2:00PM Water Cooler 7/10/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


List of traitors in House and Senate, with phone numbers. Hat tip, reader Vatch. Be sure to visit them when they return to the district. If a traitor is mentioned in Water Cooler, their name is in bold.


Let me just turn the mic over to Alan Grayson for a moment:

“Why Is Everyone Angry? I’ll Tell You Why” [Alan Grayson, HuffPo]:

But here is the deeper explanation for all of that anger: For most Americans, life simply is getting harder. This was painfully obvious from a Sage Foundation study last year, following up on an article in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. The study looked at changes in the wealth of American households over a decade, from 2003 to 2013. The study found that median net worth had dropped by 36 percent, from $87,992 to $56,335.

Let me repeat that: The net worth of the average American household dropped by more than one-third in ten years. The decline from the 2007 peak was almost 50 percent, in just six years. (Most of that loss was in the value of one’s home — home is where the heartache is.)

That’s why everyone is so angry.

A staffer should have helped him on one point, there, but on the big picture: He’s right. And concrete material benefits is where it’s ate.

“Why Don’t Democrats Vote? I’ll Tell You Why” [Alan Grayson, HuffPo]:

The [Florida Gubernatorial] Democratic nominee [in 2010] was Charlie Crist, a REPUBLICAN former governor. Crist was so far to the right that he was known as “Chain-Gang Charlie.” In 2010, when Scott was first elected, Crist killed the Democrat’s chances for a US Senate seat from Florida by dropping out of his own Republican primary, where he was 25 points down, and running as an “independent.” That “stinking maneuver” … made Marco Rubio the junior senator from Florida.

Rather than shunning Crist for blowing that 2010 Senate race for the Democrats, the Democrats actually recruited him. They crowned someone who was a Republican just a few years earlier, and a conservative Republican at that, as the “Democratic” nominee for governor.

Political strategists called this a brilliant move by the Democratic Party. And Democratic voters were appalled, as my own little poll showed. Democratic voters stayed home in droves, and the Democrats lost.

As Gov. Howard Dean has said, if you offer people a choice between a real Republican and a fake Republican, they will choose the real Republican every time.

It’s been a long time since a Democrat threw me some red meat.

Stats Watch

Wholesale trade, May 2015:  “Wholesale inventories rose a sharp 0.8 percent in May, a much larger-than-expected gain but still in line, though just barely, with sales” [Bloomberg]. “Builds were posted in furniture, farm-products, and apparel.” And: “another soft report” [Econintersect]. Grrrr: ” The textbook narrative where sales lead inventories, with inventories falling after sales fall and production is reduced, is most likely what’s going on here, as evidence that we may already be in recession continues to increase” [Mosler].

Greek industrial production down 4% in May [Hellenic Statistical Authority].

“The IMF forecasts 3.3 percent global growth this year, down from the 3.5 percent it predicted in April. That would be slowest pace of global growth since the world economy shrank slightly in the recession year 2009. The main culprit: The American economy, world’s biggest, shrank at a 0.2 percent annual rate from January to March” [AP].


“Ex-Deutsche Bank Traders Said to Face Libor Charges” [Bloomberg].

“Three years on from the Libor-rigging scandal, the key interest rate benchmark is still not fully repaired, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) warned” [Telegraph]. “if economic times get tough the index could become an unreliable tracker of the risk-free interest rate in financial markets, undermining its core purpose.” Oh, that’s its core purpose? I wonder if “markets” have a false origin story, just like Adam Smith’s false origin story of money. I mean, surely market makers don’t create markets only out of altruism, but for profit? And why should not the market itself have rent as a purpose, in addition to whatever profits are taken from trading? The whole “free markets” thing seems Utopian to me, and one of the bad things about Utopias is that sometimes the kill people. Readers: Can any of you recommend any scholarly anthropological or historical works on the origins of markets?

“Former trader Hayes denies trades were bribes for brokers, Libor trial hears” [Reuters]. “‘He denies it,’ said the King: ‘leave out that part.'”

“‘I wanted to say ‘I haven’t done anything wrong. I was just doing my job and I’m not dishonest’,” Hayes said, breaking into tears.” [Daily Mail]. While executives laugh.

“Tom Hayes, the alleged mastermind of a global interest-rate-rigging conspiracy, said that he decided to fight charges against him after discovering in 2013 that his former employer, UBS AG, had what he called an “instruction manual” for manipulating rates” [Wall Street Journal]. The tears trigger my all-too-human impulse to rip the throats from the weak, but an “instruction manual”… Hmm. I wonder who signed off on it? And who managed the distribution list?

Lambert here: I remember very well this column in 2008 from Krugman [Paul Krugman, “My Friend TED,” New York Times], which I saw as nugget of true wisdom because Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel:

The TED spread is the difference between the interest rate banks charge each other on 3-month loans (3-month LIBOR) and the interest rate on 3-month U.S. Treasury bills. It’s a measure of financial jitters.

What Krugman either did not know (bad) or did not say (appalling) was that LIBOR data was corrupt data, manipulated data. So who wants a “friend” like that? This is not unique to Krugman, of course. Oddly, or not, corruption figures no more in academic economic discourse — salt or fresh — than does, say, banking.


“As one of the foreign exchange traders encouraged a fellow conspirator, ‘If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.'” [The Hill].

“[T]he practice of selling bonds remains a morass of opacity, and there seems to be little examination of the practices surrounding how the securities are issued” [Bloomberg]. Hmm.

