2:00PM Water Cooler 4/21/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

I’m going to add a few more political links; I got sidetracked on this and that. –lambert


“Trump’s decision this week to launch an investigation that could restrict steel imports from all over the world — not just China, its chief target — is a bit of a double-edged sword. It could anger key international allies if restrictions are approved, or disappoint Trump’s base of blue-collar workers if they’re not [Politico]. “Despite the more than 150 countervailing and anti-dumping duty orders the United States already has on steel imports, the system is ‘fairly porous,’ Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said, ‘so we’re groping here to see whether the facts warrant a more comprehensive solution that would deal with a very wide range of steel products and a very wide range of countries.'”


New Cold War

“Congress should consider delaying an upcoming U.S. Navy request for as much as $9 billion to start work on 12 better-armed successor vessels to the troubled littoral combat ship, according to [the GAO]” [WorkBoat] “A delay beyond fiscal 2018 is warranted because too many unanswered questions remain about the new frigate’s cost and capabilities, the Government Accountability Office said in a report Tuesday.” OTOH, if the administration ever wants to make nice to Susan Collins

“Maxine Waters: Tension In Syria ‘Phony,’ A Ruse To Lift Oil Sanctions On Russia” [HuffPo]. Damn. What’s that high-pitched warbling sound?

“It’s Not ‘McCarthyism’ to Demand Answers on Trump, Russia, and the Election” [Katha Pollitt, The Nation]. “McCarthyism was a miasma of innuendo, divorced from facts. In the matter of Russia and Trump, a small number of individuals are suspected of serious and specific crimes.” I would have thought Pollitt was smarter than this. Here’s a tweet from Louise Mensch, the Tory CT enthusiast given space on the Times Op-Ed page as a Russian election hacking expert and annointed by Larry Tribe as “incomparable”:

A “small number.” “Serious and specific.” Really, Katha? Really?

Trump Transition

“Congressional leaders’ efforts to hatch a massive spending deal have been thrown off course by the Trump administration’s 11th-hour intervention, leaving the bipartisan bill teetering on the brink of collapse just a week before a government shutdown deadline” [Politico]. “The hard line taken by White House officials, particularly Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, has strained an emerging deal between House and Senate leaders that would skirt hot-button issues that could shut down the government. In particular, administration officials’ hopes of giving President Donald Trump a win during his first 100 days, such as border wall funding or a crackdown on sanctuary cities, have complicated what had been a relatively smooth, bicameral, bipartisan negotiation, according to staffers in both parties.”

“Earlier this month, one administration official told RCP that ‘no one here or on the Hill has any interest in having a showdown at the OK Corral.’ Multiple sources confirmed Thursday that this remains the prevailing sentiment among congressional Republicans and the administration” [RealClearPolitics].

“US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin: Tax Reform Will Be Passed Before The End Of 2017” [Economic Calendar]. “As far as individual tax reform is concerned, Mnuchin wants three or four individual tax brackets and that any revenue lost from lower tax rates would be made up with extra growth and dynamic scoring of the plans. He also commented that the focus was on boosting economic growth.” Dynamic scoring creates revenue? That’s so meta!

2016 Post Mortem

Shattered is sourced almost entirely to figures inside the Clinton campaign who were and are deeply loyal to Clinton. Yet those sources tell of a campaign that spent nearly two years paralyzed by simple existential questions: Why are we running? What do we stand for?” [Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone]. “If you’re wondering what might be the point of rehashing this now, the responsibility for opposing Donald Trump going forward still rests with the (mostly anonymous) voices described in this book.” Well, not entirely, surely? I’m about two-thirds of the way through the book, now. I’m starting to think that the real value of Shattered is not as the story of a campaign, but as a portrait of a dominant faction of the political class (and still dominant in the media, and in large parts of the intelligence and national security communities). That said, the campaign story is pretty telling. Reinforcing a point made yesterday–

“According to the book, the woman who feigned to know little about the mechanics of her private, unsecured email server — where she stowed government records vulnerable to attack from our enemies — actually knows a lot about email servers. It turns out Clinton spied on her 2008 campaign staff after losing to Obama by having an aide access the server and download all staff emails so she could determine who she could blame for her loss” [RealClearPolitics].

“Vacation’s Over: Obama Returns to Public Life Next Week” [New York Times]. “As he begins his paid speeches, Mr. Obama, who is represented by the Harry Walker Agency, is scheduled to engage in a private conversation with the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin for the employees of the A&E television network.”… ‘Why are we not hearing from [Obama]? We’ve got to hear from him,’ said Sarah Kovner, a New York City Democratic activist who raised more than $1 million for Mr. Obama’s campaigns. ‘Democrats are desperate.'” Oddly, no mention of Obama’s Presidential Library at all.


GA-06: “I asked Ossoff if he would support a Medicare-for-all proposal of the sort that Sanders backs. He would not. ‘I think we should be focused on incremental progress based upon the body of law on the books rather than going back to square one and proceeding from a starting point of ideological purity,’ he said. ‘I think there needs to be less ideology around health care policy on the left and the right.’ (Ossoff demurred on whether he’d back a Medicare buy-in option for Obamacare exchanges.)” [Salon]. So, Ossoff is against #MedicareForAll. Ergo, Ossoff is not a progressive. And the incrementalism is pure Clinton.


UPDATE “PLEASE, GOD, STOP CHELSEA CLINTON FROM WHATEVER SHE IS DOING” [Vanity Fair]. “Chelsea, people were quietly starting to observe, had a tendency to talk a lot, and at length, not least about Chelsea. But you couldn’t interrupt, not even if you’re on TV at NBC, where she was earning $600,000 a year at the time. ‘When you are with Chelsea, you really need to allow her to finish,’ Jay Kernis, one of Clinton’s segment producers at NBC, told Vogue. ‘She’s not used to being interrupted that way.'” Ouch!

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Rebekah Mercer is a warrior and a patriot” [Ted Cruz, Time]. Wowsers.

UPDATE “A New Harvard Study Just Shattered the Biggest Myth About Bernie Supporters” [Resistance Report]. “The survey, conducted by Harvard University and The Harris Poll, disproves the “Bernie Bro” trope with hard numbers. According to the survey results, which were conducted among 2,027 registered voters between April 14 and April 17, 2017, Sanders is actually more popular among women, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans than white people and men.”

UPDATE “At Democratic ‘Unity’ Rally in Miami, It’s Still ‘Bernie’ Who Draws Young Latinos” [CNBC]. “The divisions among the party were obvious; there were even some boos heard in the crowd when Sanders thanked the DNC Chair Deckchair.” Hmm. The boos keep happening, don’t they?

UPDATE “How a community changed by refugees came to embrace Trump” [AP]. Lewiston, Maine.

UPDATE “Obama came into office at a very important historical moment. There was tremendous public support for him when he came in. The country was in a serious crisis—maybe not as serious as when Franklin Delano Roosevelt came in, but it was really serious. What did Obama do? He put the same guys back in that caused the problem in the first place. He passed a piddling little stimulus plan. He spent his whole first year fighting about health care and ended up with a plan that’s better than nothing, but considering what was possible with 60 votes in the Senate and a majority in the House… We got the change that he wanted, which was minimal. But he campaigned on the promise of change with a capital C, with the backing of large numbers of people—whom he then demobilized… [I]n the first two years he had a real opportunity, which he did not seize” [Eric Foner, The Nation].

Stats Watch

Purchasing Managers’ Index Composite Flash, April 2017: “Loss of momentum is the continuing signal from Markit Economics’ U.S. samples” [Econoday]. “Orders are subdued in both sectors with manufacturers, in a special sign of defensiveness, growing cautious over inventories. In a specifically negative signal for the April employment report, service hiring slowed to a nearly 7-year low. Escalating input costs are squeezing the sample as selling prices aren’t keeping up.”

Existing Home Sales, March 2017: “The resale market, after a period of steady sales, is now accelerating to new expansion highs” [Econoday]. And: “The headlines for existing home sales growth pace declined improved saying “finding available properties to buy continues to be a strenuous task for many buyers, there was enough of a monthly increase in listings in March for sales to muster a strong gain”. Our analysis of the unadjusted data agrees” [Econintersect]. But: “Warmer weather in February might have boosted sales for March and early April” [Calculated Risk]. “Inventory is still very low and falling year-over-year (down 6.6% year-over-year in March). More inventory would probably mean smaller price increases, and less inventory somewhat larger price increases.”

Retail: “Mall of America has prepared a spectacular celebration for its 25th birthday. A huge light show will be accompanied by smoke and music. The party is fitting. Mall of America has largely dodged the secular collapse of one of America’s largest industries and employers” [247 Wall Street]. “If the American mall is dying, the plague has not spread to Bloomington, Minnesota.”

