2:00PM Water Cooler 4/27/2018

By Lambert Strether of .

Trade

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with President Donald Trump at the White House today for the second time, a visit that will represent, among other things, a last-ditch attempt to persuade the U.S. president not to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from the European Union next week” [ ].

“NAFTA Nations to Meet Again, Mexico Says Deal ‘Possible’ in Days” []. “U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer met for a third straight day Thursday with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, with talks resuming Friday. Freeland on Thursday noted ‘significant progress” on the key issue of rules for cars, while Guajardo cautioned they are juggling many ‘highly complex’ issues.” Of which–

“The U.S. has proposed an auto rule of origin [for NAFTA] that would require 30 percent of a car to be built by workers that earn $15 per hour, but as of Thursday afternoon U.S. officials wanted to push that number to 35 percent, Dias said, adding that Canada was ‘kicking around’ how to support the wage proposal. The proposal would effectively push out Mexico, where average wages are significantly lower” [].

“US farmers say chlorine-washed chicken should be part of a UK free trade deal” []. Roger Johnson, president of America’s National Farmers Union:: “Let’s be transparent about it and let the consumers make the decision. There’s a lot of fear-mongering that happens around these kinds of things: ‘Oh my god, we don’t want to be eating chlorine, that’s a gas that kills people’. You know what – water is a liquid that drowns people; it doesn’t mean we don’t drink it.” Attaboy.

Politics

2018

“Democrats Flip 40th Legislative Seat in Trump Era, This Time in New York” []. 40 down, 960 to go, although this one may end up being more significant: “Democrats also retained two state Senate seats, giving the party a 32-to-31 numerical advantage over Republicans in the state’s upper house, though one Democrat who caucuses with Republicans will continue to deny them a working majority.” New York has its Blue Dog problem, too, I see.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Honestly, I feel I need to move beyond yellow waders to the full moon suit…. Anyhow…

So what’s the issue here?

6) Enable Trump's nominees to get confirmed
7) Talk about Russia to the exclusion of almost everything else

— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman)

“Koch Network Has an Unlikely Spokesman in New Ad: Chuck Schumer” []. So I guess the Kochs aren’t really fascists, either. Good to know.

“Who Ruined Illinois?” []. ” But over the last two decades, public confidence, financial stability and economic growth in Illinois have all suffered. During that time, Illinois has had four governors: two Republicans and two Democrats. George Ryan came first, starting in 1999, and despite substantial achievements in Springfield, erased the public’s trust in state government with a corruption scandal that landed him in prison. Rod Blagojevich swept into power in the wake of Ryan’s scandal, promising reform and renewal, but exited in disgrace after an FBI arrest and subsequent impeachment trial, leaving a state woefully unprepared for the Great Recession. Illinoisans breathed a sigh of relief when Pat Quinn stepped in, but the relief died quickly, as a major tax increase failed to steady Illinois’ finances, and low-level patronage scandals undercut his reputation as a reformer. Rauner capitalized on Quinn’s unpopularity and defeated him in 2014. But Rauner saw his own standing collapse last year when rank-and-file GOP lawmakers abandoned his cause after a two-year budget standoff.” Ryan and Blagojevich…. Welcome to the Third World….

“The myth of an ending: why even removing Trump from office won’t save American democracy” []. A delayed, and sane, response to Adam Davidson’s latest weirdly triumphalist rant in The New Yorker.

“Why the left shouldn’t take yes for an answer” [Paul Waldman, ]. I agree. Whatever the left manages to claw from the talons of the liberals and the conservatives, the attitude should not be gratitude, but “What have you done for me lately?” This, however:

As I’ve argued before, there won’t ever be a point at which they say, “Good job, Democrats — now you’ve given us what we asked for, and we’re satisfied,” because the belief that the party isn’t liberal enough is a core part of their political identity. That’s not to mention the fact that once you’ve said the party has gone far enough left, you lose some of your ability to pull it even farther.

Waldman seems to conceive of liberal and left as a continuum. As readers know, I think there is a discontinuity. Liberals put the market first; that’s why (for example, ObamaCare is structured as it is, and why all the liberal bait-and-switch fake Medicare proposals are structured as they are. The left, I urge, puts the working class first. You don’t join the left by becoming more liberal.