“‘When [it is] a rich guy or someone who has power in the country, normally they are not arrested and sent to jail,’ [Bunthoeun Soun, a coordinator of the Judicial Reform Project at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights] said” [Phnomh Penh Post]. Of course, Cambodia is a third-world country. It can’t happen here.

Our Famously Free Press

“Joshua Topolsky, the top digital editor at Bloomberg, has been fired from the company due to Michael Bloomberg’s frustration with the website” [Bloomberg]. BWA-HA-HA-HA!!! Literally the ugliest, most unusable front page I’ve ever given up on checking regularly. To be fair, Paul Ford’s “What is Code” was a brilliant example of how to integrate working code into well-written copy. But it was also meta, or reflexive: The article was about code, and the working code embedded in the text was, in essence, illustrative.

My free advice for Bloomberg: Your readers are time-stressed. Make sure your site delivers text clearly and efficiently. Consider visualizations — which code can display brilliantly, as in Ford’s piece — as illustrations, and make sure the text works without them.  Writing is around 5000 years old, and delivering information in that medium has an immense accumulation of social capital behind it. All the JavaScript brogrammers and Brooklyn design hipsters in the world wouldn’t be able to change that in a year, or a decade, or even figure out the right thing. Put them back in their box and don’t embarass your publication by giving them more control than they should have over your process, or more bandwidth than readers want to give them. 

“Vice is also increasingly throwing its weight behind hard news, and in late March, the company announced a deal with HBO that will expand its vaunted documentary series and give Vice a 30-minute newscast every weekday” [Columbia Journalism Review].

“One thing we can learn from Circa: A broader way to think about structured news” [Nieman Labs].

“Print and online readers of a heart-wrenching true story display equal empathy and emotional engagement, regardless of the medium in which they read” [Columbia Journalism Review].

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“[Missouri] Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation Thursday limiting the ability of cities to profit from traffic tickets and municipal court fines” [New York Times]. Leaving open the issue of how else cities like Ferguson will raise revenue. My guess is they’ll target the same people they targeted before.

“Confederate flag removed from South Carolina Statehouse after a 54-year presence; heads to nearby museum” [AP]. Marking, one might hope, the end of Nixon’s Southern Strategy.

“Bill Cosby’s Famous “Pound Cake” Speech, Annotated” [Buzzfeed]. “Algernon: Really, if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility” —The Importance of Being Earnest.


“‘A lot of people are asleep, they are on the Titanic and they drink champagne, while we are about to crash,’ Jerry Brown, whose state is struggling to cope with a historic drought that many blame on climate change, told the Climate Summit of the Americas” [France24].

“As a recent study from the University of Bristol documented, climate scientists have been so distracted and intimidated by the relentless campaign against them that they tend to avoid any statements that might get them labeled “alarmists,” retreating into a world of charts and data” [Esquire]. Those plucky billionaires!

Wretched Excess Watch

“Mr. Vowels says he likes the quirky touches of his modern home, which includes a front gate that once was part of a cell of a now-demolished prison. [Wall Street Journal, “Seattle’s Luxury Homes Get a Tech Boom Boost”]. Ha ha teh funny. Which way does the gate swing?

“How to Buy a Bordeaux Château” [Bloomberg].

Class Warfare

Nate Silver on the “work longer hours” controversy [FiveThirtyEight]. I want to focus on this sentence:

After accelerating in the late 1990s, productivity growth has slowed markedly in the past decade. The slump is a bit of a mystery given the rapid pace of technological progress, which should generally allow companies to produce more per hour of work.

Is it possible that after seeing generation of productivity gains creamed off by owners, American workers have finally figured out there’s nothing in it for them, so why do it?

News of the Wired

“The big problem we face isn’t coordinated cyber-terrorism, it’s that software sucks” [Medium]. This is an excellent counterweight to the triumphalism of “The Startup that Saved America.”

“Post-politics and the future of the left”  [Open Democracy]. The whole thing is worth a read:

The left’s rejection of ideology is, in this light, deeply problematic, as it accepts an attack on ideology that is implicitly an attack on the left. Everyone declares left and right to be ‘over’, but the left is a lot more over than the right. The right is comfortable in a post-ideological era: they have evolved into a kind of anti-establishment establishment, talking local and acting central. But the left has taken the fragmentation imperative at face value, splintering off into atomised single-issue campaigns. The grassroots revolution is, in this sense, an unwitting symptom of neoliberal hegemony. The right emphasises concrete practicality while keeping its eye on the ideological prize; the left has given up on grand narratives, yet needs one all the same.

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. And here’s today’s plant, or rather, fungus (Diptherio):

Spring fungi Greenough

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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. Gerard Pierce

    Re: Class Warfare. Back in the days of the Soviet Union one of the oft-repeated descriptions of communism: “We pretend to work – they pretend to pay us”.

    1. ambrit

      Hi Gerard, how’re the ‘Downtown Rejects’ doing?
      Another fun Russian word I learned from a high school friend who studied behind the Iron Curtain in the ‘bad old days’ is; “nichego.” Something like, ‘who knows’ or ‘nothing special.’ He pronounced it “nich-e-vo.”
      An example; “So how’s Hillary going to handle the Saunders campaign?” Comrade Rouble answers, “Nichego.” Shrugs shoulders.

      1. Gerard Pierce

        Currently the Downtown Project seems to be in a state of double secret disintegration. The Zappos crew is turning into a Dilbert cartoon – when told that Holocracy had empowered them, they decided to use their new-found power to ignore Holocracy. The Downtown Rejects was a whimsical idea that doesn’t go anywhere because no one really cares. My current guess is that it will be 30-60 days before Bezos pulls the plug on Zappos.

