2:00PM Water Cooler 5/11/2018

By Lambert Strether of .

Patient readers, I got a late start, so I’m going to add some updates. –lambert UPDATE 3:02PM. This turned into a bit of a pantry clear-out on politics!

Trade

“General Motors and Seoul have agreed on a multi-billion-dollar bailout for the firm’s troubled South Korean unit, a government minister said on May 10” [].

“GM is one of the biggest players in the global industry but its South Korean subsidiary is loss-making and has seen production fall by almost half in the last decade….. Workers and management reached a deal last month on job and welfare payment cuts and a wage freeze across the firm, paving the way for the announcement. The U.S. parent will inject $6.4 billion into GM Korea and the state-owned Korea Development Bank (KDB) will plough in another $750 million, finance minister Kim Dong-yeon told journalists. GM will invest $2 billion in facilities over 10 years and spend $1.6 billion on corporate restructuring and operational costs. An existing $2.8 billion loan to GM Korea will be converted into preference shares, saving the unit 150 billion won (US$110 million) in interest every year.” Hmm.

Politics

2020

UPDATE Bernie’s being too nice:

We need a new CIA director who is committed to the rule of law and will heed the advice of U.S. military leaders who vigorously oppose torture and uphold the values that have made us a great and respected nation. Ms. Haspel is the wrong choice to lead the CIA.

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders)

Obama should have prosecuted Haspel for torture, exactly has he should have prosecuted bankster executives for accounting control fraud. But Obama and the Democrats didn’t want to govern, and now both the torturers and the banksters have come back stronger than ever. Sanders should say this.

2018

“The Very Stable House Generic Ballot” []. “Over the past 12 months (May 2017 to April 2018), there were a total of 279 generic ballot polls included in FiveThirtyEight’s database. I used the raw, unadjusted poll results (in other words, I used the actual poll results as opposed to the adjusted numbers FiveThirtyEight uses in its average). The number of polls ranged from 18 to 32 per month. On average, Democrats led by 7.1 points over the past year, and Democrats have led in almost every individual poll. The monthly average ranged from 6.2 points in February 2018 to 10.1 points in December 2017. The December result was clearly an outlier, however, and may have led to a misinterpretation of more recent results as indicating a significant decline in the Democratic lead. Except for the December results, the monthly averages have fallen within a fairly narrow range of 6.2 to 7.8 points.”

UPDATE “CNN poll: Democrats’ 2018 advantage is nearly gone” []. “The Democrats’ advantage in the generic ballot dipped from 16 points in February to six points in March to just three points now. The party’s advantage has waned among enthusiastic voters as Republican enthusiasm has grown (in March, 36% of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters said they were very enthusiastic about voting; that’s up to 44% in the new poll), but the Democrats still have a double-digit lead among those most excited to vote this fall (53% of those who are very enthusiastic about voting say they’d back the Democrat in their district vs. 41% who say they favor the GOP candidate). Those enthusiastic voters also say by a 10-point margin that the nation would be better off with Democrats in control of Congress than Republicans.” One poll….

“Glimmers of Hope for the GOP” [Charles Cook, ]. “In the generic-ballot test, the GOP is now typically behind by mid-to-high single digits. As with Trump’s approval rating, Republicans are still in an alarming position on that front, but better than they were. The improvement late last year seemed very clearly to be related to the tax cut, something almost universally supported by Republican and GOP-leaning independents, if few others. The recent uptick seems more likely to have been triggered by good economic numbers and promising developments on the Korean peninsula. For all of Trump’s ill-advised statements and actions, the wheels have not completely come off of the bus. What’s not clear is whether that dynamic—if it lasts—is enough for Republicans to retain their House and Senate majorities.” And: “One thing to remember about midterm elections is that roughly a third fewer people vote in them than in presidential elections. The people who disproportionately participate in midterms are people who, as my mother used to say, ‘have their noses out of joint’—in this case angry, fearful, or merely unhappy. Republicans should be quite sure that those who dislike or disapprove of Trump will turn out in big numbers. Whether the Trump base will turn out when his name is not on the ballot is still uncertain. There were quite a few 2008 and 2012 Obama voters who did not deign to vote in 2010 and 2014; will Trump voters behave the same way?”

“Democrats’ Economic Quandary in 2018 Messaging” []. “Democratic campaign operatives have that running against Donald Trump and the White House controversy du jour — at the expense of more substantive policy issues — could weaken their advantages heading into November’s midterms. And complicating their case further are signs of economic improvement, including recent labor statistics showing national unemployment at a near-20-year low of 3.9 percent. Democrats point to polling and other data to argue that — despite voters feeling better about the economy — there is still anxiety about the future and that Democratic policies would provide more financial security in the long run.” Wait, wait, wait. Everybody knows that it wasn’t “economic anxiety” that cost the Democrats the 2016 election; it was racism and sexism. And we know this, because when the Democrats weren’t yammering about Russia! Russia! Russia! they were yammering about that. So I’m all confused now. More: “But efforts to explain the party’s plan to ‘revisit’ the tax law if elected to the House majority underscore the difficult question Democrats are trying to answer: How do you talk about the economy when the economy is good?.” Well, if you were a functional political party with any core principles at all — to be fair, I mean core principles besides “Where’s the money?” — you would have spent the last two years laying the groundwork by pointing out the simple truth that the economy is not that good, and what you were going to do about it (and that doesn’t include getting some camera footage by pushing for a [family blogging] pilot project on the Jobs Guarantee, like Booker did). Of course, the Democrats didn’t do that, and now nobody is going to believe them when they try to pivot. For good reason.

“The Democrats’ new star is an Obama with bite” []. “As Gina Haspel, the first female nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, found out Wednesday, it doesn’t bode well to face Senator Kamala Harris at a congressional hearing…. Besides her prosecutorial style, there are other reasons for her popularity. She’s a powerful advocate for strict gun laws, for people of colour, for immigrant groups. She hasn’t been around Washington so long that her brain is addled. And she has what Democrats need most against Donald Trump – tenacity. She doesn’t back down.” Somebody should ask Harris if Obama made a mistake by not prosecuting Haspel. Let’s see how her tenacity holds up.