Stats Watch

GDP, Q1(a) 2018: “A sharp rise in service spending helped keep first-quarter GDP in the respectable range, at an annualized 2.3 percent rate and 3 tenths above Econoday’s consensus” []. “Business spending also helped the quarter, contributing 8 tenths of a point with strength here including both structures and equipment. But residential investment, after spiking in the fourth quarter, couldn’t pull its weight and contributed zero to the latest quarter. Inventories, which had been too low relative to demand, are a welcome positive in the report… Price readings are a negative surprise in the report, with the chain-weight GDP price index rising at only a 2.0 percent rate which is well short of expectations for 2.4 percent. It was a moderate quarter for the economy especially for the consumer whose spirits waned a bit despite the big tax cut and continuing strength in the labor market….” And: “IMPORTANT NOTE: In the GDP report, real residential investment was unchanged in Q1. But residential investment (RI) as a percent GDP actually increased in Q1! How can that be? The answer is that the price index for residential investment increased sharply in Q1 (up 8.5% annualized). The large increase in the residential investment price index follows what we are hearing from home builders – that material costs have increased sharply (the tariffs haven’t helped, but other prices are up too). This hurts both builders and home buyers” []. And: “There is also something seen here for higher wages and for a benefit of lower taxes. The Commerce Department showed that current-dollar personal income rose by $182.1 billion in the first quarter, versus an increase of $186.4 billion in the fourth quarter, but personal current taxes decreased by $40.1 billion in the first quarter compared with an increase of $50.1 billion in the fourth quarter” []. And: “The big disappointment was the slowdown in consumption growth to only 1.1% annualized, from 4.0% in the final quarter of last year. That was partly due to the drop back in motor vehicles spending, following a post-hurricane spike at the end of last year. Nevertheless, with labor market conditions strong and the tax cuts boosting disposable incomes by 6.1% annualized in the quarter, the outlook for consumption remains positive” [Paul Ashworth, ].

Consumer Sentiment, April 2016 (Final): “still down noticeably from March’s 14-year high” []. “Comparing the flash with today’s final reading implies a roughly 100 pace for the sentiment index in the last two weeks of the month, a very solid pace consistent with other consumer confidence readings which, in contrast to sales however, have been holding at or near record highs.”

Employment Cost Index, Q1 2018: “The isolated hints of emerging price pressures now include employer costs” []. “This report is a red flag for next week’s FOMC meeting and will certainly be cited, along perhaps with recent acceleration in average hourly warnings, as an indication of tightness in the labor market, conditions that point to the risk of wage-push inflation.”

Real Estate: “First-quarter rents hits records in key Pennsylvania corridors, Cushman says” []. “Industrial rents in the important northeast and central Pennsylvania regions rose to a record $4.81 per square foot in the first quarter as vacancy rates dipped to a record 4.8 percent, according to a report issued yesterday by real estate services giant Cushman & Wakefield…. The regions’ industrial markets are key ers for goods distribution throughout the densely populated Northeast and mid-Atlantic markets via Interstates 78 and 81. The new low in vacancies was triggered by 4.8 million square feet of “absorption,” which is defined as new square footage being leased. This was more than double the 2.3 million square feet of absorption reported in the 2017 period, Cushman said. The Lehigh Valley sub-market continues to lead in new construction with nearly 7.7 million square feet of building underway, Cushman said.” Lehigh Valley is PA-07, a district we’re tracking, so in some small part, the 2018 midterms may be a referendum on the quality of those warehouse and trucking jobs (as well the construction of the new warehouses).

Retail: “Chinese smartphone sales suffer biggest decline ever” []. “Smartphone shipments in China have suffered their biggest decline ever, plummeting more than 21% in the first quarter of 2018 compared with the same period last year, according to from research firm Canalys…. ‘We forecast … the Chinese market in 2018 will have an overall decline,’ said Jia [of Canalys]. That would mean back-to-back years of contraction.”

Shipping: “U.S. Bank Freight Payment Index shows strong Q1 freight shipment and spend growth” []. “First quarter freight spend and shipment levels each saw sequential and annual gains, according to the most recent edition of the U.S. Bank Freight Payment Index, which was issued this week from Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank. This report, which was initially launched in the third quarter of 2017, is comprised of data on freight shipping volumes and spend on both a national and regional basis. The report’s data is based on the actual transaction payment date, highest-volume domestic freight modes of truckload and less-than-truckload and is seasonally- and calendar-adjusted. Its historical data goes back to 2010….. American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello, whose analysis and commentary is featured in the report, wrote that motor carriers are having extreme difficulty finding qualified drivers, which is constraining capacity and elevating driver compensation.”

Shipping: “The Blockchain on the High Seas” []. The writer seems exasperated: “Oh fine fine fiiiiiiiine of course you know that the word isn’t “website,” it is “blockchain.” The idea is not that you’d go to A.P. Moeller-Maerk A/S’s website and fill out a form that Maersk would use to track your container; it’s that you’d go to Maersk’s website and fill out a form that Maersk would use to track your container on the blockchain. Sorry sorry sorry I will try again. The idea is that you’d go to a website maintained by some sort of industry-wide consortium, and you’d fill out a form, and rather than that form’s data living in a proprietary database maintained by Maersk or even by the industry-wide consortium, it would live in a shared database maintained (on the blockchain!) by the shipping industry collectively, which might make the database more secure and reliable and adaptable and trustworthy, and perhaps more likely to be used. A national customs agency, for instance, might be happier approving shipments on an auditable open blockchain than in the proprietary database of a particular shipping company. That is the idea. The reality is of course that each shipping company has hired a technology company to build its own proprietary cargo-tracking website.” Of course.