      2. Propertius

        If only Grayson realized that Howard Dean was quoting Harry Truman. Part of our problem is that our “leaders” are as historically ignorant as their “followers”. Still being hated by the DSCC is a definite plus in my book.

        1. different clue

          Ignorant can be fixed. Grayson is not dumm. If someone could get him the information or point him to where it is, he could learn it. (If indeed he doesn’t already know it. It is very clumsy to attribute every single classic quote in a speech or in an article and perhaps he knew the Truman provenance very well but didn’t want to keep interjecting “as Truman once said . . . “)

          But if Grayson really needs some historical grounding, perhaps his one-time adviser Matt Stoller who probably still reads these threads can offer Grayson lessons on that grounding, if Stoller and Grayson both think it is indicated.

  2. allan

    Grayson: the DSCC is going all-out to make sure he’s not the nominee in Florida. From the DSCC website:

    With Marco Rubio launching his presidential bid, Florida’s Senate contest becomes a tossup and the map becomes increasingly complicated for Republicans. Florida represents one of our best pickup opportunities, and Republicans are staring down a potentially messy primary in the Sunshine State. Democrats won a competitive Senate race in Florida decisively in 2012. Patrick Murphy’s record of fighting for Florida’s working families, seniors and the environment make him the strongest candidate to win the Florida Senate race and flip the seat.

    That would be the Patrick Murphy who supports GOP in most key votes.

    1. ChrisFromGeorgia

      Yup, increasingly both parties will only accept homogenized “moderates” who’ve been pre-vetted for supplication and willingness to tow the neo-liberal line.

      Look at the nasty attacks on Rand Paul from his own party for an analog.

      1. JerseyJeffersonian

        Speaking of nasty attacks on Ron Paul from within the Republican party, who would be more credible than the governator of my own state of NJ?

    2. hunkerdown

      Grayson isn’t a DSCC customer, so by rule #1 (“because markets”) he doesn’t exist. In fact, he threw his drink in the face (HuffPo) of everything the DSCC stands for:

      And me? I hereby declare my independence from the corrupt system of campaign finance. I will not carve up the law into little pieces, and sell it to the highest bidder. I will not make “friends” with lobbyists and special interests and the minions of multinational corporations, and then “help” those “friends.” I will not forsake my real job — doing something good for the 700,000 people who chose me to be their Congressman — in favor of begging millionaires and billionaires for a few crumbs from their tables.

      1. hunkerdown

        Also, Lambert, thick and juicy, just barely saw the grill: “You’re Running for the Senate” (Alan Grayson’s tumblog) (emphasis mine)

        I love that he’s courting the Jewish vote with Jewish values instead of Zionist values: “As the Jewish scholar Hillel asked, ‘If I will not be for myself, who will be for me?'” I wonder if he’s leaving the second part, approximately “And if I will only be for myself, who are we?” for later. Or the third part: “If not now, when?”

    3. jgordon

      The only way I would ever vote for [gags] Democrat in Florida is if by some Miracle Grayson was on the ticket. Last time (D) Nelson was up for reelection, aside from a straight 3rd party/independent vote (and where there was no independent I left it blank) I actually voted for the Republican running against him just to make it that much less likely that he’d keep his job.

      Not to say that I think voting would change anything. I just prefer getting screwed by an honest, if nefarious, Republican than by a Democrat who might actually think that I believed his lies.

      1. different clue

        Will there be a state primary in Florida where different Dparty wannabes fight for the Florida state Dparty nomination for Senate candidate? If there will be, would you be able to vote for Grayson in such a primary and thereby become a small part of the miracle you hope for?

  3. NotTimothyGeithner

    There were issues with Grayson’s office in his first term which caused a backlash, but his first Congressional stint was a Bush-Cheney district if memory serves. He isn’t giving advice coming from a very safe blue seat.

  4. EGrise

    Regarding the fivethirtyeight.com article, it seems a bit suspect. Picking an example, check out this hand-waving:

    Those numbers are based on data from employers; workers themselves report longer hours, but surveys show the same steady trend.

    You don’t say? Heaven forfend that employers should fudge employment data, or that they should require uncompensated hours in a soft labor market, so it must be the case that all those workers are lying or just mistaken. After all, the “surveys” show the same trend.

  5. Garrett Pace

    “Is it possible that after seeing generation of productivity gains creamed off by owners, American workers have finally figured out there’s nothing in it for them, so why do it?”

    If the economy can’t afford more big screen tvs, it doesn’t matter how many the robots can make.

  6. New Deal democrat

    Mosler is almost certainly wrong about recession. A quick google search of his site:
    – he believed the US was not in recession in January 2008 (in fact the Great Recession had already started)
    – it was in recession in February of that year
    – but it had pulled out of recession in March 2008 (Oops!)
    – that the economy was “knocking at recession’s door in April 2014 (in fact it had just started 2 quarters of 5% growth)
    – that ECRI’s Weekly Leading Index forecast recession in December 2014 (ECRI itself does not agree)

    It is true that measures of industrial output, as well as several other indicia of industrial output (steel and rail in addition to the inventory to sales ratio cited by Mosler) have been declining this year, but they have undergone previous declines of similar magnitude without a recession occurring. And of course the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow shows a present value of 2Q GDP at +2.3%.

    Even Mike Shedlock, who earlier this year thought a recession was likely, has gone silent on this issue.