CA-48: “DCCC Takes Sides to Avoid Shutout in Crowded California Primary” []. “[Businessman Harley Rouda] was added to the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” program on Friday, giving him additional access to committee resources. The move is also evidence that Democrats are stepping up the effort to coalesce around one candidate…. Rouda, a political newcomer, was successful in real estate, founding the company Real Living.” Ah self-funder, much beloved of the DCCC. More: “The statement announcing Rouda’s addition to Red to Blue also included a comment from the Indivisible Orange County 48 Leadership Team — a sign the DCCC is not looking to square off with grass-roots activists over its involvement in the primary.” Rather a sign that Indivisible is and was a liberal Democrat stalking horse. Here is : “[N]o policy is perfect and we must continue to adjust, reform, improve, and expand the ACA. I am very disheartened by recent events on Capitol Hill, to see Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and other Republicans in Congress play politics with Americans’ health care. [new paragraph]. I support Medicare for All.” This, (May 4, 2018), is a little equivocal: “We need to ensure Congress is full of individuals ready to protect health care access and work towards Medicare for All.” The problem here is that “access” (work through the market) and “Medicare for All” are diametrically opposed. The first is not a path to the second, except in the sense that market-based solutions are proven failures. This from his Facebook page (2017): “Every other developed nation on our planet provides universal health care access to its citizens, at a lower cost and with better health outcomes than in the U.S. I know we can do better. If we lower the age of Medicare—which has only a 2 percent overhead—we can reduce costs and ensure every American is covered, regardless of their age, whether they left a job recently, or where they live. Sign my petition for Medicare for All! Tell Congress: Pass Medicare for All! It’s time to treat health care as a human right, not a luxury for the healthy and the wealthy. .” . Local readers?

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UPDATE From the left (1):

I want to thank everyone for your support during this campaign. We ran a heck of a race winning 10 out of 11 counties, but still fell short of the win. We proved that progressive people centered ideas can win in rural areas.Thank you so much for being “Team Marshall”. Jenny

— Jenny Marshall 4 House (@Marshall4House)

Backed by ; . In all these cases, let’s not forget that the left needs to develop a bench, too. Running for office really is a skill all on its own; passion and commitment and issues really are not enough (and in some ways that’s good, because politics only begins with elections).

UPDATE From the left (2):

Was asked to clarify. I'm now an Independent – resigned leadership in Dem Ross Co. Exec Committee. I 'll vote for candidates as I choose. Won't be bound by oath to support Dem nominee. I'm not Green Party member. I am voting , the only Progressive running.

— Portia A. Boulger (@PortiaABoulger)

25.3K followers on the Twitter, from Chilicothe, OH, rejecting Cordray on principle.

UPDATE From the left (3):

People worked their hearts out for six months to raise funds in PA-7. We had over 4400 contributors, all on public record, all within campaign limits, with a median donation of $50. That effort is now being completely eclipsed by unaccountable dark money.

— Pinboard (@Pinboard)

I am more and more convinced that any candidate who accepts money from any source other than small individual donations should have no standing to speak on public policy (including unions).

2016 Post Mortem

UPDATE “Democrats release thousands of Russia-linked Facebook advertisements from 2016” []. Yawn. If the Democrats really want to pivot to an economic message, they have a strange way of going about it.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“What Eric Schneiderman Means for New York State’s Culture of Corruption” []. “In the decade since Eliot Spitzer resigned as governor amid reports he had solicited and slept with a prostitute, more than two dozen New York state legislators have stepped down or been convicted in a variety of corruption cases, including former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. In March, Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was convicted on corruption charges. For years, analysts have pondered why New York politics are so prone to corruption. Some has suggested that states with capitals that are distant from major media and population centers are more likely to have problems, due to lack of oversight and public interest…. Given the Empire State’s size — and the amount of money flowing through the political process, particularly in Manhattan — there’s a real temptation for politicians to hide or redirect spending in ways that will benefit them personally, says Grant Reeher, director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at Syracuse University. Given Democratic dominance of statewide politics and the lopsided partisan nature of most legislative districts one way or the other, there’s little by way of real political competition to check or even blow the whistle on many offenses” [sounds like California]. More: “What’s more, the state’s political culture remains deeply imprinted with the secretive and self-serving habits of the political machines that once ruled.” Local readers?

UPDATE Amplifying the above:

NY in last 10 years:
Governor resigns (Spitzer)
Governor ends re-elect (Paterson)
Comptroller imprisoned (Hevesi)
4 Sen leaders convicted (Bruno, Espada, Smith, Skelos)
Assembly speaker convicted (Silver)
30+ lawmakers have legal trouble ()

And now the AG

— Brian M. Rosenthal (@brianmrosenthal)

UPDATE “How The ACORN Scandal Seeded Today’s Nightmare Politics” []. An essential, and almost forgotten, retrospective, well worth a read. This one sentence leaped out: “Democrats had assumed a defensive posture following electoral victories in November 2008.” Of course they had.

UPDATE “Voter Registration” []. “Ultimately, this convoluted registration system is decreasing turnout in many areas in the United States. We know this because same-day voter registration has a history of increasing voter turnout and therefore voter participation in our democracy. A report by looked at voter turnout by state in 2016 and highlighted the states with same day registration. They found a high correlation between voter turnout and states with same-day registration in 2016.”

UPDATE “Manchin becomes first Democrat to say he’ll vote for Gina Haspel” []. Attaboy. We need more Democrats like Manchin, who is a true Hero of The Resistance:

Dems and Reps are different: In reaction to a reasonable Obama, GOP went far right in their primaries. In reaction to an insane Trump, Dems are going with the candidates they believe best able to defeat GOP.

— Neera Tanden 🌊 (@neeratanden)

“Practical” []. Practical. Practical.

Stats Watch

Consumer Sentiment, May 2018 (Preliminary): “The consumer sentiment index held steady led by a modest gain in the expectations component, which offset a slight dip in the assessment of current conditions” []. “There no hints in today’s report of a burst higher for consumer spending nor for inflation, though the results are consistent with moderate strength for both.” And: “Preliminary May 2018 Michigan Consumer Sentiment Unchanged” [].

Import and Export Prices, April 2018: “Import prices, up 0.3 percent in April, got a boost from a rise in oil but were otherwise flat” []. “Export prices do show pressure, up 0.6 percent in the month despite a 1.2 percent decline in agricultural prices… Like all the inflation data for April, beginning with last week’s average hour earnings and including yesterday’s consumer price report, today’s import & export data won’t be raising any alarms at the Federal Reserve of overshooting.”

Shipping: “USPS sees revenue gain but net losses remain intact in fiscal second quarter earnings” []. “At $17.5 billion, USPS revenue headed up $235 million, or 1.4%, compared to the fiscal second quarter of 2017…. Parcel Services volume was up 5.4% to 732,000, and Package Services volume was up 2.6% to 156,000. USPS said in its Form 10-Q statement that Parcel Services volume gains were paced largely by the continuing growth of e-commerce, with the caveat that this subcategory is mainly a ‘last-mile’ service that ‘bypasses much of our infrastructure and therefore is one of our lowest-priced package services, and as a result, produces a lower yield per piece when compared to many of our other services.’…. Assessing what needs to happen going forward, [Jerry Hempstead, president of Hempstead Consulting] said that when the cost allocation process is debated between the USPS and the Postal Regulatory Commission, there might be a need to update the prices of the postal products.”