Big Ag: “American farmers are finding themselves forced to the sidelines of the global food supply chain. The U.S. agricultural juggernaut is being overtaken by booming harvests in developing countries like Brazil, which controls 43% of the export market for soybeans, up from 12% in the late 1980s, and is close to surpassing the U.S. in corn exports” [Wall Street Journal]. “That gives Brazilian farmers greater sway over prices. It also means U.S. growers increasingly make decisions about what to plant and when to sell their harvest based on weather, transportation snarls and other events in faraway places. In this they join U.S. manufacturers and other industries that long ago lost their ability to sway the global market. The shift affects more than just farmers, as rural communities depend on tax revenue and the value of farmland to pay for local services.” Yikes.

Concentration: There are approximately 105,500 gas stations in America. Yet just 10 companies have a hammerlock on the industry. They own over half the stations in country. Seven are branded by large oil companies, although in many cases, they do not own the businesses or their locations” [247 Wall Street]. “It makes some sense that the largest oil companies and refineries should control the distribution of one of their most widely used products. However, the distribution does not necessarily come with ownership. Exxon Mobil sold off its Exxon and Mobil stations in 2008 and the new owners maintained the brands. ”

Labor Power: “U.S. maritime labor, concerned about retaining shipper confidence badly dented during the last round of contract negotiations, is taking steps to facilitate negotiations and speed agreement with waterfront management when the next bargaining cycle formally commences, a maritime labor expert told an industry conference last week” [DC Velocity].

The Bezzle: “In a study earlier this year of safety complaints against automakers, auto data and research company iSeeCars.com reported that Tesla ranked third, behind only Jeep and Chrysler, as receiving the most safety complaints of any auto brand” [247 Wall Street].

The Bezzle: “Wells Fargo agreed Friday to expand a recently settled class-action lawsuit by an additional $32 million as well as extend claims for fraudulent accounts that may have been opened going back to 2002” [AP]. If you’re on the street, and you reach into somebody’s pocket and grab their wallet, that’s a crime (and in New York, a felony). But if you’re in the C-suite, and you set up a whole system of “sales practices” to reach into people’s bank accounts and grab their cash, your corporation pays a fine (and, to be fair, you might have some “compensation” clawed back). And people wonder why there’s anger out there.

Fodder for the Bulls: “Global economic activity is picking up with a longawaited cyclical recovery in investment, manufacturing, and trade. World growth is expected to rise from 3.1 percent in 2016 to 3.5 percent in 2017 and 3.6 percent in 2018, slightly above the October 2016 World Economic Outlook (WEO) forecast” (PDF) [International Monetary Fund]. “Stronger activity and expectations of more robust global demand, coupled with agreed restrictions on oil supply, have helped commodity prices recover from their troughs in early 2016. Higher commodity prices have provided some relief to commodity exporters and helped lift global headline inflation and reduce deflationary pressures. Financial markets are buoyant and expect continued policy support in China and fiscal expansion and deregulation in the United States. If confidence and market sentiment remain strong, short-term growth could indeed surprise on the upside.” Then come the qualifications: “On the domestic front, policies should support demand and balance sheet repair where necessary and feasible; boost productivity through structural reforms, well-targeted infrastructure spending, and other supply-friendly fiscal policy measures; and support those displaced by structural transformations, such as technological change and globalization. Credible strategies are needed in many countries to place public debt on a sustainable path.” Yay austerity!

The Fed: “Quantitative tightening? Oh please. Central banks, courtesy of the eurozone and Japan, are still buying financial assets with both hands. And that might be all you need to know about stock and bond market performance in 2017, say analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch” [MarketWatch]. “The fact is that monetary authorities have snapped up a record amount of financial assets in the year to date, the analysts noted in their weekly ‘Flow Show’ note published late Thursday. That’s despite all the focus on the Federal Reserve’s plan to begin winding down its balance sheet and speculation the European Central Bank could be nearing the end of its bond-buying spree.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 32 Fear (previous close: 34, Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 25 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 21 at 12:20pm. As Haygood points out, Mr. Market must be scared of heights.

Health Care

“[T]he proposed [AHCA] would limit the per capita growth of Medicaid, the health program for the poor, to the medical-care component of the consumer price index starting in 2020. But that could affect people who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare. An analysis by Avalere Health, a health consulting firm, found that this could lead to a $44 billion spending cut for dual-eligible beneficiaries. That, in turn, could increase Medicare spending through higher rates of hospitalization and other services, further weakening the financial health of the program” [WaPo].

“A healthcare expert explains why you should think twice before taking an ambulance to the hospital” [Business Insider]. Because — wait for it! — the ambulance can be out-of-network! Just try not to bleed out in an Uber, because the poor shlub of a driver will have to pay for the cleanup themselves….


“Federal regulators are reviewing about two dozen applications from companies seeking to send America’s gas bonanza overseas. That’s putting the U.S. on course to become a net exporter of natural gas by 2018, the first time that’s happened since the 1950s” [WorkBoat].

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Schooling Deray:

I’d say turning #BlackLivesMatter into a platform for Taco Bell product placement is near-peak neoliberalism (and how come “Watch whiteness work” never seems to apply to the Mount Pelerin Society?) Deray is on the Democrat Unity Commission. I’m sure he’ll fit in fine, just fine.

“The Decline of Black Business” [Washington Monthly]. Dunno how this got by Clara’s orthodoxy enforcers:

“[O]ne of the legacies of Obama’s economic policies has been a particularly sharp drop in the number of black-owned banks. This is not only the result of lessened enforcement of the anti-monopoly laws but also an unintended side effect of measures like the Dodd-Frank Act. In the process of attempting to keep big banks from failing, Dodd-Frank created regulatory burdens that small banks could not meet. These policy changes contributed to a 14 percent decrease in the number of community banks between 2010 and late 2014. Particularly hard hit were black-owned banks, which decreased by 24 percent during this period.

Black-owned financial institutions and the businesses that depend on them for credit were also deeply damaged by the misallocation of bank bailout funds. Referring to the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), former Atlanta banker George Andrews says, “If there ever was a crime committed to our community it was in the way the government handled TARP funds.” According to a 2013 study of TARP investments, . Black Americans suffered disproportionately from the predatory lending practices of big banks and from the reform measures put in place to contain banks that had become too big to fail.

Obama wouldn’t have bailed out his own grandmother’s bank!

“For a decade after 1967, the specter of Black Power terrified officials at the highest levels of the British state. Cabinet ministers and senior civil servants feared that black radicals, along with the Irish Republican Army, the Angry Brigade, and increasingly militant unions, might be strong enough to bring down Her Majesty’s government” [Jacobin]. “London once sat at the center of a slave-trading empire, which, after abolition, imposed colonial rule over much of Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. A movement determined to resist ‘White Power’ didn’t struggle to find support in the nation’s capital.”

Class Warfare

“How Western civilisation could collapse” [BBC]. “Safa Motesharrei, a systems scientist at the University of Maryland, uses computer models to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that can lead to local or global sustainability or collapse. … That economic stratification may lead to collapse on its own… came as more of a surprise to Motesharrei and his colleagues. Under this scenario, elites push society toward instability and eventual collapse by hoarding huge quantities of wealth and resources, and leaving little or none for commoners who vastly outnumber them yet support them with labour. Eventually, the working population crashes because the portion of wealth allocated to them is not enough, followed by collapse of the elites due to the absence of labour. The inequalities we see today both within and between countries already point to such disparities. For example, the top 10% of global income earners are responsible for almost as much total greenhouse gas emissions as the bottom 90% combined. Similarly, about half the world’s population lives on less than $3 per day. ”

“Growing life span inequality has given the rich an extra $130,000 in government benefits” [Matt Yglesias, Vox]. “Rising economic inequality, in short, has fed growing inequality in life expectancy, which, through the operation of American retirement programs, has generated even more economic inequality. And the kind of program tweaks that have been discussed by budget cutters don’t come close to closing that gap. A tax-based strategy that took from the haves and used it to avoid the need for cuts, by contrast, really might.” Possibly, but since Federal taxes don’t fund spending, because a more confiscatory approach would make it harder for the rich to buy the State with all those portraits of Benjamin Franklin under their sofa cushions.

“In a country where the pollster Bernard Sananès recently said every other person now knew someone in their circle who could not find a job, more work was the chief concern of voters on Château-Chinon’s main street” [Guardian]. “‘If jobs were brought back, 80% of the other problems would be fixed,’ said Didier Felzines, who owned a bike shop. ‘The rise of racism would be sorted too, because why do people become scared of others? Because there aren’t any jobs left … As soon as a foreigner arrives, they say: ‘Oh no, he’s going to take the jobs’. If there were more jobs, people would be happy to see foreigners, there would be no more fear.'” But that’s France. So no relevance here.

