Links 9/4/14

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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.


  1. dearieme

    “Ideally, new financial contracts would have elements of equity built into them from the start. Such contracts would automatically generate risk sharing between lenders and borrowers. Take lending against residential property as a crucial example. Under the new contracts, loans would be automatically reduced if the general level of house prices fell, according to some relevant index, and vice versa if it rose. Under such “shared equity contracts”, the suppliers of finance would share in the risks and the rewards of movements in house prices. These new contracts could be very attractive to long-term savers.” That’s not even communist-as-a-joke; it’s more sharia, isn’t it?

    1. JTFaraday

      “That’s not even communist-as-a-joke”

      You know what’s a communist joke?— Only keeping a cat for two hours!

      re: “In Russia, Sign a Mortgage and Get a Cat — But Only for Two Hours,” Foreign Policy

  2. dearieme

    “Another interesting issue here is why exactly Afro-Colombians demanded collective titles. … One hypothesis is that this was a clever strategy in the light of the perceived incapacity of the Colombian state. It is one thing to pass a law, it is quite another for the Colombian state to actually demark and hand out hundreds of thousands of individual property titles. Recognizing that this was never going to happen the Afro-Colombians demanded their land in a form which massively reduced transactions costs. In consequence they now have title to 60% of the land in the department of Chocó.” Couldn’t that cut both ways? It also would make it easier to nationalise the land, wouldn’t it? The A-Cs might be wise to wonder whether they can find a cheap and popular way to de-collectivise.

    1. James Levy

      There was a process of de-collectivization that went on in what I believe is your country–Britain–and it was called enclosure. The people fought it tooth and nail for several centuries, and it led to pauperization and the wholesale evacuation of large tracts of Scotland for the American colonies, Canada, and Northern Ireland. Of course, a few villeins with some capital became yeoman, and a few yeoman bought up enough extra land to become gentry, but by the end of the process 4000 families owned over 70% of the arable land in the British Isles. They still own the place.

      1. dearieme

        “it was called enclosure. The people fought it tooth and nail for several centuries”: bollocks. There are perfectly good histories of the Parliamentary Enclosures available: I suggest you read one rather than repeating this empty-headed nonsense.

  3. Ned Ludd

    Is fundamental change only possible during a crisis?

    In 1989 these groups were given a huge window of opportunity. During the campaign for the president to succeed Barco, three presidential candidates were assassinated and the Colombian body public was gripped with panic. […]

    This was also one of those rare moments where progress happens in Colombia as elites panic at the unsustainability of the status quo and are willing to make concessions.

    In Letter From Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. advocates the use of non-violent action, “to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.”

    1. James Levy

      No doubt in my mind. Of course, the crisis can be a manufactured one, or a purely psychological one, but without the impending sense that that which is can no longer stand, elites will barricade all the exits and insist that there is no other way forward than to stay exactly where we are.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        The problem now is the elites have many more tools and far more powerful ones at their disposal to prevent or deflect collective awareness or effective response than in the past. It may be that unless they decide to change course, and at some point regardless, collapse is all there is.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Is fundamental change only possible in a crisis?

      It’s one way and an important way.

      But powerful forces often act over time…slowly, not spectacularly and perhaps not even visibly, but inexorably…also often collectively, and not through one single actor/agent/medium (not the kings/queens of our history books, but the society in general).

      And so, for example, equality will come from the bottom up, not trickled from the top down with a few token representatives in the leadership that can be done fairly fast and dramatically, and genuine help will have to come from ‘power (and money is power) to the people,’ that is, empowering the people, and not, again, trickled-from-the-top-down government spending.

    3. MtnLife

      Yes. Because without a crisis people don’t feel the need for a fundamental change. After changing over to environmental studies in college, one of my classes was Natural Disasters. While there were the obvious discussions of remediation efforts, proper planning, etc one of the key discussion components was policy change in the wake of significant disruption to the status quo, natural or otherwise. It’s all about moving fast. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster is when social cohesion (and related impetus for change) is strongest. The further one gets from the time of the incident the more fractures appear in that social cohesion as old rivalries and disagreements resurface during debates on how to best alleviate possible future catastrophic events. Take 9/11 for example – very few people in the days, weeks, months afterwards there was very little dissent and the Bush administration was given a blank check for legislation and war. Cue Patriot Act and Afghanistan. Does anyone really think the Patriot Act would have gotten anywhere in say, 1995?

    4. neo-realist

      Nowadays, The elites through police state power destroy the people creating the crisis, who may be likely attempting to fulfill basic needs of survival or equal rights and justice due to failure of the economic and or political system.

    5. Lambert Strether Post author

      It depends on what you mean by a crisis. The British franchise was extended step by step from IIRC the 1830s with the Chartists, to a universal male suffrage in 1918, and then women’s suffrage in 1928.