Shipping: “Post office blames U.S. government — not Amazon — for billion-dollar loss” []. “The U.S. Postal Service placed most of the blame for the $1.3 billion it lost in its second fiscal quarter on “inflexible” government policy, and some of it on inflation and a decline in first-class mail, but it did not blame any of it on delivery deals made with customers, including, notably, Amazon.com Inc…. ‘Despite growth in our package business, our financial results reflect systemic trends in the marketplace and the effects of an inflexible, legislatively mandated business model that limits our ability to generate sufficient revenue and imposes costs upon us that we cannot afford,’ said Postmaster General Megan Brennan… That seems to differ from comments made by President Donald Trump last month. Trump said the USPS was losing ‘billions of dollars’ because of a ‘Delivery Boy’ deal with Amazon, under which, he said, the post office lost an average of $1.50 on each package delivered for the e-commerce giant.” IIRC, Trump got that wrong, but what I do know is that if Amazon controlled the last mile, they’d be treating that like the choke-point it is, and extracting every last nickel from it.

Transportation: “The Case for Electric Scooters” []. “Mobility is on the verge of having its own “iPhone Moment,” where a new form factor, user interface, and mature technology turns a former niche product into a daily habit for the majority of the population, upending huge industries and creating new ones… For a few hundred dollars, you can now buy a device that will take you 10-20 miles at close to 20 miles an hour and a near-zero cost per mile. As if this isn’t enough, PMDs have great advantages in connecting to existing means of transportation, both public and private. Bikes have been around for 200 years, and the attempt to reshape cities through promoting them has deep roots. For most people, it fails miserably. Exercise is laudable but sweating on the way to work is not… If you’re in the business of making cars, PMDs should top your list of existential worries.” When I was in Philly, years ago, I actually bought an electric scooter, for exactly these reasons and because I thought it was cool. I ended up not using it because it was slightly too heavy to carry up three flights. I think scooters may be a flashpoint in San Francisco because conscienceless Venture Capitalists tried to get in the way as middlemen with the scooter “sharing” concept, and the scooters ended up being dumped in public space, like the Tech Community dumps so much else in public spaces. Of course, a scooter wouldn’t work so well in the winter, so maybe they’re not the Next Great Thing everywhere….

Transportation: “Bill Ford Denies Retreat as Automaker Abandons American Sedans” []. “The second-largest U.S. automaker announced last month that it’s going to cease investment in sedans for the North American market, a bold move that’s part of CEO Jim Hackett’s plan to cut $25.5 billion in costs by 2022. Eventually, Ford’s only surviving volume car will be the Mustang []…. Ford doesn’t intend to lose car customers by killing off traditional cars, such as the Fusion and Taurus, to focus on more profitable models, such as the F-150 pickup and Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicle. ‘We want to give them what they’re telling us they really want,’ Hackett said of Ford’s sedan customers. ‘We’re simply reinventing the American car.'”

The Bezzle: “Ask this question before booking an Airbnb — it could save your life” []. “Many of Airbnb’s 4 million short-term rentals worldwide are falling short on fire safety, a published this week in the journal Injury Prevention found. Less than half of the listings on the lodging platform have fire extinguishers or first-aid kits, and just 56% have carbon monoxide alarms.” As I keep saying, AirBnB’s real product is regulatory arbitrage — and union-busting — like so many other Silicon Valley firms. Now that we’ve got the fire safety issue to watch, I wonder how soon we’ll be hearing about bedbug infestations.

The Bezzle: “New York artist fined a record $185,000 over illegally renting apartment on Airbnb” []. “A Manhattan judge has ordered an artist [Eileen Hickey, 72 ] booted from her $1,500-a-month Tribeca loft and is making her pay a record-setting $185,000 fine for illegally renting it out on Airbnb. [Landlord Robert Moskowitz] caught Hickey red-handed when a Spanish sublet tenant hung a banner from the fire escape of the 1,400-square-foot unit to welcome friends.” Oopsie. And: ‘Hickey has engaged in outrageous behavior using her rent-stabilized apartment as an illegal hotel,’ Moskowitz fumes in court papers.” Indeed.

The Bezzle: “Tesla battery reignites days after deadly crash: 2 Investigates” []. “KTVU has obtained a 13-page safety alert written by Mountain View Fire Chief Juan Diaz, in which he highlights the dangers firefighters faced while responding to [the deadly Tesla crash in Mountain View earlier this year], including a high-voltage battery they had no way to stop….. Firefighters say they put the fire out in two minutes but soon discovered the battery fire in the electric vehicle would smolder for hours and reignite multiple times, even days later…. ‘In this particular case, six days later, the temperature inside those cells increased to the point of ignition. That’s why the car reignited,’ said Diaz. ‘You have stored energy that is frankly unstable.'” I’m sure there’s no problem; we’ll just helicopter in a Tesla engineer for every crash. Wait, what am thinking? Helicopters? Rockets!

Five Horsemen: “The Fab Five are mixed in morning trading, after all five rose yesterday” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen May 11 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “The mania-panic index rose to 66 (complacency) after VIX fell to 13.23 yesterday, and new 52-week highs exceeded new 52-week lows for the fifth day in a row” [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 May 10 2018

Health Care

“The guerrilla warriors fighting for government health care” []. Worth a read, especially for an old-timer like me. For one individual, canvassing for ACA sign-ups radicalized them: They saw how bad the situation really is, an unexpected result! And: “‘Maine was a bellwether for the states that were looking to do Medicaid expansion through signature collection,’ said RyLee Curtis, the campaign manager for Utah Decides, which is seeking health care coverage for 100,000 low-income Utahans. ‘They were definitely a bellwether with whether this could be accomplished. We were supermotivated by the success in Maine.'”

UPDATE “Sick People Want Government Healthcare, but They’re Not Voting” []. Scholarly literature suggests that the electorate is highly stratified by race, age, and income—that is, the people who vote tend to be whiter, older, and wealthier than the American population as a whole, which skews the vote to the right. But there is also a less acknowledged “health bias” in turnout, meaning that people who are uninsured and in poor health less likely to vote. Though rarely discussed, this bias has important implications for policy. In , I show that policy on many key issues is more right-wing than it would be with full participation across health and insurance status.” If only there were some sort of organization — maybe we could call it a “political party” — that could get people to the polls!

“Kansas’ Medicaid Data Is So Bad, Analysts Can’t Even Tell If It’s Working” []. “A debate has raged in Kansas for years over KanCare, the privatized Medicaid plan enacted by Sam Brownback in 2013…. On April 28, 2017, legislators directed their independent auditors to find out whether KanCare is working. After a year of work, those auditors recently released their determination: the state’s data is so bad, there’s no way to know. ‘These data issues limited our ability to conclude with certainty on KanCare’s effect on service use and limited our ability to interpret cost trends,’ the auditors wrote. ‘More significantly, data reliability issues entirely prevented us from evaluating KanCare’s effect on beneficiaries’ health outcomes.””