    If you are interested in whether or not the US is in a recession, I think you would be better served following Doug Short, who tracks employment, spending, income, and production (the four usual measures of a recession) as each is reported: http://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/Big-Four-Economic-Indicators-NP.php
    and Jeff Miller, whose weekly updates
    include quantitative (i.e., objective, not subjective) models by Bob Dieli, Georg Vrba, and Recession Alert.

    The Federal Reserve also has its own recession model, which you can see here:
    As of the latest reading, the likelihood of the US being in recession is under 2%.

    In summary, I’m not aware of a single objective, quantitative model that indicates that the US is anywhere near recession. Given Mosler’s track record, I would take his subjective opinion about recession with heaping quantities of salt.

  7. Jerry Denim

    “Why Don’t Democrats Vote? I’ll Tell You Why” [Alan Grayson,]

    I left a comment already over in the Clinton/Sanders media angle on this very topic. Case in point, Kay Hagan from my home state of North Carolina. It’s not that her opponent Thom Tillis was popular, in fact he was deeply unpopular and universally hated by Democrats, but Democrats and progressives don’t feel slightly-less-repugnant Blue Dogs like Hagan are the worth the trouble of coming out to vote. Voting for a DINO Blue Dog turd leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you feel icky all over and then you feel the guilt of a sell-out for legitimizing such a rotten system with your tacit support conferred by voting. That’s why Democrats aren’t voting, they see nothing worth voting for.

    1. Vatch

      If a third party candidate is available, that’s who they should vote for. Even if there’s no third party candidate, there might be one or two decent Democrats running for other offices besides governor or senator. Vote for the decent candidates, and leave the ballot blank for the other races.

    2. Oregoncharles

      I wish.

      But when you given them someone else to vote for, they still don’t vote.

    3. CB

      Yes, agree about Hagan. Didn’t support her first run or her second. The DNC is republicrat to the core and Hagan, and her ilk, are the assassins who spill out of the trojan horse while dem voters are celebrating a victory. Same gruesome results, too.

  8. Jess

    “‘A lot of people are asleep, they are on the Titanic and they drink champagne, while we are about to crash,’ Jerry Brown, whose state is struggling to cope with a historic drought that many blame on climate change…”

    That would be the same phony DINO Jerry Brown who has instituted water restrictions on all activities except…


    1. ishmael

      Of course the number one reason for environmental problems is too many people (which leads to too many cars, too much use of resources, too much garbage), but Jerry Brown would never say anything to decrease the amount of development in California. If there is a Titanic anyplace it is California and Jerry Brown is the Captain.

      1. jgordon

        Having a social arrangement where people think they need cars in the first place is one of the areas we’ve seriously gone wrong as a society. On that topic, if all people were using composting toilets and were actively practicing intelligent agroforestry and/or ecological reclamation on whatever plot of land they happened to have access to, the earth could sustainably support billions more people with little problem.

        The way we are living now though I’d guess that a population of less than 100 million is the upper limit of what the earth can support in any kind of a long term scenario.

        1. Vatch

          Do composting toilets work for people who live in apartments?

          If there were billions more people, where would their food be grown?

          1. different clue


            I am not jgordon, but it occurs to me that if mainstream society members are ready to accept toilet compoo as a sustainable ingredient in agriculture/horticulture, then apartment buildings, office buildings, etc. could have some multi-toilet-stall zones where many people could pee and poo with the results being channeled into large collective-output composting chambers.

            I myself doubt billions MORE people could be supported no matter what we do, but we could do more intensive horticulture than what we are doing and get more food per unit land than what we are getting. If every suburban house and yard were its own yard-sized high-density food-growing operation, more net-net overall food could be grown per unit area of suburbia than what was grown there when it was farmland.
            E. M. Schumacher once made that point in an article he wrote in Atlantic Magazine many years ago. I forget the name of the article. So . . . we could grow some of that more-food in Suburbia.

    2. danny

      @Jess: I won’t make excuses for Jerry Brown, but it’s worth noting that he may not have much choice or immediate control in the matter like he does with the municipal water agencies. My understanding is that one of the biggest issues with restricting water for the oil and natural gas industry is that fracking and oil production sites are generally using groundwater, which to date, hasn’t been regulated much outside a few groundwater basins. The state is still working on its groundwater regulations with a legislated completion date of 2022. You can sign up for news and comment on the regulatory process at http://www.groundwater.ca.gov/ (check out the “compliance map” section for timelines ) Ultimately, it’s a hot mess created by one hundred years of head-in-the-sand syndrome.
      Some of the oil and natural gas industry have also gotten their hands on senior water rights as well, which also limits the ability to restrict water use.

  9. tommy strange

    Regarding the open democracy post. Though a worthy read, the author makes vast generalizations about the left. After 30 years of being in the bottom working class left I find none of this true : “The left’s rejection of ideology is, in this light, deeply problematic, as it accepts an attack on ideology that is implicitly an attack on the left. Everyone declares left and right to be ‘over’, but the left is a lot more over than the right. ”
    Don’t know, never met any middle class or working class progressive in any org, or social situation or anti war situation that fits this. And in fact the ideology for 15 years on the bottom left in the USA is very coherent. Capitalism must go. We must build a participatory society of real democracy and sustainable economics. Socialism yes, libertarianism/anarchism organization modes a necessity.
    “The left must design the architectural blueprint of a better society. But before it can do so, it must recognise our postmodern, prelinguistic predicament. Claims on the left of the obsolescence of right and left, of banners and manifestos, are counterproductive. Those who oppose neoliberalism do need a vision – but since the word ‘left’ is tainted, new words are needed to describe it.”
    Has she been at university all her life? The anarchist left/socialist left all over the world fairly clearly describes what ‘we’ are fighting for. Not more ballot box solutions, but that is her whole thrust. There ya go.
    Chomsky has been describing if for 50 years. Bookchin 20 years ago, thousands of books printed by AK and PM press, two of the largest ‘small’ left indie presses in the USA.
    Obviously in her world, the zapatistas, the brazilian landless peasants movement etc etc also don’t exist.

