2:00PM Water Cooler 7/3/2018

By Lambert Strether of .

Trade

“China can ‘win big battles’, economic team says as trade row with United States heats up” []. “The Financial Stability and Development Committee, which comprises some of President Xi Jinping’s must trusted officials, convened to discuss economic threats and ‘external risks’, according to a statement published late on Tuesday on the government’s website. While it did not directly mention China’s long-running trade dispute with the US, it appeared to reference it by saying the country has ‘favourable conditions to win big risk control battles and cope with external risks’.” • This seems a bit Delphic to me, and not necessarily about trade per se. (Apparently, nobody knows how much China has loaned out to the One Belt One Road initiative, though presumably that’s not levered, so no problem.) Applying the theory that Everything Is Like CalPERS at the international level, is there a reason to think that Chinese “trusted officials” are any different or better at what they so than, say, Hank Paulson? Any China hands in the readership care to comment? And but–

“Are these Chinese export numbers an olive branch in the countdown to a trade war with the US?” []. “China’s customs agency broke with protocol late on Monday, releasing first-half and June export data days ahead of schedule and giving a rare breakdown for shipments to the United States…. General Administration of Customs said growth in China’s US-bound shipments slowed to 5.4 per cent in the first six months from 19.3 per cent a year earlier. June export growth was even slower at 3.8 per cent, down 23.8 percentage points from the same time in 2017, the administration said. China’s exports of electronics and mechanical products to the US grew 8 per cent year on year in the first half, accounting for 62.6 per cent of the total shipments. Shipments of labour-intensive products were flat in the same period, while garment sales dropped 1.8 per cent.”

“Trump’s new trade bill is peak Trump” []. “[Trumps bruited WTO] bill would give the president the unilateral authority to carry out all these changes as he sees fit, with no input from Congress. We’ve been headed in this direction for many, many decades: Law after law ever more power over tariffs and trade policy from the legislature to the executive branch. But this new bill would take that trend to its extreme endpoint.” • Well, it would have been OK if Obama were still President. So there’s that.

“Trade: It’s About Class, Not Country” [Dean Baker, ]. Must-read. “There is a fundamental flaw in the way that both Donald Trump and his critics generally talk about trade. They make it an issue of country versus country, raising the question of whether China, Canada and other trading partners are treating the United States fairly as a country…. These deals were about putting US manufacturing workers in direct competition with much-lower-paid workers in the developing world. The expected and actual effect of these policies is to reduce employment in manufacturing. This also put downward pressure on the wages of the manufacturing workers who kept their jobs, as well as on the wages of less-educated workers more generally, since manufacturing has historically been a source of relatively high-paying employment for workers without college degrees. This is not a story of free trade. Our trade deals did little or nothing to make it easier for highly educated professionals to work in the United States…” • The exception that proves the rule, of course, for “highly educated” tech “professionals” with H1B visas, who undercut wages in Silicon Valley, exactly as the program was designed to do.

Politics

2020

“Oprah Winfrey Covers August Vogue” []. “It was following her rousing Time’s Up speech at this year’s Golden Globes that talk of Oprah 2020 reached fever pitch. But anyone hoping a presidential bid might be in the works for Winfrey will be sadly disappointed. ‘In that political structure – all the non-truths, the bullshit, the crap, the nastiness, the backhanded backroom stuff that goes on – I feel like I could not exist,’ Winfrey says. ‘I would not be able to do it. It’s not a clean business. It would kill me.'”

2018

NY Senate: Chuck Schumer blows off a town hall:

We are extremely disappointed that cancelled his last minute Town Hall.

He must reschedule this Town Hall IMMEDIATELY.

"We are not settling for him phoning it in."

— NY Indivisible (@ny_indivisible)

Trouble flying into the district? Send a surrogate, at the very least. And if the New York Indivisible chapter is this loudly, I may have to surrender a little of my cyncism.

2016 Post-Mortem

Ever green:

Wow this is awkward

— Gallifreyan Jedi (@JediofGallifrey)

The front-row kids at work….

And at work here too:

liberals in 2016: sanders is doing well, but socialism only appeals to white workers, he lost because it doesn't have appeal to black and brown voters
liberals in 2018: AOC is doing well, but socialism only appeals to brown workers, it wont work with white voters

— 🚩🇯🇴 would you like to buy a socialist newspaper (@mike_hugs)

Obama Legacy

“Obama in 2007: ‘I’ll walk on that picket line’ if bargaining rights threatened” []. • Good times…

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Bernie Sanders-backed nominees score wins, but in longshot races” []. “The group Our Revolution, a progressive political organization that rose out of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, has endorsed candidates in 33 of the House Democratic primaries held so far this year. And overall, their candidates have won in 14 of those races, including this week’s big victory in NY-14. That works out to winning 42 percent of their races held thus far. And while anyone would rather be above .500 than below it, winning 42 percent of the time isn’t bad for a nascent political group… Only one of those 14 congressional primary wins has come in a district that is currently labeled as a battleground, by the Cook Political Report – New York’s 24th district, which is currently rated ‘likely Republican.’ Of the other 13 wins, 10 have come in districts that are rated as safe Republican seats, meaning those Democratic nominees aren’t likely to make it to Congress.” • The headline is deceptive; it means longshot in the general. Of course, this suggests a level of coordination, implicit or no, between OR and DNC. Whether that makes you go crazy depends on how important taking the House as a check on Trump is to you (while the OR platform has broad appeal, that doesn’t mean that, operationally, they have what it takes to win in the general (so far). Personally, I regard any win as a good thing; electoral politics is a tough game and a learned skill; the left needs a bench, and that only comes when you get out on the field and play.

“The Millennial Socialists Are Coming” []. “Many of the D.S.A.’s goals, reflected in Ocasio-Cortez’s platform, are indistinguishable from those of progressive democrats. But if the D.S.A. is happy to work alongside liberals, its members are generally serious about the ‘socialist’ part of democratic socialist. Its constitution envisions ‘a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality and non-oppressive relationships…. Talk of popular control of the means of production is anathema to many older Democrats, even very liberal ones. It plays a lot better with the young; one recent survey shows that 61 percent of Democrats between 18 and 34 view socialism positively. The combination of the Great Recession, the rising cost of education, the unreliability of health insurance and the growing precariousness of the workplace has left young people with gnawing material insecurity.” • As I keep saying, the Overton Window is dead, Jim. There is not a spectrum between conservative and liberal. There are three forces at play: Liberal, conservative, and left. A plane, not a line.

“After Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, democratic socialists are just getting started” [Maria Svart, ]. “[As D]irector of DSA, the largest socialist organization in America, I’ll explain. Democratic socialism means a world where we all can live in dignity and comfort. It means a world that we, the working-class majority, run for ourselves, without the poverty, oppression, environmental devastation, and war the wealthy have given us. Democratic socialists believe that if poor and working-class people unite and fight across differences, we can win a better world — a democratic socialist world….. Days before her victory, Ocasio-Cortez ​told Vogue magazine about democratic socialism, “There is no other force, there is no other party, there is no other real ideology out there right now that is asserting the minimum elements necessary to lead a dignified American life.” She’s right.” • Sort of amazing to see this in a major New York Daily. Let the oppo begin! And–

Svart does not mention Open Borders, so presumably she doesn’t want to destroy the DSA. Check this out:

Nicely put, I think.
via on FB

— David Patrikarakos (@dpatrikarakos)

(Picked up by a Daily Beast writer from a writer for the . But it will be clarifying, and in a very bad way, if this sentiment goes viral on the putative left.)

You can’t do this when open borders bring labor arbitrage:

A union carpenter is walking around camp at offering DHS/ICE agents jobs with the Carpenter’s Union if they turn in their badges & walk off the line.

You don’t have to kidnap children for a living. You could have a job with benefits, high pay, respect.

Just quit.

— Portland General Defense Committee (@pdxgdc)

“A Morgan Stanley Star Wants You to Back His Political Movement” []. “[Eric Grossman is] the top lawyer at Morgan Stanley… He also wants to topple America’s two-party system….. Grossman is trying to build a new party—called the Serve America Movement, or SAM. Don’t expect this crusade for unity to turn into the next Women’s March, Tea Party, or even a semi-memorable hashtag. At least so far, this is what resistance to President Donald Trump looks like on Wall Street. Even though tax cuts and reduced regulation have made big banks and corporations some of this era’s big winners, many of their executives squirm when the president abandons global agreements and threatens trade wars. These people also tend to resent and even dread the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, as if it’s out to get them personally. That opens a space for SAM’s unlikely, ambitious and well-moneyed cry for something else.” • Interestingly, Cuomo’s female Democrat straw in the race against Cynthia Nixon, , is running on the SAM ticket.

* * *

UPDATE “Perez: Ocasio-Cortez Is ‘The Future of Our Party’” (YouTube) []. “”What’s this tell you about where the Democratic Party is going today?” [Bill] Press asked the DNC chair. Perez said his daughters both texted him about their excitement over Ocasio-Cortez’s win. ‘Because, she really, she represents the future of our party,’ Perez said, complimenting the self-described Democratic socialist for running a ‘spirited campaign.'” • Before getting too excited about this — no matter your place on the political terrain — remember: Perez et al. have no other way to think than identity politics. Reasoning from Perez’s premises, since AOC is young, a woman, and Latinx — i.e., part of the so-called “coalition of the ascendant” — she must be the future of the Democrats. Because she already is! Perez may also believe that AOC can be bought, of course.

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted out her shade of lipstick, and now it’s sold out” []. “During a primary debate earlier this month, Ocasio-Cortez wore a striking shade of matte red lipstick, and that led to people asking her about it on Twitter. ‘I have been getting many inquiries about my debate lip color in the last two days,’ she tweeted to her followers earlier this month. ‘I GOT YOU. It’s Stila Stay All Day Liquid in Beso.’ … Now, the lipstick shade is completely sold out online on both Stila and Sephora’s websites. If Ocasio-Cortez’s influence on young female voters wasn’t already apparent enough, her ability to sell lipstick is also rather impressive. • Readers, I don’t think I’ll be putting on lipstick any time soon, but do any of you have local sightings?

Only sensible:

Congress MUST repeal the AUMF.

It is incredibly destabilizing legislation that erodes our government’s system of checks and balances, and a persistent threat to peace worldwide.