“Summoning the Future” [ (UserFriendly)]. Still germane, on building the NHS.

MMT

Please kill me now:

"Democrats believe you must pay as you go," Pelosi says at Peterson fiscal summit

— Joseph Lawler (@josephlawler)

Pelosi’s not dogmatic about a lot (i.e., abortion) but she’s certainly dogmatic about this particular falsehood. And speaking for the whole party, too!

Class Warfare

“Taking on Walmart Is No Easy Fight for Cities” []. Good round-up. This caught my eye: “Walmart and other big retail companies say critics ignore the fact that low-wage workers often start with gaps in the foundational skills of reading, writing and working with numbers. ‘Walmart in particular and retail in general has always been a great access point for people into the workforce,’ Walmart Foundation President Kathleen McLaughlin told an audience of governors recently. ‘Very low barriers to entry, people can come in, get a good start, they can acquire skills on the job, learn what they need to do to move up,’ she said.” So, , and then pays low wages because people can’t read or write. It’s beautiful in its own way…

News of The Wired

“Social influence platform Klout to shut down on May 25” []. “In its heyday, Klout was known for its social ranking system known as the “Klout score,” but it also attracted criticism for the manner in which it encouraged people to flaunt their ‘online’ or ‘social’ reputation as a badge of honor. And many argued that it didn’t provide an accurate mechanism for quantifying how influential a person really was. In many people’s eyes, the Klout that countless people on the internet seemingly embraced all those years ago was dead already. Today’s news just makes it official. RIP, Klout.”

This is a story from 2010, but still:

CBS News buys 4 used photocopiers at random.

Like every digital copier since 2002, they have hard drives that store images of every copy, every scan, every fax.

They pull the images from the hard drives….
.

— Russ Kick @ AltGov2 (@thememoryhole2)

Copy that, Big Brother. One more thing to subpoena, I guess….

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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 ():

Kew Gardens, nice depth of field.

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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.

111 comments

  1. JohnnyGL

    Calling all Massholes!

    I’m a bit late to the party on this….Governor’s race….Bob Massie

    I like the way this guy comes across. He doesn’t talk like your typical mushy Dem about feelings and heart-warming personal stories and ‘values’. He’s ‘mad as hell’ but has a plan to make things better.

    Here’s a couple of interviews:

    Ban Pipeline Expansion: Massachusetts Gubernatorial Candidate

    1. JohnnyGL

      Here’s some one-liners I caught while listening….

      “we had a massive financial crisis that cost $7trn and no one went to jail”

      “do you want to keep sitting in traffic? Do you want to keep struggling with deductibles? Do you wnat to keep not being able to afford your rent/mortgage?”

      “they system is rigged, people know it, that’s why trump won”

      “build barrier in boston harbor to protect against storm surges”

      1. taunger

        He’s okay. But he doesn’t have a chance. Setting Warren (Obama 3.0? 4.0?) dropped out recently after reading the tea leaves correctly he didn’t have a chance. And his was arguably greater than massie. “Progressive” groups already lined up behind Jay Gonzalez. He’s okay too. Baker will win

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > But he doesn’t have a chance

          Doesn’t matter. It’s all bench-building. “Elections come and go,” as Sanders says. Next election, or the election after that, he’ll have a chance (or somebody he inspired).

        2. JohnnyGL

          Massie argues that Baker’s support, though high, is only puddle deep. I suspect he’s right.

          If he can get to the general and be the guy with the D next to his name, then he’s got a shot in MA.

          As commenters have pointed out below, “Name something Baker stands for, or has accomplished” gets confused looks and not a lot of clear answers.

    2. Kurtismayfield

      Well he is definitely to the left of Baker. The problem is that there is already a centrist Democrat in the Governor’s seat here in Massachusetts. Baker is exactly like a candidate that the DNC would pick, and the Republicans in this state are not happy with him. He is going to face a decent primary challenge from the right.

      1. Scott

        Pass-the-Buck Chuck would be the DNC’s dream candidate. I can’t tell you one thing he stands for except opposing Trump on a few, mostly symbolic things.

        Meanwhile the MBTA is in crisis, the opiod epidemic shows no signs of stopping, the state police have one scandal after another, the budget is being eaten alive by healthcare costs, housing prices are out of control, and jobs and people are disappearing from the state outside of metro-Boston.

        1. KurtisMayfield

          Pass-the-Buck Chuck would be the DNC’s dream candidate. I can’t tell you one thing he stands for except opposing Trump on a few, mostly symbolic things.

          Exactly. and he has no problem getting out there and having his pictures taken for photo ops where he is spending money, like when he was out stumping for disaster relief for coastal homes after the Nor’Easters.

          You forgot my favorite scandal of late.. the . This one was so weird I cannot believe that they let his husband get away with what he was doing.

        2. johnnygl

          I’m wondering if a scenario might develop where the Repub base in this state (and there is one, no doubt, it’s just smallish) doesn’t bother to show up for Charlie and there’s a bunch of anti-trump dems looking to take their anger out on something with an R next to their name.

          In any case, i think Massie had an appealing message, and i hope he can get it out there. This state needs it.

          1. Kurtismayfield

            Deihl will bring them to the polls. Any chance to vote against Ms. Warren will be taken in earnest. You have no idea how much she is hated by the die hard Republicans here.

          2. NIck

            I’m afraid tons of Dems and Indies will vote for Baker.

            DeLeo is the big problem but we’re not gonna fix that this year.

            All the lefties and progs I know are working on state house campaigns or ballot initiatives. There are some good ones coming up!

    3. Chris

      Not sure banning pipeline expansion is a good thing. All of New England is in for tough times soon unless they do a lot of expansion of the grid and distribution systems. Won’t be too surprising to see a lot of blackouts in the near future.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Last I checked, petro pipelines do not carry electrical energy in large quantities to homes and businesses and hospitals and such. So conflating them with “the grid” and “grid expansion” ( especially with no mention of making the grid less aged and vulnerable to Black Swan failures) seems a little disingenuous. I believe most of the pipeline projectors are aiming at “just passing through” profits from taking residents’ property and such…

      2. JohnnyGL

        This is the industry’s talking points. They love telling stories to get what they want. There’s been anecdotal stories of Nat’l Grid and Eversource getting rough with various parties, “until they get their pipeline”.

        They might have already given us the “Enron” treatment….

        Also, the pipeline is headed to an LNG terminal in Canada. There will be NO cheap gas for you and me. Only leaks and cancer clusters and maybe a bonus explosion or two.

        The frackers in PA are getting desperate. Nat Gas prices in Europe and Asia look so juicy to them that it’s driving them crazy.