      Each expansion was punctuated by crisis, but there was no crisis in as France, for example, experienced it, with the overthrow of the ancien regime.

      I’m not sure how to make a case that either path is desireable, nor how to “make it so” for either. Tempermentally, I’m for the British approach.

  4. ambrit

    Mr. Ludd;
    If one is self identified with the status quo, the mere prospect of fundamental change is a crisis.
    That would be the reason why re-education has always been a central part of revolutionary ideology.
    Remember the Golden Rule of regime change; “First the Courts, second the Media, third the schools.”

  5. trish

    re What your 1st-grade life says about the rest of it.

    Key words: resources, networks. And mentioned here regarding mostly “middle-class and blue-collar white families,” public school, 1982.
    Now extend that obvious advantage to upper-class and private school (complete with every sort of tutor/coach/prep imaginable along the way), 20+ years later…

    many of these kinds of kids (featured) all across the nation today don’t have a chance. How incredibly grossly immoral that a society that could give all children a relatively equal footing instead treats so many as a lower caste, from which those in the gated communities can squeeze every kind of profit they can think of. including health care. or profitable fodder for the prison system. until they die.

    1. Ulysses

      I am constantly amazed by the continued relative good humor and incredibly strong work ethic of so many marginalized people in this country. I’ve gotten to know some NYC bicycle couriers who eat every weekday at a soup kitchen in Manhattan, so they stretch their meager earnings to pay their share of the rent in overcrowded apartments in Corona, Jamaica, etc. They consider themselves very lucky to even have a roof over their head. For them to go to a movie, enjoy a beer in a dive bar, etc. is an enormous treat– a once or twice a year special occasion.

        1. Ulysses

          With apologies for the Empire State-centricity of these comments, even the despicable boot-licking hacks of the Post find Gov. Cuomo’s refusal to debate a bit much:

          “Four years later, now-Gov. Cuomo is playing a similar game. We’re not surprised he doesn’t like debates.

          Then again, the reason for having them is not that pols like them but because they’re useful for voters who want more from their candidates than prepared statements and canned commercials.

          Makes us wonder what questions our governor is afraid to answer in a straight-up ­debate.”

      1. trish

        strong work ethic, yes. so counter to one of the myths of the underclass.
        There is a young 20-something guy that comes to our small library to sleep during the day (forbidden but we ignore it) because he’s juggling two low-pay evening/night restaurant jobs and no place to really call home. More homeless come in to stay warm in the winters now, too, (no place for them to go during the day) and so, so many older displaced (factory mostly) non-internet-savvy men and women who struggle to work through on-line job applications, all desperate for work.
        Once I spoke a bit with that 20-something and it was sad…he blamed the state of things all on too-big government and himself. bought into the whole right-wing libertarian blather. I tend to see that a lot. the strugglers blame government for the state of things, hate obama for the wrong reasons.
        The comfortably retired or summering middle class/upper (there’s a good-sized second home community here) complain about their taxes and their ailments (but they have healthcare) or the woes of travel and bears, but are clueless or conveniently clueless about the many struggling to live. except when it comes to their “mission” trips to help (and proselytize to) the poor overseas.

        1. EmilianoZ

          Same here. I also noticed that my local library in DC has become the regular haunt of some homeless people.

          There must be something very seductive in the libertarian ideology that even destitute people buy into it.

          Yesterday I noticed a scene worthy of those old Depression photographs. That was in the Woodley Park neighborhood of DC. DC has wide sidewalks. Restaurants like to put tables on the sidewalks like it is done in Paris. Washingtonians love to dine al fresco on nice days. So, this restaurant in Woodley Park was full. All outside tables were taken. And maybe just one yard from the tables was a homeless man sitting on the curb looking at the eaters. The waiters seemed embarrassed. The costumers seemed to be ignoring the man. That was quite a disturbing scene.

          1. MtnLife

            They do have a bit of a point, even if it is misguided, in that our country would probably be better off with a smaller Federal govt as long as the cuts were made in the right places. Who can really argue with ending subsidies for Big Energy? Eliminating Dept of Homeland Defense? Cutting back on our defense budget?
            This is also not the first time the poor have been convince to act contrary to their own interests. One can look all the way back at the Civil War when the wealthy plantation owners convinced the Southern poor that the reason they were poor was those Northern industrialists were keeping them down and not the system of slavery – why pay someone for all the work they do when you can pay once and get all the work you can force/beat out of them?

