SocraticGadfly: 1/27/19 - 2/3/19

February 02, 2019

Is the dollar about to lose its perch as world reserve currency?

The some kind of Socialist, some kind of Marxist economist Michael Hudson thinks so, seeing the Britain-France-Germany workaround on the American sanctions against Iran announced on Thursday being a kind of wedge.

I don't think so. Rather, I think this is as much wishful thinking, which he does from time to time, in my opinion.

OK, here's the skinny.

There's three currencies, two of them state-backed, that have the possibility. None of them will become an official, or even a strongly quasi-official, world reserve currency before 2040.

First, referencing those countries above, is the Euro.

From my understanding of the EU, this could only happen officially by vote of all EU members who use the euro. That's less likely in the next 20 years than herding cats successfully.

Second, the yuan. Nope. That would require it to be depegged from the dollar. Anybody who thinks that happens in the next 20 years, thinks Trump is a free-trader.

Besides, China is doing better, per N+One, halfway down or so, with the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank giving it leverage against the World Bank.

The third is the non-state collection of electronic ledgers known as crypotocurrency.

That ain't happening, either.

The way most bitcoin systems are structured, none individually are elastic enough to get anywhere near that big even as unofficial reserve currency.

Collectively? Dude, these are libertarian wet dreams. No chance they unite into one massive megacoin.

And, as an official reserve currency? It's part of their duty as nation-states for their governments to crush bitcoin precisely because it's stateless.

File 13 this idea, Michael.

If you were engaging in sardonic humor about Trump being a deliberate wrecker of the dollar as a reserve currency, it really didn't come off that way.


And, while you're at it, File 13 your love for Modern Monetary Theory. Go read some Doug Henwood on that. (I'm eventually going to have to do a separate piece on this.)

Doug's piece is actually very interesting. I didn't know that Hudson is NOT the No. 1 touter of MMT at Missouri-Kansas City, which Henwood calls the Vatican of MMT. I also didn't know that Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism is a fangirl.

In usual Henwood style, Doug can be scathing. (He can be when he's wrong, as well.):
MMTers extend this hubris about the precision and power of policymaking to the realm of interest rates, which they think the central bank is completely in control of and should be kept as close to zero as possible.
That right there is silly. I don't need Doug to tell me that:
Without higher interest rates to compensate for greater default risk or longer maturities, there will simply be no one willing to buy the bonds or issue the loans.
The MMTers answer is for the Fed to be the purchaser of last resort.

Gee, isn't that something quite similar to Quantitative Easing?

Otherwise, Doug's even better further in, when he criticizes the MMTers for being lackadaisical about inflation.

Then, tying this back to Hudson's thoughts on reserve currencies, Henwood notes other nations don't have the same degree of currency-printing freedom as does the US.

Henwood then notes that a jobs guarantee program is in no way dependent on MMT.

One last thought, per Henwood: If Stephanie Kelton truly believes that just following MMT will solve climate change, she's either a tremendous idiot or an incredible liar.

See more MMT refudiation here.

And, stuff like this on Twitter is laughable.
Geez. Back at you.

And, that's that.

February 01, 2019

That's Impossible, White Castle:
Why cattle ranching is in big trouble
And in more trouble with an Impossible Whopper

Veggie beef plus lab meat combo could be a home run

Consolidation of beef slaughterhouses into four or five major players, led by Brazil's JBS — as a corruption investigation in Brazil continues — has put pressure on the beef industry, to be sure. But, lower per-head prices at feedlots (JBS also a major player, through subsidiaries) and packinghouses is probably not the biggest issue.

Not quite Camelot to eat Impossible Burger at White Castle.
Younger Americans' declining taste for beef is probably bigger. (And not necessarily just younger Americans.)

More and more Americans are going vegetarian or even full vegan for ethical reasons. Others are cutting back on meat in general and red meat in particular for other ethical reasons — like climate change, for me. Hormones, antibiotics, and the confined prisons of modern CAFO animals all add to the ethical issues.

Plus, beef generally runs ahead of pork on price at the checkout, even if that doesn't trickle down to ranchers. And either chicken or turkey will often undercut both.

But, the big tell?

White Castle selling veggie burgers.

But why?

First, that goes against the image of White Castle's gut-bomb sliders. Having lived for years near a metro St. Louis Castle, I can tell you my personal record is 19.