  2. Ed

    Well, this probably doesn’t count as “local” (though I did grew up within rock-throwing distance of the New York State border on the outher side of the mountain from the capital and its edifice complex) but I do remember that Nelson Rockefeller died under humorously scandalous circumstances ( ) so governance and dalliances of a sensual nature seem to be kissin’ cousins.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I don’t care who or what they’re sleeping with as long as they can pay attention to their day job. Which is governing.

  3. allan

    Re: Harris. Actually, somebody should ask Harris if Harris made a mistake by not prosecuting Mnuchin.

    Re: used photocopiers. There is an anecdote in Poorly Made in China by Paul Midler,
    about the early, Wild West days for American businesses doing deals with China.
    A Chinese firm was the low bidder on hauling away and recycling paper from a number of Wall Street firms.
    When Midler visited their “recycling” facility in China, he saw the papers being carefully sorted
    and grouped by subject matter.

    How many of those used photocopiers, or at least their hard drives, are being recycled in a similar way?

      1. Jean

        Did you accept a political donation from Mnuchin after failing to prosecute tens of thousands of fraudulent mortgages when you were occupying the attorney general’s office in California?

        Yes or no?

        Harris got her start in 1994 by having an affair with slimy Willie Brown, who was serving as the California Assembly Speaker and then became the mayor of San Francisco. Brown was 60 years old and Harris was 29 when their affair became public knowledge. Harris was so brazen that she came out publicly as his date at his 60th birthday party, despite Brown’s wife of 36 years being in attendance.

        If Harris winds up w/ the D-Nom, then the GOP ad will sound something like this:
        “Kamala Harris asked the wife of a murdered Police Officer to pay for the rent and food for the man that killed him. A little later, she went back to the dead officer’s wife and told her that she needed to pay more.”

        Stranger yet,
        “Three people, including an aide to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, were arrested on suspicion of operating a fictitious police department that claimed jurisdiction in 33 states and Mexico and says it has existed for 3,000 years, authorities said.”

        “Brandon Kiel, David Henry and Tonette Hayes were taken into custody last week on suspicion of impersonating officers as members of the so-called Masonic Fraternal Police Department, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.”

    1. The Rev Kev

      I have long intended to “recycle” my copier/scanner with a mark 1 hammer. It’s the only way to be sure.

      1. flora

        Right. Pull the hard drive. Destroy. Hammer or trusted drive wipe utility or very, very large magnetic degaussing device. Even better, have the hard drive physically shredded. Yes, it can be done.

        1. BillC

          It’s easy and secure enough to drill 3-4 1/4″ holes (with a metal-cutting bit and eye protection!) through the area housing the platters.

  4. LorenzoStDuBois

    Re: Dems’ Economic Quandary:

    The real problem is they can’t say the economy is garbage, because they would be saying basically the same economy was garbage under Obama. As Stoller said, the Dems can’t win until they realize Obama was terrible. Sanders shows the way by basically implying it with his basic pronouncements (people are struggling, Obama only won because he had charisma), without having to say it outright.

    1. JohnnyGL

      Bernie does seem to have figured out how to damn Obama with faint praise. After his speech in Mississippi, he had pundits foaming at the mouth. It occurred to me later that he might have done it with some degree of intention.

      Perhaps he’s learned a thing or two from Trump on how to troll the media to your advantage?

    2. Arizona Slim

      I distinctly remember a March 2016 Bernie Sanders rally where he praised Obama’s handling of the economy. Why, it was SO much better than Bush’s!

      The crowd went wild.

      Me? I was leaning against the media platform in the middle of the Tucson Convention Center ice hockey arena, which had been covered for the rally. With all sorts of reporters behind me, I gave that Sanders remark a slow clap. Because Obama’s handling of the economy didn’t do anything good for me or my itty-bitty business.

      I left a few minutes later.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I seem to recall something similar in an early debate between him and Hillary. I have no luck trying to get a transcript to quote it.

        In any case, Sanders might want to think about breaking some Democratic eggs in order to make a progressive omelette.

        1. Elizabeth Burton

          Sanders might want to think about breaking some Democratic eggs in order to make a progressive omelette.

          As Lambert is wont to say, it’s a long time still between now and November. It would be political suicide for Bernie to actively criticize Obama, and call out the Russia!! narrative as what it is, and so on. I know it would be wonderful for him to do it, but not right now. Ironically, it seems to me he’s doing what all those suffering Trump derangement syndrome insist Mueller is doing—building his case brick-by-brick.

          Have you noticed how, suddenly, every other new bill launched in the Senate seems to have Bernie’s name on it? Remember how one of the (false) criticisms the Clinton Cult used against him was that he “never did anything in all his time in Congress”? They meant, of course, that he didn’t introduce a lot of bills but rather signed on to those he could deal with and usually managed to get something good tacked on. But that is lost on most people, so now he’s tossing out all kinds of progressive stuff he knows will never get off the ground and yet which provide an opportunity to educate people who might otherwise ignore him on the things he finds important.

          Anyone who underestimates the political savvy of Bernie Sanders hasn’t been paying attention.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Publicly, he can’t say it.

            Among, say, people like those here privately, he can actively criticize Obama.

            1. Yves Smith

              Politicians don’t have any private space. Witness Schneiderman. I agree it was terrible that he beat up his girlfriends, but the world is full of men who beat up their wives and girlfriends and kids and virtually all of them get away with it.

  5. Edward E

    Looks like the Muskrat Truck is a gonner, darn it, I was anticipating attraction of lots of beavers with one…

    John Engle is suggesting that the much-anticipated Tesla Semi project may be dead.

    1. Jim Haygood

      What a shame. Them Tesla Semis coulda hauled a lot of Model 3s to long-suffering customer-depositors. :-(

  6. Tim

    “Ford doesn’t intend to lose car customers by killing off traditional cars, such as the Fusion and Taurus, to focus on more profitable models, such as the F-150 pickup and Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicle. ‘We want to give them what they’re telling us they really want,’ Hackett said of Ford’s sedan customers. ‘We’re simply reinventing the American car.’”

    Riiiiiiiiiiigghht. They are just going to eliminate the cheapest form of personal enclosed transportation, nobody wants that anymore, right?

    It has nothing to do with profit margins right?

    People like cars, but they aren’t willing to overpay for them like they are for crossovers and SUVs, but people only overpay for crossovers because they perceive they are a big step up from a car. Once you eliminate the cars, then the relativity goes away and customers will demand a fair price for the “reinvented american car.” They are going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg of profits here, and reduce their customer base while they are at it.

      1. Enquiring Mind

        Ford is going to be a lot less profitable in any event, what with that magnesium fire at a key F-150 supplier that resulted in a hiatus. How many hiati must befall them?

