were slow-walking payments beyond the legally required thirty days, I filed a grievance (telling them that they were obligated to pay the bill, and also to teach me how to ‘take back’ money I had already paid for something) and started marking the calendar. On Day 29 after filing the grievance, I got a call from Anthem, from a flustered young woman who explained to me, “We didn’t do anything wrong!”

    Action came at last from calling a hospital Vice President, who agreed to send me a signed letter on Mammoth Hospital letterhead stating I was off the hook. She promised it would not happen again. And it didn’t. Because the next month they only sent me a bill for 10 percent of my annual income.

    I love that they can send you a bill shaking you down for a huge part of your income, which they know you don’t owe, but claim no responsibility, because “the computer did it,” twice. I think of it as a shakedown by default: they aren’t responsible if they get caught, but if someone desperate and unlearned pays a bill, they gain. How can they lose?

    As for Anthem, they exited the market, and good riddance!

    1. Hamford

      My goodness. But aren’t you glad you have “choice” for your healthcare? That’s what the American people want, Right? Choice ™ .

  11. Dannyh

    “I loathe Black Friday: Degrading scenes of people wrestling for shoddy merchandise.”
    Joyeux Vendredi Fou
    !Feliz Viernes Negro!

    This is going to be a passing thing as online eviscerates the brick and morter real estate industry. What about all those CRE bonds?

    1. ambrit

      Don’t count your virtual chickens before the algorithm is written. The nasty little secret no one in retail wants to let out is that the Achilles heel of the online sales markets is the cost of fuel for the delivery supply chain. When the fracking for oil system crashes and the price of oil goes way up…..

  12. richard

    doesn’t it indicate something pretty nasty about our civilization
    that it’s worth reporting that people without homes are being “allowed” toilets
    how mean and grudging are we, officially speaking?
    sonoma county has managed to recognize they have a bunch of people without homes
    and that’s a bunch of work in itself, let me tell you!
    but they didn’t stop there
    and after I am guessing a bunch much deliberation decided they should also be allowed a porta-potty
    good jesus in a helicopter what a crew

    1. Tom Stone

      Richard, the Joe Rodota trail parallels Hwy 12 between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol and as you drive from the latter to the former you can see the tents and shelters, hundreds of them.
      The lack of facilities posed a very real public health threat and I’m glad they are finally being provided with porta potties.

      1. richard

        of course i am glad about that too
        it was unwise for me to comment without reading the piece first
        bad form
        which made my comment seem a little out of place and silly
        and my rhetoric also seemed to spray acid at activists, which i did not intend
        sorry, comment team :)

      2. JTMcPhee

        How many of those people living in these neoliberal Hoovervilles, the people those “doing better” in the rat race look down on with such self-righteous anger and distaste, are people just like the look-down-their-delicately-wrinkled-nose people who lived the American Puritan Dream too, but had one bump in the road too many and tumbled down the berm? A “public health threat” of which the root causes are so vividly limbed and discussed here in NC? The greed driven housing prices, the lack of medical care? The mean-spiritedness of the”I still got mine” crowd, many of whom get their paychecks for behaviors that impoverish their less grasping and less fortunate neighbors?

        Where are the outcries against the policies and corporate looting that drive ever more of us into the Hoovervilles? Oh, yeah, not a good idea to criticize a huge racket that fills one’s rice bowl.

        1. JBird4049

          I remember when the town of Novato was where the cheap apartments were and where all the SFPD and SFFD members bought their houses. Almost anyone could have rented an apartment up there.

          Now we have large encampments another forty miles north? I should not be surprised, but it has been a while since I have been on HWY 12. There is no there, there. Small towns and wineries.

          Should I ask if the camps have reached Clearlake on the eastern side of the highway? After all Paradise had some homeless. That’s only an another additional fifty miles. Although you can still find some cheap apartments at $1000 or rent a house for what it cost a studio in the inner Bay Area at $1200. However, there really is no work and a car is absolutely necessary.

          This really is just fricking insane. Some sick, perverted joke of a system. I think I will just have to laugh at at anyone who wants to complain about the “lazy” people living rough. If housing is unaffordable seventy miles or a two hours drive from San Francisco in this “booming economy” somebody is cooking the books, but I hope everyone already knew about that.

        2. Mickey Hickey

          Look on the bright side, America is taking steps to avoid becoming a public defecation country like India.

  13. Pelham

    Re the economy and what happens when Coyote looks down: Possibly he finds he’s on solid ground.