Second, the price. Dunno about you, but if I'm in a Castle, I'm looking for cheap shit, not $1.99. (To be fair, it is twice the "meat" of a slider, at twice the price. THAT then said, a regular gut bomb for 99 cents or more is also overpriced when I can hit the dollar menu at McDonald's, Burger King, etc. and get nominally better stuff.)

Anyway, it's being done. Impossible has upgraded to Burger 2.0. Read more about the partnership here.

(Update, April 8: 2019 — The Impossible Slider is now being joined by the Impossible Whopper.)

And, that's the big point, and we haven't even gotten to the possibility that test-tube meat will be publicly sold in just a year or two. (Latest predictions by folks like Mosa and Memphis Meats say they'll be ready by 2021 on price and scalability of production.) A majority of Americans still say they won't eat it, but that majority has dropped from 80 percent to 66 percent over the past five years. Add in the worries about climate change, and non-vegetarians wanting to be ethical, and the worries about E coli, etc.? If the price and scalability are there, it will happen — even if texture issues make burgers and sausages, not steaks and chops, the primary focus.

That said, the question of whether or not large-scale clean meat production actually will be more climate friendly than steak or chops on the hoof is still more of an open question than many realize. One study says it could be worse.

But, think if you could mix lab meat and your veggie burger 50-50 for burgers and sausage (or even as high at 70-30 in favor of the veggie product) with good taste and texture, and with the veggie portion, definitely be more climate friendly. You might just have a winner. There already may be a winner; mushroom is already being used as a structure for bacon flavor; just add real test-tube bacon instead.

The lab shit hitting the fan is especially true with beef; per this piece, that higher cost I mentioned, plus the ethics that on cow farts and ag intensity, beef is at least 50 percent worse than pork and at least twice as bad, or more, than poultry, means it's in the crosshairs first. The beef industry, despite the growth of JBS, is also less vertically integrated than pork and far less than poultry, as Drovers Magazine notes, which is surely part of why Tyson and Cargill are among lab meat investors. The bullets are more likely to be fired in Europe first, though. Memphis Meats is behind Mosa on production. Just, an up-and-comer, is surely also behind. And, USDA, with a lack of regulations on the book (plus issues of whether it or FDA takes the lead) is also a potential hindrance. The EU already has initial rules on the books.

So, per a story I saw in an ag magazine last year about a North Dakota farmer saying he loves his ranch but hates delivering calves in a North Dakota January? Or, ranchers having to face vultures killing live calves? Or, for High Plains ranchers, the price of feedlot corn getting iffy due to the Ogallala Aquifer getting more depleted, with dryland sorghum — sugarcane aphids and all — being considered as an alternative?

I estimate you've got about six years left on that love-hate relationship with modern ranching.

(Update, Feb. 27: That prediction is underscored by Israel's high-tech sector also entering the lab meat world. People who know, know that Israel's got almost as robust a high-tech ag sector as the Netherlands. And, the Orthodox rabbinate has already said it doesn't need kosher slaughter and you can even eat a cheeseburger and not be treif, as long as the cheese's production itself crosses muster.)

And, not just you.

Drovers notes that speciality beef with a high price, like Kobe, will face a whole new world — perhaps for the better — if test-tube meat is a success. And, "inputs" will still be needed somewhere. Livestock feed dealers and the like may not be too affected.

Meanwhile, the battle is heating up; especially on lab meat, the nomenclature issue has strange bedfellows.

Folks like the National Cattleman's Beef Association wanting it called "artificial"? Well, so is your own ranching. Ain't nothing "natural" about inseminating a heifer with a glass rod.

January 31, 2019

Alternative history: In the US, Stalin's Popular Front
has CPUSA work with Socialists not Democrats

This possibility popped into my head while grokking a great piece from Popular Resistance by Howie Hawkins about how third parties are more necessary than ever, given the lack of a stong working-class oriented third party in the US for what, 80 years or so and counting?

The "death" really happened in 1934 when FDR worked underhandedly, hand in hand, with the California GOP to kill Upton Sinclair's Democratic candidacy for governor. A year later, in an event that still leaves me, a non-conspiracy theorist, pondering at times — the killing of Huey Long — FDR's other serious possible opposition from the left was out of the way.

Then Stalin tells Communists elsewhere to work with mainstream parties. His advice was primarily directed to Eurocommunists with the rise of Hitler. But it carried to here, too.

As Howie notes, that wasn't the only problem. FPTP for Congress and state legislators combined with a strong-president system and its gubernatorial parallels in states is an added hurdle.