War doesn’t bring peace. Alleviating poverty does. Education does. Representative gov does. /2

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018)

“ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: “I KILLED ROSA LUXEMBURG” []. “For years mired in almost complete dysfunctionality and irrelevance, a viable socialist organization of the sort which DSA represents would almost certainly be the coup de grace [to the the alphabet soup of Marxist, Lenninist, Trotstkyite or Maoist sects] finally dispatching them into oblivion. Their increasingly hysterical attacks on a brilliant, charismatic and principled Puerto Rican woman is nothing more than -the death throes of the old as the new is being born.”

“On Magical Thinking VS Sober Analysis of the Ocasio-Cortez Victory in NY” [Bruce Dixon, ]. “Still, 16 or 17 thousand votes in a congressional district of 750,000 is far from a socialist landslide. Winning a congressional seat with that small a vote is a rare feat made possible by some local features that seldom occur outside New York City. While the Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez crew no doubt worked their asses off to get what they got, the same money and effort in most other places would not have done the trick in a congressional race. The 14th NY CD was a target well chosen by the folks at Brand New Congress , whom Ocasio-Cortez says asked her to run…. [W]e’re all gonna have to sober up eventually and figure out which parts of the Ocasio-Cortez playbook are peculiar to and which ones are applicable outside a majority Latino New York City district, and we have yet to devise any means of holding progressive politicians truly accountable.” • So, kudos to Brand New Congress, yes? (And DSA, who Brown does’t mention.) Still, BAR is absolutely always worth a read, and this article is especially lucid.

* * *

“Florida Democrats Ban Private-Prison Donations, but Emails Show Internal Pushback” []. “At a gala fundraiser for the Florida Democratic Party in Hollywood on Sunday, party leaders including Chair Terrie Rizzo stood onstage and repeatedly condemned the Trump Administration for imprisoning immigrant children at detention facilities across the country. But when a group of activists proposed a ban on all political donations from the private-prison companies who profit off Trump’s policies, a small but influential minority of old-guard party officials (and at least one former Clinton White House employee*) fought back and nearly succeeded in killing the measure… [R]idding the state and national parties of prison PAC money is proving more difficult because national groups like the DCCC still take thousands from the industry.” NOTE * “Craig T. Smith, the former White House political director under President Bill Clinton. Smith was also a prominent volunteer on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.” • Always, always follow the money….

* * *

He’s talkin’ sense Merle:

The Left needs to get back to embracing "study," "critical thinking," systemic analysis. Teach-ins; how modern propaganda works; how the ruling elite maintains control. Then, how do we undermine that system, strategically. In the meantime, how do we build new systems.

— Ray Pensador (@RayPensador)

I remember a teach-in at the local university in 1966 or 1967; turned me against the Vietnam War, and was also the very first time I saw serious political argument carried on in a public, live-and-in-person setting.

“Uses & Abuses of Ideology in Political Psychology” (PDF) []. From the abstract: ” In stratified tests, only the most knowledgeable 20-30% of citizens carry substantive, coherent, stable,and potent ideological orientations. In other words, political sophistication is necessary for predispositions to actualize as ideology. Moreover, ideology’s power is confounded—largely due to partisan identity instead, and I show that ubiquitous convenience samples make trouble for ideology generalizations. Finally, I propose analytic best practices to avoid inferential errors. Taken together, what first appears to be strong and broad ideology is actually ideological innocence for most people, and real ideology for a few.” • I can’t speak to methodology, but big if true.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation, June 2018: “Following a very strong May, nonfarm payrolls are expected to extend their strength to June” []. “The workweek is seen unchanged at 34.5 hours with the labor participation rate also unchanged at 62.9 percent.”

International Trade, May 2018: “The advance data showed a very strong 2.1 percent rise for exports against only a 0.2 percent gain for imports” []. “Tariff effects have so far been limited in this report.”

The Bezzle: “Tesla Hits Model 3 Target and Focus Shifts to Sustainability” []. “[P]roducing 5,000 units of one vehicle in a week is far from unheard of in the auto industry, and the company had to pull out all the stops to get to this point, including constructing a tent and makeshift assembly line next to its factory. What Musk still needs to prove is that this level of output can endure.”

The Bezzle: “Read what Elon Musk told Tesla after the car maker met its Model 3 goal” []. “On Sunday, Musk sent an effusively worded communication to all employees, thanking them for their hard work, adding that the company became ‘a real car company’ in the process.” • Reminds me of something…

The Bezzle: “Elon Musk ordered Tesla engineers to stop doing a critical brake test on Model 3s” []. “Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears to have asked engineers at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, to remove a standard brake test, called the brake and roll test, from the tasks Model 3 cars must complete to move through production, according to internal documents seen by Business Insider…. Ron Harbour, a consultant at Oliver Wyman who founded and writes ‘The Harbour Report,” a worldwide guide to manufacturing, told Business Insider that after everything is installed in a car during the manufacturing process, a manufacturer would have to be very lucky for everything on a car to be in alignment. ‘If you just abandon [the test], you could potentially have a lot of quality issues with your customers, ‘he said. “Every plant does that … It’s part of finishing the build of the car.’ • I’m shocked. Elon removed a quality and safety test to make his numbers? Incroyable! But wait: There’s more:

On Monday, Tesla announced it had “factory gated” 5,000 cars the week before, reaching its goal.

The employee Business Insider spoke with said the factory-gate distinction is important. They said it means the company most likely reached its goal by finishing cars that had already been through the production line the previous week but were held back for rework, then readying them for factory gating.

Sadly, I didn’t call my shot that Elon would make his number by pulling cars out of inventory. However, credit where credit is due: Turning rework from a problem into a (however fleeting) is GENIUS!

The Bezzle: “Inside Tesla’s Audacious Push to Reinvent the Way Cars Are Made” []. • The article is a sloppy wet kiss from the Times Business Section to Elon Musk, but does include several images of the manufacturing process, including the famous tent:

I’d love to hear what manufacturing mavens in the commentariat have to say about all this, but my immediate reactions are: (1) Look at all the inventory build-up next to the line. I suppose when you’ve got unlimited amounts of stupid money you can afford that, but is that any way to run a plant? (2) What on earth is the person in the Stanford sweatshirt doing, wandering along the line with no protective gear and a drill in the crook of her arm?

The Bezzle: “Let’s Talk About All Those Electric Scooters” []. • A Q&A with Bloomberg columnists Virginia Postrel and Nathaniel Bullard. This question leaped out:

[VIRGINIA POSTREL:] How do you see this concept interacting with regulation and permissionless innovation, especially in the transportation arena, which tends to be highly regulated?

“Permissionless innovation.” Makes tech’s business model today crystal clear, especially when you replace “permissionless” with “illegal,” or, more politely, with “regulatory abitrage.” True for Amazon (sales taxes), Uber (name it), AirBnB (DYI hotels), robot cars, and on and on and on.

The Bezzle: “The Hidden Cost of Touchscreens” []. Important:

In 2012 I tried out a brand new luxury vehicle at a automotive conference. It was a minimalist European model, and nothing seemed out of place — until I tried to use the in-car entertainment system. The whole thing was a monolithic rectangle of reflective, flat glass. The touchscreen software was bizarre and clunky. It took me five steps to pair my phone to the car, and I had to devote all my attention to the display just to figure it out. There were no physical buttons for the basics – like changing the volume or turning on the radio. I couldn’t imagine what it might be like to drive with it at night.

I expressed my frustration to the man sitting next to me. “I can’t believe the company let this thing on the road with this horrible display! It’s as if this entire system was tested in a lab under ideal conditions, but never once on the road with a single confused driver!”/p>

The man started laughing at my outburst. Then he apologized and gave me his card. As it turned out, he was the head of company.

“The quality of the touchscreen is my fault”, he admitted, “we never tested it on the road”. Apparently the management was so convinced that the entertainment system’s blue-tinted, rectangular touchscreen interface was “the future” that the company didn’t even bother using it on the road before releasing it. After all, Tesla had recently debuted (to much acclaim), its first model which boasted a similar touchscreen system.

The whole article is worth a read; we should get rid of the idiotic touchscreens through immediate regulation if need be. The more important point is institutional, and yet another confirmation that Everything Is Like CalPERS. The idiotic CEO — who certainly makes a metric f*ckton of money and has a lot of power in the industry — didn’t even bother to test the touchscreen because, sheep-like, he followed Elon Musk. If the CEOs in the auto industry follows Musk in manufacturing, there are going to be a whole lot of low-quality, dangerous cars, and a whole lot of injured or killed workers before the fever breaks…

Concentration: “AT&T promised lower prices after Time Warner merger—it’s raising them instead” “[]. “AT&T is raising the base price of its DirecTV Now streaming service by $5 per month… Price benefits should flow to consumers quickly, AT&T’s filing [in the AT&T-Time Warner merger case] said. “[C]ertain merger efficiencies will begin exerting downward pressure on consumer prices almost immediately [after the merger]” AT&T wrote…. AT&T attributed its changes to market forces.” • Scratch out “down” and write in “up” and it’s all good!

Concentration: “Surprise, surprise: Comcast is already throttling users” []. “Comcast will begin throttling video speeds to 480p on Comcast mobile plans unless you pay additional fees, the company announced in an email to customers. Comcast’s “unlimited” plan will also restrict mobile hotspot speeds to 600kbps or less. If you pay for data by the gigabyte, you’ll still get full-speed tethering—but you’re charged $12 per gig, so that could quickly add up if you’re streaming high-quality video over your hotspot connection…. Without net neutrality, Comcast and other internet service providers are now legally able to do things like throttling internet speeds without recourse.” • Text is great. Why not forget about streaming high-quality video over the Internet entirely?

Tech: Hurry up, @jack:

I had a very good convo with this weekend at Kanye’s bday and I think he really heard me out on the edit button.

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian)

Five Horsemen: “At late morning, all of the Fab Five are down from their close yesterday” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen July 3 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “On yesterday’s mild market gain, the mania-panic index rose one tick to 34 (worry), even as new lows trounced new highs by 107 to 47” [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 July 2 2018

Rapture Ready: Closes up 1 on Wild Weather. “A massive heat wave has hit the central US” []. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 181.

Police State Watch

“ILLINOIS PRISONERS SPEAK OUT—AND THEN LOSE A CHERISHED DEBATE PROGRAM” []. • Debate is good — for readers who came in late, both Yves and I were debaters — so this is bad.

Class Warfare

“The Oklahoma Primaries Show the Lasting Impact of the Teacher Walkout” []. “Red states such as Oklahoma—with its decade of dramatic cuts to public services and fanatical antagonism to taxes—are often mentioned as leading indicators of the direction in which the whole country may be heading. This primary, which boosted teachers and rejected the current state-level Republican leadership, may be the embodiment of a turn.” • Wierdly agency-free language, despite the headline.

