2:00PM Water Cooler 3/26/2018

By Lambert Strether of .

Trade

“President Trump’s decision yesterday to impose tariffs of 25 percent on about 1,300 imported products from China—the affected items won’t be published by the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) office for another week or two—is aimed at punishing China for alleged thefts of American high-end technology and intellectual property. Yet underlying Trump’s action is a simmering resentment on the part of U.S. business interests that China has spent nearly two decades unfairly protecting its markets and industries while at the same time enjoying the fruits of open and profitable trade that came with its entering the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001” []. “No one would talk on the record about the broader concerns of U.S. business in trading with China. However, one person said yesterday’s decision reflects a years-long buildup of tensions and aggravation about a lopsided playing field in U.S.-China trade. ‘There are so many stories and anecdotes’ about how difficult it is for American companies to compete with state-owned Chinese firms while having to jump through one regulatory hoop after another, the person said.”

“The U.S. and China are quietly talking about ways to resolve their showdown over trade. Top officials in Washington and Beijing have started negotiating over a range of ways to improve access by American companies to Chinese markets…..” []. “The talks may provide relief to those rattled by announcements last week of U.S. plans to hit China with tariffs and other measures aimed at addressing the U.S. $375 billion merchandise trade deficit with China. The negotiations cover a wide range of areas, including financial services and manufacturing, and are being led by Liu He, China’s economic czar, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer. The U.S. demands offer an opportunity for China to respond in very specific areas such as automotive trade, providing details Beijing has been looking for as the sharp rhetoric between the countries has escalated.”

Politics

Midterms

“Extreme Gerrymandering & the 2018 Midterms” [] (). Both parties gerrymander when they can but the practice has been worsened by increasingly sophisticated data and map-drawing techniques…. Because of maps designed to favor Republicans, Democrats would need to win by a nearly unprecedented nationwide margin in 2018 to gain control of the House of Representatives. To attain a bare majority, Democrats would likely have to win the national popular vote by nearly 11 points. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have won by such an overwhelming margin in decades. Even a strong blue wave would crash against a wall of gerrymandered maps….. As gerrymanders become ever more sophisticated, generic ballot leads no longer effectively predict how many seats a party might pick up.” Importantly:

Political scientists call the relationship between the votes a party gets in a state and how many seats it picks up “responsiveness.” In a highly responsive map, a party steadily increases its seats as it increases its share of the vote. That is how most assume a democracy should function. A non-responsive map would be the reverse: one in which a party can increase its vote share by 10 or even 20 percent without gaining a single extra seat. A handful of states have non-responsive maps that are especially stark: [Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas]. This study is the first to gauge the magnitude of change necessary on a state-by-state basis to flip seats under current congressional maps and the first to visualize the responsiveness of maps, highlighting the stark differences between gerrymandered and non-gerrymandered states.

Too bad Democrats didn’t want to govern in 2009-2010, because these maps were drawn after their 2010 debacle.

MN-08: “Democrats in disarray in must-win House race” []. “The unusual dynamics of the race suggest Trump could make a difference. On Minnesota’s Iron Range — a historically Democratic and blue-collar part of the state that Trump won by a wide margin in 2016 — conflict between environmentalists and pro-mining Democrats over the future of copper-nickel mining in the region has fractured the party. And Trump’s decision to set new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports has further scrambled the equation after the announcement drew widespread local praise — including from veteran Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan and other Democrats.”

PA-06: “Costello Retirement Moves PA-06 from Toss Up to Likely Democratic” []. “Over the weekend, moderate GOP Rep. Ryan Costello (PA-06) confirmed that he wouldn’t run for reelection, reversing course just days after filing petitions to put his name on the ballot. The move deprives Republicans of a well-liked incumbent with $1.3 million in the bank in a suburban Philadelphia district and puts Democrat Chrissy Houlahan in the driver’s seat to take over a very favorably redrawn seat. Costello was probably the biggest loser in Pennsylvania’s new court-ordered map.”

2016 Post Mortem

“Inside the Last Days of the Hillary Clinton Campaign” [Jennifer Palmieri, Time]. Palmieri, you will recall, is the lunatic who thought her limo has going to be hijacked by Russians. Anyhoo: “Women haven’t plateaued; it is the rules we were playing by that are outdated. We are learning to appreciate that with this uncertainty comes an empowering new sense of possibility. I look around at all that women are doing in America today and I am inspired. Women aren’t just running for office in record numbers, they are winning in record numbers, too. In the worlds of art, politics, and business, women aren’t following anyone’s rules — they are creating their own game.” Which is all to the good, one thinks; until one remembers that the Daughters of the Confederacy — women, I trust — played a key role in that poisoned the well of popular perceptions of the Civil War to this very day. : “It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’ No That is not good enough,” the Vermont senator continued. ‘What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industries.'”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Liberal World Order, R.I.P.” [Richard Haass, ]. “After a run of nearly one thousand years, quipped the French philosopher and writer Voltaire, the fading Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire. Today, some two and a half centuries later, the problem, to paraphrase Voltaire, is that the fading liberal world order is neither liberal nor worldwide nor orderly.” Pause to note that Haass is President of the Council on Foreign Relations. More: “But the weakening of the liberal world order is due, more than anything else, to the changed attitude of the US.” Horseshit (and I’m skipping over the hagiography, too, stuff like “…. based on the rule of law and respect for countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity….”). Amazingly, Haas doesn’t even mention the Iraq War (or Global War on Terror). Is it just possible that the liberal world order lost all credibility because its guarantor lost its credibility, in the eyes of the world? And rightly? A really second-rate piece. Lack of competence at the elite level isn’t only a problem in the United Kingdom.

“The pragmatic futurist: interview with Shekar Natarajan” ]. This interview may appeal more broadly than to logistics buffs. For example: “At Coca-Cola Bottling Co., we developed the CooLift beverage-delivery system, which is now a standard throughout the industry. The specially designed carts and pallets make the job of moving beverages from truck to store much quicker, safer, and more efficient. We developed the solution by looking for a merchandising delivery system that reduced the risk of injury and could be used easily by anyone. We analyzed the whole supply chain as a system, deconstructed it, and identified where and how we could improve it.” That’s pretty cool; who wants to risk their back horsing around a stupidly designed palette? But the larger point is this: I think when we say “Government should be run more like a business,” we mean this sort of process improvement. In reality, when government is run like a business, it’s run like a business is run at the executive level, hence looting, fraud, corruption and chicanery of all sorts, and immunity from prosecution.