Apparel: “More Recycling Can’t Fix The Fundamental Flaws With Fast Fashion” []. “Imagine if every piece of clothing you own could be recycled into fully new garments when they were worn out, or when you grew bored of them. This concept, called . But it’s usually an abbreviated definition of circularity that think tanks and policy papers endorse. A more comprehensive “circularity” would look at the amount of clothing produced and the full life-cycle costs of a garment, from eliminating the industry’s reliance on petroleum-based plastics and coal-powered plants to the toxic dyes, sweatshop assemblies, and massive shipping footprint required to make our clothing. Instead, the circularity conversation in the fashion industry tends to focus primarily on reducing waste and, more specifically, recycling clothing.”

Apparel: “Miuccia Prada: The Vogue Interview” []. “It would take the rest of the world 10 years to feel the same way about the Prada backpack. It wasn’t until the early 1990s, when recession and grunge had put paid to 1980s excess, that it became one of the first It-bags. By 1994, Prada had graduated to using nylon for clothes, creating a seminal autumn/winter collection that treated it like cashmere or silk. It was a watershed moment, which some critics dubbed the fashion equivalent of Marcel Duchamp’s unveiling of Fountain, in 1917. Just as that urinal sculpture changed what could be considered art, Prada’s nylon challenged the very notion of what she describes as “the traditional, conservative idea of luxury”. It no longer had to be about thread count, or how many crystals were sewn on to an object. Luxury could be abstract. It could be an idea.” Yeah, that’s the ticket. Who cares about fabric?

Manufacturing: “Airbus Earnings Stalled by Lack of A320 Engines” []. “There are currently 60 A320neo gliders parked at the Airbus facility in Toulouse and Hamburg waiting for engines to be delivered. The company shipped just 35 of a planned 90 in the first quarter. If Airbus is going to meet its projected annual delivery total of 400, those engines had better begin arriving in reasonable numbers…. Engine-maker Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX), has begun shipping new geared turbofan engines for the A320neo, and CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) and Safran, is still working on catching up on deliveries for the Leap-1A engine Airbus also uses on the A320neo.”

Tech: “How Microsoft Convinced Clueless Judges To Send A Man To Jail For Copying Software It Gives Out For Free” []. “There are lots of reasons to hate on Microsoft, but this one is one of the most sickening examples I’ve seen. Anyone at Microsoft who had anything to do with this should be ashamed.”

Tech: “Facebook Finds It Harder to Get More People to Log On” []. “Facebook’s first-quarter revenue rose 49 percent, an acceleration of the company’s pace of growth from the prior two quarters, the company said Wednesday. And Facebook delivered a 45.5 percent operating profit margin, which was lower than its recent performance but still impressive in light of a significant increase in spending. Growth also accelerated in the average revenue Facebook generates from each user…. A more immediate and concrete worry is the signal that Facebook isn’t as much of a draw as it used to be. For the third consecutive quarter, the company posted an all-time low rate of increase in the number of people who log into the social network at least once a day. The number of daily users rose 12.9 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier. That’s large for Facebook’s scale, but the growth rate had been 17 percent to 18 percent as recently as the middle of 2017.”

Tech: “Zelle, the Banks’ Answer to Venmo, Proves Vulnerable to Fraud” []. Dark says on the bank tech front.

The Bezzle: “Tesla Contract Workers Pressured To Accept Debit Card For Pay Instead Of Check: Lawsuit” []. “Tesla contract workers aren’t receiving legally required overtime pay or mandated work breaks, according to a new lawsuit filed in California state court. The employees faced “pressure” from a temp agency that hires workers at Tesla’s California factory to take a debit card to accept their compensation, rather than a traditional pay check, the suit claims…. Nezbeth-Altimore specifically alleges that Balance Staffing “pressured” its employees at Fremont to accept a debit card as pay instead of a physical check. While possibly more convenient, but the feds have said workers can’t be forced to use so-called payroll cards. And workers who use debit cards could also be hit with fees and surcharges for withdrawing their payment at an ATM.”

The Bezzle: “There Are Holes In Elon Musk’s Plans To Tunnel Through L.A. With Boring Co.” []. Lots of detail for tunnel mavens. “Any Boring Co. system is years away, so true the cost to build and operate one is a mystery, as is the number of people who would opt to use it.”