    1. JohnnySacks

      Corrola Camry Civic Accord
      What the heck else does anyone need?
      Was a day when large body on frame rear wheel drive
      American sedans were the workhorse vehicles commercial and law enforcement used. The current crop of unibody crossovers and SUVs can’t do the duty so big SUVs are bought. Ford, FCA, and GM still win with bigger profits. If gas hits $4 s gallon it’ll be like 1979 all over again for them.

    2. A Farmer

      Things I’ve hauled in (or on, in the case of the hay) my Ford Focus:

      A calf (at least twice)
      Up to 400 lbs of supplement at a time (at least 300 lbs biweekly for months)
      4 5-gallon buckets of corn daily for months (I actually had an infestation of maize weevils from corn that spilled in the car)
      Lots of tools and parts
      A bicycle (in the backseat with one door open)
      4 bales of hay

      Why in the [family blog] do city people think they need crossovers or SUVs?

      1. wilroncanada

        Things I hauled in my 1969 VW Van (9 passenger).
        1 spouse and three children, along with dog, camping gear, and a week worth of clothes for visits to grandparents–including over the Malahat Drive north of Victoria at 1200 feet elevation.
        40 cartons of 20 lb. bond paper to Salt Spring Island from wholesaler in Victoria (about 1200 lbs.).
        3 goats and their minders, 3 daughters, for the fall fair, along with misc. hay bales, shelter tarps–oh, and 1 spouse to keep the peace.

    3. Odysseus

      ‘We want to give them what they’re telling us they really want,’

      No you’re not. I will happily buy the first model you put out that gets 70 MPG. I am more than willing to be the CAFE balance to your coal-rolling dumb *ss.

      So what will you sell me that makes this a win-win situation?

    4. AbateMagicThinking But Not Money

      Ford and trucks:

      I vaguely recall that pickups are classed as trucks and are not required by law to have the safety features of cars, such as crumple zones. This contributed to lower cost and was an element in their growing popularity. Any change there?

      Pip-Pip

  7. a different chris

    >Workers and management reached a deal last month on job and welfare payment cuts and a wage freeze across the firm

    SK obviously makes too, maybe way too, many cars. So how about *all* SK automobile workers get their hours reduced to 32/wk, paychecks stay the same? I mean if the gummint is going to get involved, then it should do something sensible instead of propping up oversupply at the expense of people that have zero say in any decisions.

  8. Tim

    “Airbnb’s 4 million short-term rentals worldwide are falling short on fire safety,”

    Hah! Just did my first AirBnB rental in Palm Springs a few months ago.

    There was a simple issue with the water heater, but the plumber discovered the vent duct from the adjacent clothes dryer was piling lint up over the vent for the gas heated water heater, which the plumber said was a major fire hazard.

    So I rounded up the baby wipes and spent a half an hour cleaning up the mess myself while the plumber fixed the dryer vent.

    So there you go, some anecdotal evidence to boot.

  9. allan

    [Marketwatch]

    Delayed for sixteen months, the plan, to the extent that it is a plan, no longer qualifies even as vaporware.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Stocks can be fickle.

      Trump mumbled something about Amazon, and it dropped. But now, it’s high again, even though Trump would almost definitely like to see it lower.

      Perhaps he needs to keep going at it, or anything else, for more than a day or two.

  10. Carolinian

    Some interesting thoughts on Trump’s Iran move from an Iranian journalist:

    He says that for the US Iran is comparable to Cuba with a powerful anti lobby and none on the other side. Therefore Iran will never catch a break from the US (and didn’t–not really–under Obama) and only other countries can break the blockade

  11. Enquiring Mind

    …states with capitals that are distant from major media and population centers are more likely to have problems, due to lack of oversight and public interest…

    Sacramentans, remote from those media-savvy folk in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and wherever seem to muddle along with their captured house organ, the Bee. Sacto is a company town, of sorts.

  12. drumlin woodchuckles

    I thought of a disparaging re-phrase to offer to those who disparage the Red To Blue concept/campaign.
    They could call it Red To Blue Dog. Or Red to Bluedog. Or Red to BlueDog. Something like that. Whatever looks best in print or letters on a screen.

    Just an offer . . .

  13. drumlin woodchuckles

    Why did all the people themselves who were involved in ACORN just quietly let ACORN die? It certainly looks like ACORN was only a creature of its grants and fundings, and when the money stopped, the ACORN balloon deflated down to zero.

    Is that a “look” which the ACORNians don’t like? Well . . . why didn’t they regroup and call themselves ACORN 2.0 ? Why don’t they do that now? If they really are real people from real groups, or ever even really were?

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Sounds interesting. Or maybe the Mighty Oaks?

        But something . . . surely something. Its near-instant curl-up-and-death makes me wonder just how real it ever really was.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Though upon reflection, I circle back to ACORN 2.0. Keeping the ACORN nake to show the Breitbartists and everyone else that ACORN Lives! And ACORN 2.0 . . . to indicate that the New ACORN is smarter, tougher and harder to kill.

  14. curlydan

    “For a few hundred dollars, you can now buy a device that will take you 10-20 miles at close to 20 miles an hour and a near-zero cost per mile.” Ever year, every week it seems like we get closer to a WALL-E world–one of the last good Pixar movies along with Up….

    1. Patrick

      we used to joke (back in 2007/8) that the future of the automotive industry was the shift from large-multi passenger vehicles to personal transportation (eg. ) because that is the perfect intersection of interesting trends:

      -an aging population that may no longer be allowed to operate a car
      -advances in non-fossil fuels propulsion
      -financial constraints affecting viability of personal car ownership
      -scarcity and cost of parking in urban/semi-urban areas

      not sure which will be worse, a Jazzy/Scooter traffic snarl or clouds of flying cars.

      1. Whoa Molly!

        Re: low cost personal transportation for aging poplulation

        I live in a county with sizable elderly, poor and handicapped populations. It is common to see people driving their powered wheelchairs down the the highway in the bicycle lane. It’s the only way some people have of getting to the grocery store. They usually have a tall flag waving from the back to increase visibility.

        Electric bicycles are becoming common too, with advent of reasonably priced high density batteries. I have not seen several three wheel bikes but not an electric–so far. (I used to build bike frames as a hobby, so I tend to pay close attention to unique bikes.)

        1. Whoa Molly!



          I read the electric scooter article, and I can’t see anyone elderly or handicapped using them. No place to carry things like groceries or library books, no place for a little white companion dog.

        2. Whoa Molly!

          And there’s the . Same problem as electric scooter… no place for groceries or library books or little dog. Extra problem of huge cost (altho probably not much more than powered wheelchair).

          1. Grebo

            It seems to me the perfect role for this sort of thing is for getting to and from public transport. It needs to be something you can pick up and carry, and stow–possibly over head. It only needs a few miles range and 20mph is more than fast enough. A skateboard, folding scooter or folding bike with tiny wheels.
            If you need to carry stuff you take a rucksack. For weather you wear a coat. Same as if you were walking.
            Swap the little white dog for a husky and you wouldn’t even need a motor.