“Thomas Frank – Meat Bone Express podcast (filmmaking of Steve Bannon, Hollywood)” (video). []. • I’m having an awful lot of fun listening to Thomas Frank videos from his Listen, Liberal! book tour; they’re repetitious, but not entirely so. (Frank was also a debater, so he’s fast on his feet.) This one’s from Australia. Incidentally, Frank’s been shut out from all the venues he used to publish at. That’s a fine example supporting the idea that the press is a wee bit more controlled than we think (and an argument to read Frank’s book, since they don’t want you to, and besides it’s fun and excellent).

“Why Sexism and Racism Never Diminish–Even When Everyone Becomes Less Sexist and Racist” []. “The idea that concepts depend on their reference class isn’t new. A short basketball player is tall and a poor American is rich. One might have thought, however, that a blue dot is a blue dot. Blue can be defined by wavelength so unlike a relative concept like short or rich there is some objective reality behind blue even if the boundaries are vague. Nevertheless, in a thought-provoking new paper in Science the all-star team of Levari, Gilbert, Wilson, Sievers, Amodio and Wheatley show that what we identify as blue expands as the prevalence of blue decreases…. The paper also gives us a way of thinking more clearly about shifts in the Overton window. When strong sexism declines, for example, the Overton window shrinks on one end and expands on the other so that what was once not considered sexism at all (e.g. “men and women have different preferences which might explain job choice”) now becomes violently sexist.”

“As Companies Rely on More Branding Elements, the Question Becomes: What is in a Color?” []. “This string of cases also serves to highlight the importance that color has in a brand’s enduring identity and its marketing strategy. In much the same way as a trademark acts as an immediate indicator of the source of a product or service for consumers, color can play an important source-identifying function. And unsurprisingly, just as many brands have been able to monetize the recognizability and appeal of their trademarks, no shortage are looking to color for the very same benefits.”

“People kicking these food delivery robots is an early insight into how cruel humans could be to robots” []. “Amid all the controversy about and , perhaps we should actually be worried about how humans treat tech, rather than the other way around? Besides, after the AI revolution, our little mechanical friends might remember who was doing the kicking.” • Leaving aside the philosophical question of whether it’s even possible to be cruel to a machine, why shouldn’t people kick them? People don’t get their cut from productivity gains, so one more pizza-delivering robot is one less pizza delivery person ing their babies.

News of The Wired

“There’s no grace period for Georgia’s distracted driving law” []. “The act (also known as House Bill 673), which passed the General Assembly in March, prohibits motorists from handling their phones or other electronic devices while driving. You can still talk on the phone – you’ll just have to use a hands-free device.”

“More Americans are considering cutting their ties with the US — here’s why” []. • Worth a read, but shorter: It’s a [family blogging] mess, and probably takes a professional to sort it out. Impossible to stay, impossible to escape. And in not unrelated news–

“Juggalos figured out how to beat facial recognition” []. “[F]acial recognition works by pinpointing the areas of contrast on a human face—for instance, where a nose is located, or where the chin becomes the neck. As it happens, juggalo makeup often involves applying black paint below the mouth, but above the chin. That makes facial recognition vulnerable to misidentifying the placement of the jaw.” • Respect due.

* * *

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 (PM):

PM writes: “Epiphyllum–indoor grown from a cutting. Blossoms once a year.”

* * *

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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.

143 comments

  1. Summer

    Re: Direct TV NOW streaming price increase

    All of the streaming services prices are going up. They don’t call them teaser rates for nothing.
    Silly Wabbits, tricks are for kids.

  2. Jim Haygood

    Well, there they went again — that mysterious of cabal of party poopers who keep turning a higher opening on Wall Street into another dismal loss in the final hour, when the big boys trade.

    Even worse, today was a pre-holiday 3-1/2 hour session, when the seasonality should have been very favorable.

    Worse still was the carnage in America’s brightest hope for an electric-vehicle future. TSLA got a 7.2% shellacking as its beleaguered employees (who had to work last Saturday) down tools for tomorrow’s holiday, slowing production again.

    You’d think something’s wrong.

    1. shinola

      7.2% down. In one short day. Whoa!

      I don’t follow individual stocks much and I assume that TSLA is fairly volatile, but still… this sounds, um, precipitous.

  3. Lambert Strether Post author

    Since tomorrow is a holiday, I did a pantry clear-out of material I hadn’t been able to get it to. So those of you reading this — if any, it’s a slow day — please refresh your browsers.

  4. Rob P

    Applying the theory that Everything Is Like CalPERS at the international level, is there a reason to think that Chinese “trusted officials” are any different or better at what they so than, say, Hank Paulson?

    If the managers of CalPERS fail, they just keep all the money they made and retire (or perhaps make even more money in private equity). If the technocrats managing China’s financial system fail, the consequences will be a lot worse for them. That’s no guarantee of course, but the incentives are better.

  5. zagonostra

    Refer: Realignment and Legitimacy

    For some reason this quote from St. Augustine’s City of God, Chapter 4.—How Like Kingdoms Without Justice are to Robberies, came to mind after reading WC today

    “Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies
    themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of
    a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed
    on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places,
    fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name
    of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of
    covetousness, but by the addition of impunity”

    1. Andrew Watts

      Augustine of Hippo articulated some hard to accept and merciless truth(s) in City of God. It easily came to mind when I read an article about how the social pathology of the present was somehow unique.

      1. zagonostra

        I think most people easily accept there is no Justice – or perhaps the concept has always been shifting, shrinking, expanding and now it just seems so severely diminished that its pulse can scarcely be heard.

        The public mind floats on a sea of meaningless disconnected ephemera…with, small islands of sanity here and there…you’re right the bishop of Hippo was not making any bets on the “City of Men.”

        Rome was sacked and alas our elections were hacked by HRC and the DNC…

  6. Clive

    I once had a one-time-only stint at a leading Japanese car manufacturer’s U.K. production facility (generally referred to as a “transplant”) as an interpreter. It was to help out with a high-level delegation from head office in Japan. I never normally do this because a) I hate doing English to Japanese interpretations, mainly because b) I am not really very good at it. I only agreed to help out because a friend needed a favour, a shaggy dog story, the details of which needn’t detain us here.

    I can’t unfortunately say (as in, give away) much by way of specific information as I had to sign a NDA. But I did get to learn a lot about how a passenger car assembly line operates.

    Suffice to say, the Japanese manufacturer would never, ever run an assembly line like the Tesla Tent.

    By the standards of the industry, it’s not even a production line. It’s a bake sale.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Clive, I worked in a Japanese transplant assembly plant in the US (not an auto plant) which was run exactly like the Tesla tent.

      Not only were liquidated damages were paid for late deliveries, but also the US subcontractor exacted compensation for the poorly conceived procedures and assembly design by the Japanese manufacturer.

      MBWA (Manufacturing By Walking Around) is a formula for losing money. And just as at Tesla, the paint booth was an endless headache and bottleneck.

      Perhaps the only bright spot was some very memorable graffiti and obscene cartoons scrawled inside the stalls in the mens room.

      1. skippy

        Memory’s…

        Part of a delegation sent to sort assembly line dramas over radio face plates, seems a few thousand were destroyed by Union workers. Informing and showing them that the old delcos were actually Jap parts assembled in the land of freedom and liberty was like telling someone their pet was dead.

        What was that movie again with T. Robbins mansplaining to the union workers at the gate again.

        Sorta alike my Graco gear festooned with Americana stickers, until you read the fine print – American made with international parts… chortle….

      2. Lemmy Caution

        According to this Rueters’ , Elon’s style is more like MBYAP (Manufacturing By Yelling At People).

          1. Lemmy Caution

            Sure.
            And so have other tactics such as:

            “a rewrite of the employee attendance policy. After mandatory weekend shifts were assigned, two workers said, Tesla rescinded a policy promising workers at least one week’s notice before weekend work. The manager and supervisor are verbally going around and saying: ‘If you don’t come in, you’ll be written up’,” one of the workers told Reuters last week.

            and

            “They said starting tomorrow be prepared to work up to 12 hours,” said the Model S employee on Monday. “It’s going to be basically 12 hours from now on and I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be six days a week.”

            and

            “One employee said they were told to keep working until they met their daily production mark, not when their shifts ended.”

            Just cause it’s a thing doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.

            1. JTMcPhee

              Which is why I mentioned it at alll. I see from earlier NC posts that the renascent German Empire is also imposing a 12-hour workday.

              So it goes.

      3. Carolinian

        The NYT article–which struck me as balanced, not a puff piece–quotes Musk as saying the tent assembly line is the one with the fewest errors and lowest cost per car. He admits his robot obsession may have been a big mistake.

        Since I’m not planning on buying a Tesla I’m not that concerned about how Musk makes his cars but presumably most of his customers understand what they are getting and that this is a newish company, not one that has been manufacturing for decades. Doubtless the cars do have warranties and those buying them aren’t all silly poseurs (although there’s a great Swedish satire called The Square that involves a Tesla and just such an owner).

        1. kgw

          Went out to eat with my siblings, and as I was about to park, I realized it would be next to a Tesla…Picked another spot! No reason for my car to go up in flames! ;~)

          1. FluffytheObeseCat

            Consider not using gasoline. It’s at least as dangerous as lithium ion batteries.

      4. Jean

        What inventory? It’s a bunch of nearly empty containers…She’s using the drill to mix tea?

    2. flora

      Bake sale. ha! I won’t be surprised if Elon pitches his beta test assembly line process as “bespoke, artisanal custom cars”, or some such. heh.

      (great links today, by the way.)

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Elon says that 20% of production happened because of the tent. Now that I think of it, maybe that means they ran the rework through the tent. This photo from the Times — the very first one in the story! — would support that speculaion:

      1. Larry

        That’s a frame, not rework. Likely finishing work after paint. But the thesis that Elon made the number by holding back rework is sound. The employee leaks are telling on this aspect and others.

  7. Mark Gisleson

    That’s not a factory, that’s an arts and crafts fair.

    Many kinds of assembly plants but this is the first I’ve seen that didn’t look crazy dangerous to work in. The dangerous vibe is what keeps workers focused which lowers injury rates because you can never forget you are working in a hostile setting. Working with steel is nothing like clean room electronics manufacturing. Steel is dirty and dangerous.

    I’d love to see other parts of the plant. There appears to be some kind of overhead lift system further back in the line, but this is clearly final assembly turf with nothing heavier than doors or side panels being installed.