Mr. Market: “Why investors should dread the month of May—especially this year” []. “The coming midterm elections, particularly as campaigning begins to ramp up for the November vote, is widely seen as a potential political risk for markets. Goldman Sachs recently wrote that they were ‘one reason to expect that current elevated levels of uncertainty will persist in coming months.'”

Five Horsemen: “Apple has fallen to last place as Amazon tries once again to exceed a share price of 1,600” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Apr 27 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “The mania-panic index improved to 55 (complacency) as the VIX volatility index dropped to a recent low of 16.24” [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 Apr 26 2018

Gaia

“Cell by Cell, Scientists Map the Genetic Steps as Eggs Become Animals” []. Fascinating; if our age is nothing else, it’s a golden age of science (though sorry, string theorists). “The results revealed, at a previously impossible resolution and scale, the genetic and developmental trajectories that embryonic cells follow to their eventual fates in fully differentiated tissues. Surprising new insights emerged as well: Many biologists, for example, believed that embryonic cells always followed branching paths toward maturity that committed them irrevocably to certain fates. But the new data indicates that cells can, in effect, sometimes ‘loop back’ to follow a different path, and that cells with different developmental histories can sometimes end up as the same type of cell.” That’s amazing!!!

“My Review of David Holmgren’s ‘RetroSuburbia’” [ (drumlin woodchuckles)]. “A couple of years ago, David and I debated publicly his ‘Crash on Demand’ paper, where he declared that ‘an argument can be mounted for putting effort into precipitating that crash, the crash of the financial system’. I disagreed, arguing that we needed to be very careful what we wish for. What I love about ‘Retrosuburbia’ is that the concerns that underpinned that paper are still present here, but beautifully couched in an utterly practical, utterly convincing vision for the suburbs.” Sounds like I should dig out that paper… (Holmgren is one of the founders of permaculture, if I have the apostolic succession correct.)

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

“Security researchers can turn Alexa into a transcribing, always-on listening device” []. “Checkmarx researchers including Erez Yalon have created a ‘rogue Alexa skill’ that bypasses Amazon’s security checks: it lurks silently and unkillably in the background of your Alexa, listening to all speech in range of it and transcribing it, then exfiltrating the text and audio of your speech to the attacker.”

“Electronic Monitors: How Companies Dream of Locking Us in Our Homes” []. “Despite the law-and-order offensive of President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the momentum for decarceration and ending cash bail continues to grow. This is cause for optimism. However, decarceration may not ultimately mean freedom. In many cases, welcoming arms are waiting for those coming out of prison gates, ready to strap plastic GPS shackles around their ankles. The number of electronic monitoring (EM) devices in the United States has more than in the past decade. This means decarceration may presage a massive shift of the costs of incarceration onto families and communities, and the transformation of the nation’s correctional system from public control to private companies. ”

Class Warfare

“Highlights from Thursday’s historic teacher walkout across Arizona” []. “Arizona teachers marching to the state Capitol are breaking into occasional chants along the route in downtown Phoenix, including their signature “Red for Ed.” … Employees at courthouses and office buildings stood on the steps of their buildings to watch Thursday. Families took breaks on benches and shady street corners as temperatures climbed.”

“Worker compensation rising at fastest pace since 2008, ECI finds” []. “The cost of employing the average American worker is rising at the fastest pace in a decade, offering more proof firms have to fork over better pay and benefits to attract talent in a period of extremely low unemployment. The employment cost index rose 0.8% in the first quarter, a tick above the MarketWatch estimate. The cost of worker compensation in the form of pay and benefits climbed to yearly rate of 2.7%, the biggest gain since 2008.” Not exactly a make-good for a decade of agony.

News of The Wired

Externalities:

With voice assistants often answering with Wikipedia, it is rebuilding its architecture to make sure to “maintain a critical internet” because Alexa or Google Home may not tell you if a fact is “citation needed” or “disputed”. –

— Quartz (@qz)

You’d think the enormously profitable monopolies that leverage Wikipedia would help out with a little funding.

* * *

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 (ChiGal):

This is a great moment, when you look up at trees against the sky, and you realize the branches and twigs are no longer bare.

* * *

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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.

71 comments

  1. flora

    An interesting story including teacher strikes in a wider context than reported in MSM.

    Now, in the midst of widespread strikes and unrest among public-school teachers, The New York Times draws our attention to another aspect of 2008’s legacy: the decline of job quality for public employees. But there is little in the Times’s coverage to connect the dots between slashed wages, disappearing pensions, and second jobs to make ends meet and the wave of bipartisan austerity that swept state governments during and after the recession, along with the accompanying attacks on public-sector unions.