“Olbermann: Trump hosted ‘trailer park trash'” [The Hill]. No class hatred there!

“South-East Asian cities are waging war on street food” [The Economist]. The destruction of Soi 38 in Bangkok, once a foodie destination, so that a condo tower can be constructed. Because if there’s anything Bangkok has a shortage of, it’s condo towers.

News of the Wired

“But it’s not enough. For many people working in animal advocacy, the failure of science to produce better ethical results has been a bitter disappointment. For us (a scientist and an ethicist), an early feeling of optimism has given way to frustration, even alarm, about what is happening to animals globally. Animals are, by many measures, objectively worse off than ever before. Despite the extensive database on the cognitive and emotional capacities of cows and pigs, burgers and bacon continue to be popular foods. According to a recent report by the Worldwatch Institute, global meat production and consumption have increased steadily over the past four decades, rising by 20 percent in the last decade alone” [New York Magazine].

“[Merriam Webster] is a group effort – a minimum of ten editors have examined each entry – and Stamper’s book is, too. Throughout she quotes generously from colleagues with wise, lively thoughts on etymology, language change and, of course, defining. The most fractious words are not the long Latinate entries, but simple ones; most basic verbs are, like the US infrastructure, refreshed every half-century or so. Revising take took Stamper four weeks, an effort she was proud of until she met an OED lexicographer who had spent nine months on run. Even then, of course, the task was not done. “You’re kidding yourself if you think you’ve pinpointed” a word’s full meaning, as Stamper’s colleague notes. “There’s still stuff oozing around the edges'” [Times Literary Supplement]. Fun read on making dictionaries!

* * *

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 (Bob):

Bob writes: “Everything green in there is a leak, or 90% anyway.”

* * *

Readers, Water Cooler is a standalone entity, not supported by the very successful Naked Capitalism fundraiser just past. Now, I understand you may feel tapped out, but when and if you are able, please use the dropdown to choose your contribution, and then click the hat! Your tip will be welcome today, and indeed any day. Water Cooler will not exist without your continued help.


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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. TK421

    The Democratic Party needs more of Barack Obama, because he’s been so good for it the past eight years. The only conceivable reason not to have him in charge is sexism against Hillary Clinton. I am not a kook.


    1. Vatch

      Doggone it! Once again, I’m unable to detect whether an article is satire or not. It sure seems like satire, but something tells me that the author might seriously believe what she is saying.

      1. sporble

        I have to back you up on your conclusion – it ain’t satire. Read it and was pretty damn certain the author was indeed a kook. Re-read the posting here and the good ol’ Who Farted? axiom nailed it: he who denied it supplied it. KOOK-alert!

  2. Tim

    Well every time a Politician says “Single Payer isn’t Politically feasible.” What they really mean is “We can’t do what the majority of people want instead of what the Health Insurance executives want.”

    So they are not wrong in saying it isn’t politically feasible. It really isn’t right now.

    Only when the majority are successfully able to vote a negative (vote out politicians who won’t back single payer) in both parties it will remain politically unfeasible.

    The only thing that talks louder than money, is winning the next election.

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      Whenever someone tells you they don’t support single-payer, what they are in reality saying is “I think the profits of shareholders are more important than the health, well-being, and financial stability of my fellow citizens, and therefore my country as a whole.”


      If your community does not provide food, housing, health care, employment, and education to all who want them, you live in a failed state.

      1. LT

        “If your community does not provide food, housing, health care, employment, and education to all who want them, you live in a failed state.”

        And it is not Putin’s fault.

        Sorry, had to add that…:)

    2. June Goodwin

      Turns out Jon Ossoff om Georgia doesn’t want single payer. No wonder Bernie doubted his “progressiveness”. I say so much for him (sorry I gave him money) – unless he wants to change his mind and line up with the majority in the country.

    3. jerry

      There is the difficult reality that implementation of single-payer at once implies millions of people out of work (private health insurers as a whole, bloated hospital/MD admin staff that deal with insurance on the other end, mass reduction in cost (profit) for all kinds of providers, professionals all over once their prices actually are negotiated fairly). Indeed, much of our economy today RELIES on inefficient, corrupt, monopolistic business models that have been put into place over decades for our “growth”.

      So, in order to seriously push medicare for all, you simultaneously have to have a MASSIVE jobs program, BIG, whatever in place at the same time (also not exactly popular in Washington) – or face economic collapse. Unfortunately, our economy and political system is SO broken that these kinds of changes could easily take a generation to reverse, even if the political and popular will was there to do it. Total revolution and starting more or less from scratch is the only way we’ll see this in your or my lifetimes. I wouldn’t bet on it, but I would love to see it and partake ;) More likely we will go the way Rome did.

      1. Ian

        I think Bernie’s call for a WW2 mobilization effort on restructuring society to mitigate and deal with the realities of Climate change would have fit the bill.

      2. John k

        Medicare for all means many millions become covered, plus millions with crappy coverage get good coverage. Need more hospitals, doctors, nurses, administrators, janitors. More med equipment. Some insurance people might have the wrong skills… but we will need to hire millions to cover the new needs.

        1. jerry

          We most certainly do NOT need MORE hospitals and doctors and administrators, the for-profit model of hospitals and big pharma has led to chronic over-treatment a la the “build it and they will come” mantra. The infrastructure and workers are already there about 2-3 times over, it needs to be cut down in size and made competitive which will lead to reasonable prices/affordable care.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        It does. By the same token, if the current health care system is in essence a “jobs guarantee” that costs thousands of lives and immense suffering, and wastes a conservative $400 billion a year, then perhaps it needs a rethink.

        In mitigation:

        1) Much of the work — especially the medical coding aspects — could be redirected to activities designed to improve health outcomes, as opposed to denying care.

        2) Much of the work could be redirected to the actual delivery of care, as opposed to paper pushing.

        3) HR676 provides for retraining.

        4) Medicare for All eliminates one of the most fearful aspects of losing your job: Losing your health insurance.

        And personally, of Medicare for All sets us on the road to a Jobs Guarantee, that’s one more reason for be for it.

    4. Allegorio

      How do you win the next election when the electoral process is so tightly controlled, so that only the servants of the .001% are allowed on the ballot, witness the cheating of Senator Sanders out of the nomination. While Medicare for all is a worthy cause, electoral reform is the only way to achieve it. Electoral reform as an issue could unite left and right. How do you achieve anything in this system where politicians like Clinton and Obama are professional liars, who will say what is necessary to get elected but serve the .001%. Trump won the Presidency because he was a much more brazen liar. He ran on a Progressive platform, for heaven’s sake, yet what do you get? You cannot vote against Goldman Sachs!

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        To fix the system, you need to give people a reason to think that fixing the system will benefit them (concrete material benefits).

        So I think this comes under the heading of learning to walk and chew gum (neither of which Democrats can do, at present).

  3. Altandmain

    Apparently the US is becoming a Third World nation for the bottom 80%:

    In one of these countries live members of what Temin calls the “FTE sector” (named for finance, technology, and electronics, the industries which largely support its growth). These are the 20 percent of Americans who enjoy college educations, have good jobs, and sleep soundly knowing that they have not only enough money to meet life’s challenges, but also social networks to bolster their success. They grow up with parents who read books to them, tutors to help with homework, and plenty of stimulating things to do and places to go. They travel in planes and drive new cars. The citizens of this country see economic growth all around them and exciting possibilities for the future. They make plans, influence policies, and count themselves as lucky to be Americans.

    The FTE citizens rarely visit the country where the other 80 percent of Americans live: the low-wage sector. Here, the world of possibility is shrinking, often dramatically. People are burdened with debt and anxious about their insecure jobs if they have a job at all. Many of them are getting sicker and dying younger than they used to. They get around by crumbling public transport and cars they have trouble paying for. Family life is uncertain here; people often don’t partner for the long-term even when they have children. If they go to college, they finance it by going heavily into debt. They are not thinking about the future; they are focused on surviving the present. The world in which they reside is very different from the one they were taught to believe in. While members of the first country act, these people are acted upon.

    The richest large economy in the world, says Temin, is coming to have an economic and political structure more like a developing nation. We have entered a phase of regression, and one of the easiest ways to see it is in our infrastructure: our roads and bridges look more like those in Thailand or Venezuela than the Netherlands or Japan. But it goes far deeper than that, which is why Temin uses a famous economic model created to understand developing nations to describe how far inequality has progressed in the United States. The model is the work of West Indian economist W. Arthur Lewis, the only person of African descent to win a Nobel Prize in economics. For the first time, this model is applied with systematic precision to the U.S.

