2:00PM Water Cooler 5/3/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

This is a travel day for me, so talk amongst yourselves! — lambert

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Some questions to stir the pot:

1) Have any readers participated in any of the non-party organizations that have been springing up? “The Resistance” (granted, at the top level it’s a stretch to call it non-party), Indivisibles, Our Revolution, Brand New Congress? If so, what are your thoughts?

2) Have any readers participated in other, regular party activities with Democrats or Republicans? If so, how did that go?

3) How about union or other organizing activities?


* * *

And one more, for Bob & Ray fans. Starting off with Wally Ballou seeking the views of passers-by on the President’s latest speech on the economy:

“I sprinkle the chocolate sprinkles on the donuts as they go by.”

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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 (Kokuanani):

I bet those rhododendrons are happy against that warm wall…

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Readers, Water Cooler is a standalone entity, not supported by the Naked Capitalism fundraisers. 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. Fox Blew

    I am a union shop steward in my workplace here in Atlantic Canada. From where I’m sitting, I think the labour movement fell in love with Trudeau during the 2015 federal election…and that might have turned out to be a mistake…at least up to a point. Sure, we were all energized to get that lowlife Steve Harper out of office, and heck, Trudeau even said things like “labour is the solution, not the problem.” But my feeling today is that there is too much of a wait-and-see approach. Not enough pressure being applied towards our buddy Justin. Add to this, the NDP (our labour party here in the big chill) doesn’t appear to be throwing chairs at Trudeau like they did towards Harper. (Note: I don’t want anyone throwing real chairs…rhetorical ones!) I’m finding it hard to get my fellow workers motivated when we have such a aw-shucks-nice-guy as the leader of our federal government.

    1. JaaaaayCeeeee

      It’s not a wait and see approach – Trudeau is being sold as progressive when he is a bargain bin Obama as bad or worse for the working class, uses the neoliberal con to weaken public programs that childcare $$ shouldn’t go to wealthy families like his, gets good press for warning Europe of hte importance of fair wages after he ran against raising hte minimum wage, ran as an enviromentalist then locks Canada into pipelines and fossil fuel extraction, abandoned his promises to make voting fair and respect 1st nations, sells arms to Saudi Arabia while claiming he cares about human and immigration rights and skips global disarmament talks, could stand up to Trump without hurting Canada’s economy but refuses to.

      Just follow someone who supports policy that supports the working class on Twitter like lukewsavage instead of corporate media so dedicated to fooling voters that neolibs are progressives.

      1. Ian

        But he is legalizing weed, so that’s a positive. Having said that he is pretty much what I expected him to be which is everything you said. End of the day, we are in the US’s shadow and our power elite will cling to whatever orthodoxy they demand.

        1. sleepy

          Not sure if you mean that Canada’s elite is strong-armed by the US but, if that’s in fact what you’re saying I tend to disagree. I believe that the political, social, and economic powers in Canada have the same interests as their peers in the US. While it might make good domestic campaign rhetoric to blame the US for various things, in most cases I think that’s not much more than political cover for what those elites would do in any event even without the US.

    2. M.

      I used to work at a restaurant that’s involved in federal union/RICO case, so my perspective is unusual to say the least. (Background: https://billypenn.com/2016/08/05/johnny-docs-death-grip-on-politics-from-philly-to-the-white-house/ )

      I’ve noticed a few things:

      (1) I’m really disheartened by how lockstep the union discussion has been on the internet as a whole. You can take a whiteboard, draw a political continuum line, and mark a “limits of acceptable Democratic/liberal thought” line as well as a “limits of acceptable Republican/conservative thought” line. I suspect anything hinting at the the historical relationship between unions and organized crime in America usually doesn’t get covered because it makes both groups look extremely bad, albeit for very different reasons.

      (2) I would be really interested to know if this relationship exists only in America or in all highly unionized countries?