    Bipartisan austerity.

    Reply
    1. Big River Bandido

      Whenever you hear the words “bipartisan”, “deal”, “bargain”, “center”, “across the aisle”, “coming together”, or “Gang of _______ (insert number of Senators”…hold on to your wallet.

      Reply
    1. KevinD

      WOW – the snake was near impossible – it’s very tiny. Hint: look to the left of the light green leaf in the center.

      Reply
      1. Edward E

        That little copperhead is really tough to find, another hint: look for very small brown diamond shapes.

        Reply
  2. Summer

    Re: Chlorine chicken

    Heaven forbid we prioritize people’s health over profits.
    We can just call the economy the “Psyco System.”

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      “I would not argue that it is a lower standard, I would argue it’s a different standard”

      No, No. It is actually a lower standard. Almost standard free in fact. And if the mandarins in the UK think that they can also bring this into the UK and slip it through to Europe, then the EU has other ideas.

      Reply
  3. prx

    File this one under Class Warfare:

    “The 36-hour shifts only happen every once in a while,” Matsu’s manager, Maggie Lia, said

    Reply
  4. FreeMarketApologist

    “The Blockchain on the High Seas … The writer seems exasperated”

    Matt Levine has written trenchantly and entertainingly about much of the ridiculous hype around companies pivot to blockchain as a solution that will make everything better.

    He’s been writing for Bloomberg for a while, and was at DealBreaker before. I highly recommend following him. (though he can sometimes be exasperating in his laissez faire attitude toward the financial markets).

    Reply
      1. Yves Smith

        Ahem, as much as I am envious of Levine’s writing skills, he regularly finds very creative ways to run the “Oh, nothing to see here, if you were savvy, you’d get that” spin for all sorts of bad practices.

        Reply
    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Surely we’ve solved the problem of the clerk who can’t be bothered? That would be the end of history. (Didn’t read, Because exasperated)

      Reply
  5. dcblogger

    A group of wealthy donors from New York and California have forked out $50 million to fund a Russia investigation being conducted by Christopher Steele, Fusion GPS and a former Senate staffer for Dianne Feinstein.

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      Why don’t the ‘donors’ just skip the middlemen and put that 50 nillion in a trust fund for Hillarys’ grandchildren?

      Reply
    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      Whee!

      Okay, one clear demonstration of why marginal tax rates need to top out at 95%.

      I miss tax shelters as well. Go fund an Esalen Institute or something.

      Reply
    3. Yves Smith

      This is actually funny. They are going to hire a discredited bunch that couldn’t get Trump before? Count on the Dems to double down on failure, and expensively too.

      Reply
  6. SimonGirty

    So, our sublime betters just might possibly see fit to cede us the right to try some chlorinated poultry-like protoplasm analog?

    Reply
      1. SimonGirty

        I wonder how cloned, GE chicken’s insides get all over their outsides, anyway? Massa worries about all us deplorables eating shit and dying? Ever read about Chicken Little, in “The Space Merchants?”

        Reply
  7. Jim Haygood

    Trouble in the heartland:

    Of the 30 Congressional districts most reliant on soybeans, Republicans represent 25 and Democrats 5; all voted for Trump in 2016. “It’s like [Trump’s] microtargeting policy to screw his own supporters,” says a frustrated GOP strategist.

    Beyond the human toll, a trade war would be politically ominous for Republicans. Midwestern farm states will host many of this fall’s tightest races for Senate (Missouri, Indiana, North Dakota) and governor (Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota).

    In 1980, Jimmy Carter halted grain shipments to Russia to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, causing a price collapse that sparked the farm crisis.

    One-term Carter was turfed out for a variety of reasons. But angering sodbusters didn’t help. Nor did an election year recession in 1980.

    Now One-term Trump, who avoids farms for fear of getting manure specks on his white shoes, is repeating Carter’s error. First his party gets its teeth punched in, in the midterm elections this fall. Then a 2020 election year recession costs Republicans the presidency.

    Flake-o-nomics don’t pay.

    Reply
    1. makedoanmend

      President Trump has a huge golf course in Scotland (near Aberdeen I thinks) and he wanted rid of a farmer next to the course because the farm had all kinds of stuff growing on it.

      Reply
    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      Two less wars than the last Republican. I think of Asimov’s Mule. I wonder where Il Douche is going?

      Reply
    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Carter, however, was facing Reagan, a far better candidate with, more importantly, a feral and ascendant conservative faction behind him. Assuming that the liberal Democrats manage to strangle a second Sanders run (if he runs), who’s the Reagan-equivalent candidate? Or the ascendant faction? Harris + Women’s March? Booker + whatever? The lovable goof, totally genuine Joe Biden + the usual galaxy of retreads?