Stats Watch

Chicago Fed National Activity Index, February 2018: “A jump in industrial production fueled a sharp rise in the national activity index” []. “[T]today’s report in sum is very positive and, with the 3-month average gaining strength…. hints at factory-led strength for the first quarter.” And: “The single month index which is not used for economic forecasting which unfortunately is what the CFNAI headlines. Economic predictions are based on the 3 month moving average. The single month index historically is very noisy and the 3 month moving average would be the way to view this index in any event” []. “There was insignificant revision to the last 3 months of data…. [S]ee the three month rolling average for the last 6 months – it shows an improving economy.”

Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey, March 2018: “Three months of building surge eased this month for the Dallas Fed manufacturing report” []. “Under the low estimate but still an extremely favorable reading, and an arguably more favorable reading given that prior strength was pointing to unwanted capacity stress.” And but: “This survey remains in positive territory with new orders significantly slowing and unfilled orders also slowing – but both in positive territory. This was a weaker report than last month” []. “Of the four Federal Reserve districts which have released their March manufacturing surveys – all are in expansion.”

Energy: “U.S. crude exports are on a tear, but foreign trade houses appear to be reaping some of the biggest gains. Two years after Washington lifted a ban on exporting U.S. oil, a handful of international houses are dominating the buying and selling of that crude thanks to their greater expertise in trading and logistics. ..[S]hipments by three of the world’s top five oil traders accounted for 22% of U.S. crude exports in the past year. That’s partly the result of the fragmented nature of the U.S. shale industry, which can’t compete with more nimble, mostly Europe-based trade houses that buy and sell oil and ship it around the world” []. “Some of the foreign traders’ edge in U.S. exports is expected to diminish as logistical issues are ironed out and U.S. infrastructure is built to handle outbound flows*, but international traders have a foothold and say they’re in the business for the long haul.” NOTE * Translation: As the colonies are whipped into line on pipelines, bomb trains, and ports.

Shipping: “Railroad service issues once again have the attention of the Department of Transportation’s Surface Transportation Board (STB), with STB Acting Chairman Ann Begeman and Vice Chairman Deb Miller penning letters to the top executives at the seven North American Class I railroads, requesting each carrier’s service outlook for both the near term and the rest of 2018” []. “In the letter, Begeman and Miller also noted that the STB also received letters from the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) [and others…] The NGFA’s letter was delivered with a sharper tone, explaining that there is a fundamental concern shared by rail shippers that the main reason, or “root cause,” of the railroads’ service and accessorial charges is driven by the Class I railroads’ aggressive effort to reduce their operating ratios to impress Wall Street investors and shareholders. ‘This, in turn, has resulted in the systemic shedding of resources by Class I carriers, including locomotives and crews, that has degraded service to unacceptable levels, and resulted in virtually non-existent surge capacity to meet rail customers’ needs,’ wrote NGFA….. Industry stakeholders have pointed to various reasons as to why railroad service continues to decline. One reason provided to LM was that in an economic response to lower volumes, the railroads are running fewer, longer trains in order to lower costs, which results in longer waits between departures, boosting yard dwell times. And these huge trains also tend to be slower, with the resulting average train speeds substantially down.”

Infrastructure: “Through clenched teeth, President Trump today signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government through the end of the 2018 fiscal year. With smiling faces, transport interests hailed the president’s pen hitting the paper” []. “Trump labeled the bill “ridiculous” as he signed it into law. For those seeking more money to fund the transport ecosystem, the results were anything but ridiculous. The popular Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, received $1.5 billion in funding, three times what it got in fiscal 2017…. The law adds $1 billion to $45 billion in funding from the Highway Trust Fund for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) surface transportation program. It includes $6.83 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, an increase of $789 million from fiscal 2017. Of that, $3.63 billion will go to the Corps’ operations and maintenance program, which pays for maintenance dredging in America’s deep-draft harbors and channels. The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which contributes to the program through a tax paid by importers on the declared value of merchandise, will get $1.4 billion in FY 2018, up $100 million from FY 2017 levels. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will receive $14 million, a nearly 15-percent increase over fiscal 2017. Of that, $7.6 million will be used to hire 328 CBP officers. In the maritime environment alone, a minimum of 500 CBP officers are needed annually, according to the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), the leading port trade group. The bill also more than doubles Maritime Administration funding levels to $980 million. The Marine Highways program designed to move long-haul freight off the highways and onto coastal, inland, and intracoastal waterways was appropriated $7 million, up $2 million from last year’s levels.”

Mr. Market: “Facebook stock plunges on FTC probe and news it records users’ call logs” []. More on the Facebook Fracas below. I may be a dinosaur, since I still have a landline, and my portable phone is dumb, but I feel like I’m a pretty smart dinosaur, since Facebook doesn’t have my call logs!

Five Horsemen: “Amazon, Microsoft and Apple bounce in morning trade, while Facebook wilts again.” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Mar 26 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “The mania-panic index fell to 22 (worry) as Friday’s plunge sent the CBOE put-call ratio soaring to 1.54, a 99th percentile value indicating heavy trading in put options protection” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood]. (The NakedCap mania-panic index is an equally-weighted average of seven technical indicators derived from stock indexes, volatility (VIX), Treasuries, junk bonds, equity options, and internal measures of new highs vs new lows and up volume vs down volume … each converted to a scale of 0 to 100 before averaging, using thirty years of history for five of the seven series.)

Mania panic index Mar 23 2018

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged []. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 184.

Big Brother Is Watching You

UPDATE America’s industrial policy in action:

Steve Jobs had nothing to do with most of the tech inside your iPhone (it was biiiiiig government!). On this weeks illicit history debunks this and other innovation myths with .

— Aimee Terese (@aimeeterese)

MMT

UPDATE A splendid indictment of the fave liberal Democrat panacea, training, among other things:

A terrific clip of Warren Mosler, recommended by Stephanie Kelton. What more do you want? Deficits matter – but not the way most people think they do.

— Steven Hail (@StevenHailAus)

Facebook Fracas

“FTC says it is investigating Facebook privacy practices” []. “‘The FTC is firmly and fully committed to using all of its tools to protect the privacy of consumers,’ said Tom Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection, in a statement. ‘Foremost among these tools is enforcement action against companies that fail to honor their privacy promises, including to comply with Privacy Shield, or that engage in unfair acts that cause substantial injury to consumers in violation of the FTC Act. Companies who have settled previous FTC actions must also comply with FTC order provisions imposing privacy and data security requirements. Accordingly, the FTC takes very seriously recent press reports raising substantial concerns about the privacy practices of Facebook. Today, the FTC is confirming that it has an open non-public investigation into these practices.'”