It would have been somewhat less a hurdle if Communists and Socialists had worked together. But perennial presidential candidate Norman Thomas was rightly anti-Soviet Marxist. Stalin would in no way work with him. (See also SPD and KPD in the run-up to 1933 in Germany.) Trotsky had also called out Thomas.

Sadly, though opposing both WWII and later, Vietnam, Thomas — knowingly and willingly, as far as I can tell — accepted CIA money. And, after his death, the old Socialist Party shattered, with one wing becoming Michael Harrington's DSA.

(Note: Why Thomas and Henry Wallace couldn't make common cause in 1948, I don't know.)

January 30, 2019

TX Progressives salute airport workers for shutdown end
and offer this week's roundup

The Texas Progressive Alliance salutes Speaker Nancy Pelosi (or "Speaker Pelosi", as we call her) airport workers using their labor powers for getting Donald Trump to fold in the shutdown fight as it brings you this week's roundup. (This outpost already called bullshit on “Pelosi did it” on Friday evening, Mr. Kuff. Sorry.*)

Off the Kuff kept up with the Census lawsuit news, now being fought in two courts.

SocraticGadfly had two different pieces on just how real and how strong the national "jobs miracle" is. First, if as much as half of Internet traffic is fake and bots, then how "real" are many Internet-driven jobs such as SEO marketing? Second, he advised people not to believe semi-legend pieces about the ease of job-hopping. The reality is different; it's driven by IT-tech jobs, followed by sales, and doesn't apply if you're over a certain age.

And here are some posts of interest from other news sites and blogs.

Raise Your Hand Texas highlights some of the many public school choice options available to Texas students and families.

TJ Mayes argues for a smoke-free policy in San Antonio's parks.

John Coby has some advice for would-be office seekers.

Therese Odell celebrates the long-overdue arrest of Roger Stone.

Stephen Young invites you to watch Ted Cruz get called out by a fellow Senator for his hypocrisy on government shutdowns.

The Texas Living Waters Project writes about reforesting stream banks.

On Twitter, the Texas Trib calls bullshit on the Texas Secretary of State’s insinuations about vote fraud.

The Texas Observer links Congresscritter Louie Gohmert and state Sen. Bob Hall to the same white nationalist types that Iowa Congresscritter Steve King loves.

The Texas Observer also also talks to border-county sheriffs about border security and immigration issues.

Jim Schuetze profiles the nutters opposing Dallas police reform, but also questions agenda-pushers on the other side who aren't accepting empirical evidence.


Kuff's work on the roundup is appreciated, and I often go with his intro. I have edited it at times in the past, but always quietly. This was simply too egregious, though; it is a verbatim repeat of centrist Dem blogs and online news sites.

January 29, 2019

Should the Cardinals swoop in on Manny Machado?

As of this time Manny Machado, second only to Bryce Harper in the free agency derby in the minds of many, but actually better than Bryce Harper on numbers, still remains available.

Manny is at almost 6 WAR per year. The only slight eyebrow raisers are a subpar for him 2017 and bREF ranking him negatively on defense in his Orioles first half of 2018.

If a WAR is worth $7M, and you knock him down to "just" 5 WAR a year, Machado is in today's baseball world easily worth $35M/year for 8 years, or more. In short, he's worth the Bryce Harper contract that Scott Boras is peddling for Harper.

Well, the only eyebrow raisers on the talent side. His hustle-related comments and other attitude perceptions — whether reality-based or not — are surely holding his contract value down.

Ten days or so ago, MLB Trade Rumors said the White Sox offer was 7/$175 for Machado. A day later, though, his agent Lozano said that report is totally untrue. Maybe so, maybe not. We know Dan Lozano fell short of his agent grand slam hopes with Albert Pujols, and occasionally manipulated the media in his chase of attempting to pass Alex Rodriguez for biggest contract ever.

So, for reality sake, let's say that offer is true.

(This ignores the fact that the Padres, not an original mystery team from what we know, are definitely now NOT a mystery team, though no $$$ are listed in that report.)

I say the Cards should offer, say, 6/$170 and some other creative tools to land Machado.

Here's how the contract would split, roughly.

$25-$26-$27-$28-$31-$33 on annual pay, or similar.

The creative part? Opt-outs after both year 2 and year 4. In exchange, the Cards have a, say, $15 million team option on buying out year 6 if things suck that much. Boras client Yusei Kikuchi got such a type of deal with both player opt-outs and a team option.