          2. jrs

            Well being an absolutist philosophy It offers a different world than that which exists. Whether it’s a better world I don’t know (I mean if the basis of comparison is the status quo a great deal is going to look better afterall). But a libertarian world would be a world without TARP, right? A world without vast QE money funneled to the banks and so on (abolishing the Fed and all, although yes of course economic problems predate the Fed). That’s it’s unlikely to ever be implemented, well yea. Mostly it will just be used cynically.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        Same thing with Occupy. Marginalized people found themselves doing important stuff. Not all, but many.

        It’s very hard work to be poor. Stressful and life-shortening.

    2. Banger

      We live in a country that is adrift and facing incredible cross-currents. The sixties and seventies are often cited as being one of great change–but that was because, despite the power of the repressive forces in society, change was possible and human beings in the various branches of government could make a difference and we had a consensus for progressive policies. When Lyndon Johnson announced a “War on Poverty” he used the term “war” as a signal that the country was united in their interest in ending or alleviating poverty. I think he was right–when posed properly, poverty is bad for our political economy. The wages of poverty are often dependence whether on various public assistance programs, prison or using up family or community (charitable) resources. Poor people do not function well in our society mainly because we have a highly hierarchical culture where wealth determines status, for the most part. A status-based society insures that high-status individuals feel good and low-status people are required to feel bad because if they don’t it disrupts the whole system. A highly stratified society like our own depends on keeping people fearful and stressed as much as possible with official relief coming only from shopping for status goods and services and comfort. This is one reason why drugs that make people feel good or expand their consciousness are illegal and as popular as they are.

      1. Carolinian

        “When Lyndon Johnson announced a “War on Poverty” he used the term “war” as a signal that the country was united in their interest in ending or alleviating poverty.”

        That undoubtedly was his intention but little reason to think that it was true in reality. The rightwingers hated it. Most of Johnson’s War on Poverty no longer exists. Johnson wanted to create a New Deal like his hero FDR. Unfortunately he also wanted to be a war president like his hero. Lyndon on the whole was a disaster for the country.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          I don’t know how we can net out LBJ. Medicare + Civil Rights act is heavy on the positive side. Vietnam on the negative.

          I tend to think that Medicare and Civil Rights took LBJ to get them done, but that the elites (“the best and the brightest”) would have had their war regardless of who was in office (and I know that JFK is said to have thought of withdrawing, but all the pressures that applied to LBJ would have applied of JFK, who was also, I would say, more malleable than LBJ would have been, because of women, drugs, and medical issues. And surely the usual suspects had tapes and pictures of everything.)

    3. MtnLife

      Did this comment regarding one of the “success” stories strike anyone else as WTF?
      Re: Dante Washington
      He wants to become a financial adviser, so that he can talk with people in communities such as this one about the things no one discusses here: retirement, equity, savings.

      Is he serious? Is he unable to step back and intelligently decipher WHY they don’t talk about those things? You’d think with all that education he would understand that people who can barely meet the essentials are NOT going to be saving anything because there is NOTHING TO SAVE. Why doesn’t he tell all the homeless people where to place their spare $100k stock market money too?

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        The poor who complain about transportation should buy a Rolls. You never see them broken down on the side of the road.

    4. curlydan

      Never mentioned in that article (maybe because it was published in the Washington Post) was how much the study’s results appear to clash with today’s push for charter schools and the end of tenured/bad teachers. But as could clearly be inferred from the study, it’s the home- and neighborhood-life that is much more crucial to determining the future of children.

      What would you rather have: a bad teacher (of which there are few contrary to popular belief) or a bad parent, bad neighborhood, or a boring and unfulfilling summer? Keep the hypothetical bad teacher and find a way to somehow improve the other situations.

      While our so-called “philanthropist” tech and finance titans try to “fix our schools” with their imagined expertise, maybe they should spend more time in the neighborhoods about which they know so little. Spend your mega-bucks on enriching summer camps that are fun and educational (hmmm….maybe a computer camp?!?), or provide good after school care.

      If anything, the Baltimore study ought to be a key exhibit to take down the “tenured teacher” and bad teacher hoax.

  6. James Levy

    The man betting against shale oil is going to win. The analysts who predict oil falling to $75 a barrel should be forced to explain how a fuel source that costs at least $80 or more a barrel to extract can sell for $75 in a capitalist economy. I know Bezos has made himself a billionaire running a business that almost never turns a profit, but that’s due to the insanity of his investors, not the market. I don’t think an industry dominated by wildcatting small and medium sized outfits can replicate the amazon model of wealth through conviction; they’ve got to sell product on a competitive open market and show their investors cash on the barrel head (literally) or the investments will dry up and these undercapitalized firms (the costs of shale oil and gas extraction are way higher than conventional light sweet crude drilling) will fold.

    1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

      Not only will they sell it for less than the production costs, they will turn a profit. We will hold the bag. It’s called ‘capitalism’ — and it’s very difficult to understand. We should leave it to the pros.