    The inventory area looks very temporary. In factories everything has its place and that place reflects what is stored there. I suspect their inventory moves around a bit and can be illusive to find. Metal bins are cheap, don’t move around, and you can always find what you’re looking for. Can think of no good reason for an assembly line not to have permanent storage areas. The job doesn’t change from day to day and this all looks very impermanent.

    Workers in tennis shoes? How is that possible? Steel toes are not mandatory, but strong leather boots are. You can’t tell me Tesla workers NEVER drop anything. No one’s wearing shorts so clearly there are some common sense rules (that or most workers pass through welding areas and have learned the hard way.

    The Mattel doll warehouse I worked in was 1000% more industrial looking. If it weren’t for the actual cars, I would think this was a big flea market. B

    Anyhow, made me look and here’s a video of the Tesla process I found that looks like an actual factory. Impressed by how clean everything is but then every factory was clean once upon a time.

    1. Clive

      “arts and crafts fair” Ha! I was trying to come up with an apt description and settled for the one I used above. But yours is much better. I also considered “the electricals aisle at WalMart on Black Friday”.

      One thing I will add, which your description reminded me about. The car plant I mentioned was scrupulously clean. The car maker paid a lot of attention to indoor air quality and prevention of outside air infiltration (the reasons for which I can’t spell out, but readers will probably be able to work out for themselves). Securing the building envelope was an essential maintenance headache and certain key sections had to have positive building pressure conditions at all times otherwise the line had to stop.

      That tent has all the cleanliness, hermetic sealing and air tightness properties of a dog shaking itself dry after jumping into a pond.

      1. Mark Gisleson

        In truth I never worked in an auto plant, just a tire factory (a clean tire factory would totally blow my mind). The video impressed me, but I can’t imagine the production hours that go into keeping robotic equipment clean (necessary) and functioning ‘perfectly.’

      2. bassmule

        20 years ago I got to tour Honda’s Marysville OH plant. You could eat off the floor.

    2. Lemmy Caution

      That image of Elon’s big top raises another question — what are they doing to control dust, since it’s open to the elements at the end? Furthermore, OSHA has all kinds of air filtration and air quaility regulations governing manufacturing facilities, since many of the processes create toxic fumes or generate micro contaminents or other harmful byproducts. Where are the giant air handling systems you typically see on factory roofs? A guess a couple of big fans ought to do the trick, eh?

      1. JTMcPhee

        OSHA is another toothless tabby —weak since Reagan, worse under the Bush League and Obomber. “We operate on the expectation of voluntary compliance,” sez the enforcement documentation. A dated review by GAO: “ WORKPLACE SAFETY AND HEALTH — OSHA’s Voluntary Compliance Strategies Show Promising Results, but Should Be Fully Evaluated before They Are Expanded“

        And of course Mush benefits from “the impunity of great wealth…”

    3. c_heale

      “Clean rooms” are also dangerous to work in.

      They are only clean to keep the circuit boards clean, the workers aren’t protected.

      1. BobW

        I worked as an equipment maintenance tech in an integrated circuit manufacturing plant (a “wafer fab”) in Mesa Arizona during the 1980s. I do recall a distinct taste in my mouth when working around the arsenic spinner. Lots of “dust.” Of course, I was just a “black badge,” a temporary worker.

    4. Mo's Bike Shop

      The dangerous vibe is what keeps workers focused

      In my father’s jobber machine shop, he finally got an upright bandsaw. But his reticence was mostly about the dangers to the local kids who ‘wanted to learn how to use machines.’ So the first thing he cut with it was a heavy hard rubber glove, severing all four fingers, and threw it into the corner behind the saw. Of course, if you wanted to learn, you had to help clean up. So long before you got to use the bandsaw, you had been sweeping up and returning the severed glove to it’s place.

  8. Dean

    First pop-up shops and now pop-up assembly lines.

    Dumb question…why did a pop-up manufacturing tent need to be installed?

    To my nonsed, untrained eye, this is an indication of poor planning and being reactive, not cutting edge. For a long time The Great Elon told us they’d hit their weekly number. Did they not know their existing, permanent facility would not be large enough to accommodate a sustained, increased production level?

  9. Chauncey Gardiner

    40 percent of the company’s workers, over 100 employees, were laid off at REC Silicon yesterday as a result of an ongoing solar trade dispute with China, and a poster child for both historical US trade policy and the adverse effects of foreign tariffs. The company is a major employer in the small cities of Moses Lake, Washington and Butte, Montana, so likely severe indirect implications for these communities and nearby small towns as well. The company manufactures polysilicon, which is a key element in the manufacture of solar panels.

  10. drumlin woodchuckles

    The Serve America Movement. hmmmm . . . .

    To Serve America . . . . It’s a cookbook!

    1. JBird

      Careful there. You might give them ideas. They must do something with the sur population; why not just use it to “serve” the useful ones?

      What with climate change, the servants might be having a food shortage eventually.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I liked the little “SAM” buttons they showed in the article. I think they would look really neat with that “circle-slash” symbol pasted over them.

  11. ambrit

    Re the Comcast skulduggery; I’m dreading when the plain internet service price is going to be raised. We’re already paying $49.95 a month for mediocre service, and the “competition” is AT&T WiFi! I wonder if I could talk the neighbours into a Community Broadband account?

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      Last week a friend who has Comcast told me their service was out all over a major portion of the coverage area. I commented they were probably doing major infrastructure changes prior to initiating various service skullduggery no net neutrality need no longer be observed. Rather than do it piecemeal over time, they just decided, since they no longer need consider their customers other than as revenue sources, it was simpler to crash the system and do it all at once.

      Am I psychic?

      1. ambrit

        Psychic? No, you just have a big career ahead of you in ‘media.’
        What I worry about is not so much the throttling effects of the “Bigger Is Better” movement, but the fall off in citizen participation due to fees outstripping available financial resources for a larger and larger segment of the public. We can barely afford a phone and internet at under a hundred dollars a month. I recently was working with younger people who were spending two and three hundred dollars a month for mobile internet and phone. When these young people eventually are faced with the choice of mobile devices or rent and food, the fall out effects on the telecommunications ‘media’ companies will be massive.

    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      I’m on DSL since I quit dial up and dropped my land line. Plenty of speed for me. I’m feeling protective of my copper. Is anyone doing an informative site on how to best stay in the mildly better regulated world of real phone lines? I might invest in a landline (haven’t checked the price) for more certainty about my provider.

      1. ambrit

        Where we are, the actual land lines themselves are being abandoned by the companies that formerly relied on them. This is a case of when it’s gone, we’re all screwed.

      2. Pat

        Small company I work for has been without a working landline in NYC for well over 9 months. Cable problems. Verizon supplied a cell link and gave an estimate of three months for repair. That became another two months. And repeat. The DSL service miraculously remained functional for over six months. Now out and after a month they supplied a hot spot WITH data caps. They have missed two completion deadlines on that.
        The problem is that Verizon wants to lose as much copper as possible before the state’s requirement to keep AND maintain it kicks in. These buildings have not had fiber installed so they can’t just switch people. Next.problem is they are filled with a lot of old people who don’t want to give up.their old fashioned landlines. So despite making it as bad as they can, they haven’t managed to drive everyone to Spectrum even offering little or no consideration for retention. The best for me was a notice last week that after almost six weeks of NO internet at all they needed to raise their rates in order to keep providing their exceptional service.

        And then there is Yves story.

        Good luck with the copper. I hope.you can keep.it.

  12. Sid Finster

    Re;: AOS.

    While I am pleasantly surprised to see how far she has come, she hasn’t even taken office yet, so let’s hold off on the victory lap for now.

  13. JohnnyGL

    Here’s an AMLO round up of stuff I’ve read/listened to:

    – Morena Party got majorities in both houses of Congress in Mexico. Seems like a big deal.

    – Thom Hartmann
    – Democracy Now w/ John Ackerman and Irma Sandoval
    – Democracy Now w/ prof Christy Thornton

  14. Scott

    The earlier link about Trump and trade discusses the lawsuit pending that states that Congress delegating the power over tariffs is unconstitutional. I think this idea has some merit; however, I don’t think the same people would view the same thing towards war, such as the AUMF, to be unconstitutional for the same reason or that trade deals like NAFTA are unconstitutional because they are written to avoid being called treaties (which they are) because they didn’t have the 2/3 vote in the Senate to get it passed.

  15. Chauncey Gardiner

    Re the “Five Horsemen of the Techpocalypse”, FANG — the Amazon and Big Tech Sanctuary City market oasis under siege from a tribe of Shorts, is bursting at its seams from a flood of migrant refugees from other sectors. Will there be sufficient food for everyone inside the city’s walls, or will the desert outpost capitulate?… We breathlessly await the outcome of the battle which appears to depend on the adequacy of tactics and diversion mechanisms of the city’s rulers and capital inflows from the distant Capitol District continuing to reach the city in sufficient time to prevent a breach of the walls.

    Despite their modest losses in this morning’s brief engagement, so far the defenders of the status quo have been able to prevail. A legendary leader of the Shorts, a man renowned for his strategic decisions, has reportedly been wounded and the defenders able to capture many of the Shorts’ weapons:

    However, questions do remain about the city’s long-term viability in an era of climate change. Historically, communities of desert outliers have not fared well due to their dependence on trade with other sectors. Too, other cities have fallen when disease-ridden corpses were catapulted over their walls or they suffered from other vectors of pestilence and plague.

    1. Jim Haygood

      When the Five Horsemen of the Techpocalypse are combined in proportion to their free-float weights, the resulting five-member index is called FAAMA (Facebook Apple Alphabet Microsoft Amazon) … which happens to rhyme with the surname of a famous finance professor.

      Though we usually chart its members individually to observe which one will fold first, the combined FAAMA index (published today for the first time) is also of interest. Chart:

      If FAAMA (red line) ever converges with SPY (black line), Bubble III will be in deep, deep trouble.

      Save our city
      Save our city
      Right now

      Well I woke up this morning, I got myself a beer
      Well I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer
      The future’s uncertain and the end is always near

      — The Doors, Roadhouse Blues

        1. Jim Haygood

          Yes — the FAAMA stocks’ combined weight in the S&P 500 is 15.3%.

          Here’s what happened during the last nine months of Bubble I, and the aftermath:

          Tech falling apart in late 2000 gave a relatively timely warning that the S&P 500 was headed for trouble too.

      1. Chauncey Gardiner

        OMG, what a beautiful catch!… Eugene FAMA, of course. He of the Efficient Markets Theory, where investors are always rational and markets accurately reflect all known information. Wonder if he recalls the GFC of 2008-09?