    and this is garbage. “Representative democracy is often characterised as a system in which people vote every five years and then go back to sleep. But, as Ferdinand Mount has noted, the state was once much more decentralised and participatory than it is now, with strong local government and a network of community organisations that has been all but stripped away. ” More decentralized only because smaller numbers were involved in electing representatives. And even smaller numbers because the vote was limited to male property owners almost across the entire spectrum of early 1st world democracy.
    Here she is talking about liberals…not anti-capitalists. Not the left. A common trope of the UK and USA ‘progressive’ elite. “This is the only way to galvanise organised, sustained action. It is not enough to just talk small, talk local, talk ‘people first’ – because that is simply to mirror what the right is arguing for too. The left needs to think collective, think structural, think society – think big.” Again, I don’t know anyone of the left in the USA, whether IWW, anarchist, socialist, the thousands of info shops and communal work spaces across the USA, that has NOT been trying to organize for the BIG for twenty years. What was Seattle about 16 fucking years ago? (organized by anarchists) What was occupy about? (in big cities all organized and maintained by anarchists) Just stopping one oil rig in our backyard. Jeeezz…Actually the thinking was TOO BIG…that is, the left in the USA is not organized militantly enough to support a real threat. I agree we will be crushed and jailed in the upcoming depression, but it will NOT be because we have no ideology or concrete goals. It is more so, because too many americans listen to these shepherds pushing back to the ballot box over and over again. Think Solnit. Still somehow a respected ‘radical’ in the bay area. Though vicious and manipulative and intellectually dishonest. As most liberals are.

      1. DJG

        The most valuable part of the article is here:

        Otherwise, I felt that the article was too much about English conditions (not even Scots or Welsh), which are always peculiar. Further, her handwaving at the top made me wonder if she ever had read the Italians like Gramsci and Bobbio. Bobbio’s “Right and Left” answered a lot of her questions–25 years ago. So maybe the biggest problem here is liberals and their short memories.

    1. hemeantwell

      tommy strange, could you fill us in on Solnit? I’ve read a couple of her pieces, I think both were on Google and San Francisco, seemed well-written but without much political follow through.

      1. JerseyJeffersonian


        I will be so bold as to jump in here; Tommy might be otherwise occupied or tired from that righteous post.

        Yes, Solnit writes well. But I will never forgive her for a post she wrote for Salon prior to the last presidential election in which she insultingly browbeat lefties who were understandably pretty pissed off at Obama, basically following Rahm Emmanuel’s meme that anybody who didn’t fall into line & vote for the More Effective Evil was just a “fucking retard”.

        No, Rebecca, you don’t get to decide what shit I will eat (h/t e.e.cummings).

    2. vidimi

      great comment. agree completely. the left, as in the professional left, may be discredited, but people have evolved to organise around issues.

        1. vidimi

          in the beginning, yes, but this is just the beginning. think of it as an early stage of succession.

          the previous stages were mature forest, fully corrupt democratic cronyism, which got burned down in the obama years and now the scorched but fertile earth must start anew. we start off with a few ideas, but as links between these ideas grow, parties will organize around them to eventually form mature, corrupt forests of their own which will be burned down by another crisis .

    3. Paul Tioxon

      100% agree. 1st of all, this from the UK which is a monarchy. Let me know when the revolution comes to Buckingham palace, then get back to me about the left! The Labour Party was noble and strong in its opposition to exploitation and getting important social programs such national health care. There is plenty of Leftist or Anti-System political activity in the US and around the world. Especially note the anti-Davos Port Allegre/ World Social Forum.


    4. RanDomino

      The ‘Left’ that you’re referring to is a vanishingly small number of people. There are at least two orders of magnitude more people who are like “yeah I guess capitalism is bad or whatever and I do my part by thinking about signing an online petition now and then, buying organic from Whole Foods, clicking ‘like’ on Facebook on things saying conservatives are bad, and going to a protest once every five years (if it’s in the same town as me and I’m not doing anything else that day). Hey, I’m busy- all this beer isn’t going to drink itself, you know”.

  10. Cugel

    New article explaining everything about Grexit by Vanis Varoufakis:

    To exit, we would have to create a new currency from scratch. In occupied Iraq, the introduction of new paper money took almost a year, 20 or so Boeing 747s, the mobilisation of the US military’s might, three printing firms and hundreds of trucks. In the absence of such support, Grexit would be the equivalent of announcing a large devaluation more than 18 months in advance: a recipe for liquidating all Greek capital stock and transferring it abroad by any means available.

    And this:

    In my first week as minister for finance I was visited by Jeroen Dijsselbloem, president of the Eurogroup (the eurozone finance ministers), who put a stark choice to me: accept the bailout’s “logic” and drop any demands for debt restructuring or your loan agreement will “crash” – the unsaid repercussion being that Greece’s banks would be boarded up.

    The problem has been that Syriza did not make all this public back in February. Instead they kept telling people that “we are near a deal” when they were getting nothing at all in exchange for their concessions. That lack of honesty is now biting them in the ass and will cost them all chances of holding power.

  11. PQS

    Re: 538 article/productivity:
    Is it also possible many workers are just burned out from being overwhelmed? The last decade has been marked by not only the GEM, but also people working one and a half or two jobs at a time with no raises, of course, because if you don’t like it, there’s the door!