UPDATE “The Latest: Attorneys general demand answers from Facebook” []. “The chief law enforcement officers for 37 U.S. states and territories are demanding to know when Facebook learned of a huge breach of privacy protections. The officers say in a letter Monday to CEO Mark Zuckerberg that users’ trust in the social media platform is ‘broken.'”

UPDATE “Cook County Sues Facebook, Cambridge Analytica for Consumer Fraud” []. “The complaint claims Facebook may have begun as a social media site, but over the years it has essentially transitioned into a data aggregation machine designed to ‘manipulate users into making the decisions Facebook and its business partners want them to make.’ ”This kind of mass data collection was not only allowed but encouraged by Facebook, which sought to keep developers building on its platform and provide companies with all the tools they need to influence and manipulate behavior,’ the complaint states. ‘That’s because Facebook is not a social media company: it is the largest data mining operation in existence.'” ; it certainly does consolidate a lot of useful information in one place, especially on manipulating behavior, so if you’ve got the time, grab a cup of coffee because it’s well worth the read. Presumably the complaint wouldn’t have gone forward with Rahm’s OK.

UPDATE “Apple’s Tim Cook Calls for More Regulations on Data Privacy” []. “”I think that this certain situation is so dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary,’ Cook said after being asked if the use of data should be restricted in light of the Facebook incident. ‘The ability of anyone to know what you’ve been browsing about for years, who your s are, who their s are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life — from my own point of view it shouldn’t exist.’

“Facebook Needs a Contract With America” [Scott Galloway, ]. Stonger stuff than we’re used to hearing:

Facebook should enter into a “Contract with America.” This agreement would put national security and the well-being of our children above all else, but recognize that Facebook, Inc. is a corporation charged with growing stakeholder value. The contract needs to address the short-term threats while ensuring this engine of capitalism continues to fire on — the size of the Facebook community.

The Contract:

  1. Facebook will immediately cease all advertising from entities advocating a political candidate, issue, or orthodoxy;
  2. Facebook will shut down Messenger Kids until more is known regarding the impact of social platforms on children and their emotional and mental well-being; and
  3. The chairman and CEO roles will be separated. The board will create a special committee charged with naming a chairman whom Facebook management can learn from regarding the tension between revenue growth and the well-being of the commonwealth.

In Sum, What to Expect

  • Facebook: delay and obfuscation
  • Advertisers: powerless at hands of duopoly
  • Consumers: continue to post
  • Investors: Facebook is the new tobacco stock
  • DC: barking at the moon
  • Brussels / red state AG: maybe

Gardeners’ Corner

Alert reader EM writes: “Several ways to make weather resistant nest boxes that should never rot and fall apart. If you have leftover PVC boards and pipe they can be put to use making weather resistant bird houses. Just be sure to roughen up the inside tubes so that the babies are able to grip with their toenails and climb out when ready for flights. I glued plastic coated screen inside with silicone adhesive. If you have leftover PVC boards and pipe they can be put to use making weather resistant bird houses. Just be sure to roughen up the inside tubes so that the babies are able to grip with their toenails and climb out when ready for flights. I glued plastic coated screen inside with silicone adhesive.” EM’s workbench:

“Have about a dozen bird houses a purple Martin box that they don’t like. But other birds use it.”

“When the time comes to clean them out just pull the cap off.”

Class Warfare

“Teacher Strike Fever Spreads” []. “Teachers in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky are now striking, sicking out, rallying, and Facebooking to push officials to raise their salaries and defend their benefits…Five states have seen average teacher salaries decline since 2015-2016; West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona are three of them.” Oklahoma strike date: April 2. West Virginia did two things that I’m not seeing all these states do (though some do one or the other): All school employees struck (including the bus drivers) and ing kids who couldn’t do school lunches. The first meant that the strikers controlled the workplace completely. The second meant that the important but ancillary social benefits from the workplace continued to be delivered. FWIW!

“Are More Strikes Coming? West Virginia Wasn’t the Only State Neglecting Employee Health Care” [].

“Study: threat of job automation may make workers sick” [] (original). “Researchers from Ball State University and Villanova University found that a 10-percent increase in ‘automation risk’ at the county level worsens laborers’ general, physical, and mental health by 2.38 percent, 0.8 percent, and 0.6 percent, respectively.”

“The pursuit of seafarer happiness” [], “Happiness has become quite a topic of conversation lately – there has been the International Day of Happiness, and the United Nations recently released its global happiness report. [T]he Mission to Seafarers has relaunched the Seafarers Happiness Index… The levels are then marked out of ten. The latest index showed a seafarer happiness result of 6.25 in 2017, a figure averaged across the key areas of seafarers’ work lives. This shows a downward trend from earlier incarnations of the index – and so we see that seafarer happiness is on the slide. Workload and access to onshore facilities presented the largest setbacks, while on-board interactions and friendships were seen as the best part of the job. The most divisive issue was connectivity with family and home. On ships where internet access was available, happiness was marked very highly, but without it connectivity was a significant source of real discontent…. Research constantly indicates that happy people work harder, achieve more and create an environment of constant improvement.” Hmm.

News of The Wired

When I ran that YouTube showing a trainhopper, alert reader Maps ed me, since he hops trains. I shared the lyrics of with him, and by return came this YouTube:

Maps commented: “Classic, love that song. Here’s some of my friends that I used to ride trains with and occasionally busked with. The big guy on the mandolin was Tomas, he died when he fell off of a train.” If there are any other travelers in the NC readership, I wouldn’t mind hearing from you.

I just hate the time-change; I’m still reeling from it. And I’m not alone!

Putting the clocks forward at – English Heritage staff repositioning the stones for the start of British Summer Time tomorrow.

— Stonehenge U.K (@ST0NEHENGE)

“In Game Theory, No Clear Path to Equilibrium” []. “Rubinstein and Yakov Babichenko, a mathematician at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, have explained why. In a paper last September, they proved that no method of adapting strategies in response to previous games — no matter how commonsensical, creative or clever — will converge efficiently to even an approximate Nash equilibrium for every possible game. It’s “a very sweeping negative result,” Roughgarden said….. Economists often use Nash equilibrium analyses to justify proposed economic reforms, Myerson said. But the new result says that economists can’t assume that game players will get to a Nash equilibrium, unless they can justify what is special about the particular game in question.” Oopsie.

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

Ornamental grass, one thing I have never planted enough of. Quack grass, I have more of than I want, and I didn’t plant it at all…

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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.