    2. Yves Smith

      Never never never. If I am going to go faster than 20 MPH, I want enough metal around me to increase my odds of survival. Not ever gonna risk a fall or being hit on a scooter.

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Which is more time consuming:

    1. Studying the issues and candidates

    2. Register to vote

    UPDATE “Voter Registration” [The Sanders Institute]. “Ultimately, this convoluted registration system is decreasing turnout in many areas in the United States. We know this because same-day voter registration has a history of increasing voter turnout and therefore voter participation in our democracy. A report by Nonprofit Vote looked at voter turnout by state in 2016 and highlighted the states with same day registration. They found a high correlation between voter turnout and states with same-day registration in 2016.”

    We like more voters to participate.

    We don’t choose if they are geniuses or not. But we hope they are informed and have had time to think over issues when casting their votes.

  16. Wukchumni

    I would think @ the very least in the case of non quenchable fire in an unoccupied parked Tesla, that one of their crack engineers or perhaps Elon himself, would show up via jetpack.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      In hindsight, that remark about the risks of travelling to Mars, that is, the probability of death being ‘quite high,’ might have a broader meaning.

      That is, life can be dangerous, whether it is a holiday trip to Mars, travelling in a self-driving electric car or speeding along in a tunnel.

      1. A Farmer

        When I saw the story this morning that Musk was about to open a 2.7 mile-long tunnel by Boring Co, one of my first thoughts was, I wonder if there is any ventilation, followed by, I wonder if he is figuring that the electric vehicles mean that ventilation isn’t necessary. Then I was wondering about fire ventilation. 2.7 miles? 1.35 miles is a long way to go if there is a crash and fire.

  17. Lee

    As Stoller said, the Dems can’t win until they realize Obama was terrible.

    Right to the neoliberal heart of the matter. Whatever good Obama did was so fragile, so weakly constructed, in that it had no unifying broad based popular support, that it is being rendered null. Only the same crap that preceded the lost opportunity of the crash endures…..for now.

    1. johnnygl

      And whatever good there was, was mostly offset by what he spent most of his time and energy trying to do…
      ..slash entitlements and pass TPP, TISA, TPIP.

  18. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    “Democrats believe you must pay as you go,” Pelosi says at Peterson fiscal summit

    10:31 AM – May 10, 2018

    She is not talking about military spending, I assume.

    1. sleepy

      I was thinking it was more like “democrats believe you must pay to play as you go.”

      1. The Rev Kev

        Maybe for Pelosi it was more along the lines of “Democrats believe you must be paid to go”

  19. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    “Social influence platform Klout to shut down on May 25” [VentureBeat]. “In its heyday, Klout was known for its social ranking system known as the “Klout score,” but it also attracted criticism for the manner in which it encouraged people to flaunt their ‘online’ or ‘social’ reputation as a badge of honor. And many argued that it didn’t provide an accurate mechanism for quantifying how influential a person really was. In many people’s eyes, the Klout that countless people on the internet seemingly embraced all those years ago was dead already. Today’s news just makes it official. RIP, Klout.”

    Perhaps the Chinese version of Klout is still alive with their social score or social credit system.

  20. dcblogger

    for those who share my passion for period drama, In the Shadow of the Tower, about Henry VII

  21. dcblogger

    more period dramra to help us get thru these times
    Alexandre Dumas: La Dame de Monsoreau / Графиня де Монсоро (1998) with English and Spanish subtitles

  22. Jason Boxman

    Practical indeed. The torturers’ body guards and assistants in The First Law trilogy are actually called “Practicals”. I don’t generally read fiction, but the trilogy is worth a read just as escapism.

  23. Jason Boxman

    Regarding Airbnb, I had a more basic problem. At several places, the keys didn’t reliably work. What exactly am I paying for if I cannot reliably gain entry? My suspicion is these were illegal ‘subleases’, because otherwise you could simply get keys copied from the actual landlord’s master set.

    1. Arizona Slim

      And it’s not like you can call a locksmith and have him/her let you into your Airbnb.

  24. Craig H.

    > “Practical” [screams as Haspel’s minions kick a pregnant woman in the abdomen]. Practical. Practical.

    There are two sides to every story.

    I am going to completely ignore the other side to this story.

  25. Summer

    What are the figures on long-term unemployment …once benefiits run out or if the unemployed person was even eligible to flie?
    What is the worker participation rate for full-time employees?

    Or what’s the real unemployment rate?

  26. Catman

    regarding this line: “Democrats had assumed a defensive posture following electoral victories in November 2008.”
    Interesting because I had just visited Patty Murray’s website (in my state) to see what she said about drug prices. It basically stopped in 2007 –
    “In the Senate, I have worked to
    her support for bills stopped in 2007 – nothing since then.
    Defensive indeed!

    1. tegnost

      maybe someone should ask patty murray why weed prices are plummeting….actually it’d probably be better to tell her so you don’t have to endure some rhetorical device… Weed is easy to grow, and pills are easy to make after you’ve made the first one. The consumer is winning in the price dept.with weed, while the supplier is having to compete for market share.and the price goes down
      My little mind says weed was artificially high in the 90’s, and pills are artificially high now.. The senator from amazon should toe her sneakers up to the line.

  27. Rates

    Basically what Sanders said is consistent with the theme that Democrats do not want to rule. And that includes him.

    Let’s just give Mahathir US citizenship. That 92 years old man has more energy than all the Democrats combined.

  28. ewmayer

    “Social influence platform Klout to shut down on May 25” [VentureBeat] — Another sterling opportunity for fun with headline-writing squandered. How about “Klobbered by Kold, hard reality, social influence platform Klout to Klose up shop”, VentureBeat editors? Too Klickbaity?

  29. Jim Haygood

    The curmudgeonly James Howard Kunstler confers his customary Friday evening benediction. Excerpts:

    How many of you were wondering, as I was, what the suddenly former New York Attorney General, Mr. Schneiderman, might have looked like in a leather bondage get-up with a ball-gag stuffed in his pie-hole?

    Not the preferred courtroom attire, of course, and a less appetizing image of justice than, say, a blindfolded, half-naked lady holding a sword in one hand and a scale in the other. But that’s how our boy rolled, even while heaping censorious opprobrium (and indictments!) on other big shot alpha dogs for defiling the honor of women.

    I sense that with Schneiderman we’ve reached the zenith in this comic phase of American cultural collapse. The Martian in me sees America turning into something like a Fellini movie, a panorama of fabulous excess and sinister fantasy, with the more malign forces of commerce propelling the garbage barge to ever darker extremes at the edge of a flat earth.

    If America were an X-rated billiard parlor, I’d think it had run the table on political sex stories, with nothing but the eight-ball of doom left on the table, and a wrathful deity standing there chalking up his cue stick. When he sinks that last shot, a new game will get underway.