      As the old cliché goes: You can’t beat something with nothing.

      NOTE I agree on not ticking off the Iowa farmers — why we subsidize turning fuel into corn into fuel! — but .

      Reply
  8. Enquiring Mind

    Alexa and related issues pop up all over these days. Next I expect to learn that any use of Amazon Prime, say, watching a movie, triggers some diabolical cross-platform eaves-dropping.

    Reply
  9. Donald

    I think on the level of the individual there is a continuum between liberals and leftists on policy. The division comes about because of political tribalism. I am going to make my case on an anecdotal level. I know several people both in real life and online who would favor single payer but don’t think it is politically achievable. They oppose our bloody interventions but in practice throw up their hands and ignore the issue. Basically they make a fetish out of “ pragmatism”, but what that means in practice is that they will get very angry at anyone who criticizes a centrist liberal from the left. They spent the Bush years saying the Iraq War was a catastrophic blunder or even a crime and then say Hillary who supported it has a vast amount of foreign policy experience.

    I am thinking of actual people and could probably write a long admittedly rambling essay composed of detailed examples. But the point is that a lot of these people are theoretically pretty far to the left and I believe them when they say they favor single payer and oppose our war crimes overseas and so forth. What makes them opposed to leftists in practice is the cult of “ pragmatism” and by that I don’t mean actual pragmatism. It’s a posture, a tribal marker. A genuine pragmatist would try to persuade lefties that they share similar values and would join in trying to pressure centrist liberals to shift left, but what actually happens is a lot of bullying, stereotyping of alleged Berniebros and purity ponies and so forth.

    When it comes to politicians, though, there probably is a sharp distinction between liberals and the left. The Clintons made a lot of money milking the system as it is.

    Reply
    1. makedoanmend

      Liberalism has its own historical precedents completely separate from the historical development of the Left. In many ways, historical Liberalism is inimical to the Left. Many Liberal formations have made it a priority to undermine the Left whenever possible, often siding with the Right and far Right when they see a chance to torpedo the Left and the working classes. The UK Liberal party followed this course just this century.

      The Left is characterised by an emphasis on the social relations of society and how to achieve greater power and autonomy for those whose means of survival is based upon their labour, which labour is alienated from its own means of production and its value – i.e. people who work for capitalists don’t have autonomy in the work place and their value of production is usurped in various ways through the profit motive.

      It might seem that the Liberal and Leftist share a cultural space that emphasises the tolerance of different lifestyles and freedoms from harassment for various groupingss, for example, but this space has largely been taken over by a neoliberal economic Rightwing agenda to smooth the way for everybody to be absorbed into the discipline of constructed rentier markets. At least this is my contention.

      The surest way to differentiate a Leftist from a Liberal or a Rightist is to start talking about economics and the working classes. When someone starts making excuses why working people shouldn’t have autonomy nor a fair distribution of their labour and the values created, you’re not talking to a Leftist.

      Reply
    2. SimonGirty

      Nah, a whole bunch of them (not just the top 15-20%, but many who once were part of the sneering, Carly Simon affecting, dead-eyed yuppie demographic) believe they’re still in with the in crowd, subliminally. Their life long cultivated obliviousness, ever didactic obtuse persona & white flight, suburban upbringing was programmed in, long before they became hippies? Their portfolios will do just fine, just like their armed, neoConfederate, Dominionist relatives; they’re just watching better cable series, eating better & switching from Audis to Volvos? Ever see the Whole Foods lizard lady sequence in John Carpenter’s “They Live?”

      Reply
        1. Richard

          I wouldn’t argue. And also a very fine picture, with the hammiest, greatest, most extended guys punching each other scene in film history.

          Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Ever see the Whole Foods lizard lady sequence in John Carpenter’s “They Live?”

        I can’t find a clip for that, but thank you for bringing that movie to our collective attention….

        Reply
        1. SimonGirty

          Come up to Manhattan’s UWS, you can witness it daily (where my girlfriend once cut off Ms Lauren Bacall, in Zabar’s bread line) “We’ve got one who can SEE!” Now, Massa realizes GE monoculture’s going to eradicate >30% of their consumers, so it must be terrorism? AmIrightoramIwrong, huh?

          Reply
          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Maybe you have to invent a new and improved bio-nasty to have a scary bio-terror incident. But you don’t have to invent any new diseases to have a longer slower deeper killoff by disease.

            All you have to do is plow the ground and prepare the soil for the return of the diseases we already have. Reduce funding to CDC-style deadly-disease early-warning watchdog health agencies all over the world. Foster the industrial scale overuse of antibiotics in order to foster the evolution of superbugs immune to every antibiotic there is. Including fostering the evolution of tuberculosis and malaria immune to every antitubercular and antimalarial drug there is. Lower nutrition levels and raise pollution levels all over the world so as to subtly degrade the immune systems of billions of people. And then “just let nature take its course”.