78 comments

  1. archnj

    Interesting to see the STB railroad service inquiries popping up here. Railroads are the sort of low-margin, asset-heavy business that make for a juicy raiding / asset-stripping target. I have been following the CSX saga over the last year or so and it is a mess. Raiders forced the aging E. Hunter Harrison, professional railroad killer, on the CSX board, after which he implemented his preset agenda and promptly died – leaving management in chaos in the midst of mass layoffs, service interruptions, and other sundry disasters. CSX recently floated the idea of selling off up to a third of its track milage, which is a classic asset-stripping move, customers be damned.

    Hadn’t heard that this sort of thing was currently affecting other railroads, but I guess why wouldn’t it?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yes, I remember “precision railroading.” It wasn’t clear to me that what worked for CN would work for CSX. Then again, thinking of the railroad as a network, it’s not clear to me why was a bad idea. Did Harrison kill CN?

      1. archnj

        CN is still around, of course, but they went through a rough patch. CP is going through a recovery process now; CSX is in the middle of the whirlwind.

        The “precision railroading” concept was always a bit of a boondoggle. In theory it could improve delivery time to shippers while reducing physical assets, and such a system would work better in a linear system like CN or particularly CP as opposed to the mad web of lines that CSX controls. But the metric – less yard dwell time – was always massively subject to fudging. Also, it is worth pointing out that one way of eliminating dwell time is to eliminate yards, regardless of their previous effectiveness.

        CN always looked better on paper than it actually was, .

        In reality they were understaffed and running into slowdown and maintenance problems with the massive trains they were trying to run, but as long as all of that happened outside a yard it was A-OK since the cars were in theory still “moving”.

        CN seems to be doing well now. CP is now in the process of hiring more folks and reopening facilities to get back to some kind of manageable operation.

        CSX could probably have afforded to cut some capacity, and it has always been the poor relation of American railroads. However, the cuts and policy changes in place right now are too deep and not related to facts on the ground. For example, Willard, OH, one of the few remaining hump yards open, has been massively clogged and sending cars any direction at all to clear them out, only to have them end up at other clogged yards that also can’t handle the traffic, leading to cars rattling around the system for many extra days The STB started demanding monthly calls with CSX over the summer in response to shipper outrage, so this all has been brewing for a while.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          Just started reading this book last night which you might find interesting – .

          Still on the introduction but between that, the linked review and your comments, it sounds like not much has changed in a 150 years or so.

          “Transcontinental railroads,” writes White, “were a Gilded Age extravagance that rent holes in the political, social, and environmental fabric of the nation, creating railroads as mismanaged and corrupt as they were long.”

          1. archnj

            Thanks, that book is on my reading list! Historian Al Churella has a partial rebuttal, however, to some of its arguments. Need to get deeper into this.

            But it is telling that in these days of corporate raiders and blatant stock manipulation there are many rhymes with the nineteenth century.

            1. Amfortas the Hippie

              this all explains my observations. we just made a weekend run, 350 miles, to houston; all but one of the perhaps 20-30 trains we saw were idle…just sitting there, on lonely stretches of track.
              the only movement was in the big yard at Taylor Texas, and that appeared, as we flew by on the overpass, to be shuffling cars around.
              Even the big old Engleside Yard in East Houston seemed quiet. My Dad lives in Clear Lake, and we go through Pasadena and all the mess around the Port of Houston…lots of rail down there…and again: miles of train, just sitting there.
              I’ve always had a thing for trains(grew up next to a Union Pacific siding…we rode the damned things when I was a kid(!)…so my attention is always drawn to them.
              The lack of activity was enough to take note of.

  2. cocomaan

    Costello not only was a loser in the PA redistricting, but was kind of a loser anyway. He always managed to seem like he didn’t stand for anything at all.

    1. Arizona Slim

      FWIW, my mother lives in that district. She liked Costello, but I could never get her to tell me why.

      1. cocomaan

        Not my district, but my friends there complained about him being absent from a few key votes. I’d have to look up what those were. Mostly just an anodyne kind of guy. Not popular in these crazy days in politics!

    2. chuck roast

      So, how is Costello a loser?
      It’s my understanding that a House pol. who walks away can also walk away with the cash in his/her slush fund.
      The guy pockets $1.3M on the way out the door…this guy is a “loser”? The magnetic fields must have reversed!

  3. Lee

    ‘There are so many stories and anecdotes’ about how difficult it is for American companies to compete with state-owned Chinese firms while having to jump through one regulatory hoop after another, the person said.”

    The U.S. mutual insurance company I worked for pulled out of China after years of trying to make a go of it there. Whatever the publicly stated reasons were, the one word in private that summed up the experience was “corruption”. At least in the U.S. much of the corruption is in fact written into the law so at least everyone knows where they stand and can plan accordingly.

  4. Lee

    Mr. Market: “Facebook stock plunges on FTC probe and news it records users’ call logs” [NBC News]. More on the Facebook Fracas below. I may be a dinosaur, since I still have a landline, and my portable phone is dumb, but I feel like I’m a pretty smart dinosaur, since Facebook doesn’t have my call logs!

    Absent an asteroid, no worries, then.

    Speaking of phones, I’ve been getting robocall solicitations in what I assume to be Chinese. Evidently, the algorithm doesn’t realize that I’m a non-Chinese-speaking Anglo-Celtic ‘merican.

    1. economicator

      Well, on algorithms not recognizing ethnic/racial background:

      I am of European stock and have never even been to India. But lately more than half of the ads I get on YouTube are from Indian companies, in Hindi, very clearly targeting Indian population in the SF Bay Area (where I live). It is very annoying, not least because the ads are outlandishly stupid. A non-Indian friend reported the same problem.

      So either YouTube has temporarily screwed up something in their data about me and some others (but it’s been many weeks by now and no sign of stopping it), or the algorithm, with all its AI chops, is no smarter than a radio broadcast blindly blasting ads in the ether. I don’t even know where to start on how stupid that is.

      Phew!

      1. Procopius

        That was the paradigm for many decades. On TV as well. I remember about fifteen years ago, Robert X. Cringely was singing the praises of the new “targeted” advertising. His idea was that at last we could tell which ads were effective and which were not, and that, somehow, this was a good thing. I kind of stopped following his blog about then for no particular reason. I was really interested in what he and his commenters had to say about the extremely corrupt HB-1 visas, which were/are so egregiously in violation of the law.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        If these Hindi ads have been reaching your non-Hindi self only just lately, there might be a third explanation.

        YouTube might be sending seemingly-stupid ads to you and to others to reassure you that the algorithm is stupid and YouTube surveillance is nothing to worry about.