    After a couple of years of this, even the most hard headed of my cohorts started to ask Big Questions about the Meaning of Work and Life…..add in the fact that the money just gushes upward and, well, maybe someday our hardheaded “elites” will get the picture.

  12. Wayne Harris

    Re Climate: Bee deaths: “Pollination by insects is critical to producing around a third of the food humans consume. Unlike other species, which adapt to warming temperatures by moving north into cooler “ranges,” bees have tended to stay put. As a result, huge swaths of bumblebee populations are dying off. And quickly.” http://linkis.com/www.rawstory.com/201/CmgEC

  13. rumblefish

    If Grayson’s comments are the standard of courage (my term) for in-parrty criticism at this point, the bar is rather low. And, frankly, the establishment term “red meat” just serves to frame the “eater” as a savage. A great example of how TPTB have distorted reality such that the act of telling or consuming the truth teleports one to the fringe. The truth is a taboo, in today’s America.

    Grayson makes a living filling the void for truth seekers with his occasional t-bones, helping to keep the drowning Democratic brand’s head just above water. Meanwhile he is filthy rich and still soliciting donations, with a cushy job, free health care, and a voice through the media.

    “Courage 2.0”. It’s about as substantive as the promise behind “personalized advertising algorithms”. He’d be better off exposing his corrupt peers. Oh, and using a real estate bubble to establish a floor for average or median net worth? Don’t get me started. We all know it’s much worse than that anyhow, even if the bubble chaff were skimmed.

    Apologies if my comment lands below the contributory threshold.

  14. Oregoncharles

    “The American economy, world’s biggest, shrank at a 0.2 percent annual rate from January to March””

    And there’s what will determine the 2016 election. “It’s the economy, stupid.” – James Carville.

  15. Oregoncharles

    ““Post-politics and the future of the left””

    Which left?

    “But the left has taken the fragmentation imperative at face value, splintering off into atomised single-issue campaigns. ”

    There’s a solution to this available, but apparently I’m not supposed to mention it. I think you can figure it out.

  16. Arizona Slim

    Historical question about Greece: Wasn’t Aristotle Onassis’ interest in Jackie Kennedy driven largely by the tax benefits he’d enjoy by being married to an American? ISTR reading that it was a loveless marriage.

  17. CB

    Alan Grayson is rumored(?), alleged(?), said(?) to have off shore accounts issues he won’t answer for. I’ve tried a Google search but the results were vague and to my eye unreliable. Anybody have any actual information about Grayson’s possible predicament?

    1. Spring Texan

      Frankly I don’t care as long as he sincerely works to get actually good legislation passed, and I think he does.

  18. geoff

    Re: class warfare. I worked in the same field for 25 years and saw a lot of industry consolidation (fewer jobs) and productivity gains (automation, as well as DO MORE MORE MORE) and taking inflation into account probably was making about the same when I left (doing a lot more work) as I was 10 years earlier. Also work (by which I mean lines of data keyed) was monitored and productivity quotas enforced in ways we could not have imagined when I was just starting. And if you slow down, you’re out. So sure, to the extent you can get away with it (which in my experience is not very much anymore), why bust your butt keeping up with an ever-increasing workload (fewer people doing more work) when you’re not sharing in any of the financial rewards? (Unless of course you are in management, in which case you are expected to work 24/7 monitoring the drones’ workload and flow.)

    1. jo6pac

      Nailed it and I’m so glad I only saw the beginning of this in my little blue collar world.

    1. allan

      Herr Schauble is really a piece of work. On NPR this evening, in a nice piece of framing, the reporter talked about “anti-austerity hardliners” in the Greek Parliament. Somehow, they never refer to Schauble and Co. as pro-austerity hardliners.

    2. Mark P.

      I read the Varoufakis piece and talk about burying the lede — V’s closing sentence should have been his first, and he could have amplified on what he’s figured out about Schauble’s strategizing re. keeping France and the rest of Europe in line with German aims.

      As for the remainder of the piece, I’m sympathetic but far from stunned. Except maybe by Tsipras et al’s naivete.

  19. Kim Kaufman

    Not sure if this reply is going to come out in the right place. But re Sonit: she’s already come out for Hillary – why bother with Bernie when we know he can’t win? Ugh.

  20. HoarseWhisperer

    From Jeanne Shaheen (in response to my letter)

    Thank you for contacting my office about international trade. I appreciate hearing from you about this important issue.

    As you know, the Senate recently passed legislation to enact trade promotion authority (TPA), which provides the President with the authority to negotiate new trade agreements, and also allows Congress the opportunity to direct the President to meet certain objectives during these negotiations.

    I supported TPA’s passage because it is an opportunity to set high standards for future trade agreements, which can help New Hampshire businesses compete and increase their exports. This bill will direct any future trade agreements to secure strong environmental, labor and human rights protections from trading partners, and enacts important trade enforcement mechanisms to ensure our partners are held to their commitments. I fought to ensure that this legislation included robust funding for Trade Adjustment Assistance, which gives displaced workers support for reemployment and training services. In addition, during debate on the bill, I supported amendments to crack down on currency manipulation and unfair foreign competition, and to prevent other countries from joining future trade agreements without Congressional approval. While some of these amendments were unsuccessful, I will continue working to ensure future trade agreements protect workers, promote our economy and preserve U.S. sovereignty and rule of law.