      1. psychohistorian

        You forgot the fascism part where the $100 per barrel of military protection cost is dumped on the public.

  7. Jackrabbit

    Malooga at MoA has a great comment that adds color to what I wrote yesterday.


    First Malooga quotes from What Does Russia Want? a summary of “An important round-table discussion was held yesterday evening (Monday, September 1st), in Paris, under the auspices of the Franco-Russian Dialogue Association”

    Mr Sergey Naryshkin added that there is a huge problem of refugees in Russia (over 150,000) and that it is rather uncommon that civilians flee to their “aggressor….

    The Ukrainian crisis is in fact a product of the destruction of the framework of international law that we have experienced since the middle of the 1990s and which manifested itself around the subjects of Kosovo (1998-99), of Iraq (2003)—the magnitude of whose consequences are today being measured—and, more recently, of Libya. Today we are tasting the bitter fruits of this destruction of the rules of international law; a destruction for which the United States and NATO bear the responsibility. It is not possible to find a framework for resolving this crisis without rules that are acknowledged by all. International law is still based on two rules, which are profoundly contradictory: respect for the sovereignty of states AND the right of peoples to determine for themselves. Mediation between these two principles has been dramatically and permanently weakened by the actions of NATO states and the United States since the end of the 1990s. It is these mediations that we must rebuild. It has thus gone from a crisis internal to Ukraine to an international crisis, and this largely due to the degree of violence employed by the government in Kiev. On this exact point, there is a new contradiction between the position adopted regarding Libya, where the protection of the population justified a foreign intervention, and the Ukraine. This should be borne in mind.

    Then Malooga adds:

    One might say that these two contradictory principles have been cynically manipulated to the advantage of NATO and the US.

    Russia has long protested that the foundations of International Law have been completely corrupted. However, as long as the US and the EU were profiting from that situation, there was little will for them to even acknowledge it, much less attempt to repair the damage and re-invigorate adherence to the law. Laws are necessary to protect the rights of the weak, not to excuse the actions of the strong. Russia desires a return to the respect for International Law as a precondition for the emergence of a true multi-polar world. But, sadly, one finds that when you throw away the foundations of law, you cannot then find a framework for peace.

    The hegemon has served as judge, jury, and executioner in these matters for the past twenty years, always finding evidence on their side of the argument, even when the contradiction became to glaringly obvious. The litany of cases is familiar: Yugoslavia, Serbia, Kosovo, and South Sudan must split, but the Ukraine’s territory is inviolable — even as it denies the right of choice of language to half of its population, and engages in a series of terror campaigns and disappearances (Odessa, Mariopol, anti-Maidan, etc.). Germany must be re-unified, but not the Crimea.

    H O P

    1. Jackrabbit

      Also NATO head Rasmussan comments today (ht ZH) ahead of upcoming NATO summit:

      “NATO will step up cooperation with Ukraine, help build up and advise Ukraine’s military”

      “We [also] will adopt a substantial package for Georgia, a package that will bring Georgia closer to NATO, including a defense-capacity initiative, establishing a training center in Georgia, occasionally also exercises in Georgia”

      1. Jim Haygood

        So we can look forward in 2016 to a contest between Democrat and Republican war candidates:

        A roiling national debate over how to deal with the radical Islamic State and other global hot spots has prompted a sudden shift in Republican politics, putting a halt to the anti-interventionist mood that had been gaining credence in the party.

        The change is evident on the campaign trail ahead of the November midterm elections and in recent appearances by the GOP’s prospective 2016 presidential candidates, with a near-universal embrace of stronger military actions against the group that has beheaded two American journalists.

        A thirst among many conservative activists for a more muscular U.S. foreign policy was clear over the weekend at a meeting of Americans for Prosperity, the tea-party-affiliated group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers. The loudest applause came when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a potential presidential candidate, called for bombing the Islamic State “back to the Stone Age.”


        Yeah, bombing is what secured our glorious victories in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan.

        ‘My solution to the problem would be to tell them frankly that they’ve got to draw in their horns and stop their aggression or we’re going to bomb them into the Stone Age. And we would shove them back into the Stone Age with air power or naval power—not with ground forces.’ — General Curtis Lemay

      2. Brindle

        The have their obvious slant, but the World Socialist site has very good reporting on NATO/Europe/UKR/RUS

        —The conflict in Ukraine is being utilized to reshape political and social relations in Europe. In the process, the most right-wing forces, which have little support in the population, are setting the tone.
        They are using the crisis, provoked by the US, Germany and NATO, to transform Europe into a military fortress. They are not only risking nuclear war with Russia, but also subordinating Europe to an iron discipline.—-

        1. psychohistorian

          This is the Shock Doctrine at work. Any that say that the current situation is not being actively managed are woefully in denial.