    According to the MMT item linked here a few days ago, Trump’s very-lite version of MMT (with tiny tax cuts for ordinary folk) is the reason the US econ is doing fairly well by comparison with austerity-wracked Europe.

    Not that I’m defending the tax cuts, which were heavily weighted to top incomes. But they weren’t 100% bad. And paraphrasing something that someone said a few months back (I believe it was Stephanie Kelton), when voters go into the voting booth, they may think, “Well, Trump broke most of his promises and did only just a tiny little bit for me. But then it had been a very, very long time since anyone in the White House had done anything at all for me.”

    1. marku52

      Yes, the Trump economy may not be all that good, but it beats hell of of Obama’s, judging by the “help wanted” signs and the ads I hear on the radio.

      That never happened under St Obama.


      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        That’s why the Catfood Democrat Party wants to make sure m4a sanders is not the nominee. Never, ever.

        Status quobama Biden would be just fine with the Catfood Democrat leadership.

  14. Jessica

    Huey Long was able to win the Louisiana governor’s race because of an incident that presaged the Hurricane Katrina fiasco. Flood water was coming down the Mississippi, so the elite in New Orleans had the dykes intentionally breached in order to preserve their neighborhoods by flooding others. In the end, the flood water turned out to not be as much as feared, so the destruction the elite had wrought hadn’t even been necessary. People were so angered that they elected the long-shot firebrand.

    1. ewmayer

      Deplorable though the tactic may have been, I really, really hope it was the dikes the Nawlins elites had breached. :)

      (Classic old Beavis and Butt-Head MTV commentary from the 90s: B&B are watching a music video, in the background one can make out an unfocused scene of 2 girls making out. Beavis: “Whoa, Butt-Head! There’s two chicks kissing!” Butt-Head: “I guess they’re, like, Libyans or something.”)

  15. The Rev Kev

    “UNC to give Silent Sam statue to Sons of Confederate Veterans”

    Actually this seems a good outcome. This was not a statue to someone to someone like Jackson or Lee but one for what has been historically known as the PBI – the Poor Bloody Infantry. So if it finds a home for people that want it then fair enough. I do have a problem with the sort of people that were so radical in their demands that just the thought that it might exist elsewhere is enough to anger them.
    When one said that “We have a lot of work to do to truly create a diverse and inclusive environment.” what he meant was a diverse and exclusive environment with a very narrow Overton window of what he approves of in that environment. And I would suspect that most NC readers would not be approved of in this ‘environment’.

    1. ambrit

      This peripatetic Deep South primate can attest to having received obloquy from both the Left and the Right over the years. All I am is a garden variety non-conformist masquerading as a neurotic. (The jury is still out on whether or not I qualify as both.)
      When we home schooled our children, we were part of a very diverse set of parents. From Nation of Islam to hard core Evangelicals, with we Hippy cohorts somewhere in the middle, the early Louisiana home school movement was the epitome of the “big tent” theory of political organizing. The Louisiana law that eventually freed us all to “do our own thing” was sponsored by an Evangelical State Representative from the north of the state. We pretty much all sent his future campaigns something every election cycle. For all I know, he might still be in office.
      Though he is not favoured today very much, I still like Emerson’s quote: “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of it’s members.” It looks like he predicted Neo-Liberalism 180 years ago.

  16. ambrit

    I was looking up the wiki on Gibson’s book ‘The Peripheral,’ to add to a comment over on SST, when I read, in the body of the wiki that Gibson’s upcoming book “Agency” is set in the same twin worlds as is the book “The Peripheral.”
    “Gibson’s book Agency is set in the same world as The Peripheral, also involving alternate but connected futures.[11]”
    It looks like ‘reality’ inverted the order of the ‘universes’ in Gibson’s proposed “Agency.”
    Ye Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Peripheral

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yes, Agency is said to be premised on a world where Clinton won. No wonder the publication date has been pushed back several times.

      I think Gibson has a direct line to the PMC id — it’s fascinating how, in the Bigend/”Big Ant” series, he “got” the obsession with Russia, the obsession with intelligence tradecraft, and the intersection of oligarchs, media types, bent techs, and spooks, a good ten years before RussiaGate.

      1. Temporarily Sane

        Unfortunately Gibson also seems to be on board with the Russiagate nonsense and the “omg Trump is Satan!” stuff. I haven’t checked his Twitter feed in a while, but in 2016/17 he was all about the mainstream Democrat worldview. Very disappointing.

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