    Most NC readers knew this, but it seems like it is gaining more attention now.

    The problem isn’t with the bottom 80%. The problem is – the rich are really, really greedy. The big problem is that I don’t think that we are going to see real changes unless the richest 10% start seeing their wealth get drained to make the 0.1% rich.

    1. jrs

      I don’t think there is any real clear cut between the 20% that have better jobs though. As they are one layoff away from joining the other 80% anyway (they may have more savings of course).

      Of course some jobs pay more than others, some jobs have better working conditions than others, that’s a simple observation of reality. But if we are going to delineate class I don’t know if it’s the most useful delineation. There are capitalists (oh heck yes that’s a useful delineation), there are perhaps small business people and truly credentialed (think doctors and lawyers), and there is everyone else.

      No everyone else is NOT in the EXACT SAME boat economically! However in terms of *POWER*, not income or status, everyone else is relatively powerless, over their working conditions at work, over the political system in politics etc.. There are nuances in how much power they may have at work, but ultimately they don’t call the shots.

      1. Altandmain

        I think it’s fair to say that the 0.1% at the very least are calling most of the shots. The top 10% or so may not have as much power, but combined they do have a lot more power than the bottom 90%.

        At least that is my intuition.

        1. Carla

          It’s the job of the top 10% to keep the top 0.1% in power. And they know it very well. After all, they’re professionals.

          1. bob

            top 0.1% – Owners

            top 10% – Management.

            “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

            1. Vatch

              Alternate formulation:

              top 0.1% – Inner Party

              top 10% (excluding top 0.1%) – Outer Party

              Everyone else – Proles

              Orwell’s percentages were a little different, but his book was fiction, after all.

              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                I understand the metaphor, but I don’t think it’s commensurate to our current plight, because classes don’t operate/aren’t structured like parties.

    2. allan

      “The big problem is that I don’t think that we are going to see real changes unless the richest 10% start seeing their wealth get drained to make the 0.1% rich.”

      This has in fact been happening to the top 10% ex the 1% (or at least ex the 5%) since 2000.
      See some of the charts in this Atlantic article.
      These particular ones end around 2008, but more up to date charts and tables can easily be found.

      I agree with your overall point, but beating up on the 10% (instead of the 1%, 0.1% or .01%),
      which seems to be popular in some quarters, is misguided and politically counterproductive.
      There are a lot of formerly reasonably well-off people in the U.S. who are now scrambling,
      or watching their adult children scramble, and a revitalized left could benefit from their being welcome
      instead of demonized.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        Agreed. The big problem IMHO is that any serious challenge to the 1%, which will lead to capital strike at least, is likely to make (or be perceived to make) life much worse for (most of) the 10% in the short- to medium-term, making them unlikely (at least at first) allies in the war to change things fundamentally.

        I don’t think there is any historical precedent for the 10% turning on the 1%. (Please, someone show me I am wrong.) At least in such general terms. What may be key is those (in the 10% and below) who have market power turning on their bosses. Who will they be? Computer scientists, engineers, skilled trades workers, home health care workers, nurses…

        1. Dr. Roberts

          Actually I would say that the top 10% turning on the top 1% is historically how most revolutions happened. It’s much more common than the bottom 50% rising up with no support from the upper classes, and much, much more successful, at least when it comes to winning the political struggle(less successful perhaps when it comes to fundamentally reforming the society in question). The Bourgeois revolutions were generally led by people who were firmly in the top 10%

        2. FluffytheObeseCat

          “I don’t think there is any historical precedent for the 10% turning on the 1%.”

          No, it’s the opposite: the top 10% is exactly who turns on the super-elite. That is why student debt bondage is so useful and pernicious, along with health debt. These debt tools are what keep the clever strivers off paths to real power. I know the article states that college debt is faced only by those who sit below the salt, but that is changing fast. Full price at the top US universities is now ~70K per year when room, board and books are included. Even professionals’ children can’t pay that for 4 to 6 years (professional degrees are necessary to enter the upper 10%, and they aren’t free). The winnowing is felt most keenly by those families who have a little too much to get aid. If their children aren’t both academically perfect and attractive enough to win admissions on their contribution to the ‘diversity’ of the student body…. it’s Louisiana Tech. Or Wooster State. or Chico. Or UNLV. Where you still pay a wad for much less of a shot at the high life.

          The less secure among the skilled and educated have always been source material for revolutions. In late 18th century France and in early 20th century Russia the revolutions were initially driven by the ”intelligentsia”. The more brutal members of their 10% eventually took over the process. Neither Lenin nor Robespierre were working stiffs. Nor were their lieutenants.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        A year or two ago I was reading an article written by a wealth manager who dealt almost entirely with the 1%. He wrote that many of his ‘lower’ 1%ers were quite horrified at how hard it was to get the sort of lifestyle they expected despite being high earners. These were mostly doctors or lawyers at the peak of the game, earning high six figure salaries, but when they crunched the numbers for the amount they’d have to invest to have a long pension, along with the costs of private schools, the nice second home, etc., they were faced with relatively little disposable income. But with the top 0.1% (mostly inherited wealth), there was a huge jump in income – they would have tens of millions to play with. He said there was often a huge gap between the high earning professionals and the true 0.1%ers.

        So I think there is an interesting political point to be made that even the richest workers are suffering relative to what is mostly a rich rentier class (the super rich being almost all rentiers). So I’d agree that while there is at present a real problem with the 10%ers (and arguably the 50%ers) being a political obstruction to real change, it doesn’t necessarily always have to be that way. The real target of progressives shouldn’t be people earning high wages – they are workers too. The real target should be rentiers and other economic parasites.

          1. Altandmain

            I don’t.

            I’ve heard of people who have been injured in jobs like manufacturing (use to work in the automotive manufacturing sector) and construction.

            They may have some disability payments, but it is a hard life.

          2. PlutoniumKun

            Of course not. Apart from anything else, plenty of disabled contribute a lot to society. I mean specifically rentiers and their hangers-on. Some of course may be disabled. Blofield, for example.

        1. EyeRound

          Why would the 10%ers rise up in the first place? They, like most everyone else under current conditions, want to be the 0.1%ers. 10%ers rising against 0.1%, if the rising is “successful,” will only bring about the same old same old, with different names in the top position. No change there.

          We don’t need another bourgeois-style “revolution”–we know where that leads.

          We need to change what’s in the minds of the 10%–to re-structure “desire”, for a start–and concomitantly what’s in the minds of everyone else.

          That requires education.

        2. JTFaraday

          So, here’s the thing. When did the upper middle class start thinking that it is entitled to send its children to prep academies, etc like the old money elites in New England? Because that’s the only thing on that list that could imperil the retirement of anyone making 6 figures on a consistent basis.

          This is a “market driven” thing. They are doing it to themselves. I don’t have any sympathy.

      3. Insertnamehere

        The crunch of the 10% is starting to become obvious.

        One of my friends from HS married into the 10%, or at least his wife’s parents were 10%. My friend is a salary slave for a failing company, and his wife is a psychologist/group therapist flirting with six figures. As a household they make $170Kish. But they have 2 kids in full time daycare to the tune of $25K/yr, both take turns working 6am to midnight, and their taxes are sky high. The wife’s parents often remark on how much less they had to work to have the same lifestyle.

        This isn’t a feel bad for the 10% post, but their kids will go to college one day. When Kerry famously gaffe’d “you try to put kids through college when you’re making $250,000/yr!” he wasn’t kidding. It probably is “hard”. No doubt my friends will want their kids going somewhere prestigious, but they will go to State to save money, and the family will fall out of the 10%.

        This is actually very dangerous. As others have remarked, it is generally the 10% which forms revolutions against the 1%. The destruction of the 10% is a move towards absolute power for the 1%. It’s getting to be pre-Magna Carta.

        I don’t know what that means for the rest of us. The allure of capitalism has always been the slim chance at bootstrapping your way into the 10% (or winning the pop icon lottery to join the 1% – the dream of the deep urban poor, hoping to play ball or rap because they are too divorced from the system to even understand bootstrapping). What does the working class do when its dreams of a 10% life vanish? We can all say revolt, but there are at least a few centuries of european history with minimal middle class and hugely powerful autocrats who had pointy sticks, not drones and smart tech, to keep the kids in line.