    2. Banger

      There is no longer such a think as international law. It’s gone for good. There are no valid treaties only balance of power. The whole post-WWII structure is dead. NATO survives now as a tool to control populations in Europe and as an offensive military force to impose the will of the USG on other countries. World Bank and IMF perform much the same function but a bit less–WB sometimes funds good projects but, as a whole, has a net negative effect on poor countries or has–I don’t know much about its latest projects.

      In the U.S. rule-of-law is something only applied to the powerless–the more powerful the less the law applies to you the less powerful the more the law applies to you. The Constitution is tattered and just about dead, habeas corpus is in ICU and non-functional, the egalitarian ideas that bloomed for a brief period after WWII and ended with the election of Ronald Reagan are in decline as is formal democracy–elections cannot be guaranteed to be hones and few people seem to care anyway.

      In the same sense, diplomacy has almost ceased to exist in the West–we only have the crude application of force and the dramatic increase in making sure that the language of international affairs consists entirely of overt and (mainly) covert force and threats thereof. The Ukraine situation, in particular, and how it is resolved will provide a guide for how the world goes forward not just in international affairs but internally. For example, if the USG succeeds in forcing Europe into a new cold war or even hot war it will mean the complete surrender of all of Europe–they will now be subject not just to U.S. military domination but U.S. laws and practices at all levels which mean the graudal and systematic dismantling of social democracy over the next few decades. Which is why Euro elites are in line with US occupation of Europe.

        1. Jim Haygood

          ‘By the way, the latest US$1.4 billion the International Monetary Fund shelled out to Ukraine – the Mobster-style interest will hit much later – will be used by an already bankrupt Kiev mostly to pay for a bunch of T-72 tanks it bought from Hungary. Money for nothing, tanks for free.’ — Pepe Escobar

      1. Jim Haygood

        Now the IMF is going to find itself funding one side of a war in Ukraine. As America’s excellent adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan proved, the tab for such conflicts can run into the trillions. But the iMFers have offered a $17 billion package … barely enough to pay the gas bill.

        When it becomes obvious that hundreds of billions are needed, the IMF will have to back off, since its own credit would be damaged by overexposure to one shaky borrower. Or, with a European puppet of the US at the helm, it could simply double down, jump the shark and do ‘whatever it takes.’

        1. Fíréan

          “Conditionally yours: An analysis of the policy conditions attached to IMF loans ”

          “Loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) largely come with policy change conditions attached – conditions that the IMF has played a significant role in developing. Criticisms of the excessive burden and politically sensitive nature of these conditions led to significant reviews at the IMF and the introduction of some conditionality-free facilities, although these are limited in scope. The IMF claims to have limited its conditions to critical reforms agreed by recipient governments. However, the worrying findings of this research suggest that the IMF is going backwards – increasing the number of structural conditions that mandate policy changes per loan, and remaining heavily engaged in highly sensitive and political policy areas. ”
          Quoted from article here (my bold emphasis) :

          Full report “Conditionally Yours” pdf file ( 20 pages) here :

      2. Jackrabbit

        There is no longer such a think as international law. It’s gone for good. There are no valid treaties only balance of power.

        Your optimism that Oligarchs will save us is matched only by your pessimism that anything can be done to change the neolibcon NWO. Indeed this is why increasing hostilities are likely: NWO can brook no resistance (or ‘multi-lateralism’) because that resistance might spread. As you like to say: that’s bad for ‘bidness’.

        1. Banger

          My “optimism” is that life will go on despite the machinations of the rich and that they are unlikely to kill of the goose that lays their golden eggs. We are just returning to normal political life in normal civilizations, That is, rule by force.

          The liberal democratic experiment is unlikely to resurrect any time soon if ever. The Empire will probably further consolidate and we will find a way to live barring major environmental disaster. Does a police and militarist state really change my life very much? No, I believe things will continue much the way it has with the occasional disaster or minor war. Maybe the consolidation of power will continue the Pax Americana (we haven’t had a major war since WWII other than colonial wars and the Cold War was and Orwellian “war”) but without the notion that we live in an “international community” any more than those that lived under Roman or Ottoman rule lived in an international community.

          1. Fíréan

            Does a police and militarist state really change my life very much? No, . . .

            Are you in privileged position comparative to many of us, or very remote situation that your life would not be changed ? (or other ?)

            1. Banger

              We are now living in such a state–and because its come on over many years one doesn’t really feel the difference unless one thinks carefully about what life was like. It wasn’t that much better–life was easier and generally freerr. Now I live a life that has changed in the sense that I am much more fatalistic and take things as they come and live in the moment. I also live more on the edge than most people and have done so for a long time–but even more lately. I don’t plan for the future, really, just live day to day.