      I also have a million questions about it that I just can’t find any answers to. Does this pattern only exist in the Boston-DC corridor? I’ve noticed that it seems to be a particular problem with Eastern port cities like NY, Philly, and Baltimore, and I can’t figure out if that’s a lamppost effect, or if it’s a side effect of the colonial cities dealing with retrofitted infrastructure and immigration policies? Is this type of issue only in “the usual suspect” unions (IBEW, Longshoremen, HERE, Teamsters, etc.) or is it in all American unions except Teachers and Nurses? For that matter, I’ve noticed that the unions that seem to be consistently above board are the teachers and nurses unions, and I’d really love to know why them?

      (3) Ryan Holiday has a really good discussion about how the Internet has become a one-to-many PR medium, and I think I really see that playing out with the discussions on American unionization. IOW, the discussions I hear people having online in no way, shape, or form resemble the discussions I see them having in at the bar.

      So. Many. Feelings. First, it definitely makes me nostalgic for the 90s Internet. On the bigger issue of whether it gives me hope for humanity, I dunno.

      (4) I find it odd that Democrats keep hoping supporting unions will help them flip purple districts like in the good ol’ days. I think that’s why they keep doubling down on the “yayyy unions!” talking points in the media. I really don’t see that happening, for a couple of reasons.

      First, millennials remember stories from our parents about how (a) unions are racist, (b) how they preyed on their rank and file, and/or (c) how they are gangs’ politics and white collar crime divisions. As far as I can tell, these issues are still true, which is why Johnny Doc and the Dallas Police Union Pension cases are in the news. (In fact, that’s how I started coming here: I heard you guys were the only ones covering white collar crimes involving pensions.) Unless unions can do something to win back our trust, we’ll just treat them as the T-Rexes that they are, and won’t vote for them.

      Second, if the twentieth century was good at one thing, it was good at conditioning us proles to tell those higher on the social hierarchy whatever they wanted to hear — and then doing whatever they wanted to do when our social superiors turned away. Given the pearl clutching I see in the Democratic establishment, they really haven’t figured out how to deal with this kind of passive-aggressive resistance yet.

      (5)Those of us who come from immigrant families don’t buy the union party line about labor rights, wages, etc. for several reasons, and Ha Joon Chang lays out the technical ones far better than I ever could. For those of us without any formal economics education it usually boils down to this: it’s really hard to buy the idea that unions are responsible for rights and rising wages when your parents and grandparents came from countries that had relatively higher wages and better worker protections without any unions.

      From that point, you just look at a globe and notice that he’s right: unions, wages, and labor rights aren’t necessarily connected. They are weakly correlated, and he’s probably right when he says they come from the same common cause. I think focusing on what that common cause is would be a more interesting and productive conversation. And I think it’s really sad that you can’t find that discussion anywhere on the Internet today.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        when your parents and grandparents came from countries that had relatively higher wages and better worker protections without any unions

        What countries are you referring to? I’m not aware of any high-wage countries without unions (except the U.S.)

        On your other points, overly simplified: unions in the U.S. more than many countries don’t fit a single pattern – corrupt or not; left, liberal, right-wing; racist or not; etc. When the Wagner Act was passed in 1935, even though it was passed in response to widespread nationwide union organizing, it enshrined a very localized system that encouraged/required unions to focus on the workplace level. And given that unions had to be organized workplace by workplace, there were relatively few industries or sectors where unions could really set the terms of competition – and even in those industries that power began to wane in the 60s and was basically gone by the mid-80s. Most of the organized crime you see in unions is in local service industries (garbage hauling, local trucking, etc.) where the union can get a local monopoly and thus make employers (and sometimes employees) “pay to play.” I think in the grand scheme of things, there is not very much of this type of corruption any more, but any is too much and I agree with your disgust.

        Pension administration, union or non-union, has always drawn financial criminals because there is money to be made/stolen there. Again, there are hardly any union-run pension plans any more, but it sucks to have criminals running yours.