If the White Sox are offering more than the rumored 7/175, I'm Ok with going to $175 or so on six years, especially if back-weighted.

However, given that there are multiple "mystery teams out there and Machado has talked to at least one of them, and reportedly has a higher offer available, if not more than one.

In that case, we're more fully where I said last week — sign Dallas Keuchel or otherwise upgrade the rotation.

Anyway, back to this hypothetical.

Where's he play, you ask?


He has to accept he is not replacing Matt Carpenter at third. Cards fans who claim that Carp's statement about being "comfortable" in the outfield after 24 career MLB games there can STFU.

Manny goes to short. Carp stays at third, at least for 2019. Paul DeJong is the super-sub who learns 3B for his MLB future; he's already played 2B and knows that well enough. He spot starts at short, plays 2B and 3B to spell Carp and Kolten Wong against lefties. He's a cheaper Jedd Gyorko, who should be moved anyway if possible.

Long-term future? If Paul Goldschmidt is not re-signed, then Carp can move back to first. If he IS re-signed, then you decide to either trade Carp, use the buyout on his 2020 year, or grimace and move him to left for a year if Marcell Ozuna walks.

Meanwhile, feel free to vote in the Harper sign-date poll at upper right.

January 28, 2019

Covington Catholic stupidity watch:
Rod Dreher vs Andrew Sullivan

I saw Sully's piece pop up on Memeorandum. I then saw a screengrab via a Twitter friend of Dreher's nuttery. Of course, Sully is NOT the "Intelligencer," and Dreher's mag/site is really The American Con.

Shorter Sully? Blame the Yahweh ben Yahweh type black Israelites for starting the whole thing. Triple down on that. Then blame Nathan Phillips et al for not understanding Sandmann et al attempting to calm down the black Garner Ted Armstrongs.

Double down on that.

Ignore Sandmann's smirk. Downplay how much the arm motions of the other Covington brats were tomahawk chops. Ignore than Sandmann's rich parents hired a PR firm for a fake apology.

And, then claim it's all anti-Catholic bias driving this, with a dollop of whataboutism at the end.

It would be hard to top that.

Until you start with the header on Dreher's piece: "Of Pogroms and Political Theology."

Of course, there's no pogroms involved. This is an insult to Jews that Dreher, as a non-antisemitic "Crunchy Con," still claims to like. He then commits the rest of the Sully type moves, only trying to frame it in a Richard John Neuhaus stance shifted two Overton Windows Right.

Drecker then puts a bow on it by linking to Sully's piece.

I'm surprised that Drecker didn't claim Phillips was gay.


Meanwhile, out in the streets, a guy named Ryan Moore admits that he wears a MAGA hat to troll people, all while claiming white males are the most persecuted or discriminated against section of America.


Update, Feb. 3: Lawyers for Sandmann are sending clearly intimidatory letters to major media, and supposedly to celebrities and others. The idea that, if libel cases went to trial, they'd all "of course" be tried in Kentucky is part of the mask-slipping. Interestingly, the Cincinnati Enquirer, reporting the story above, is not named as a recipient of one of the letters, though it uses the word "smirk" itself to describe Sandmann (tho not by name, it's clear the reference) in this news analysis piece.

I also find it interesting that mega-torts lawyer Lin Wood complains about mobs rushing to judgment, albeit without mentioning social media by name — and does so by making his own apparent mob appeal on Twitter.

Finally, Lin Wood does NOT come cheap. Even if Sandmann's parents had the money for a PR firm for his so-called apology, is there outside money coming in? This initial PR piece by their local mouthpiece, Todd McMurtry, only raises eyebrows. They specifically say "no media statements." Instead, they're turning to Twitter. And making media statements with the retention letters comments. In addition, Lin's law firm set up an email account with a specific "supportnick" prefix. It asks for information, but I suspect probably wouldn't have a problem with legal fees, either.

Doubly finally, a sitting member of Congress, Ilhan Omar is on that list. Especially given Supreme Court ruling in the case of William Jefferson, I'm sure she is protected by the speech or debate clause.


Update, Feb. 19: Sandmann's flacks are suing the Bezos Post for $250 million. Which they will not win, I'm sure.

And, here's American Indian reporting truth about what went down.

January 27, 2019

Trump Caved: Who won, who lost, what next?