      4. Lambert Strether Post author

        Class traitors in the 10% should be praised, but I see very little evidence that “demonizing” the 10% — whatever that means — has counterproductive effects, most important among them being the emergence of more class traitors. For example, I don’t see professional economist Stephanie Kelton retiring from the fray because Thomas Frank wrote Listen, Liberal, even if MMTers haven’t taken over the economics profession (yet). On a personal level, that’s because Kelton’s a bad-ass. On the class level, that’s because Kelton is advocating for policies (like the Jobs Guarantee) that are universal benefits, and not just designed for the benefit of her personal network (and those networks like hers).

        From Hamlet, Act III, scene 3:

        Oh, my offence is rank. It smells to heaven.
        It hath the primal eldest curse upon ’t,
        A brother’s murder. Pray can I not.
        Though inclination be as sharp as will,
        My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent,
        And, like a man to double business bound,
        I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
        And both neglect. What if this cursèd hand
        Were thicker than itself with brother’s blood?
        Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
        To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
        But to confront the visage of offence?
        And what’s in prayer but this twofold force,
        To be forestallèd ere we come to fall
        Or pardoned being down? Then I’ll look up.
        My fault is past. But oh, what form of prayer
        Can serve my turn, “Forgive me my foul murder”?
        That cannot be, since I am still possessed
        Of those effects for which I did the murder:
        My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
        May one be pardoned and retain th’ offense?
        In the corrupted currents of this world
        Offense’s gilded hand may shove by justice,
        And oft ’tis seen the wicked prize itself
        Buys out the law. But ’tis not so above.
        There is no shuffling. There the action lies
        In his true nature, and we ourselves compelled,
        Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
        To give in evidence. What then? What rests?
        Try what repentance can. What can it not?
        Yet what can it when one can not repent?
        O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
        O limèd soul that, struggling to be free,
        Art more engaged! Help, angels. Make assay.
        Bow, stubborn knees, and, heart with strings of steel,
        Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe.
        All may be well. (kneels)

        The internal, psychological struggles of the professional classes are much like those of Claudius, are they not?

        NOTE Adding, yes, murder. That’s what Case-Deaton shows. That’s what the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor shows. The state of Denmark, as it were, is as it is because people like Claudius (and Polonius, and Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern) made it that way. d

  4. Toshiro_Mifune

    How Western civilisation could collapse

    Isn’t that how Marx predicted capitalism would collapse?

  5. Jim Haygood

    Glad tidings from Radioland:

    iHeartMedia Inc., the biggest operator of radio stations in the U.S. and headed by Bob Pittman of MTV fame, plans to include language in its next quarterly report warning investors that it may not survive another year.

    The company has almost $350 million of debt coming due this year, part of a massive $20 billion debt load it took on as part of a $24 billion leveraged buyout of then Clear Channel Communications Inc. by private-equity firms Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners in 2008. It has another $8.3 billion of debt coming due in 2019.


    iHeart (formerly Clear Channel) is the conglomerate that gobbled up commercial radio stations nationwide and put them on remote-controlled computer playlists. An iHeart country station in my area plays the same 30 songs all day, every day — soundalike, big-hat-act country-pop about bad-ass trucks and big-boobed girls. It’s probably all cranked out by a song algorothm that you can buy on Google Play for five dollahs. But I digress.

    On the inspiring prospect of iHeart’s hoarded public spectrum finally being pried out of its cold dead corporate hands, one is moved to quote the great former Treas Sec Andrew Mellon:

    “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate… it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people.”

    YeeHAWWW! Cherry on the sundae is that iHeart was taken down by the private equity Republiclown, Mittens Romney. Good thing he didn’t get the chance to wreck America, too — eh!

    Die, iHeart, die. :-)

    1. Toshiro_Mifune

      You mean we might get local radio stations back again? Like, real DJs who pick music because they like it, not because some algo tells them to? If so, I fail to see a downside….

        1. Toshiro_Mifune

          Ah, there we go. That’s much more likely. I was getting optimistic for a little bit and new it couldn’t last. So much for the prospect of a rock radio station that doesn’t play that same 6 Zeppelin songs at least once an hour.

      1. Art Eclectic

        It’s not an algorithm that determins the playlist, it’s good old fashioned payola and advertising.

        Stations play what they’re paid to play and what local listeners react to. Lots of calls on a song indicate high listener engagement, which translates into advertising rates.

        It is a highly refined business model based on selling music or selling advertising.

        1. Aumua

          Eh, forget about them. They’re obsolete. We live in an age where you can listen to just about anything you want, at any time. Your phone can most likely hold a massive music library from which you can create playlists for any mood. If you’re looking for exposure to new and interesting music, chosen and played by actual radio DJ’s, then there are cool and eclectic underground/listener supported radio stations in many cities, and guess what: they mostly all broadcast online, commercial free.

          So f*** clear channel, they aren’t relevant, tune them out and tune in one of the multitude of options appearing everywhere. Here’s one that you can’t pick up anywhere but a within a few miles of their tower, but who cares? Transmitter power doesn’t matter anymore.

    2. bob

      “Cherry on the sundae is that iHeart was taken down by the private equity Republiclown, Mittens Romney. Good thing he didn’t get the chance to wreck America, too — eh!”

      That’s not the Cherry, that’s the story. It was designed to fail.

      I doubt we’ll ever get any sort of accounting of who owns the debt, and how much the parent (Bain) milked the radio stations to pay bonii, on top of those debt payments.

      The whole point to Bain is to BK anything they buy. If *something* survives, by pure chance, it’ll be sure to be in the IRA accounts of Mitten’s children.

      It’s just WAAYYY easier to follow the narrative put forth by our betters- Radio is dying! No one listens anymore. We need tax breaks, and high coupon debt for our children!

    3. John

      iHeart may die since the individual perp parasites have sucked the corporate husk dry…but all the greedheads will keep their fortunes intact. Just another amrikan grift operation.

    4. Christopher Fay

      There will be rounds and rounds of fee-charging, wealth-extracting by Bain Capital in this process. N C has been covering the capitalism within and between mirrors that is private equity, or what used to be known ad LBO, leverage – debt buy outs. Private equity is quite the term, makes it sound exclusive and upper crust.

      1. Grebo

        ‘Asset strippers’ we used to call them in the UK. Destroyed British industry in the ’70s and ’80s. One of them was in Thatcher’s cabinet.

  6. tongorad

    I’d say turning #BlackLivesMatter into a platform for Taco Bell product placement…

    With regard to changing direction hasn’t Deray been a spokesman for BLM since day one? His affiliation with BLM made me immediately regard them as re-branded identity politics.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Most definitely not. Deray entered quite late in the game; a classic opportunist. I’m sure there are more ins and outs to the history, so readers will correct me, but AFAIK the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was invented and propagated by three extremely bad-ass queer black women, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, starting after the Trayvon Martin episode. So the hashtag was applied to the Ferguson episode, which took place latter, and which was also organic, with locals marching through the summer even when police wouldn’t let them stop to rest…

      1. tongorad

        I stand corrected.
        However, looking at the BLM website, I’m not seeing much other than the usual identity/gender nomenclature. Is this what they’ve become?

    2. craazyboy

      This is a disaster!

      If BLM convinces Blacks they like tacos, that takes biz away from KFC. They have the same corporate parent, Yum Brands! What they need is a #Burger franchise, too. This would convince minorities they need a diversity food franchise. Don’t they teach anything important at Harvard??

      ‘Course if they both convince the Chinese to become black or Latinas (taco empowered), then that would make it up in volume. And the Wok&Roll would be toast.

  7. flora

    re: Class Warfare

    “That economic stratification may lead to collapse on its own… came as more of a surprise to Motesharrei and his colleagues. Under this scenario, elites push society toward instability and eventual collapse by hoarding huge quantities of wealth and resources, and leaving little or none for commoners who vastly outnumber them yet support them with labour. Eventually, the working population crashes because the portion of wealth allocated to them is not enough, followed by collapse of the elites due to the absence of labour. ”

    See this Japan Times article:

    The rise in those shunning marriage, experts say, is due not only to more diverse lifestyles but to an increase in low-paying, unstable jobs. Part-timers, temps or contract workers now account for nearly 40 percent of the workforce compared to about 20 percent in the 1980s.


    So I was perusing the book store the other day and saw Move Fast and Break Things, by Jonathan Taplin. Jacket says it’s an account of the libertarian-minded hegemony the big internet 3 (Facebook, Amazon, Google) gained over the market and culture. Anyone know if it’s worth a read?

    1. Arizona Slim

      My library doesn’t have it. Oh, well. For moments like this, there’s Inter-Library Loan.

      1. Adar

        As someone connected with the public libraries, I must put in a plug for the little-mentioned low-tech marvel of Inter-Library Loans: you can have delivered to your branch any book from any library in your state. This despite the fact that public libraries are being left to slowly wither in most places. In my state (PA) funding for them has not increased in ten years, and people with advanced degrees in Library Science are taking part time jobs at $10 an hour.