        “Well, show me the way to the next whisky bar. Oh, don’t ask why.” Maybe I’ll see some of those of the behavioral finance persuasion, steeped in gold from their Sveriges Riksbank’s Prize in Economic Sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel, across the overly crowded room.

        Btw, depending on the placement of FAAMA syllables, doesn’t the acronym also rhyme with the name of a former president?

        1. Jim Haygood

          We were all young and naive in the 1960s, during the green grass and high tides of Efficient Market Theory. But Eugene Fama has moved on:

          David Booth, chairman and co-CEO of Dimensional Fund Advisors, has been working with Eugene Fama since the mid-1960s.

          David was a PhD student in Gene’s class and later asked Gene to become a board member when Dimensional Fund Advisors got off the ground in 1981.

          Gene is the principal scholar whose groundbreaking work inspired the firm’s founding, continues to advise the firm on many of its strategies, and is also a frequent speaker at Dimensional conferences and seminars.

          One has to think that with his wagon hitched to DFA, professor Fama has done rather well in the real world outside the ivory tower.

      2. Tony Wright

        More lyrics from the same great song:
        “Keep your eyes on the road,
        Keep your hands up on the wheel…”
        Sage advice for the US Fed maybe, but I have my doubts given the “everything bubble” they have created….
        Fasten seat belts, the next couple of years or so could be pretty rough.

  16. JCC

    Lambert,

    Last year in response to a link regarding Sirius/XM and customer service, I mentioned my experience with their abysmal phone support. You mentioned in response, “Why aren’t you just listening to podcasts?!?”.

    Well, this year renewal time came up. A 77% increase in price from 90/yr to 160/yr finally made me see the error of my ways.

    But their service is still abysmal. It took 4 times today, on hold and three different “Customer Service” people, to remind that I was a “valued customer” for a total of 35 minutes, and haggling over the exact same price (this time with the “convenience of automatic renewal”), over and over again, to finally get them to accept the fact that I was done with them once and for all.

    On the bright side, compared to last year’s time spent of well over 1.5 hours to straighten out a billing problem, this time it only took 35 minutes to cancel a simple subscription, so I guess that one year 77% increase improved their service… a little.

    I’m glad I don’t use Comcast for my home service, but I expect that MediaCom will be jumping on the bandwagon soon enough.

  17. MC

    Regarding AOC: The takes are too damn spicy. her Victory is positive both materially and to demonstrate where consciousness is. she herself seems like a competent and principled politician. It would have been nice to know that shade of lipstick before it sold out (she and I have similar colors). But the limitations of operating within the Dems, even under the DSA banner and many, perhaps especially in Congress. We don’t know if she has a base of power to pull them leftward in a principled manner to attain real wins. There are a lot of open questions, settle the hell down everyone. Observe and reserve your judgement.
    And that’s coming from a person who is a member of one of those alphabet soup orgs of yore.

    1. freedomny

      Well apparently even Paul K is warming up to a certain extent:

      So here’s my take: The left needed a win psychologically. And we got it. Not only that – she’s really smart, has a great sense of humor and is morally committed to a more just America and world. She also happens to be an amazing salesperson (and for anyone who doesn’t like salespeople a reminder that Jesus was also a amazing one). Bottom line – she is really hard NOT to like and I believe she is part of a domino effect. Is it too spicy-too much media…could be to some but maybe not in the context of political history. Look what Bernie did. This is a 28 year old who grew up on the internet and social media….she is going (and has to) be out there. We need all the smart, moral people out there we can get. And if she fucks up – call her out. Ro K did and look what happened….

      It’s all good and it’s ok to have hope.

      BTW – did anyone see the #secondcivilwarletters trending on . So funny….like laugh out loud funny

        1. Richard

          I agree. AOC, for all her virtues, is still a dem, and will be pullled at by every baneful influence that inhabits that zombie behemoth of a party. She’s the best thing to happen in a long time, but, and this is important people, to the worst thing in the world. I’m not sure that last part is an exaggeration.
          I am a little encouraged, will watch her with interest, and not an inch closer to seeing any real use the people will ever get out of the dems. We spend way too much time worrying about them.

        2. Big River Bandido

          In order to stay true, AOC will need lots of friends to support her in her new job. Up to us…

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Speaking of Paul Krugman:

        This one always stuck with me. Krugman's taxonomy of the 4 possible kinds of Bernie supporters:

        — Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo)


        So I wonder where AOC and her supporters fit into the Good Professor’s conceptual framework (but see below)…

        1. freedomny

          I don’t fit in to any of those categories…Nor do the people who worked on AOC’s campaign that I personally met. My “team leader” the last day was a young kid who worked with homeless people…trying to get them off the streets and into permanent housing. To put people into a “box” or “category” is foolish.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Krugman is hoping to con any Bernie/AOC supporter who reads his article into placing themSELVES into one of those so-called “categories”. In other words, he is trying to manipulate their minds without seeming to do so.

            They should regard Krugman as a brain succubus.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Well apparently even Paul K is warming up to a certain extent:

        As I wrote:

        [R]emember: Perez et al. [including Krugman] have no other way to think than identity politics. Reasoning from Perez’s premises, since AOC is young, a woman, and Latinx — i.e., part of the so-called “coalition of the ascendant” — she must be the future of the Democrats. Because she already is!

        “She fits the description.” Liberals — and listening to Thomas Frank has really hammered this home for me — deeply believe in identity politics. For Krugman, AOC cannot but be on the side of the angels (exactly as for them Obama had to be).

        1. scarno

          Not exactly. Liberal elites deeply believe that idpol will popularize the policy outcomes that they cherish, and they have a few decades of positive marketing results that support their belief. They have never been confused about what those policy outcomes are, or how idpol functions in the power schematic that preserves and advances them. If AOC does more than just talk about different policies, and takes that seat, and then attempts to create a power schematic that materially assists the class they despise, they will turn on her.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            if it plays out that way, maybe she can figure out how to make their turning on her into looking like a turning on her base.

            ” Why do you hate babies?”
            “Why do you hate young mothers?”
            ” Why do you hate good minimum-wage jobs at good minimum wages?”

        2. john buell

          Krugman does have some egalitarian impulses. Though he relies on the questionable IS/LM, he nonetheless ends up supporting fiscal policy to create jobs and speed economic growth. He has been critical of Eurozone austerity. He also argues the FED should err on the side of overstimulating. In addition he has long been concerned with the deleterious effects of long term unemployment. Nonetheless, how he ended up so thoroughly trashing Sanders is a sad commentary on his overall legacy.

      3. Moreland

        Nearly sprayed my (first cup of a bleary-eyed morning) coffee here. I mistook the text following the Krugman link to be from the Krugman article. And when I saw …

        “The left needed a win psychologically. And we got it.”

        … well … :-)

  18. Plenue

    Russiagate comes back for another round with Aaron Maté. I think it does even worse this time around, with nothing but appeals to authority. Isikoff comes off as something of an unhinged crazy man as he starts to get flustered and exasperated that Maté doesn’t just blindly accept the verdict of The Powers That Be.

    1. Byron the Light Bulb

      The only person in jail for Russian election hacking is the American [Reality Winner] who tried to tell us about it. She plead guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. Section 793(e) by “unauthorized possession of […] any document […] relating to the national defense […] which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.” And “willfully communicates” that document, describing “Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election by hacking a U.S. voting software supplier and sending spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before the November 8 election.” Therefore, if this document was not genuine, and the information does not damage this Administration, but rather, vindicates this Administration’s claims, Winner’s defense counsel missed an exonerating affirmative defense. But it was no hoax.

    2. J

      I watched that yesterday. It was much better than the train-wreck interview with Luke Harding (who came off as a joke).

      Isikoff held up better, but was apoplectic that Mate stayed skeptical and cast doubt.

      The thing is, there seem to be negotiations with Russian oligarchs that don’t really quite lead anywhere concrete. There’s no clear money trail, there’s no clear connection with the Russian government.

      When you compare to….1) past presidents that have ACTUALLY conspired to commit treason (Reagan and Nixon), then you realize how flimsy the evidence for Russia-gate really is. Nixon was recorded on tape telling S. Vietnam to hold out for a better deal, post-election. Consortiumnews wrote in depth stories on the dealings Reagan had with Iranian leaders which the Iranian leaders THEMSELVES said took place. There’s no equivalent Russian counterparts saying, “yes, we conspired with Trump”.

    3. JohnnyGL

      I watched that yesterday. It was much better than the train-wreck interview with Luke Harding (who came off as a joke).

      Isikoff held up better, but was apoplectic that Mate stayed skeptical and cast doubt.

      The thing is, there seem to be negotiations with Russian oligarchs that don’t really quite lead anywhere concrete. There’s no clear money trail, there’s no clear connection with the Russian government.

      When you compare to….1) past presidents that have ACTUALLY conspired to commit treason (Reagan and Nixon), then you realize how flimsy the evidence for Russia-gate really is. Nixon was recorded on tape telling S. Vietnam to hold out for a better deal, post-election. Consortiumnews wrote in depth stories on the dealings Reagan had with Iranian leaders which the Iranian leaders THEMSELVES said took place. There’s no equivalent Russian counterparts saying, “yes, we conspired with Trump”.
      2) When you compare the evidence against the case for Trump conspiring with China, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc….any and all of those cases for conspiracy are MUCH stronger.

    4. integer

      Always fun watching Aaron Maté go toe to toe with a Russiagate conspiracy theorist. One of the comments from the YouTube comments section contains a thorough debunking of Isikoff’s claims that I think is worth sharing. it is:

      Stranger Happened
      23 hours ago (edited)

      CORRECTIONS to Michael Isikoff’s statements in the interview (10 points):

      1. the Azerbaijani richman Agalarov Michael talks about is neither an oligarch (and he never was; besides, he is too “poor” among Russian richmen) nor “close to Putin” (unlike people who are actually close to Putin: Timchenko, the Rotenberg brother, the Kovalchuk brothers).

      2. Putin was not just “intervening in Ukraine”, he was RESPONDING to a Western-backed regime change coup there, carried out with the use of literal neo-Nazis. The usurper regime then has sent these neo-Nazis to the east of the country to subjugate/kill those who did not accept the coup, who were still aligned with the legal government.

      3. Alexander Torshin was also never “close to Putin”, and his ing the Trump campaign is usual business as the guy deals with international politics for many years (mostly in the Russian parliament). Also, both Obama and Hillary campaigns were in with the Russian government, and somehow it was not treacherous. Nothing to do with helping to cultivate Trump, Hillary or Obama.