  5. grayslady

    Interesting move by Kim Foxx against Facebook. For those who don’t know the background on Foxx, she successfully primaried another Dem–her predecessor, Anita Alvarez–who was part of the City of Chicago cover-up on the brutal police slaying of Laquan McDonald. Foxx is the protege of City Council heavyweight, Toni Preckwinkle, a high profile member of what I refer to as Illinois’s “blue mafia,” led by Speaker of the House and Democratic Party Chair, Mike Madigan. Illinois’s “blue mafia” typically grovels at the feet of large corporations rather than taking them to court.

    In reading through the complaint, I only see monetary damages in the prayer for relief. There is no suggestion of asking Facebook to cease doing business in Illinois or some other form of non-monetary relief. I’m sufficiently cynical about Illinois politics to see this lawsuit as a way to grab millions from Facebook to alleviate Illinois’s financial crisis, since I assume the monetary proceeds would be unrestricted funds.

  6. Michael Fiorillo

    My experiences are dated, but I’ll contribute them all the same.

    I rode the rails during the late ’70’s and early 80’s, mostly across Canada and the northern tier of the US.

    It was a pretty wide-open and permissive scene, except for the railroad cops, and even they weren’t too bad back then. The first train I hopped was in Sudbury, Ontario, a trailing diesel unit on a Canadian Pacific passenger train (!). We got kicked off a few hours later, but the railroad men were neither shocked nor particularly upset to see us, though they told us we couldn’t stay. We rode all the way to Calgary on a succession of diesel freight units, which were were always unlocked, heated, with bathrooms, and a couple of times we rode with crews that were traveling to other locales. Lotsa technicolor dawns, moose alongside the tracks, and skin so dirty, it shone.

    Riding the rails eastbound from Wenatchee, Washington with my wife in 1981, a brakeman whose body gave off the odor of coffee and cigarettes from fifteen feet away delivered an empty boxcar right to us, which we rode through all the way through to Minneapolis. Looking for another eastbound, a crew invited us into a caboose (remember them?) to warm up. I’ve fantasized about converting one into a small home/cabin ever since, because they’re surprisingly bright and spacious.

    You don’t see boxcars like before, especially opened ones; they’re mostly unit trains, and sealed, which must make it much harsher for today’s Youts riding the rails. A friend and I once rode a the back of a grain car from Minneapolis to Chicago, and it was brutal. Noisy and filthy as the boxcars were, they were less exposed to wind and dust, and a little safer.

    The Great Northern (later Burlington Northern, and now BNSF) was known as an easy-going line, since the regions it traversed once had a need for seasonal migrant labor, and the railroad facilitated those migrations. Legend had it that Big Jim Hill, the Robber Baron/builder of the Great Northern once said “The bums built my railroad, and the bums are gonna ride.” Supposedly there was always at least one open boxcar on every train for that purpose…

    You cannot imagine the pleasure and gratitude that comes from taking a long, hot shower and sleeping on clean cotton sheets until you’ve ridden the rails across this immense country.

    1. Clive

      You cannot imagine the pleasure and gratitude that comes from taking a long, hot shower and sleeping on clean cotton sheets until you’ve ridden the rails across this immense country.

      I have the same feeling on my hour-long commute here on the U.K.’s South West Railway. At least you can get a cup of tea onboard. Apart from that, and maybe the lack of immenseness, it sounds roughly identical.

    2. Lemmy Caution

      I too jumped freight trains in about the same time frame as you describe. I had been hitchhiking out West trying to get back home to Michigan. One of my rides said that it was easy to catch a free ride on a freight train – just walk up to the supervisor at the next train yard and ask for a ride. I took his advice after he dropped me off and much to my surprise the yard guy said, sure, climb up into the caboose on this one. It’s heading out eastbound in a few minutes. Well alright! I spent that first ride sitting in a luxurious Lazy Boy-like chair in the caboose, watching the Montana countryside slide by like I was in some kind of movie.

      When that ride ended, I jumped down and confidently sauntered up to the supervisor at that train yard and asked for another eastbound ride. He immediately starting cursing me out in disbelief and threatened to beat my *** if I didn’t disappear that second. Needless to say I fled the scene. I contemplated the fickle nature of this mode of transportation as I waited in the bushes on the edge of the trainyard for the next outbound train. I didn’t have to wait long for one to head my way.

      Now, those big freight trains take a long time to build up speed, so you’d think it would be easy to jump aboard something that’s only going 5 or 6 miles an hour. And it is easy — as long as you don’t miss.

      All you need to do is scramble up the steep cinder-covered railbed and start running alongside the train, careful not to stumble on the railroad ties with every step. You’re also trying to adjust your pace to match the train’s speed, while also looking for a car with a suitable handhold and a foot hold. You’re also trying not to lose your backpack holding everything you own as it flops back and forth with each stride. All this time the train is gaining speed, so you’re under pressure to make the move. So you jump. And if you’re young, and quick, and lucky, you land perfectly and clamber up into the box car and settle in for another 500-mile stretch through North Dakota on your way back home.

      It’s a beautiful and thrilling way to travel, for sure, but it is not for the faint of heart. I had several close calls during my 1,500-mile journey on various freight trains that made it clear that one mistake could easily be your last.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        Aye…it wasn’t UP(as in my earlier post) it was BN(then BNSF). side track next to our neighborhood, where trains going in opposite directions would pass each other.
        from the time I was 10 or so we were riding them…mostly just for a half mile or so. there was a pile of sand next to the switch for the second, smaller side track(where they parked the maintenance equipment) that made a nice jumping off point.
        They’d leave whole trains down there on federal holidays, idling(too hard to start up again)…..so we’d sneak aboard and blow the horn…even drove one for 50 feet one time.
        Once, when I was around 14, a southbound picked up speed too quickly and I was stuck on it….rode it all the way into Houston and had to call my dad from a pay phone in the Third Ward. Grounded for a month.
        I sometimes consider what a miracle it is that we survived childhood.

        1. Lemmy Caution

          But we did survive and I think that exposure to real risk as kids is a good thing, within reason. It’s healthy to learn that the world does not care if you live or die and that it isn’t written anywhere that you are automatically guaranteed safe passage. Now, having said that, I still can’t believe that the original steel-tipped Jarts were once sold as a kid’s toy.

          1. Amfortas the Hippie

            yup. finding that balance with my own boys has been a challenge,lol.
            I’m certainly glad that we don’t have a railroad within 25 miles of us….but I’m sure they’ll manage to find dangerous things to do.
            ergo, rule #1 has always been “don’t do stupid shit”…and it’s worked pretty well(touch wood).
            I also resolved early on to not try to hide my sordid past from them; something my folks were adept at…my brother and I were woefully unprepared, as a result.