              1. Gabriel

                “… just live day to day” arising from creeping fascism –

                Notice that existentialism came out of WW 2?

              2. Jackrabbit

                This is a cop-out. You mean to tell us that you have no preference for how the future unfolds? You have no concern for the world that your children or grandchildren will live in?

                And it is not credible. Fatalistic people don’t spend hours upon hours reading and writing blog comments. Unless they are paid to do so.

        2. Doug Terpstra

          Reluctantly agree on increasing hostilities. The so-called deep state is clearly dominated by Wall Street-AIPAC neocons, psychotically hell-bent on full-spectrum dominance and hardly deterred by Banger’s realists, who so far seem to lack sufficient collective conviction to effectively counter the group psychosis of “the neolibcon NWO ” cult. And I think cult is the right word, because they share key characteristics of a suicidal religious cult which is tightly knit, zealously impervious to reason, unashamedly deceitful, secretive, and prone to violence.

          In this climate, groupthink can easily overreach and miscalculate, as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria have clearly shown, causing massive death, misery, economic damage, and violent blowback. In the case of Ukraine, however, the deliberate aggressive provocation of a nuclear power is potentially catastrophic, biblically so. It’s not smart to poke bears with sharp sticks. Bears don’t rattle sabers, paw the ground, beat their chests, or give much warning before they attack. When it comes, their charge is fast and furious, all 500 pounds of teeth and claws. In the case of Russia the neolibcons are playingwith nuclear fire, and I don’t believe they grasp this or their own limitations.

          1. hunkerdown

            They’d rather not dirty their hands, of course, but assassination is always an available tool in the tool chest of palace intrigue whenever enough important oxen are gored or threatened. This “conviction” stuff is for the dalit. It gets in the way of bizniz.

            If the Westphalian system goes down in an age of unrestricted, democratized communication, the ancien regime is likely to follow. You can imagine why the end of the superstructure of beliefs and institutions that supports aristocracy and privilege might constitute a matter of life or death for aristocrats.

  8. Jim Haygood

    A spectre is haunting Europe:

    The European Central Bank unexpectedly cut interest rates to spur economic growth and stave off the threat of deflation.

    The ECB’s 24-member Governing Council reduced all three of its main interest rates by 10 basis points. The benchmark rate was lowered to 0.05 percent and the deposit rate is now minus 0.2 percent.

    Today’s ECB decision comes even after Draghi said in June that “for all the practical purposes, we have reached the lower bound.” That month, he cut the benchmark rate, took the deposit rate negative for the first time and said any further changes would mainly be “technical adjustments.”


    ZIRP me up, Scotty; there’s no positive yields down here!

    1. MtnLife

      Leahy isn’t actually very popular in our state. There are many liberal-esque (the best I can define myself would be social anarchist, most connected to anarcho-syndicalism and social ecology sub-sets) people who want him gone. The problem is finding a viable alternative to challenge him (and his mountains of money) in the primary because no one wants whomever they put up against him in the general election.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        The Democrats will never change until they get whacked from the left, even if a Republican wins. They must lose elections. That’s why the Republicans fear the right, and the Democrats kick the left. And so what if a Republican gets in? Devote yourself to making it impossible for him or her to get anything done. Then see if the Democrats got the lesson. If they don’t, whack ’em again.

        1. Banger

          This is a very healthy political idea. Imagine-I once said that in the early days of DKOS–imagine the reaction! I was eventually thrown out twice, of course.

    1. Carolinian

      Frederick J. Ryan Jr., one of the founders of Politico and a former Reagan operative, has just been named the new publisher of the Washington Post. I’m sure he will root out all that Snowden “treason” that the Post also participated in. The good news is that the ridiculous Katharine Weymouth was turfed by Bezos.

      At any rate the establishment really hates Greenwald and Snowden. They can’t stand it when they aren’t completely controlling the narrative.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Let’s be fair, now. I’m totally certain that when a libertarian squillionaire monopolist installs a Reaganite and former editor of the Beltway Shopper as Pravda’s publisher, that nothing substantive will change in editorial policy or content. What’s wrong with you?

      1. Banger

        It is interesting and insightful that Hirsh’s objection to Greenwald is that he harms the USA “brand” and that he is opening the door to others like China that may be not as nice as we are. This is the common thread to the alliance between the “liberals” and neoconservatives. They are obsessed with the American Imperial project-they believe that if the U.S. Does not dominate the world then the Chinese will. It never occurs to them that maybe no single nation state needs to dominate the world–they are still developmentally 12 year old boys even the female journos.

    2. hunkerdown

      Tiger Beat on the Potomac” is a turn of phrase that still puts me a-giggling after half a day.