    I also understand your concerns about current U.S. negotiations to join the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which would undoubtedly have significant consequences for our economy and relationships with these trading partners. I have called on the U.S. Trade Representative and other administration officials to include strong and enforceable policies in this trade agreement to deter foreign currency manipulation, and to carefully examine the potential effects on our automotive industry, domestic manufacturing, and exports to ensure that the TPP benefits American workers and grows our economy. I am also closely monitoring factors of human rights, environmental impacts and labor conditions, which must be carefully considered as Congress evaluates this proposal once it is finalized.

    I will continue to work closely with my colleagues to ensure that American workers and businesses are given an opportunity to compete for markets here at home and around the globe. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me, and please do not hesitate to contact my office with any future concerns.


    Jeanne Shaheen
    United States Senator

      1. HoarseWhisperer

        It is a form letter. Sent out by the flunky whose job is to send form letters to the proles (oops – citizens). It used to be that one can actually speak to his senator in New Hampshire (it is small enough). Today – unless you bring a fat check – you get some empty platitudes.

        Actually –

        I will continue to work closely with my colleagues to ensure that American workers and businesses are given an opportunity to compete for markets here at home and around the globe.

        is pretty honest.

        American workers will be given the opportunity to compete with their counterparts in Vietnam who get paid 75 cents an hour.

        1. Mel

          $.75 an hour makes $30 a week. That’ll be fine AS LONG AS you can get a nice, comfy family apartment for $40 a month. Somewhat less, actually, because take-home pay will be less. I’m looking at you, landlords. Grocers, you get the food prices into line too.

        2. Elizabeth

          I received a very similar letter from Dianne Feinstein. It makes me wonder if there wasn’t some form letter that they tweaked to send out to their “constituents.” Feinstein neither addressed my concerns about the issues of sovereignty and ISDS. Definitely, she wants to make sure that American worker who are displaced by this treasonous deal are eligible for “retraining.” She’s a disgusting traitor.

    1. JerseyJeffersonian

      So, not one sentence devoted to ISDS, huh?

      Well, so much for Live Free Or Die then. Just take a dive into the spinning wood chipper. Everything can be taken on faith; it’ll work out just fine, just like it did with Obamacare. It is The Market in operation, resulting in Dr. Pangloss’ dream, the best of all possible worlds. Premiums going through the roof? Whocouldanode? But this time, with that ISDS thing it’ll be different, trust us.

  21. Steven Hoel

    Thanks Yves and Lambert for all that you do.

    I notice that the “List of Traitors” keeps being published along with the call out to contact them. I remember contacting all of my representatives regarding the TARP bailout…and despite the overwhelming numbers of people against it…it still passed. On a personal level, I pulled all accounts and credit cards which were at any institution which accepted TARP funds.

    Now today, we have this quote from Alan Grayson: “We had a good example of that a few weeks ago, on the Fast Track bill. A GOP member of Congress confided in me that his calls and emails were running 100-to-1 against Fast Track.”

    I am incredibly frustrated that our actions seem to have no result. Does anyone have any suggestions of what to do on a personal level to protest the TPP?

    1. Norb

      “Syriza standing up to the Troika was tantmount to sending graduate students against an Panzer division. The outcome was predictable.” – Yves Smith

      Thinking about these issues within the framework of “protest” is the root cause of the frustration. Do you protest the organized crime outfit that just moved into your neighborhood by knocking on their club door and say- could you please operate your business in a more fair and equitable manner. No- you would either be laughed at or shot depending how serious you were.

      You fight the corruption by not enabling or supporting it in any way. Boycott corrupt businesses and be vocal about it to your friends and neighbors. Support Democracy by not voting for the lesser of two evils candidate. Find candidates that hold your worldview and ask them of the specific support they need to succeed- and give it!

      Reject consumerism. Reject crapification in all its forms. Build community and individual self-sufficiency. A very tall order, but when you identify areas in your life that move toward those goals, the frustration dissipates. Direct action is required.

      We must evolve past the Capitalist system. There are no half measures or compromises.

  22. Raj

    re: VICE. The season 3 finale covered the Russia/Ukraine conflict (cold war 2.0). Shane Smith interviewed VP Joe Biden…and failed to bring up Burisma Holdings, Hunter Biden, Devon Archer or Kolomoiskey. I’m still not sure what to make of VICE. While it covers some important topics/stories that other media outlets won’t touch, it doesn’t always conduct thorough investigations or report to the depth that it should. At times, it appears VICE perpetuates or drives a narrative.

  23. dk

    Hmm, so… it really was just coincidence that you put the answer right after the question?

    The slump is a bit of a mystery given the rapid pace of technological progress, which should generally allow companies to produce more per hour of work.

    followed by:

    “The big problem we face isn’t coordinated cyber-terrorism, it’s that software sucks”

    I think one has to distinguish between technological advances (like the increases in solar panel and battery efficiency), and integration, commoditization and dissemination of existing technologies: GPS is not new, yo, digital cameras are not new, and I’ve been working with “big” data sets since the early 90’s; automating map-reduce is cute but not really new. And the focus on smaller, less capable platforms (cellphones, et al) has meant that while “computing” has become cheaper and more prevalent in some ways, it’s also less powerful, aiming instead for ease of use (because, adoption, not production, is the name of the current game). Attempting to “disrupt” existing markets (often by fragmentation) is different from creating entirely new ones, or from improving top-end net functionality. Being able to render and view data in 3D doesn’t improve the quality of the analysis of the renders (although it does allow idiots to impress other idiots).

    Also, maybe some of the productive effort has started to go towards long ignored needs and issues, climate change and its effects (which are very broad), addressing lapsed regulatory needs, and managing the increased complexities of heavy technologization itself… one reaches a point of zero-sum macro-economy (contrary to the fanciful constant-growth ideology).