    3. bones

      I rode the rails across the country about a decade and a half ago, and it was good fun. I mostly rode grainers and intermodals, along with the occasional boxcar that was left with the doors open. As you mentioned the graincars are noisy and dirty. When I was riding I heard horror stories about the doors closing on boxcars and travelers getting stuck inside (I was told to always stick a few spikes in doorway). The best rides I had were on intermodals — the more modern cars that carry trailers. Those are the ones to ride. There’s usually a little porch in the front or back of the car that you can duck inside if it has a floor, and when you get out in the country you can climb up on top the trailers and ride in style. I did that in Minnesota and through Canada.

      I’m not in touch with the trainhopping community anymore but it’s a good group of people who are happy to help you get going.

      Aside from the neighborhoods I winded up in, I felt pretty safe. The workers in the yard who I came into with were typically friendly. They would give travelers water and bananas. My friends and I got kicked out of a yard by a security guard in Alberta. In Illinois a cop caught us hanging around a siding and tried to get us to admit that we were trespassing. My friends and I stuck to our story that we were hitchhiking and camping by the tracks and that was enough to keep us out of trouble. Nowadays I would be more worried about accidents and–damn–especially those involving gas and fires.

      King of the Road: I’m not too PC (especially about art and music), but the line in the song about not paying union dues ruins the song for me. Free rider, scab!

  7. XXYY

    As Sanders said: “It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’ No That is not good enough,” the Vermont senator continued. ‘What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industries.’”

    Please keep repeating this hourly. Sanders has said a lot of true things, but this is one of his best. We need policy, not identity to get us through these trying times.

    1. crittermom

      Agree.
      My rant:
      While I know that EVERYONE is saying Bernie is too old to run again, he has not slowed down at all in traveling the country & spreading this wisdom. He appears to have more energy than both Hillary & Trump combined.
      When I hear rumors of Hillary running again (NO!), I’m reminded of how she had to be helped into her limo during her campaign run. Supposed heat exhaustion–or was that during another incident where she appeared frail? Her health was in question during much of her campaign, IIRC.

      I came along later in life for my parents, yet they taught me through their actions that age is an attitude.
      Both remained extremely active until their deaths in their 70’s. My dad was still passing his physicals & racing 4-litre hydroplanes at age 73, after retiring from racing rail dragsters in his late 60’s. (He passed peacefully in his sleep, wearing a smile for what I believe was a life well-lived).
      Never an accident in his entire career of racing all sorts of machines & he won some trophies.

      Yet Bernie, who appears tireless in his efforts to make this a better country, is to be judged on his age alone, rather than his actions?

      Sorry, but the ‘too old’ argument just infuriates me. Actions still speak louder than words to me.
      I will always believe age is an attitude, so IMNSHO, despite his ‘advanced age’, Bernie still has the right attitude.

      1. Procopius

        Bernie must have good genes.

        Seriously, gerontocracy has a long history. Imperial councillors in China were frequently in their 80s and sometimes in their 90s. Prem Tinsulanonda, now 98, served as Regent after King Bhumibol Adulyadet’s death in September 2016. Of course, these guys don’t have the stress of cross-country travel in political campaigns, where the candidates get little sleep and lousy food. I’m 80, myself, and in amazingly good health, but I sure don’t have the stamina Bernie displays. I’ll vote for him. I still think he’d have won the primary if he had started his campaign three months earlier. Look at how his votes kept increasing as he gained name recognition.

  8. dontknowitall

    On Scott Galloway’s article about Facebook and what to expect, he writes:

    “In Sum, What to Expect

    Facebook: delay and obfuscation
    Advertisers: powerless at hands of duopoly
    Consumers: continue to post
    Investors: Facebook is the new tobacco stock
    DC: barking at the moon
    Brussels / red state AG: maybe”

    Missing from that list is,I think, the US and international national security interests that benefit from access to Facebook databases are the principal reason nothing will change. They will keep going as they are once the commotion dies down.

  9. JerryDenim

    I wonder if this FaceBook regulatory shitstorm is going to slow down the plan to make Zuckerburg the “fake-news” censorship czar. One pesky whistle-blower and one little story by The Guardian and Poof!

    Where’s that big red fake-news censor button when you need it?

    1. Kokuanani

      I am amazed that there is NO snow in Alaska where this was filmed.

      The DC eagles at the National Arboretum have just laid their first egg. Spring viewing can now begin in earnest.

      It appears the eagles wisely waited until the local snow was gone before they laid and had to begin sitting on the nest 24/7.

  10. UserFriendly

    Re MN-8
    Yeah, just like I said on your worksheet.

    good. As far as MN goes MN-7 is a really GOP district that Peterson (D) has had no problem holding onto in the GOP wave years of 2010 and 2014. He will be fine if there is the faintest D wave.

    MN-3 is even more D leaning than MN-2 (you should add it instead of MN-7) but has a slightly more popular incumbent.

    IMO if Dems have a good night they take MN-3 and lose MN-1 and MN-8, a great night and they take MN-2 as well, and an amazing night if they hang onto either 1 or 8.

    And to answer your question I missed.

    I was struck by the presence of DFL (“Farmer-Labor”), another example of how enormous the country is and how states and precincts really do differ. Doe DFL have real power?

    No, originally the Farmer Labor party was it’s own thing in the days of the parties out here. But since the merger the only difference is that we never have to say Dem or Democrat when talking to locals because DFL is easier. They are just as feckless and corrupt as any statewide democratic party.

  11. Anonymous

    “Men haven’t plateaued; it is the rules we were playing by that are outdated. We are learning to appreciate that with this uncertainty comes an empowering new sense of possibility. I look around at all that men are doing in America today and I am inspired. Men aren’t just running for office in record numbers, they are winning in record numbers, too. In the worlds of art, politics, and business, men aren’t following anyone’s rules — they are creating their own game.”

    Palmieri’s rant with the gender changed sounds incredibly sexist and retrograde, like something straight out of the 1950s. Yet somehow this still passes for fair and reasonable in 2018 with the original gender restored.

    The goal of feminism is, or should be, to achieve equality between women and men. It should not be to recreate the triumphalism, elitism, self importance, and narcissism of men, only this time for women. We already know how that story turns out.

  12. mini

    The birdhouse will crumble to dust faster than you think. UV light, like from the sun, breaks down PVC unless its specially coated against it.

    1. Synoia

      UV cross-links PVC making it brittle. Is does not “break it down.”

      Either is bad.

      Better to use wood.

    2. Edward E

      Oh, bullshyt, I have twenty year old PVC pipes out in the sun serving as rabbit habitat safety shelter from coyotes that still look new. These bird houses look fine and will last. They’re fast to make and already some birds are starting to put in nesting material. That’s the important thing.