  9. cwaltz

    Job competition is biased and favors high skills, because a high-skill worker applying to a low-skill job is systematically hired over competing low-skill applicants,” the CREI research paper finds.

    Anecdotally, that isn’t what I have heard. There are tons of high skill workers that are turned down for jobs because they are overqualified and because the people running these companies don’t think they’ll stick around if the economy improves. So I personally think that statement is an oversimplification of how businesses operate.

    1. MtnLife

      I would agree with the original statement in the way that it applies to our current economy. Your statement makes sense for those who believe the economy will recover – something very few people believe now. I brought up an example of this a few weeks ago. Our local resort was requiring a F’ing bachelors degree (masters preferred) for a parking lot attendant position that pays $15/hr. This is only possible because we have far too many over educated people with no appropriate positions in their field. Seriously though, if you spent 4-6 years paying $30k/yr for your bachelors-masters education, there is no way in hell $15/hr will ever pay that back. Also, if the economy recovers (still probably years away), those people will be so long out of their field that their education will be next to worthless anyways.

      1. cwaltz

        That resort owner is an idiot. At the end of the day a Bachelors or Masters isn’t going to improve your ability to park a car. Furthermore, if he’s offering a position that won’t allow his workers to pay back those student loans then they will be outta there at the first sign of a better opportunity. That isn’t even beginning to cover the decrease in productivity that usually comes when your workers are stressed because they are worried that they can’t afford to pay the bills and that spills over into their job performance. *shakes head* Are their pros to hiring someone with higher education? Sure. However, there are reasons that as an employer that it’s smarter to match the job to the skill level and consider other things on an applicant’s resume.

        1. MtnLife

          Corporate ownership – should explain part of it. Actually, they don’t even park the car for you. They point where they would like you to park it. Yes, they would probably leave at the first better opportunity but there really aren’t many around and the future isn’t looking so hot either. In the meantime, they get a well-educated and probably well-mannered employee that spiffs up their posh image even more. Why would they want some working class “schlub” that they would pay the same amount when they can have the “polished” candidate? Training costs are not an issue, pointing at an empty spot isn’t high skill. The person with a bachelors has also proven they can jump through whatever hoops you put in front of them and most likely has a stronger feeling of self-worth and “duty” to be working in some capacity to be a productive member of society which will also result in higher job attendance (few absences).

          I agree with your subsequent post that maybe some of these clueless snobs being placed in plebe positions will awaken their senses to the injustice. I can only hope.

        2. hunkerdown

          It’s not about ability to park a car. It’s about their *cultural* ability to act as obedient housewares fit for Very Important People.

      2. cwaltz

        On the upside, I also think that some of the revitalization we’ve seen in a push for more rights for labor comes from some of the more educated being thrust into these type of jobs and realizing that they aren’t the cakewalk they once were told by those trying to suppress wages and benefits for those on the bottom. Self interest is a powerful weapon and some of the ownership class didn’t realize that a more educated working class is less likely to believe the BS or take it lying down in the same way the poor and beaten down from birth have.

    1. MtnLife

      Ahh, the wonderful synergistic effects of the two maxims: Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes truth + You don’t have to fool everyone all the time, just the right ones and the rest will fall in line.

    2. psychohistorian

      The crooks operating those face cell towers must not trust the NSA data they are getting through the bought channels they already have.

      After all, the oligarchs need information before Obama gets it so they can tell him what to do appropriately.

  10. Jackrabbit

    Judging by many comments, here and elsewhere, there is a concerted effort to paint Obama as a victim of the neocons. A good example of this is The Whys Behind the Ukrainian Crisis by Robert Parry at Consortium News.

    Parry closely follows developments so it is difficult to believe that he can’t see Obama for what he is. Probably the main ‘evidence’ that is cited for the Obama-neocon antagonism is Obama’s ‘peace’ initiative with Iran. But there has been no peace. That initiative is going nowhere. The negotiations were extended (in June, I believe) because no agreement could be reached and neither side wants to seem like they are not wiling to talk. This is especially true on the Iranian side because when Obama introduced this initiative he made a point of saying that while it is a step toward peace, it is also the last step before war (because to unite allies against Iran requires a last ditch effort for peace).

    Obama seemed gung-ho for bombing Syria (anyone that recalls his having expressed misgivings please let us know). He punted to Congress only due to determined resistance from Russia (which raised the stakes) and the UK Parliament’s NO vote (so he had no political cover). And Sy Hersh detailed Obama’s CIA running arms to Syrian Islamist rebels in his The Red Line and The Rat Line (Hersh had previously explained neocon plans for the middle east in his 2007 report, The Redirection). It seems rather unlikely that Obama, who lost an Ambassador in Libya and picks drone targets, isn’t aware of these things.