        1. sierra7

          I’ve been using inter-library loans for many years……It is amazing what you can get to read that you can’t find or afford to buy.
          Having left Silicon Valley almost 20 years ago (caveat: a great library system they have/had) I’ve witnessed over that time our local town (pop. less that 500) grow their library from (in late 1999) an “almost underground basement of a closed down restaurant” to a modern one built with funds raised by total personal contributions, grants and aluminum can salvaging. Today it is one of the most popular and enduring institutions in the county. (Our county libraries are also vibrant). The local Saturday (rain or shine/snow) used books sale is the most attended local event….always.
          Unfortunately in slim times libraries across the country lose funding with all the first “losers”.
          I also cringe at those who say that e-books are so convenient. I go for good hard copy books. All those e-book manuscripts can be changed at a moments notice; changing history to conform to contemporary dominant themes endorsed by those “shapers” of intellectual thought.
          As far as our economy(ies) go, nothing real will change until we have a better vision of what life should be like in a finite world. Hurtling thru space on this piece of dirt will not get us very far (in galactic time/distance) unless we learn to live together; eliminate racism, religious extremism……and modify greatly the “7 Deadly Sins”.
          Our beliefs in our indestructibility as a species is pure poppycock.
          Our Earth and its resources are finite; as well as our ability to use them. The “practice” of contemporary capitalism/politics with a multi-level “justice” system cannot be sustained. Common sense should tell anyone that.
          History also tell us that no appreciable change can come without some sort of violent upheaval; whether from nature or man/woman made.

        2. mitzimuffin

          As a former rural person, Inter Library is fab. I also had a version of it when I visited the Orkney Islands. I stayed on Shapinsay, and ordered books from the Kirkwall Library. They were delivered to the local grocery by Ferry. Really great. I’m a great fan of Libraries and Librarians, and am very upset about the target on their backs. It’s not merely(?) a war on science; it’s a war on knowledge. Sad.

    2. JaaaaayCeeeee

      Steve Bannon liked quoting that book, says nyt, that Trump’s campaign won for moving fast, disrupting things and bringing power to the masses. nyt reports that failure to manage the next steps may be what keeps the otherwise innovative from evolving to the next step, concluding with this quote:
      “I think all of this — the current start-up revolution, Trump and lots of other things — is largely a consequence of the internet breaking down traditional barriers,” Mr. Altman, the Y Combinator executive, wrote in an email. “This societal openness has some great consequences in my opinion, like the start-up boom of the last 20 years, and some bad ones, like Trump.”

      Can’t find a single social democrat reviewing the book (unlike Shattered) and the richness of neoliberal bafflegab about the book does the opposite of selling me on checking it out so far.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > the richness of neoliberal bafflegab about the book does the opposite of selling me on checking it out so far.

        But it’s important to know your enemies!

  9. lyman alpha blob

    RE: I would have thought Pollitt was smarter than this.

    Yeah no kidding. Rebecca Solnit from Harpers is another one who has let Trump’s boorishness get the better of her.

    Stopped subscribing to the Nation a while ago as I got sick of their ‘lesser of two evils’ philosophy with the Democrat party. Harpers has been getting on my nerves recently too. Solnit has had a few very poor Trump-related editorials in recent months and the magazine overall has bought into the anti-Trump, anti-Russia hysteria more than I’d like to the point that it’s making me question my decades-old subscription. You had linked to their article on the women’s march a week or so ago which I found to be awful. There was another otherwise good article on the rise of anti-LGBT(UVWXYZ – did I forget any new letters?) politics in Eastern Europe in the March issue I believe that took the activist/author’s claim that Russia invaded both Ukraine and Georgia at face value. No mention whatsoever of the US sponsored coup in Ukraine or that Georgia had precipitated Russian involvement by attacking South Ossetia. The author clearly had a bone to pick with Putin and was quite understandably not a fan however you’d think the editors would have asked for a little more context from the author with the “invasion” claims.

    Very sad to see.

    1. Byron the Light Bulb

      Georgia had precipitated Russian involvement by attacking South Ossetia
      Speaking of context, Georgia refused to allow Russian services to operate on its territory to root out Chechen rebels because one, Chechen infiltration between Georgia and Russia took place through bribed Russian checkpoints by vehicle. Two, Georgia’s been a bit touchy since several hundred Chechen fighters were sent to Abkhazia by Yeltsin to destabilize the Georgian regime of Eduard Shevardnadze by assassinating Georgian field commanders during the Georgian-Abkhazia conflict ’92-’93. It’s ethnic strife and not always because of NATO commanders want to winter on the Black Sea or something.

    2. DJG

      hyman alpha blob: Louise Mensch and Bernie Sanders as Russian influencer is an example of the syndrome I often see among Americans: “I can’t possibly be lying because I have an English accent.”

      Katha Pollitt should know better. Rebecca Solnit is a less talented writer who has succumbed to her instincts of accusing people. Well before the election, she wrote column after column filled with straw men. And they are always men, doncha know? Wasn’t it “jaded leftists” for a while?

      Which leads me to McCarthyism and a comment by our own Montanamaven. I have been thinking for some time about what she wrote (and Montanamaven will correct me if I’m wrong): For many upper-middle class women, the election of Trump is a personal insult. They believed that with Hillary Clinton’s qualifications (which they do not question), she should have won. Hillary Clinton’s loss means to them that their own status and qualifications are in jeopardy.

      So: Back to my own ideas: The response is lashing out. I am surprised at how strongly a number of women I know hold to the “Russians and their influence” thing. The central issue, though, is that the lashing out is more than unbecoming: We are indeed seeing McCarthyism. We are seeing war-mongering to get back at Trump (anyone who doesn’t favor bombing the hell out of Syria is a lover of Assad). We are seeing attempts at undermining the political process to get back at Trump (all of those letters to the Electroral College). Not so ironically, if these sort of tactics go on for another couple of years, upper-middle-class white women, who don’t stand to lose much economically in a Trump administration, could set feminism back considerably. I’m reminded of the stories of white women who didn’t want to attend the Women’s March because black women would criticize them.

      This is why the personal very often is not the political. But we haven’t shattered that delusion yet either.

      PS: The writer of the story about the anti-gay conference in Tbilisi was Masha Gessen. She knows what she speaks of. And whether Russia attacked Georgia or Georgia attacked Russia, we still have something distinctly odd going on in the Caucasus in Chechnya, with real people being really killed.

      1. JTFaraday

        Yes, but she (Solnit) did popularize the term “mansplaining,” which actually does explain an awful lot.

    3. Arizona Slim

      Trump’s boorishness isn’t anywhere close to LBJ’s. Or, for that matter, Nixon’s.

      1. Plenue

        On that front, if Trump were to switch to and pass Medicare-for-All, he would be the greatest President since either of those two (Great Society LBJ and OSHA Nixon).

    4. Plenue

      “anti-LGBT(UVWXYZ – did I forget any new letters?)”

      These days I believe it’s LGBTQIA (questioning, intersex, asexual). It’s like a cancer, it just keep growing.

    5. montanamaven

      For me, I really thought Harper’s was kicking serious butt when Roger Hodge was in charge from 2006 – 2010. When he left, I was unimpressed with the next editor and so cancelled my subscription. It was during his reign that Geoghagen wrote “Infinite Debt” and Silverstein wrote “Barack Obama Inc.” , “Crap Shoot: How everybody loses when politics is a game,” by Garrett Kaiser, “The New Road to Serfdom” by Michael Hudson…
      I actually interviewed Katha Pollitt when I had a radio show. I should try to dig it up, but will take too much effort. I was excited about getting such a prestigious writer, but was less than impressed during the interview. Now my interviews with Glenn Ford in 2007 and 2008 were the highlight of those times. Stephen Kinzer was another great mind. His “Overthrow” and latest book “The Brothers” about Alan and John Foster Dulles are must reads for anyone interested in our sad history. Kinzer was a journalist and so has a great writing style and not some dry history.

  10. David Carl Grimes

    Disappointed in Ossof in that he doesn’t believe in Medicare for all. If he does win, won’t the Clintonites see that as a vindication of their incrementalist approach?

      1. allan

        Ossof is just saying that the Democratic tent should be big enough
        to include moderate suburban Republican insurance company executives.

    1. nippersmom

      Of course they will. If he wins, they will see it as a vindication of everything about “Third Way” policies, and the DNC/DCCC approach to campaign management. For those of us who long for an alternative to neoliberalism, an Ossoff win would not be good at all.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          You can believe it’s important to elect Ossoff without believing he’s a progressive. Personally, I’m a little more bloodthirsty… But IMNSHO we want Sanders to be a politician, and not a symbol.