      4. Lifting the Magnitsky sanctions was never at the top of the Russian government’s agenda. It was a minor nuisance that never had any significant impact on Russia. It was a serious business, though, for the Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya and her client who was sanctioned by proxy by the law since 2013. No connection to the government in this case.

      5. Veselnitskaya has never worked with the FSB and has never represented them. The FSB was not sued to begin with, so they need no representation. Isikoff is probably confusing the FSB with the Russian prosecution who was adviced by Veselnitskaya on the international law where it intersects with dealing with the Russian citizens and international investigations, and in regards to how the Magnitsky act affects all of this. (It was stressed though that Veselntiskaya has not acted on behalf of the Russian prosecution, she was informing/advising them, not vice versa.)

      6. The USA’s parliament members from Intelligence Committees who have seen the classified version of the Assessment about the “hacking” say there is no definitive evidence of it. Even more: so far there is no evidence that the “hacking” has even happened. The DNC has refused to allow inspection of its servers and networks either by the FBI or any other independent researchers and investigators. On the contrary, there is a lot of technical “evidence” that was provided by the DNC-hired pay-to-attribute firm CrowdStrike (founded by a NATO-funded Atlantic Council fellow Alperovich) that indicates the opposite, that there was no “hack”. And these are real experts opposing the narrative that Michael claims do not exist.

      7. The stress on Republicans believing in the secret evidence as some sort of confirmation that it exists is not a real argument as most of Republicans (just as Democrats) are neocon establishment first, not Republicans. They all are against Trump and pro-Cold War, pro-war mongering, pro-fear-mongering, pro-xenophobia (also pro-totalitarian spying, pro-torture — except for MacCain, pro-regime change coups and proxy wars).

      8. Clapper is a public anti-Russian xenophobe that repeatedly claimed that Russians are “almost” genetically predisposed to sabotage, so him hand-choosing experts to compile the Assessment report (even the secret version of which people from the IC Senate say still has no evidence) is a way to explain why there were no dissenting opinions within the intelligence community. This is not a National Intelligence Estimation where it is required by the law that dissenting opinions must be filed and where a wide range of experts are allowed to examine the case. So in the case of this Assessment there simply were no people who could have become the whistleblowers Michael says did not come out, unlike the case of Bush’s NIE about Iraq having WMDs and ties to Al-Qaeda.

      9. The argument that the secret “evidence” about the “hacking” is so overwhelming that “everybody bought in to” does not work as Aaron mentions it, indeed, during the Bush-era both Republicans and Democrats and every talking head, pundit and “expert” both on papers and on TV were 100% sure that Iraq has WMDs and ties to al-Qaeda, and they cited the Bush’s NIE which had the signatures of the CIA, the NSA, and the FBI in it.

      10. Michael’s claim that he and his book “do not carry water for any side” is just false as he has willfully chosen to be used by the Democrats and the Ukrainian Nazi-esque regime to leak “dirt” on Trump through a high profile Ukrainian Democrat campaign staffer Alexandra Chalupa (who has also helped with the corrupt Clinton Foundation get bribed by the Ukrainian regime).

  19. Kurtismayfield

    RE: Comcast Throttling

    I believe Verizon already does this:

    And since Comcast gets it’s mobile data from

    The service, expected to launch in mid-2017, will run atop Verizon’s cellular network as well as on Comcast’s 16 million Wi-Fi hotspots, and it will only be available to existing Comcast customers.

    It might be something that both companies agreed to. Or something that Verizon made happen.

  20. Richard

    RE Do You Want To Buy A Socialist Newspaper . Is asking people to block you kind of a “thing” on , if they are annoying you with very tired fear mongering talking points? Or just annoying you? I hope not, because I want to believe DYWTBASN invented it, so he can be my new hero. Superbly deflationary in his usage.

    1. Plenue

      I’ve never seen anyone actively asking to be blocked before. Usually it’s not something you have to deliberately seek out anyway; people do it at the drop of a hat. Which I find to be a pretty amazing phenomenon, because here you have what is one of the few (possibly the only) truly good parts of ‘Web 2.0’, a democratic platform that allows anyone to directly communicate with anyone else…and people voluntarily engage in censorship to reduce it to an echo chamber.

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        Try reading it without an account. It is an excellent reminder that democracy really is quite a pain in the ass.

        Grew up with New England town meetings. Love em’, but boy howdy.

  21. Carolinian

    The BAR article on Ocasio-Cortez is by Bruce Dixon. His larger point is that without a strong issue oriented party in the background then candidate promises mean very little when they finally take office.

    Truthout recently had an interview with Chomsky where he says that a last minute surge of donor money was the real reason Trump won and that Repub congressional candidates showed the same last minute surge. The message being: it therefore wasn’t Comey or Russia and it’s still all about money.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks, fixed! (I also mixed up Margaret Kimberly, who had written or tweeted earlier on AOC, with CalPERS’ Margaret Brown. Fifty lashes with a wet noodle for Lambert!)

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        51. I couldn’t figure out who Stephanie Miller of SAM was. Turns out its former Syracuse mayor, Stephanie Miner. Now it all makes sense. Though I don’t think she is running at Cuomo’s behest. I thought she hated him and he her.

  22. Summer

    “Leaving aside the philosophical question of whether it’s even possible to be cruel to a machine, why shouldn’t people kick them?”

    I’ll put it like this: It’s full steam ahead on designing robots that can KILL people.
    So no I’m not shedding a tear or worrying over people kicking robots or any machine.

    No, you can’t be cruel to a robot or a car. Yoi can be destructive to inanimate objects. That is once again a mind game to attribute human qualities to something that does not have them. It’s right up there with equating vandalism with violence.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Let’s teach those robots how to play hardball.
      Let’s teach those little fellas a little gratitude.

      –Laurie Anderson

      Been an earworm this week.

  23. hemeantwell

    The ideology article is largely a rehash of points that Phil Converse and others have been making since the mid-60s. (I can’t be bothered any more with the stats he laboriously presents, but his wind-up discussion seems to add nothing new.) Yes, most people’s issue positions are not guided by a coherent ideological framework. But just how that translates into politics as we know it and want it to be is unclear. What we are facing is an electorate that, under increasing economic pressure (variously defined), is becoming less and less willing to count on catch-all configured parties to represent their interests. Whether or not this translates into greater ideological rigor may not matter much if what is developing is the demand that parties commit themselves to positions on a few main issues that the parties are reluctant to do because of their capture by, uh, capital. E.g. it’s likely that most people don’t give a damn if jobs are privately generated or come about through state-directed investment. But elites sure do.

    And it also should be kept in mind that Converse’s early 60s findings reflected the muddle of a sorta welfare capitalist social order mediated by sloshy catch-all politics. E.g. when Eisenhower was ridiculing people in his party for not acknowledging unions’ right to exist, that tends to put a damper on polarization.

    1. Grebo

      Apparently there are some latter-day psychologists who think that most people are ideological and that that is what determines their voting.

      Since they think there are two kinds of ideology—conservative and liberal—I can only conclude that they don’t know what ideology means, or much else about politics either.

  24. marym

    The Whitening: Asylum

    Rights advocates say the new directive prevents migrant parents who were separated from their kids under zero tolerance from asking for asylum in the U.S.

    After a court order to reunite more than 2,000 migrant children who were separated from their parents in May and June, the Trump administration has instructed immigration agents to give those parents two options: leave the country with your kids — or leave the country without them, according to a copy of a government form obtained by NBC News.

    Advocates say that even migrants who have already passed their initial asylum screenings are being presented with the form. 

    (Time stamps on above post are a few hours in the future ??? but NBC the story a few hours ago)

    The Whitening: Legal immigration

    Legal immigration from all Muslim-majority countries is on track to fall by nearly a third.

    The number of immigrant visas granted to people from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, China, India, Vietnam, Haiti, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Pakistan and Afghanistan has also declined.

    The number of immigrant visas approved for Africans is on pace to fall 15 percent.

    Meanwhile, the flow of legal immigrants from Europe has increased slightly…

    But the Trump administration has managed to effect significant changes in immigration without Congress, in part by relying on administrative guidance handed down to consular officials to change the way immigrant visas are considered and processed… The result is a shift in the legal immigration process in line with the vision of Miller , the adviser who officials say sits at the helm of immigration policy decisions.

    1. todde

      “Even if the [immigration] law is executed with perfection, there will be parents separated from their children,” White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Muñoz told us when we interviewed for her our recent film Lost in Detention.

      And while she stressed that the solution is comprehensive immigration reform, a new report from the Applied Research Center [ARC], which advocates for immigration reform, has found that, in the meantime, an increasing number of children are being placed into foster care when a parent is deported.

      At least 5,100 children in 22 states are currently in foster care, and if the current pace of deportations continue, ARC expects that number to rise to 15,000 children in the next five years. Nearly 397,000 people were deported in fiscal year 2011 — up from more than 392,000 in 2010. Since Obama took office, his administration has deported more than a million people.

      1. marym

        Although the circumstances and numbers of separations is greatly increasing, as you point out, this didn’t just start with Trump; and more scrutiny is needed of what’s happening along the shelter, foster care, and adoption pipeline.

        1. todde

          there was a documentary called lost in detention that was out about 5 years ago. It did I good job of detailing the abuses.

          I ran away from home when I was a kid. it’s been a problem for a while.

          1. marym

            A little bit of “blame the mean Republicans” even in the introductory blurb for the documentary.

            I was commenting mostly about issues getting some attention right now as far as immigrant children, but knowing they’re not the only at risk children that our society is failing to protect.

    2. David

      The Whitening: Legal immigration

      Meanwhile, the flow of legal immigrants from Europe has increased slightly…

      Under the State Departments category, Europe includes Albania, Armenia, Moldova, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan; where the majority of European Diversity visas are granted.

      The overwhelming majority of immigrant visas issued () were for relatives of U.S. citizens. The Diversity Visas were less than 10% of all immigrant visas granted.

      The 2018 overall visa numbers are projected to be on par with the 2008 – 2014 numbers. ()

      1. marym

        Trump wants to eliminate the diversity lottery and place further restrictions on family migration. Both changes were in which were defeated in the House last week.

        The and are consistently misrepresented by immigration opponents, including Trump, as to how they actually work.