      1. a different chris

        Srsly if you put a PVC version of a sandwich bag out there you might see some degradation in a few years. The big tubes aren’t going to show anything. Wish plastics *would* degrade at a decent rate, myself.

        Paint them brown maybe, solves both problems, if a person considers them problems.

        1. Edward E

          Have been thinking about painting them camouflage colors since I already have the paints, but decided to wait and see. Camo would be less attractive to predators, but hotter in the sun. We have so many trees that most everything gets less than five hours of direct light. PVC roofing panels, small pipe and things like that which are thin walled do break down but it takes forever for the thicker stuff. Or the county wouldn’t use it for rural water. Some of those pipes belong to them but they’ve never come to get them, though I’ve shown them many times. Those pipe may be coated, the boards are, I used some for no decay window frames and had one leftover.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Why not wrap them with aluminized mylar? It would keep them from getting hotter in the sunlight and it would make them look like whatever they are reflecting from around them. Which would be a sort of camouflage.

            1. Edward E

              Nice idea, but have you ever watched birds and squirrels fighting their reflection in a mirror? They’ll spend all day fighting or scaring themselves, less chance of even finding the entrance.

  13. Ed

    In re: women and health insurance companies, the health plan that ensures me was brought through the national auditing process to a #1 position in the US by a woman, and most of the executive leaders in that company are women. In re: Appalachian music, the movie “Songcatcher” was a vehicle that I used to explore the idea that my mother (who died five days after she gave birth to me) was an Ulster Scot, research which gave me these two links:

    And, finally, a question for future exploration:

    Where shall I invest my Social Security savings most effectively in light of the thundering clouds in the distance that portend war involving Russia, the US, Iran. Israel, NATO and China?

    1. Procopius

      Never mind, if we have war between the US, Iran, Israel, NATO, and China, you’re going to be living in a glass-paved parking lot until the flesh drops off your bones (a few days).

  14. mini

    Steve Jobs had nothing to do with most of the tech inside your iPhone (it was biiiiiig government!). On this weeks @tmbsfm illicit history @_michaelbrooks debunks this and other innovation myths with @huntermaats.

    Those are some pretty big claims to hide behind an $8 pricetag. Besides, part of the ‘tech’ was manufacturing the feature set at the size with the quality and software that they did.

    1. Summer

      Their main business is and will always be surveillance, not advertising or marketing.
      And she’s talking about the ideas behind the engineering.
      DARPA resized is still DARPA.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Some people, or many people, think Jobs had something to do with most of it.

      The tweet opens with the statement that Jobs had nothing to do with most of it.

      Reading that, I am not sure which one will be debunked (I read it to mean someone will debunk the statement that Jobs had nothing to do with most of it).

        1. Jonhoops

          The iPhone is Nextstep on a small form factor, he had plenty to do with that. Jobs genius was synthesizing all the available tech into something that worked better than the shit the rest of the tech industry was peddling. It took ten years for the industry to catch up to Nextstep because of Wintel. The web was created at CERN on a NeXT. What makes the iPhone is really the software, people still don’t get that.

  15. Synoia

    The contract needs to address the short-term threats while ensuring this engine of capitalism continues to fire on 2.1B cylinders — the size of the Facebook community.

    True, buy converting to a pid subscription service, and thus responsive only to its subscribers.

    At $2.00 month Facebook would have revenues of $4.2 Billion per month or $50.4 Billion per year.

    And that would eliminate the conflict between “users” and “customers.”

  16. Synoia

    Too bad Democrats didn’t want to govern in 2009-2010, because these maps were drawn after their 2010 debacle.

    Blame Avoidance.

  17. JohnnyGL

    Interview with Bryan Caplan who argues that higher education is mostly about signaling, instead of skill-building. I suspect he’s close to the mark with his 80% number, but it’s amusing to watch the interviewer (Scott Carlson) squirm and push back on the 80% number (it can’t be THAT much, can it?)

    Of course, I’d like to point out that Caplan is viewing this through a neo-liberal lens of education building ‘human capital’ when it should be about creating good citizens. If employers want skills, they should train their workers to have them instead of offloading their training costs onto the public sector.

    1. JohnnyGL

      This actually gets funnier. The writer goes full on austerity-loving neoliberal and launches a full-frontal attack on the educational complex (mostly at the university level). He even goes as far as attacking foreign language requirements and pushing for computer science as a requirement (economists always seem to LOVE computer programming).

      Again, the interviewer gets very uncomfortable since he works for the “Chronicle of Higher Education” and seems to have invested his entire career in boosting higher education.

      I sort of like this because it demolishes the neoliberal DEFENSE of higher education. Education is going to have to go back to creating good citizenry, it seems. Can’t be charging $60K a year for that…whoops…

      1. Arizona Slim

        When you come down to it, computer science is about the language and logic of computing. Which implies that foreign language skills may just come in handy.

        1. Enquiring Mind

          As a recovered programmer and linguist, I can attest to the foreign language aspects of coding. Syntax gets mangled in English the deeper one gets into a project, and there is some re-entry fun upon completion. Add in a few odd looks from normal people trying to figure out what I had just said and then translating into English. ROFL

  18. JohnnySacks

    Wayfaring Stranger, I’ve been listening to a beautiful rendition by Neko Case for a few years.

    1. ChrisPacific

      I have loved that song ever since I heard Eva Cassidy’s version of it. The linked version and the Neko Case are a great example of why. They’re all so different, but all good in their own way.

  19. Altandmain

    Any Ohioans here? I am a former resident.

    Anyways, Dennis Kucinich says that he has a pretty good platform.

    With any luck, he will win. It is a long shot though like Zephyr Teachout.

    Also, for Imperial Collapse Watch:

    1. beth

      Any Ohioans here? I am a former resident.

      Me too. Yet I don’t think I see Dennis Kucinich as someone I would vote for. Yves once gave a link to the fact he was one of the last people to vote for a lefty bill. In the end he accepted a large dollar amount to cave and change his vote. (I hope I am remembering it as Yves reported it.)

      Also, I got into a rambling conversation with a furniture store owner who told me that once he had received an order from Kucinich along with a check. He deposited the check to see if it would clear before sending any merchandise. It bounced and he showed me the check. It sounded true.

  20. Polar Donkey

    Regarding that coca cola article. Coke is my beverage supplier. Their service sucks, they can’t seem to competently fill our order, and the cost of bib of soda went from $59 in 2013 to $78 now. 25 years ago, the coke distributor was locally owned. We knew the owner. If there was a problem, we could call him directly. Service was great and pricing fair. Now, it is crapified. No idea who who is manager at the distribution center that just got a big PILOT from local government. Sales reps change every 6 months to a year. The delivery drivers change every week. It doesn’t seem people want to work for them. Amazingly, pepsi’s reputation is worse.