First, wingnuts, he caved. By the ever-shriller tweeting of many of you on Friday, escalating from #BuildTheWall to #BuildTheWallAndCrimeWillFall exactly as "Rose Garden" started trending, you know it. Many of those of you like that still refuse to accept it consciously, but you know it subconsciously precisely through this.

Others of you, along with national conservative commentariat, both Trumper and non-Trumper wings, knows it, accepts it consciously and to some degree, discusses it — or spins it a little more suavely than the deranged.

As the shutdown continued, he started losing "at the edges" supporters. Mainstream media had plenty of stories — and polls to back that up. Whether cognitive dissonance will return for some or not remains to be seen.

But, as I see it, and others whose insights on Twitter I value, what caused the cave was neither decaying Trump support nor Nancy Pelosi's political genius.

Rather, it was the rise of blue flu among airport workers. Interestingly, whether deliberate targeting or not, airports heavy in business travel, like Atlanta and eventually LaGuardia, seemed to have the biggest sickness problems. I can't help but think that some mix of big biz folks and a few Senators leaned on Trump hard enough.

And, somewhere, if only subconsciously at this time, Donald Trump knows he lost, too. How the president will react in the next three weeks will tell us if the American public won or lost.

Senate Republicans also lost, even if any of them were pushing Trump at the end.. Per the Nixon-era term, they committed suicide at Credibility Gap. How much they lost remains to be seen, but I pummeled Cornyn and Cruz on Twitter. They need to be. Cruz has of course always been this way.

Cornyn, when paired with Kay Bailey Cheerleader in the Senate, of course looked more conservative than her, but at least gave the impression of not being a kneejerk type.

Now, it has to be said bluntly, some of that should be re-examined as to how much it is actually impression rather than reality.

Reduplicated as losers? Per the Bezos Post, the credibility of Coryn, which I also fed to him on Twitter. Even Mitch the Turtle was more honest in that piece. And that's hard to do.

Also a loser, in a way? Ted Rall, for seeing the MAGA heads as enlightened Zen masters. First, they worry themselves. Occasionally, halfway, occasionally, more, about the right things, while continuing to blame the wrong people, and still delusionally believing that a trust fund tax-chiseler is someone to follow rather than someone to blame.

The general public of anything more enlightened than the entrenched MAGA-heads may also be a loser. Many of them will surely try to whistle in the dark enough to try to whistle away their cognitive dissonance, even as, per the second paragraph, people like Rod Dreher have said not only that Trump lost, but his cheap cave-in shows that he never cared that much about the reality of the wall in the first place. Dreher, referencing Ann (Whore To) Coulter (think Dorothy Parker and bad puns, folks) said that if Trump HAD cared, he would have gotten the money before the November election.

No, what he cared about was trying to push around Congress. The Art of the Deal.

And, because the MAGA-heads will double down on their cognitive and emotional dissonance, the rest of America loses.

Other losers? The Beltway stenos, neolib Dem pundit version. Ezra Klein, Washington Monthly, et al anointed Miss Nancy, Nancy Pelosi, for her alleged genyus in ending the shutdown. While denying Trump the Capitol as a State of the Union platform might have had a small effect, it was clearly the airport flu that was the tipping point. GFY on this one, folks.

The rest of America, as per the previous section, is also a bit of a loser on this, too. The spinning by the Ezras of the world enthroning centrist Dem Pelosi, even as many of Ezra's fellow stenos just got shit-canned by Puff Hoes or ButtFeet, could boost the image of Beltway steno as Beltway sage. To the degree that happens and people bite on it, we all lose.

The Wicked Witch of the West, Coulter, is a win/lose. Calling Trump the biggest wimp since Poppy Bush will help with the more rabid, but not with others. Ditto on the grasping-for-relevance Rush Limbaugh, who took a "wait and see" stance after the Trump Cave. Rusty knows that Trump caved, and his listeners do, too. I predict a drop in listeners.


The "what next"?

I am not a Beltway steno or Beltway stage.

But, given that Trump will feel less guilty, if he did, about unpaid federal employees, and his staff may have brainstormed new workarounds, I offer a 50-50 odds we're back at this point in three weeks, or else Trump tries to go the national emergency route, which I still see as less likely.

As of Feb. 3, per comments by Sen. John Hoeven, I stand by that prediction. Trump is circling back to the national emergency, egged on by Hannity et al, but Mitch the Turtle has warned that the Senate, as well as the House, could produce an official resolution of disapproval. After that? Theoretically, we're in court to test the power of that resolution.