  25. Jim Haygood

    And the fix is in, during a pre-holiday lull in the news cycle:

    Alex Pappas
    @AlexPappas

    Break: Ex-Dem IT aide Imran Awan pleads guilty to loan application fraud in federal court, as part of plea agreement. Prosecutors drop charges against his wife. Prosecutors say they investigated allegations of improper behavior in Awan’s Congress role, but will bring no charges.

    10:52 AM – Jul 3, 2018

    This is like letting a mass shooter plead guilty to a parking violation. Watch Repubs go berserko as DOJ proves again that it’s just not interested in certain flagrant crimes.

    1. allan

      “This is like letting a mass shooter plead guilty to a parking violation.”

      Or just maybe it’s like letting

      … As part of an agreement with prosecutors, Imran Awan pleaded guilty to a relatively minor offense unrelated to his work on Capitol Hill: making a false statement on a bank loan application. U.S. prosecutors said they would not recommend jail time.

      But the agreement included an unusual passage that described the scope of the investigation and cleared Awan of a litany of conspiracy theories promulgated on Internet blogs, picked up by right-leaning news sites and fanned by Trump on Twitter.

      “The Government has uncovered no evidence that your client violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems,” including stealing equipment or illegally accessing or transferring information, prosecutors wrote in an 11-page plea agreement dated and signed Tuesday. …

      It’s hard to see your favorite conspiracy theory die young.

      And early though the CT grows
      It withers quicker than the rose.

      1. Sid Finster

        If there is in fact, a cover-up (as the conspiracy theories allege), citing the plea agreement as evidence that there is no cover-up sounds like circular reasoning at best.

        Next, you’ll be telling us that HRC’s server did not violate any law because Comey told us so, even there is abundant evidence that the investigation was a sham intended to reach a predetermined outcome, even to the point where Comey misstated the applicable law so as to justify the desired conclusion.

        1. allan

          From the article:

          The office that conducted the investigation is led by Trump-nominated
          U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu.

          I don’t think that there’s anything more to say.

          P.S. How’s Pizz*g*te working for you?

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      But this is the Jeff Sessions department of justice doing this plea deal. Why would Jeff Sessions support this?

  26. PKMKII

    Regarding AOC’s lipstick: I’ve been consuming much more stories on her than the misses has. However, she was the one who informed me of the lipstick story. So if she’s getting press in the fashion media, can’t say that’s a bad thing. Coverage outside the bubble, as it were.

  27. Qrys

    • As I keep saying, the Overton Window is dead, Jim. There is not a spectrum between conservative and liberal. There are three forces at play: Liberal, conservative, and left. A plane, not a line.

    So it’s more like the Overton Ouija Board, then. ☀︎ YES ☪ NO ✪ GOOD BYE

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Perhaps each of the three planes has its own Overton Window. If so, one wonders if shifts in one of the Overton Windows will induce counter-shifts in one or more of the other two Overton Windows. One wonders if there will be Spooky Overton Window Action at a distance.

  28. Summer

    “Amid all the controversy about Google weaponising AI and fears over Boston Dynamics’ door-opening robot dogs, perhaps we should actually be worried about how humans treat tech, rather than the other way around?”

    Not really. I would never give a rat’s about a robot.
    Kick away.

    1. Carey

      Just the Overlords’ little way of helping us remember what’s important, i.e. that their machines have primacy over the Little People.

      They never stop softening us up.

    2. ambrit

      Kick away, but wear steel toe boots to kick with. (In the spirit of efficiency. Plus: ‘Save Our Toes.’)

    3. JTMcPhee

      There were good reasons why there were Luddites way back when, and that the notion persists: human scale, human values, human worth. Rememberingof course, that there are a lot of really crappy humans.

    4. Angie Neer

      Anybody see the movie “A.I.”? It presents a future in which robots are indistinguishable from humans. Some people in the movie want to erase the line between robot and human, for example to replace a lost child. Others want the line to be bright and inviolable, so much so that they hold demolition derby-like spectacles where they tear the humanoid robots to pieces. Now, I’m not a fan of mindless violence, but count me among those who would kick a robot just to remind myself that I value humans more. Especially since the motive behind making robots more human is usually to put a friendly face on crass commercialism. I even resent it when a piece of software makes me choose a button that says “No, Thanks” in order to turn down an idiotic uninvited sales pitch. If they are not going to include a “Hell, No!” button, they have no right to demand my thanks.

  29. PlutoniumKun

    The Bezzle: “The Hidden Cost of Touchscreens” [Medium]. Important:

    Just a general observation on this – I don’t own a car, but I rent regularly for work – mainly from Sixt who mostly do all the major German brands and some Renaults and Kias, so I’ve had a better than average look across a variety of models (as I’m a regular I get some very yummy upgrades during off-peak periods). I’ve noticed that while you’d expect the Audi’s and BMW’s to be making the pace with touchscreens, they seem on the to be stepping back. I recently had an A6 and was pleased to see that almost all the touchscreen controls were replicated with analogue buttons and switches – which was definitely safer while trying to switch channel. Maybe I’m getting more used to them, but I’ve found the more recent versions of the ‘cheaper’ touchscreens to be a lot simpler and more intuitive than the first ones, which I loathed for all the reasons set out in that article.

    I’ve noticed that no manufacturer seems to use them for ‘important’ functions like lights, which probably indicates I think that they don’t really trust them, they see them for entertainment, not core driving functions or even things like window controls.

    I suspect the future is that they will retreat to the role of back-up for old fashioned switches and buttons, although perhaps instead of one big touchscreen in the centre console we’ll see smaller ones scattered around, as they’ll have a use for showing live rear view camera angles, etc., which would be a genuine safety boon.

    1. voteforno6

      I think I discovered the limitations of touchscreen technology in a somewhat different context – as a remote control for my home entertainment system. I tried once once, but quickly discovered it could be rather distracting from what I was trying to watch. I switched to one with hard buttons rather quickly, and have stuck with that once since. As I read somewhere, the sense of touch is the primary sense, with the others being extensions of that. Nothing beats that tactile sensation, I think.

    2. The Rev Kev

      I would have thought that a combination of a heads-up display and voice control would be the way to go. They use to have heads-up displays advertised on cars a decade or more ago. You can screw around all you like before you set off in your car but god forbid that you want to be screwing around with a display panel while driving down a road.
      I have an ominous feeling that some manufacturers would think that it would be a good idea to have primary controls through computer interfaces but with no manual backup. That would make for some sweet situations down the road-

      “Honey, I can’t get the car to boot up. Have you got the car’s installation key?”

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        Voice Control: Run a poem back and forth through Google translate and you’ll understand why they went with self driving AI. Harder to see the obvious blog-stuff.

    3. 4Corners

      I frequently rent cars for work too and enjoy sampling what’s out there (beyond my old Toyota truck). I agree that the more designers get away from analog controls the worse the experience becomes. I give you the digital fuel gauge that simulates an analog indicator down to the needle. Or, radio controls that might as well be the gauntlet console on Predator. But I agree that the center screen is great for backup camera display.

      Manufacturers are probably afraid of omitting screens lest models be seen as lagging. Forget any real advancements in intuitive design, modularity, repairability, etc. I’m glad my failing iPad screen isn’t attached to 4,000 pounds of hardware.

  30. Sid Finster

    Re; ideology.

    Most people are not logical, consistent or informed, and they form their opinions of people and their political positions based on emotion and not reason. Cognitive dissonance is alive and well, and, yes, it affects your tribe and you, too.

    I didn’t need a study to tell me any of that.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Everyone deserves potable water, no charge.

      Is that an ideological statement? Didn’t read because I assume it would be.

      1. Lee

        Tribal water rights will be enforced.

        As will the rights of provider of the linked film clip to assault your senses with a stupid commercial.

  31. PlutoniumKun

    Applying the theory that Everything Is Like CalPERS at the international level, is there a reason to think that Chinese “trusted officials” are any different or better at what they so than, say, Hank Paulson? Any China hands in the readership care to comment?

    Not a China hand, but I’m a distant interested observer. For several decades the CCP has been a more or less genuine meritocracy – to get into the inner sanctum and work your way up was the best way up to the 1990’s for a comfortable life and it was hyper competitive. Unless you were a very close relative of one of the original senior Long March comrades, there were no short cuts. There was also a noticeable bias towards engineers – systematic and rational thinkers – hedgehogs rather than foxes if you like. So the overall calibre of senior officials would have been very high, although you certainly had to be a conformist and something of a yes-man.

    Corruption is very much in the eye of the beholder. There are ‘acceptable’ forms of corruption and ‘unacceptable’ forms within the CCP, and those definitions vary according to the whims of who is on top. But I think the evidence is that most corruption is of the form of ‘everyone getting a cut’ of whatever deal is going, rather than the sort of favouritism that can really undermine good decision making. In other words, the right decision gets made in the end as all the bribes tend to balance each other out in the end as nobody will want to rock the boat by breaking those unwritten rules about what is acceptable.

    But certainly if you believe what regular Chinese people say, in the last 2 decades or so there has been rampant nepotism within the cadres, with an increasing number of second raters getting in position because their father got them an easy gig. But as yet, these haven’t as yet got high enough in the system to do real damage. But it will happen – it seems an inevitable process in most autocracies which start with high ideals – by the third generation things really start to decay.

    So I’m inclined to think that the overall quality of decision making at senior government levels in China is better than in the West, although it tends to be good in a ‘linear’ manner – radical or original ideas are not favoured. They also – indisputably – tend to have their focus on longer time frames. And the Party really is the core of the system – which is why no real oligarch class has been allowed to challenge the government.

    One issue which I don’t know if the CCP have really thought about is whether the internationalisation of decision making through all their Belt and Road investments may undermine their control over senior officials. A corrupt official based in China can only go so far as he has no escape route if he gets too cocky or greedy. But officials with fingers in pies in Central Asia or Africa may end up behaving like colonial officials – going native and enriching themselves by taking advantage of a lack of oversight. And being based outside the country means they have an immediate escape route. So the Belt and Road could end up as a self licking ice cream, bleeding the home country dry.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Internationalization…Belt and Road…corrupt official

      From Wikipedia, Censorate and 5,000 years of history to draw upon:

      The Censorate was a high-level supervisory agency in ancient China, first established during the Qin dynasty (221–207 BCE).

      The Censorate was a highly effective agency during the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). During the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), the Censorate was a branch of the centralized bureaucracy, paralleling the Six Ministries and the five Chief Military Commissions, and was directly responsible to the emperor.[1] The investigating censors were “the eyes and ears” of the emperor and checked administrators at each level to prevent corruption and malfeasance, a common feature of that period. Popular stories told of righteous censors revealing corruption as well as censors who accepted bribes. Generally speaking, they were feared and disliked, and had to move around constantly to perform their duties.