          As for Mello, last I checked it was Obama who made sure that the Hyde Amendment applied to ObamaCare, with an executive order.

      1. David Carl Grimes

        Question is, why is Ossof popular if he’s an incrementalist? Trump won because people were looking for change.

          1. IDontKnow

            It’s also the north of Atlanta commuter home to black wealth, particularly that slice of it that got wealthy cooperating with the neo-liberal agenda.

    2. Roger Smith

      These Neoliberal, metropolitan hacks are trying to suggest to people and get them to internalize that the basic standard of living they think they deserve is above and beyond the realm of possibility. It is the same thing they did to Sanders supporters in the primary culminating with the overarching message from Clinton herself, “Never, ever”.

      Yes, this is why he has to lose (why Clinton had to lose). A win will validate these corrupt corporate whores, these oligarchical slave drivers. They will have something to point at and have CNN/MSNBC regurgitate how the party is working until it becomes “fact” (that is how the ‘post-truth’ world works). Apparently a gross, Titanic presidential failure coming off of a run of lower level losses still wasn’t enough.

    3. Pat

      I don’t think that is the problem. The problem is that when he loses but not by as much as would normally be the case, they will still see it as a vindication of both their policy approach AND their political approach of appealing to surburban Republicans. Meaning it doesn’t matter whether he wins or loses, they are still right.

      1. a different chris

        Bingo. He could even lose by “as much as would normally be the case”… these people are impervious to reality. They will ride that 48% he got until the horse is completely beyond dead.

        And… I don’t know if I mind if he wins or loses. Surprised this site cared so much. If he wins, it might give a bit more hope to the Clintonites but like I said they are going to act like they won no matter what. If he loses you get the Horrible Handel who bolsters the inner echelons of the Republican Party.

        This race is lose-lose in that it just emphasizes how far apart (ahead, I hope) we are from the rest of the country. I think more people on here pulled the lever for Stein than those that weren’t on here did.

    4. montanamaven

      Ask him if he would support incrementally adjusting Medicare by letting everybody up to age 26 and over 55 be able to join Medicare. But I bet I know the answer. Incremental for Clintonites is smothering it slowly.

      1. JaaaaayCeeeee

        Ossoff WAS asked by a reporter if he even supports Medicare buy-in, I believe as a response to Bernie saying he’s not sure that

        Ossoff’s response was that he himself is not a progressive imho.

  11. mle detroit

    Taibbi, seven paragraphs in:

    Shattered is sourced almost entirely to figures inside the Clinton campaign who were and are deeply loyal to Clinton. Yet those sources tell of a campaign that spent nearly two years paralyzed by simple existential questions: Why are we running? What do we stand for?

    “If you’re wondering what might be the point of rehashing this now, the responsibility for opposing Donald Trump going forward still rests with the (mostly anonymous) voices described in this book.”

    The hell you say. Who appointed them? If these bubble-heads think yelling “Russia” is opposing Trump…

  12. lyman alpha blob

    Excellent article on the immigrant situation in Lewiston, ME.

    In 2002, at the beginning of the immigrant influx, the city handed out about $343,000 in General Assistance funds, split almost evenly between native-born Mainers and refugees, according to city records. But rumors, largely unfounded, spread that the refugees were given free cars and apartments. Locals began calling City Hall to demand answers.

    Then-Mayor Laurier T. Raymond Jr. penned an open letter to the Somali community, asking that they divert friends and family away from a city he described as “maxed-out financially, physically and emotionally.”

    The letter plunged Lewiston overnight into the global political cauldron. A white-supremacist group from out of state planned a rally against the Somali “invasion.” Just a few people showed up. But across town 4,000 gathered in a gymnasium to support the Somalis and try to combat the reputation of Lewiston as a racist, xenophobic city that was rocketing around the world.

    I was one of those 4,000 people in the gym that day and we went to let the white-supremacists know they weren’t welcome. But I also felt that the mayor did get a bad rap in the press where he was often painted as a racist. The pop. of Lewiston is only around 40,000 so an influx of several thousand refugees was a real strain on the town at the time which was pretty down-and-out. I do remember one radio interview from the time where a resident was complaining not that the refugees were getting help, but that they were getting help that people like him in the hollowed out town were not. Or at least that’s how he perceived it.

    The situation In Lewiston then is a microcosm of what we’re seeing nationwide now. At least a partial solution to the problem would seem to be to stop bombing the crap out of the rest of the world in order to stop creating so many refugees in the first place.

    Funny how no one in power seems to be bringing that up.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The situation In Lewiston then is a microcosm of what we’re seeing nationwide now. At least a partial solution to the problem would seem to be to stop bombing the crap out of the rest of the world in order to stop creating so many refugees in the first place.

      And jobs would be a help.

  13. voteforno6

    Re: Ossoff

    “I think we should be focused on incremental progress based upon the body of law on the books rather than going back to square one and proceeding from a starting point of ideological purity,” he said.

    Do these people realize just how dumb this talking point is? Medicare-for-all is incremental progress based upon the body of law. All we’re talking about is expanding a program that’s been around for more than 50 years. How is that going back to square one?

  14. Jim Haygood

    Today the Nasdaq 100 glamour stock index closed 3/100ths of a percent below its record high set yesterday.

    Likewise, Faceborg — one of the Five Horsemen of the Techpocalypse — wilted 12/100ths of a percent from its record high yesterday.

    Nevertheless, the grizzled old 20th century wraith of Microsoft — how fondly we remember the blinking cursor of DOS, inert unless you could type it something to do! — soared to a fresh record high of 66.40.

    Mnuchin’s in his flivver, and all’s well with the world.

  15. voteforno6

    Re: Chelsea

    Part of me feels sorry for her. It can’t have been easy growing up, with her parents. I kind of wonder if she would’ve been able to do more with her life, if she wasn’t trapped by the need to protect her parents’ legacy, rather than build her own. The other part of me wonders: just who the hell is Chelsea Clinton, to attack Charlotte Rampling like that? Rampling is a far more accomplished person in her field than Clinton is in hers, (if Chelsea ever settles on one, that is). Also, Charlotte Rampling has contributed far more to our culture than Chelsea Clinton ever will.

    1. nippersmom

      I find it difficult to feel sorry for the extremely privileged Chelsea Clinton. I feel sorry for all the people whose lives her parents helped destroy; I’m afraid I don’t have any sympathy left for their special snowflake spawn.

      1. craazyboy

        Ya. She coulda said, “Mom, we really don’t need to spend 3 million of OP’s money on my wedding…”

  16. voteforno6

    Re: Foner Interview

    It’s certainly a measured critique of Obama, but a good one. At least he didn’t try to participate in that silly exercise of trying to determine Obama’s place in history (it’s way too early to attempt to answer that question). Eric Foner is a far more accomplished historian, and much more highly regarded, than that plagiarist Doris Kearns Goodwin. It comes as no surprise, though, that Obama will be doing a speaking gig with Goodwin.

    1. Darius

      Foner is great in the quoted section but Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority only for a few months. And that included squishes like Lieberman and Ben Nelson.

      Nevertheless, they had more than enough votes to pass budget reconciliation with Medicare for All, a jobs program, and a whole lot of other good ideas. It wasn’t that the couldn’t. It’s that they didn’t want to. The Republicans manage to figure out how to get most of what they want.

      1. John k

        Reps and dems have the same paymasters. They all want What the reps want, so of course reps get what they want.
        Dems pretend to want to help the downtrodden, but really just want to help reps push down wages plus never, ever. Note at least some supported all of trumps nominees.
        It’s really quite simple.

        Years ago Bernie called the parties tweedledee and Tweedledum. Still pretty good description.

        1. Mark S.

          Rita Mae Brown described the difference between Democrats and Republicans as being like the difference between syphilis and gonorrhea.

  17. Lucius Sergius Catilina

    “GA-06: “I asked Ossoff if he would support a Medicare-for-all proposal of the sort that Sanders backs. He would not. ‘I think we should be focused on incremental progress based upon the body of law on the books rather than going back to square one and proceeding from a starting point of ideological purity,’ he said. ‘I think there needs to be less ideology around health care policy on the left and the right.”

    We now know why Ossoff got all that funding, likewise his ethnicity. I am sure he will be reliably pro-Israel, unlike Keith Ellison, Rob Quist and and and James Thompson. Haim Saban bascially vetoed Keith Ellison as DNC chairman because he wasn’t reliably pro-Israel. Apparently Israel trumps all other issues for the Democratic establishment. Israel uber alles!