    1. Altandmain

      That is a huge price increase of more than 30 percent over 5 years.

      I suspect that the distribution may be directly in the hands of Coca-Cola itself now or one of the really big bottling partners. Here in Canada, I was told that for large institutions, Coca-Cola insists on doing the work themselves. The reason of course is the high profit margins. It used to be that institutions could share the high profit margins with Coca-Cola, but now they have insisted on taking a larger slice of the pie for themselves.

      Here is my, admittedly very limited, understanding of what happened:

      If you are interested, Coca-Cola launched something called Bottling Investments Group, or BIG in 2006 and basically they have been buying their franchises then spinning them off again. Supposedly Coca-Cola would help its partners using its BIG operating unit.

      For a variety of reasons, circumstances arise where bottling franchises find they need help that is beyond their capability. The Bottling Investments Group (BIG) was created to ensure those bottling operations remain a part of our system and receive the appropriate investments and expertise to ensure their long-term success.

      In 2004, BIG started the process of strategically investing in select bottling operations, temporarily taking them under Coca-Cola’s ownership. Utilizing the leadership and resources of The Coca-Cola Company, BIG can drive long-term growth in critical markets and affect major structural or investment challenges.

      When an operation is stable and thriving, BIG’s goals are to find a qualified bottler to assume operations and continue to grow the business. By treating each operation as if it will be owned by Coca-Cola forever, BIG has established a standard of excellence that extends to each of the 18 countries in which it currently functions.

      This whole project was made essentially to boost Coca-Cola’s profit margin.

      The reason why is because the profits from bottling are very low. So now they are in the process of divesting from it so that they can focus on the core business of the syrup itself, which has a high profit margin.

      How it has likely affected customers is that smaller distribution systems have likely been bought up and consolidated.

      That means that the bottlers and their distribution chains are now owned by a smaller number of large companies. It is their size that makes them hard to deal with.

      Coca-Cola has also been reducing the size of its drinks, ostensibly for public health, but really to boost its profits.

      That is because they can of course save money and the unit price per volume of soda you buy goes up with these smaller cans.

      I wonder why the sales representatives keep changing. I suspect that the reason why is because it is a terrible place to work and the pay is low, so the turnover is very high. Likely the delivery trucks as well. The drivers are getting paid very little, while Coca-Cola pockets the high margin business.

  21. Synoia

    Too bad Democrats didn’t want to govern in 2009-2010, because these maps were drawn after their 2010 debacle.

    Yes, after Obama had killed single payer, dillyed all summer of 2009 to achieve what his paymasters wanted, and ACA was thrust upon us with a date so far in the future it was stupid.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Should we paraphrase Aixa who said to her son, the last ruler of Alhambra, “Go ahead and weep like a woman, for you did not govern or fight the Republicans like a man?’

      But that would be really sexist though…we hesitate to judge the original, got they lived in a different age.

    2. Procopius

      I don’t think killing single payer had that much to do with it. My impression was that (a) not one single Democratic candidate tried to sell ACA to his constituents and (b) between them Obama and Rahm had eviscerated the DNC, DCCC, and DSCC, as well as essentially turning AFO into a private fund-raising arm.

  22. Summer

    Just thinking about the Marches this weekend and how this week all the students return to their schools that are more segregated than ever.

    RIP Linds Brown indeed.

  23. The Rev Kev

    “Trump’s tariffs on Chinese imports could be retaliation for years of slights—real or perceived”

    I think that I see method in Trump’s ideas. He will say that there is going to be a huuuge tariff but if a country offers something that America wants, then they will be except. A case in point was the recently announced tariffs on steel & aluminium which Australia got an exemption for. Now a week later, Australia has quietly announced that it will let the US increase the size of its contingent here by 25% and will let in tanks and F-18 fighters to a base up north. Ostensibly to resist China but more likely overwatch Asian nations like Indonesia.
    Now with these tariffs we may be seeing the same mechanism at work. A few weeks ago China announced that they will no longer be the world’s rubbish dump, particularly America’s. Two days ago the US demanded that China reconsider the ‘catastrophic’ ban on importing foreign garbage & recyclables (). If they do not, then the US would actually have to take care of its own rubbish and not burn up oil shipping it across the Pacific. Could it be that America is actually angling to continue to send its rubbish to China and threatening this set of tariffs against China as its big stick?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      We don’t want to export only raw materials, but also ‘finished’ products.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If we didn’t IMport ‘finished’ products, we wouldn’t have to EXport ‘finished’ products to pay for the IMports of finished products. Because we wouldn’t be spending money on IMporting ‘finished’ products.

    2. Edward E

      China had already embarked on further liberalizing and opening up its economy. They will “finally give in’ to some of Trump’s ‘demands’. Trump gets to claim ‘victory’ on his trade negotiations with China to appease voters. US-China trade war comes to an end.

    3. Edward E

      Americans complaining about China technology transfer rules & not recycling garbage these days, when US corps profited massively from moving pollutive industries to China in the last 35yrs. Nothing smells as bad as our hypocrisy.

  24. Andrew Watts

    RE: Liberal World Order, R.I.P.

    By liberal world order Haass means the American Empire and he was a leading proponent. He argued that the US should pursue an informal empire and adopt a imperialist foreign policy in 2000. Apparently, Haass wasn’t aware that it already happened in the aftermath of the second World War. The degree of cognitive dissociation was particularly astounding at the time, but it’s humorous in the present.

    The widespread belief that a mighty empire was brought down by those evil Ruskies and internet trolling is a source of endless amusement. It certainly wasn’t the fault of the political class which constitutes a dominant minority. Prominent intellectuals like Haass are completely blameless in their decision-making.

    This article is the hallmark of a ruling class which is beginning to realize their predicament but is in denial over the inevitability of their circumstances. Empires don’t fall through choice. Imperialistic expansion aboard eventually reaches a point where diminishing returns start to erase any benefit of empire. The usual outcome is something I predicted back in 2014.

    The final stages of decline feature the alienation of the internal proletariat to the values, goals, and institutions of the power elite. When this occurs the stage is set for the fatal collapse of imperial power as it was in the last days of the British empire. This prescient example was articulated by Toynbee in his book the Study of History. -Links 6/3/14

    Whew, that was quick!

  25. Carolinian

    Arizona’s governor has suspended Uber’s self drive testing license after viewing video of crash. The company has also come under criticism from a robot car incumbent no doubt worried about the reputation of the industry.

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