      And more recently, courtesy of Tokugawa Japan, Sankin Kotai (from Wikipedia):

      The details changed throughout the 26 decades of Tokugawa rule, but generally, the requirement was that the daimyōs of every han move periodically between Edo and his fief, typically spending alternate years in each place. His wife and heir were required to remain in Edo as hostages while he was away.

      Were there is a will, there is a way (for the Polituro).

    2. Mel


      The opening chapters of this report the traditional politics of China, stressing strong de facto democratic trends, which include the Mandarin meritocracy. I guess when I get to the following chapters I’m going to see that Sun Yat-sen built these traditions into the Kuomintang, not the Communist Party of China, but if the traditions are as strong as Linebarger says, they might well have soaked into the CPC as well.

      1. Grebo

        Ooh, Paul Linebarger. Gutenberg also has his but Science Fiction fans may know him better as .

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      I recall from John DeLorean’s book “On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors” where he asserted that in the hey-day of General Motors the 14th Floor had been populated by automotive and production engineers who came through the ranks, but over time marketing and sales types began to displace the engineers, but at the end, the finance people took over.

    4. Steve H.

      Thanks for the history, very interesting that the Party has been an impervious core.

  32. ewmayer

    “What on earth is the person in the Stanford sweatshirt doing, wandering along the line with no protective gear and a drill in the crook of her arm?”

    Um, showing off her (alleged) Stanford affiliation and pretending to be working class?

    1. Lord Koos

      I’m guessing she’s delivering a replacement tool and is not a regular on the assembly line.

  33. funemployed

    I’m a bit worried about Thomas Frank (as a human being, and in a generous way). His tone and language have changed (in recent writings and podcasts, not just the link above). He seems more depressed and angry than ever before. I don’t think being shut out of the convo in the US has helped his mental health much.

    But maybe I’m projecting. I feel quite hopeless and defeated these days.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Well, how about a bit of cheer from yet another guy who is far more palatable in quotation:

      “The Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.”

      I feel quite disappointed too.

  34. Synoia

    Applying the theory that Everything Is Like CalPERS at the international level, is there a reason to think that Chinese “trusted officials” are any different or better at what they so than, say, Hank Paulson?

    I suspect their allegiance is to the Communist Party, not to Future employers. While they all live and work in a political environment, they don’t have to consider the money’s impact on the next election.

    And they have 5,000 years of history to point to as examples of what has and has not worked, without risking their necks too much.

  35. JTMcPhee

    A couple of thoughts on disempowerment. The first, attributed to Mao Zedong, is “political power grows out of the barrrl of a gun.” Hence the famous ( to us oldsters) picture of the young hippie putting flowers in the barrels of GI M-14 rifles, during the people-vs-troops confrontation during the 1967 anti-Vietnam War March on the Pentacle —

    The other is a recent, maybe overstated article in the Grauniad:

    The tiny union beating the gig economy giants
    A grassroots fightback is helping to win basic rights for couriers, cleaners and other workers on zero-hours contracts. And the IWGB is showing how unions can thrive again“

    Even in the Great Dialectic, hope springs eternal…

  36. Lord Koos

    Facial recognition isn’t that difficult to fool, but once they have the iris scanners in place, it’s going to be tough… maybe lenses would work?

  37. Jim Haygood

    If it’s a CT, then the House Inspector General has been sucked in too:

    The House’s Office of the Inspector General reported under the bold heading “UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS” that “5 shared employee system administrators have collectively logged into 15 member offices and the Democratic Caucus although they were not employed by the offices they accessed.”

    It found indications that a House “server is being used for nefarious purposes and elevated the risk that individuals could be reading and/or removing information” and “could be used to store documents taken from other offices.”

    The aides named are Imran Awan, his wife Hina Alvi, his brothers Abid and Jamal, and his friend Rao Abbas, Pakistani-born aides. A second presentation shows that shortly before the election, their alleged behavior got even worse.

    “During September 2016, shared employee continued to use Democratic Caucus computers in anomalous ways: logged onto laptop as system administrator; changed identity and logged onto Democratic Caucus server using 17 other user account credentials; some credentials belonged to Members; the shared employee did not work for 9 of the 17 offices to which these user accounts belonged.”

    Oh my … NOW who are we gonna call, with the conspiracy having co-opted the House IG too?

    Seriously, try hacking a House member’s site and see how fast the FBI shows up at your door. Someone in the Democratic caucus is bothered by what was taken and just wants this incident to quietly go away.

  38. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Schumer and the empty throne at a townhall meeting…

    We are back to same the Ming emperor (again, he of a good early start in his reign, only to go on strike during his last few decades), Wanli. From a search using duckduckgo:

    China’s Reluctant Emperor – The New York Times
    Sep 08, 2011 · BEIJING — The Emperor Wan Li … assembling outside the Gate of Brightening Administration — only to enter the throne room and kowtow to an empty
    Search domain

  39. RMO

    Wait a minute… so there are a bunch of readily available jobs as union carpenters available to people who don’t have any training, experience or apprenticeship time? Or does the standard training and job experience as an ICE thug give you the skills needed for the carpentry job in some strange way? Seems odd that my neighbor and I have been beating our heads against the wall in a so far fruitless effort to gain steady employment in the trades – or any in my case. Is it just a Vancouver thing then and Portland has a ton of positions available for anyone who wants to show up but not my own nearby city?

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      According to a friend who lives in Portland, the answer is yes—there are construction jobs going begging there.

      1. RMO

        If I lived there I’d sure give it a try. It does mean the real economy (at least there) actually is showing signs of improvement for those in the bottom 90% which is great if that’s really the situation. My personal experience has been that no matter how desperate the company flacks and industry association shills say they are for workers, when I actually look at job openings there’s little to nothing really available especially for people who aren’t already experienced (journeyman, master, licensed etc.) so a change to that situation is promising.

        1. Big River Bandido

          It does mean the real economy (at least there) actually is showing signs of improvement for those in the bottom 90%

          Not necessarily. Once built, those buildings won’t do much good for anyone if they sit empty, as they are likely to do.

  40. flora

    /Rant.

    Re: Thomas Frank youtube broadcast:

    “Funny thing, there is a connection and he doesn’t know it. …This is when the Democratic party gave up on working class people., was in the late 60’s and early 70’s, and they did it because they loved the counter culture so much…”

    And so, from that you get “permissionless innovation “, of course your do. “Up the establishment.” “Give it to ‘the man’.” What a camoflage of feathers to pretend one thing, then use it for the opposite. Let’s break the rules designed to protect the working class. It’s “innovative”.

    Wall St. – attack it with a “New Age” hippy utopian nirvana, (snark)- breaking the rules that benefited working class people, (but, oh, how trendy and futuristic “Permissionless innovation” sounds to the Dem estab) … and the Dems wonder why they lose and lose and lose. /not exactly a snark

    Or, Good Gawd…. The Dem estab thought the 1971 CocaCola commercial(Counter Culture!) (“It’s The Real thing!) was a great bit of heart-tugging emotocon-id-pol* to subtly re-orient the Dem party to the old (1890’s) Bourbonist Dem party ‘s laizze-faire ideology . (
    the New Deal was a temporary aberraton. In the late 60’s for the Dem party ‘leftist’ meant college educated , condescending-to-the-working-class, ‘good thoughts’ towards minority workers. Not fighting for decent wages and benefits for the working class, many of whom were/are minorities.

    *Remember that Id Pol is can be an intellectual project of moral self-regard by the upper class as a project , instead of getting decent pay and benefits for workers at the bottom of the totem pole.

    /End rant.

  41. Oregoncharles

    “Latinx” – what purpose does the “x” serve in the above sentence? “Latin” is a perfectly good English word for that context (Ocasio-Cortez, singular).

    It might be useful as a plural, though in that case, what’s wrong with “s”?

    I may be reversing myself here.

    Incidentally, “Latin” includes Italian.

    1. Katsue

      I think it’s supposed to be inclusive of both Latinos, Latinas and everyone in between.

      1. Skip Intro

        The Spanish ‘o’ and ‘a’ endings are highly gender normative… Also, Latin, in this case, is an adjective, which relegates identity to an attribute, rather than the fundamental defining characteristic of an individual. Can’t undermine the dominance of idpol, now can we.

  42. Moreland

    Re: “Why Sexism and Racism Never Diminish–Even When Everyone Becomes Less Sexist and Racist” [Marginal Revolution], where they claim

    > One might have thought, however, that a blue dot is a blue dot.

    One might have thought … but one would have been wrong.

    Unfortunately, there’s no mention at all either in the article or the comments of the classic (1969) Berlin & Kay study, ‘Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution’. Too bad. B & K showed that what an English speaker calls a ‘blue’ dot is not exactly the same colour that a French speaker would call ‘bleu’, which in turn is slightly different from a German’s ‘blau’, a Spaniard’s ‘azul’, etc., etc.

  43. clinical wasteman

    The “roses are red…unemployable” sign is disgusting because “unemployable”, used pejoratively (why?!) to describe a person, blames the individual for failing to show servility zealous enough to “beat” the rest of her/his/their class & “win” the punishment of a job+prize of an inadequate income.
    This is as clueless as it is vindictive & self-serving: the idea that economic life is the sum of countless personal “life-choices” is fit only for behavioral/supply-side economists. Anyone who has ever worked or been unemployed should know better.
    But if “unemployable” had not been claimed so decisively for this use as a vicious epithet, statement would be literally true. TeslaTent capitalism only needs to work a certain number of workers to death at a time. The rest are worked to death “unproductively” &/or (intermittently or sometimes both at once) unhoused/unmedicated/starved to death as objectively unemployable at the going rate.
    And immigrants are (or immigration is) not “to blame” for that, not until someone proves that we (immigrant workers) caused the average rate of profit to tend to fall, or provoked successive cycles of bloodthirsty inter-capitalist competition, asset-price fixation, planned obsolescence (of products and humans), post-colonial/post Cold War retrenchment, and associated social/wage gouging.
    To put it a more concretely: yes, labor arbitrage is THE problem, or at least a very big part of it. But it will happen whether the “cheaper” workers/lower-denomination gambling chips are played in the same geographical place as you or not. Trying to “compete” collectively as one “national proletariat” against others is as hopeless as trying to compete as an individual. One way or the other, that competition – preferably, from the high-stakes gambler/juridical person’s point of view, raised to outright national/racial hostility – is the first thing all labor arbitrage depends on.

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