    I believe it will have to do with financial markets and currencies, and a lot more will hang on the outcome. The break itself should be a doozy — all those colored balls banging into each other and dropping into oblivion.

    Bubble III, comrades — a pregnant 3-1/2 months have passed with no new highs in the S&P 500. Are the good times gone for good?

  30. Whoa Molly!

    And there’s the . Same problem as electric scooter… no place for groceries or library books or little dog. Extra problem of huge cost (altho probably not much more than powered wheelchair).

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      I wonder how much of Segway’s cost is due to its complex multiple-internal-gyroscope system. A wheelchair wouldn’t need anything like that and so could be much cheaper.

      How much do these HoverRounds and other little disabled-person sit-down electro-vehicles cost?

    2. ewmayer

      That’s what backpacks are for. I was extremely skeptical of the Segway hype back when that was the rage amongst the techno-fetishist crowd, but it’s way more heavy/bulky/expensive than the city-scooters of today, and most of that bulk and expense was to solve a self-imposed ‘problem’, that of auto-stabilization of an inherently tippy design. While I remain skeptical of all techno-fad bandwagons, I can actually see the utility of something not much more heavy/bulky/expensive than a Razor scooter, but able to make 10 miles or more per charge and easily carryable onto public transit and into an office building.

      I just don’t want idiot disrupto-startups burning other people’s money to dump them en masse on city streets, and want users to be restricted to bike lanes, and said restriction actively and visibly enforced.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I just don’t want idiot disrupto-startups burning other people’s money to dump them en masse on city streets, and want users to be restricted to bike lanes, and said restriction actively and visibly enforced.

        I agree, but I’m not sure how the bike lobby is going to feel about that

  31. Wukchumni

    Went and checked out the only 420 dispensary for a range of 200 miles, in nearby Woodlake. It just opened last week.

    You know the recent stories about purveyors just about giving it away in Oregon, this is the flip side to that action.

    They are going to make bank, and then some.

    Location-Location-Location

    1. tegnost

      In washington the prices are half what they were in the 90’s, but now “shopping” is part of the mix and it’s really hard to know what you’re getting

  32. edmondo

    The people who disproportionately participate in midterms are people who, as my mother used to say, ‘have their noses out of joint’—in this case angry, fearful, or merely unhappy. Republicans should be quite sure that those who dislike or disapprove of Trump will turn out in big numbers.

    And the Dems are giving me the option of voting for Kyrsten Simena for senate and Ann Kirkpatrick for the house. If they think I would even bother to show up and vote for one of these two moderate republicans they are sadly mistaken.

    1. John k

      In Nixon’s day they would have been right wing reps. He would today be pretty left wing… wage and price controls, unit health care (dems opposed… of course), opened China… too bad about that obstruction thingy.

  33. The Rev Kev

    “The Democrats’ new star is an Obama with bite”

    This story of Senator Kamala Harris’s heroics against Gina Haspel is to be dismissed. Sen. Joe Manchin has already said he would confirm her and there are probably other Democrats who are lined up to do the same alongside their Republican colleagues. I am willing to bet that Kamala Harris was doing playacting for the peons to establish her “credentials” for upcoming elections and knowing it will have no effect on Haspel’s nomination. Probably find that it was all pre-arranged between the two of them beforehand and they both went for a meal together afterwards.

    1. flora

      oh, I’m gonna be so politically incorrect here….
      Whenever I see the phrase “with bite” I think of a dog. aka ‘bark is worse that his bite’. So Harris is a dog? Willie Brown’s arm candy is a dog? (expecting to be sent to blog-o-sphere purgatory for this comment. ;) )

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      She had to torture twice as many people as any man would have!

      (I should hat tip an NIC commenter for this great line, but I can’t remember who….)

      1. Simon Girty

        At least, this will get Sara Gilbert a LEAD role, and shot at an Oscar, in Catherine Bigalow’s upcoming thrilling docudrama, “Does it Hurt When I do THIS?” and evocative new sitcom, “Russia, Russia, RUSSIA!”

  34. Oregoncharles

    ” But Obama and the Democrats didn’t want to govern”
    This has become a catch phrase here, but I don’t think it does justice to the situation. I think they DID indeed govern, precisely to the orders of their corporate funders. And that was what they wanted all along.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I should credit that phrase to Stoller, but I agree with him.

      There’s probably a political-science-y discussion* to be had about the definition of “govern,” but inasmuch as so many of Obama’s decisions involved the abdication of authority rather than its exercise — and in particular, exercise that we would have expected from previous administrations, even Republicans** — I’m comfortable with it.

      * I don’t mean this in a bad way, but a la Gramsci, the state and civil society

      ** Even Bush prosecuted Enron, for example

  35. Oregoncharles

    Rhododendron flowers. Those look exactly like the ones at the corner of our porch, which are huge and also fragrant (there are some fragrant rhododendrons).

  36. Stephen Tynan

    No one should talk about NY corruption until they address 9/11.
    Silence is Complicity.

    National
    State
    City

  37. Pookah Harvey

    Did Trump blackmail Schneiderman?

    The revelation came courtesy of Peter J. Gleason, a New York cop-turned-fireman-turned-lawyer with eyes on a state political office. About five years ago, Gleason says, he heard from two women that then-AG Schneiderman had “sexually victimized” them. Gleason didn’t take the allegations to law enforcement. Instead, according to a letter he wrote to a federal judge on Friday, he went to a journalist — who called Trump.

    The reasoning behind that decision is still murky. Gleason said he didn’t trust the Manhattan district attorney to take action. And Trump — then talking about a bid for New York governor — may have been able to help the women if elected, Gleason has said.

    By stepping forward now with the suggestion that Trump has long held compromising information about Schneiderman, Gleason raises questions about whether Trump ever confronted New York’s top law enforcement officer with his insider tip and if so whether Schneiderman may have pulled punches.

    Schneiderman oversaw an investigation into fraud at Trump University, which ended with a settlement shortly after Trump’s election in 2016, as well as more recent challenges against administration policies on immigration and climate change. Schneiderman’s office was also “cooperating” with the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to media reports.

    “If these claims are true, that Trump possessed information about serious allegations against AG Schneiderman in 2013, serious questions need to be answered about whether Schneiderman was aware that Trump was in possession of that information, how and why Trump obtained that information, and how, if at all, it impacted decisions Schneiderman made about any pending cases,” said former Manhattan federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah.

    To back up the case that Trump had compromising info on Schneiderman was a

    Weiner is gone, Spitzer is gone – next will be lightweight A.G. Eric Schneiderman. Is he a crook? Wait and see, worse than Spitzer or Weiner.

    I can’t wait for the next dramatic episode of “The Days of Our Trump”

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