            If the Overclass wanted to kill 6 billion people over the next hundred years and make it look like an accident, how would they do it? I suspect a spectacular traceable bio-terror outbreak would be too attention-drawing and not accidental-enough looking.

            So yes, lots of disgruntled people will be hiding in their mom’s basement laboratories huddled over their little “junior mad scientist disease inventor kits” and releasing all kinds of bio-terror efforts. And we should watch for that. But I feel more personally at long-term risk from the Overclass’s quiet fostering of conditions designed to encourage the seemingly accidental return of the Great Plagues of Antiquity.

            Reply
    3. Darthbobber

      Hmm, the distinction was pretty clear in the beginning, and I don’t think liberalism has moved as far as some think from the days of it’s Gladstonian youth. It remains tied closely to “Manchester liberalism”, and the belief in the self-regulating market.

      Certainly the parties of the second international knew very well that they were not liberals. And the relationship between liberal and left tendencies was hostile as often as not. The leadership of the Italian liberals brought Mussolini’s party in to the fold as an election partner and proceeded to connive along with the March on Rome and support him in power because they found that preferable to any kind of left.

      Only the temporary collapse of any broader anti-capitalism during the Belle epoque of the late 80s through the aughts made it possible to blur the issue and define liberalism almost entirely in terms of it’s cultural attitudes while ignoring it’s economics.

      Reply
    4. Ed Miller

      People who think that way depend on mainstream news for information. I like to say that they live inside the Matrix.

      Go Blue (pill)! Come to think of it, the R-D party is all blue pill. Oh, the irony.

      Reply
      1. Donald

        I think this is correct. I am not disagreeing that the ideologies are different. My contention is that a lot of Americans simply aren’t aware of the difference, probably because they get most of their info from the mainstream press.

        Reply
    5. Grebo

      Liberals think Capitalism is the solution, not the problem. Leftists take the opposite view.
      Liberal Liberals might want to moderate some of the bad effects of Capitalism, we call them Social Democrats. Authoritarian Liberals want those bad effects, we call them Boss (to their face).

      Reply
    6. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I think on the level of the individual there is a continuum between liberals and leftists on policy.

      When push comes to shove, you either put markets first, or you don’t. That’s crystal clear in health care policy, with all the liberals trying to promote yet another market-based solution as a “path to” or “step toward” #MedicareForAll. In reality, the bait-and-switch proposals reinforce market power, because they reinforce the eligibility determination process (which should be blown away).

      If liberal Democrats had the courage of their convictions — [pause for laughter] — they would be advocating that retirement work exactly the same as health care. There would be a “marketplace” website and Social Security would be the “public option”, along with the various 401K scams, and so on. Of course, they don’t, because 90% of the population would recognize that idea for the insane scheme to hand over more money to Wall Street that it is. For whatever reason, this insanity is allowed to go on in health care policy. It’s a funny old world, as Maggie Thatcher used to say.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Perhaps ” the Left” may have to adopt serious fighting words and fighting phrases.

        Like . . . .”We want the whole loaf NOW. Or NO BREAD for ANYone!”

        Reply
  10. rojo

    The number of electronic monitoring (EM) devices in the United States has more than doubled in the past decade. This means decarceration may presage a massive shift of the costs of incarceration onto families and communities, and the transformation of the nation’s correctional system from public control to private companies.

    I’m guessing most of the convicted and their families are ok with that cost shift.

    Reply
    1. Bugs Bunny

      Except those companies are making convicts pay for the monitors and if they miss payment go to real jail all over again. Sometimes the monitors don’t even work or worse the company never takes it off when it’s supposed to. Profts, my boy. Profits.

      As Lambert says, Ka-ching.

      Reply
    1. Geo

      I like how their “defense” against GOP attacks is to attack the Vermont single payer plan.

      Nothing like attacking the right by punching the left.

      Reply
  11. Lunker Walleye

    Apparel: “Miuccia Prada: The Vogue Interview”
    I care about fabric, passionately. Nylon is for parachutes.

    Reply
  12. DJG

    As a child of the Land of Lincoln, I’m going to point to a few problems in the generally careful article about Illinois and its problems.

    First, Rauner is an incompetent. Now that the article about closing down business schools in the Guardian is gaining purchase, maybe we can also retire the idea that a “great” businessperson like Rauner should run the state of Illinois. It is an absurdity. As Ann Pettifor points out today, it is mistaking micro for macro. Yes, he can be a member of the thoroughly spoiled and semicompetent U.S. business class. How does that qualify him for working with the general assembly?