      1. Lucius Sergius Catilina

        Haim Saban vetoes Keith Ellison:



        Ethnicity, from Wikipedia, “Ossoff was raised Jewish.[10]” Not saying all Jews are Zionist, but according to Wikipedia Ossoff “…attended classes taught by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren.” while at Georgetown University. I am guessing he would be reliably pro-Israel, not that there is anything wrong with that.

        Did not assert that Haim Saban funded Ossoff, just guessing.

        My point being, that among the Democratic Establishment, being “reliably” pro Israel trumps all other issues and explains DNC funding for Ossoff as much as his opposition to single payer. It likewise, explains the whole “liberal interventionist” strain of Democrat and the anti-Russian hysteria.

        Did not mean to imply that there are not good, non-interventionist progressives of all ethnicities. Just calling attention to this particular case and the importance of being pro Israel to the Democratic establishment, and how that issue seems to squeeze out domestic issues and to be a litmus test for support. Jon Ossoff is certainly within his rights to support Israel, I just find that it distorts the whole Democratic agenda and support for progressive candidates who tend to be non-interventionist. Ossoff seems to be an example of that bias.

  18. Altandmain

    Counterpunch has a few interesting articles today.

    Why the Democratic Establishment has been determined to talk about Russia:

    Student debt:

    A history of American war war crimes during the North Korea war:

    There are a few more worth reading that I have not linked.

    On a personal note, I got a phone interview. Hopefully it gets somewhere. The job market is awful here in Canada and I bet it is in the US too.

    1. Montanamaven

      Since I started paying attention in 2001, good “folks” like Norman Solomon or Bob Borasage railed against the establishment Dems as “progressives”. But when push comes to shove, they fall in line and push for the “lesser of two evils” and vote party line. They are not revolutionaries. But his points are right on. The establishment Dems are trying to distract attention form Hillary’s awful policies and persona by screaming, “Putin did it!”. I am rather shocked that these female millenials are taken it by this and don’t get that they are being used. But then I was kind of naive in that I wasn’t paying attention and had other things to do and so just voted Democrat without thinking. “Without thinking” being the operative phrase.
      So it is interesting that I agree with the theory but don’t trust the messenger.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > . I am rather shocked that these female millenials are taken it by this and don’t get that they are being used

        I’m missing where this happened. It’s not in the Counterpunch articles.

    2. Marco

      Congrats on the job prospects! Care to share your thoughts on why the job market stinks in Canada?

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      It occurs to me that Clinton is perhaps the candidate who, in the entire history of the United States, is least equipped to deal with the concept of blowback, since as we see both from 2016 (“Putin!”) and 2008 (when she searched her staff’s email for the traitors she felt must have been responsible for her loss) she’s utterly incapable of taking responsibility for consequences of her own actions (as, for example, the slave markets in Libya after we overthrew Qaddafi, where she tipped the administration balance to war). Clinton incarnates American exceptionalism (and inability to take a realist approach, which necessarily considers consequences and blowback).

      Since blowback is a key aspect of our problems in the Middle East — profitable problems though they are! — that would have made her deeply unqualified in her supposed area of expertise. The very last person we’d want picking up the phone at 3AM (and far better cast as a subordinate than a leader).

  19. LT

    GA-06: “I asked Ossoff if he would support a Medicare-for-all proposal of the sort that Sanders backs. He would not. ‘I think we should be focused on incremental progress based upon the body of law on the books rather than going back to square one and proceeding from a starting point of ideological purity,’ he said. ‘I think there needs to be less ideology around health care policy on the left and the right.’

    “Medicare For All” isn’t going back to square one. It’s building on a plan already in existence.
    I hope he gets his butt handed to him in that election.

  20. LT

    IMF: “If confidence and market sentiment remain strong, short-term growth could indeed surprise on the upside.”
    Hey, Ossoff, there’s some “ideological purity” for ya!
    Sentiment and confidence fairies…

  21. LT

    “How Western civilisation could collapse” [BBC]. “Safa Motesharrei, a systems scientist at the University of Maryland, uses computer models to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that can lead to local or global sustainability or collapse. … That economic stratification may lead to collapse on its own… came as more of a surprise to Motesharrei and his colleagues.”

    I guess they don’t understand anything that’s been said over and over again because it wasn’t written in the proper “academese” by the alleged “meritocracy.”

  22. montanamaven

    When I despair of finding interesting, talented and smart women in politics, lately I just watch another episode of either “The Mick” on Hulu or another episode of Maria Zakharova “Splains Things to Stupid Reporters”. In this episode she is exasperated at the Fake News saying that Syria and Russia gassed some Syrians. So she decides to engage in Fake News and says, “What if the US really did it?” Watch her eyebrow go up at a question from a soon to be humiliated WSJ reporter. It’s at 2:14 minutes into the segment. Better than Carol Burnett. Maria ‘splains Fake News

  23. Steely Glint

    RE: Stats, Big Ag It also means U.S. growers increasingly make decisions about what to plant and when to sell their harvest based on weather, transportation snarls and other events in faraway places.
    Yes, and this data is put out by our Ag Dept., and Farm Services. Many IT jobs in Ag & FS are right now being cut, as managers scramble or horde because they’re acting as if Trumps skinny budget is law. So yes, these guys&gals were earning good money, but now they too have joined the ranks of the unemployed. Many were working for gov. contractors, so no $$kiss good-bye. Red states are getting the shaft again – just campaign fodder.

  24. subgenius

    Bob obviously is a source of a great many leaks. I am sure Pompeo is tasking black helicopters to intercept him before he makes it to an Ecuadorian embassy…Environmentalists are probably also at risk.

  25. LT


    God is busy deciding his picks for various sporting events (the NBA Playoffs makes it an especially hectic time) and awards. In the meantime, you can leave a message and the next available angel will get back to you.

  26. ewmayer

    Re. “How Western civilisation could collapse” [BBC]. “Safa Motesharrei, a systems scientist at the University of Maryland, uses computer models to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that can lead to local or global sustainability or collapse. … That economic stratification may lead to collapse on its own… came as more of a surprise to Motesharrei and his colleagues. — It seems Dr. Motesharrei’s computer models never heard of, say, the French or Russian revolutions. Obscure historical occurrences, I realize. /sarc

    1. hunkerdown

      It’s a tell. If they were only looking to establish the presence or absence of causality, a reading of history would have sufficed. A researcher in Maryland might well be tasked by his grantors to model such collapses in detail in order to prevent world-historic occurrences from happening a third time, as it were. Consider this research oriented toward quantifying how far, how quickly, and how thoroughly the people can be crushed before the tumbrels roll.

  27. The Radiator Lady

    Simmering tensions in the Democratic party over halfassed inadequate reforms that won’t happen!

    The black Guelphs outfox the Ghibellines by reclaiming the oaken bucket of Modena!

    Tune in next week for the next episode of things people can be induced to give a shit about.

  28. Adamski

    Crosstabs from the Harvard-Harris poll here. http://harvardharrispoll.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Full-Crosstabs-April-Harvard-Harris-Poll_Top-Line-Memo_Custom-Banners_Registered-Voters-v2.pdf

    Please note, Bernie is more popular with black ppl than with whites today, but the vast majority of blacks are Democrats. Nonetheless, check out the score of Hillary Clinton today — Sanders has now pulled even with her among blacks.

    Also, Sanders is now more popular with Democrats than Clinton, because their favourables are about the same but her unfavourables are much greater.

    1. Adamski

      Was I too verbose? Can’t believe on a Sandernista site like this that Bernie finally being as popular as Clinton with blacks and more so with Democrats has drawn no other comments…!

  29. Procopius

    I am so tired of the flat out lie that the Democrats had filibuster-proof control of the Senate for two full years. In the first place the only way you can get to 60 is by counting two non-Democrats, Bernie Sanders and [expletive deleted] Weepin’ Joe Lieberman. Granted they did caucus with the Democrats and Bernie always voted with them, I remember too well how Lieberman made everyone’s life miserable because he was so petulant about losing the Democratic primary. Here’s an analysis from five years ago that details how much of a problem 60 votes was in 2009-10. I don’t care what lying Eric Foner says at The Nation. It’s a fcuking right wing lie that too many good blogs have allowed to spawn. Please stop repeating it without labeling it as a lie.

    1. Adamski

      Cohen makes valid points in favour of Obama himself, not in favour of the Dems — the “Blue Dogs somehow don’t count” is crap. When evaluating Obama, sure, maybe he wrung all he could out of Congress. Ppl will still argue he could have used the bully pulpit and face to face meetings more effectively, on Obamacare and the stimulus. When evaluating the Dems, Blue Dogs certainly do count, and if it meant that electing a filibuster-proof wasn’t liberal enough, liberal voters can take note.

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