    Also note that the Obama Administration had turned a UN ‘no fly zone’ into a bombing campaign. It seems unlikely that he would not have been made aware of complaints from Russia and others (including Congress).

    Obama has appeared to be very supportive of the Ukraine adventure. Nuland still has a job, Yats and Poroshenko have been invited to the White House, and Obama has helped to spread the ‘Russian invasion’ line (among other things). And we still haven’t seen US intel on MH-17.

    Lastly, Obama constantly repeats the neocon ‘exceptionalism’ mantra and has appointed so many neocons or neocon sympathizers that it seems implausible that he isn’t one himself.

    H O P

    1. Banger

      Obama drifts between different factions. He has moved toward the neocon position because he sees that the press continues to favor that POV–so pointing fingers like and bellowing is what you do in our pro-wrestling political theater we call the “news.” Nothing much has happened, people in the background are jostling for power and money and, in the end, actual policies as opposed to gestures will become more evident.

      1. Synopticist

        I think on Syria Obama did as little as he could get away with, given the interplay between factions in Washington. I still reckon he originally mistook the responsibilty to protect messianics for realists of one sort or other, rather than the natural allies of the neo-cons.

        1. James Levy

          Yet, somehow you never hear Ignatief et al. plead for our responsibility to protect the Palestinians when they are getting offed at a rate of 20-1 by the Israelis. Wonder why that might be?

          1. Jackrabbit

            Oh for bloody sake, what kind of contribution is this? How about a decent response from someone?


            Banger: “Obama drifts between different factions”
            What is your proof? He seems pretty consistent to me. I mentioned specific actions of his that show his consistent neocon-friendly stance. What have you offered to refute that? Nothing but an empty statement.

            Banger: [Obama] has moved toward the neocon position because he sees that the press continues to favor that POV . . .”
            Really!?! But ‘access journalism’ works in exactly the opposite direction. Again, any examples? Links? No just an empty statement

            Banger: “[after the] jostling for power and money . . . actual policies as opposed to gestures will become more evident.”
            This lesson in policy making is MISLEADING because, while it may be true in other areas, it is not necessarily true in – foreign policy –, and NONREPONSIVE because it doesn’t explain why the Obama-neocon disagreement on Iran (if there is one) is made out to be so terrible when Obama has favored neocons on virtually every other foreign policy issue.


            If one applies some critical thinking, one could well ask: Why should we believe that an Administration that is so neocon-friendly in every other way is now swayed by some unknown ‘faction’ on the hot-button issue of Iran? Doesn’t seem much more likely, given what we know about the Administrations other foreign policy choices, that the administration’s Iran strategy is covert and favors neocon objectives?


            Playing up an Obama – neocon disagreement is a way to distance Obama and his Administration from neocons. This is largely misinformation/propaganda that plays on, and attempts to reinforce, the public’s perception of Obama as a paragon of virtue (Nobel Peace Prize! Constitutional lawyer!). Those with a better understanding of Obama are repulsed by any effort to portray neolibcon Obama in such a light.

  11. Carla

    I miss the old, more comprehensive Links section: my window on the world every morning.

    While it’s good to know what Lambert is thinking at the Water Cooler, that feature of course is not really visually scan-able.

    Nevertheless, I remain of course, profoundly grateful for NC. Many thanks to all contributors for your efforts, but of course, most of all, to Yves and Lambert.

        1. Ed S.

          He likes both types of music: country and western..

          One of the best movie lines of all time. On par with:

          But these go to 11.

  12. Jessica

    “The Lands of the Afro-Colombians” contrasts how that marginalized group used the state rather than fleeing from it in the manner described by Scott.
    Scott himself states that the strategies he describes ceased functioning after WW2 because states had higher levels of technology and organization that enabled them to effectively intrude on hill tribes and the like at low enough cost to make it worth it (from the perspective of the elites).

  13. Leeskyblue

    RE antidote —
    This feisty little guy has GOT to be our mascot.
    Now we just have to organize a team around him.

  14. ChrisPacific

    From the Nik Cubrilovic article on the celebrity data theft:

    The frequent source of new leads for targets seems to be newcomers who know somebody they want to hack and have stumbled onto one of the networks offering services via search terms or a forum they frequent. The new contributor will offer up a Facebook profile link, plus as much information as is required by the hacker to break the account, plus possible assistance in getting a RAT installed if required. In exchange the hacker and ripped will supply the person providing the lead with a copy of the extracted data, which they will also keep for themselves. This was one of the most unsettling aspects of these networks to me – knowing there are people out there who are turning over data on friends in their social networks in exchange for getting a dump of their private data.

    I agree that is quite scary.

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