    Cutting workforces by 20% isn’t going to boost net per-worker productivity, especially when one ditches a chunk of legacy/institutional knowledge and instead re-invents the same wheels over and over again (although some of this is counted as productive, go figure). Software producers/markets have been focusing developers on improving efficiencies, but on cheaper devices and with ultimately more moving parts (as in cloud i/o) not on improving net consequences of less-than-optimal economic paradigms; in short, making money is no longer making money, because the underlyinbg resource structurs are topping out; this means that productivity can no longer significantly improve.

    And I think this analysis spills over into the left/right ideology issue as well. Is it really credible that these quaint and dated ideological economic paradigms (capitalism/socialism) can adequately address things like massive population and technologization and resource scarcity and frontier loss? I’ll argue that human society has been and always will be essentially feudal, driven by regional needs, cultural identifiers, and assumptions (usually naive) arising from class stratification. The real issues are resource sharing/distribution and a rational approach to the scale of fraud (which the law may sanction, so law alone isn’t the answer there). And both capitalism and socialism have inadequate mechanisms for recognizing, much less controlling, fraudulent and naive activity. Behavioral codification cannot address behavior variablity; for better or worse, human ingenuity (and evolutionary iteration) will always eclipse any formal mechanism or paradigm. Ideologies can’t solve long term problems, although they can complain endlessly.

    I hate to get binary after being asked not to, but I do think that so many of these issues that are seen arising on different fronts all share a small set of common factors driving their rates and impacts.

  24. danny

    I’ve worked in the tech sector for the past twenty years and agree with the sentiment that software sucks (as a general rule). It’s bad in the large dotcom company and it’s even more pronounced at the behemoth old-skool company where I’ve worked. Though the companies come with different perspectives and reasons for the tech debt and bad software, the result is the same. In the dotcom tech business, there is a drive to move fast and if that means building on older code, so be it. As long as it looks pretty to the user, it works. In the old-skool company, the leadership (even those in the tech roles) don’t understand technology. They just don’t seem to care. What they cared about is budgets and cost allocations among the various parts of the business. So project proposals are are all yearly in nature and reliant on contractors and third-party vendors despite the long-term nature of the digital needs or criticality of the system. Inevitably, the end of each fiscal year is met with hand wringing over how over-budget some projects are and questions about why these critical systems need more money and can’t just keep working with minimal costs. And in both companies, few budgeted for ongoing maintenance.
    My feeling is that it all comes down to incentives. Until there are incentives to make better software and maintain it, we’ll continue to have downtime and security holes. They’re features, not flaws, based on business decisions inline with the engineer/project manager’s triangle: do you want it (a) better; (b) faster; or (c) cheaper (pick only 2 of 3).
    This also applies to the healthcare.gov debacle. I remember NC covered it fairly extensively, but it seems government contracting methods are partly, if not largely, to blame for the selection of an incompetent contractor. It seems contracting forces the choices: (c) cheaper; and (b) faster without much consideration of (a) better. The “startup” chronicled by the Atlantic didn’t really save America, the government, nor the free world. The team stepped in to implement modern code that is built to scale properly (i.e. they did what should have been done previously). Sure, it saved some face for the Obama Administration but it doesn’t change the contracting process, clean up old government systems, or more generally prevent a repeated disaster. IMHO the government would do better to have an internal agency that builds and maintains all of these platforms and database systems for all government agencies. Long-term ownership and responsibility will lead to a better overall tech backbone on which the agencies can operate. Sharing resources also saves costs and should make for a better architecture, too.

  25. Tammy

    Well, after commenting in Paul Krugman’s blog about LIBOR and reading Lambert’s reminder about “My friend Ted” I hope he didn’t know. A big thank you to Bill Black.

  26. edward

    In response to danny’s thoughts on software…

    Most of what he says is true, especially the closing comments. Here in MA, we had the progenitor of the ACA in the Health Connector, and a working web interface that did most of what HealthCare.gov was supposed to do. All it lacked was the backend connection to the Fed arbiter of subsidy. We should have been first out of the gate on day 1 of ObamaCare, but instead not a single person could use the web for signup. As someone who had a career in software development, I could guess what happened, just from the vague newspaper reports. The state managers, not tech savvy, got sold by the contractor, CGI. No, it wouldn’t do, to just augment the working system, in place for years, it had to be redone from scratch. One thing you quickly learn in software development, especially in sustaining, is never discount the value of wrung out code. Sure, it may look clunky, and be hard to modify, but it works. New code never does, at first. I was continually surprised by seeing ancient HW/SW still in use, but the customer knew it worked, and that was what mattered to his business, not how elegant the coder thought it was.

    I was privileged to be on the receiving end of another code project failure, in addition to the Health Connector debacle, the MA state UE system. Deloitte screwed up that one, although it did work eventually, I think. Deloitte also had a contract to improve the Registry of Motor Vehicle’s system. They were just fired today, with $60M tax dollars down the drain. Deloitte was also fired back in 2013 by the Dept of Revenue, same old story.

    Boston Globe

    The thing about these incidents is, as danny suggests – where is the state’s own tech development team? We are moving to a full dependence on the web for state business, frequently involving shared information across departments. Yet, time and again, an outside contractor is called in to make an expensive disaster. An ongoing in house team effort, even with turnover, develops a knowledge of the systems they create, an invaluable asset, and hopefully a more homogenous, coherent array of installed code. But no, private enterprise always does best.

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