    And then there is this: the continuing damage of Rod and various Grand Bargains:
    –So Blagojevich’s team came up with a brazen idea: a $10 billion pension bond sale. While the state might have conceivably saved money in the deal, in reality it was an elaborate way to skip $2.7 billion in otherwise required pension payments. Lawmakers went along with the idea anyway. The gimmick not only deprived the pension systems of needed cash, it also skewed the state’s budgets for two years. When the third year came, there was no money “built in” to the budget for pension payments. So Blagojevich and the Democratic-controlled legislature opted to take a “pension holiday” for another two years. That meant they’d pay only half of their expected contribution, shorting the system another $6.8 billion.–

    I’m thinking of several other members of the Grand Bargain wing of the Democratic Party. It sounds to me as if Illinois was an “incubator” for what would have been a national experiment.

    There is a cultural price to pay for all of this incompetence: Chicagoans tend to treat corruption as local folklore. Oh, you know the police and their guns. Oh, you know all about zoning. Oh, you know about those tax increment financing districts. Oh, let’s just plop a museum along the lakefronts, because we want all those tourists.

    By and large, though, the biggest issue was attempting to avoid (and loot) the pensions. And my Hillary-delegate state senator, Heather Steans voted for the pension mess as well as sponsored the legislation allowing charter schools to loot statewide. Who needs Republicans with Democrats like that?

    So what is the problem with Illinois? Neoliberalism, business schools (Chicago Booth is hallowed ground), and looting.

    The upstate-downstate stuff is a distraction: 75 percent of the population of Illinois lives north of Champaign-Urbana.

    Reply
  13. Geo

    Whole Foods (Amazon) is announcing a new Asian-Themed restaurant at an LA branch called “Yellow Fever”. Dumbest name ever? Also, it’s a cashless place.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Asian-Themed

      “Asian-Themed” is a lot like saying “North American-themed,” except it’s several orders of magnitude more stupid because Canadians and Americans are or ought to be a lot easier to conflate than Japanese and Koreans and Vietnamese and Cambodians and Thais and Laotians and Malaysians and Indonesians and Filipin[o|a]s.* Although when KFC and Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds complete their destruction of all their cuisines I suppose it will make the same sort of sense, in the same way Disney “theme” parks make sense. There are times I think The Jackpot can’t come fast enough. Yes, the woman who owns the chain is “Asian.” Well done, all.

      * It certainly is odd that the only one of these words that’s gendered denotes the inhabitants of a country that was under our imperial control. I wonder why that is.

      Reply
  14. Ed Walker

    After several decades of monopoly/oligopoly price-push inflation, the Fed ought to be able to tolerate a fair amount of waige-push-back.

    Reply
  15. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    Markets

    I love BofA’s headline today: “Market reaction says Fed tightening is a policy error”

    LOLOLOLOL!

    So the “policy error” was not gushing free money for a decade, falsifying the price of every asset not nailed down and bamboozling every economic transaction requiring their so-called “money”? So corporate treasurers could load up on free debt, buy back stock, and pretend they were “doing great” and “growing earnings”?

    Reply
  16. audrey jr

    Great Water Cooler today, Lambert.
    Been trying to send you money – I only use cash so it will be in the form of a P.O. money order – let me know if you haven’t got the two emails I sent this week.
    Have a great weekend all of you NCer’s.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I did get your mail, thanks! All contributions gratefully received!

      (If you don’t get my response, please check your spam folder, where mail with my Yahoo address sometimes goes (gotta change that).)

      Reply
  17. Charlie

    NAFTA wage proposal:

    Now we’ll see Democrat neoliberals state that $15 an hour is too much pay for autoworkers. Trump taking another left proposal ($15/hr minimum wage) and turning it back to Democrats, because TDS.

    Reply
  18. allan

    [Rochester D&C]

    Rep. Slaughter died on March 16. Because Andrew Cuomo is refusing to call a special election,
    her constituents in NY-25 will be unrepresented in Congress until November.
    In the the November election, they will vote twice: once for someone to fill her seat
    in November and December, and again for someone to serve in the new Congress.
    What did we do in another life to deserve Cuomo?

    Reply
  19. McWatt

    Regards Illinois:
    I live in the second most indebted town, in the most indebted county, in the most indebted state
    of the nation.

    Our state is last in everything that states measure success by and first in everything that a well run state detests.

    Reply
  20. drumlin woodchuckles

    Nor did the ongoing news drama ” America Held Hostage: Day Number Eleventy Thirty-Twelve: This!! is an ABC News Continuing Special Report! With Ted Koppel”.

    That didn’t help either.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      (This comment was supposed to have nested under the comment about things which didn’t exactly help Carter get re-elected in 1980).

      Reply

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