        The bigger point about unions is that they arise in response to a particular economic environment. Virtually all of the “first world” national union movements arose in the 1930s-40s, give or take – not that there weren’t unions before but the big increase in membership and power came then – in response to both economic and political opportunity, which was national and heavily emphasized manufacturing. Unfortunately, that world is gone and so we now have unions unsuited to current economic and political arrangements.

        As John R Commons pointed out 100 years ago, this is how it goes. Unions become able to organize certain employers and industries. (That is why it is hard to generalize about unions, because unless the national environment drives a unified union movement (as in Germany or Sweden), unions will look and act very differently if they are in manufacturing vs public sector vs construction vs local service industries.) Those employers and industries both come to terms with those unions and immediately begin searching for strategies to evade those unions. Often they eventually succeed in the latter, almost always by “enlarging the size of the labor market,” i.e. running away to somewhere without unions. And the cycle starts over.

        Regime shopping has always been part of this. Out here in the midwest, many of the big factories built from 1910-1930 were built in brand new “suburbs” just outside the city limits in de facto company towns (Dearborn and Highland Park near Detroit, Cudahy and West Allis outside Milwaukee, etc) expressly to avoid unions and left-wing local politics. Most of the manufacturing in and around Indianapolis was relocated there from New York and New Jersey, and much of it left for the South or Mexico when the unions were able to organize the plants in Indiana.

        But globalization presents a whole new level of difficulty because unions need government to back them – to some extent to give them their identity – and there is only national (and local) government. So the current period before unions will be successful in massively organizing again is likely to be much longer than previous interregna. Thus in many places, the only unions that are left are rump unions with little sense of social purpose – dinosaurs if you will.

        The unions the Democrats really like are the public sector ones, because they have lots of money, are not overtly anti-capital, and are strongest in places where Democrats do well. Also healthcare. The Democrats would like all unions to behave like public sector or health care unions.

        I totally agree that the politics and political discussion in these unions is often not forward-looking. But in each union there is usually a good reason for that (apathy, fear of job loss, etc.). And in lots of local unions, new energized leadership can make a huge difference because there is not much backing the old way of doing things except inertia.

        1. M.

          What countries are you referring to? I’m not aware of any high-wage countries without unions (except the U.S.)

          Ha Joon Chang has good discussions of this in both Bad Samaritans and 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. I don’t want to butcher his arguments for you.

          I was primarily thinking of counties where me, my friends, or their parents were born, namely South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong (pre-Mainland handover), Taiwan, and France (shockingly, they’re even less unionized than America — 9-11% last time I checked).

          The oddballs that Chang’s argument best accounts for — but Western union advocates simply can’t address at all — are the pre vs. post- perestroika Russia, Moldova, Belorussia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Czech, Hungary, and Ukraine. (I don’t know about the other ex-Soviet nations; I just happen to have friends who emigrated from these countries.) USSR unions were co-opted by the government from the get-go, so it’s also debatable whether pre-glastnost and pre-perestroika unions should be counted as groups that actually represented workers or if they should just be seen as things that were there to promote a superficial Communist government legitimacy. An analogy would be the argument our public defenders don’t exist to actually protect defendants’ rights so much as they exist to protect our judicial systems’ legitimacy.

          While Chang doesn’t really address these countries directly, his argument implicitly addresses (a) what the unions’ actual “political economy function” was in these countries, (b) why the unions and living conditions improved in these nations when they did, and ( c ) why both deteriorated during the 1990s yet unions haven’t been able to mount an effective response to improve their workers’ lives. Western union supporters miss the issues completely, and consequently, have been pretty useless for everything other than PR fluff pieces.

          I’m also not really sure whether America should be considered a high wage country, BTW. Once you get rid of the outliers like Buffett, all of our metrics place us firmly in developing nation territory. I remember reading that, if we ignore the outliers like Gates, our average income is on par with Taiwan’s. And if you ever spend any time at all in South Korea, Taiwan, or Hong Kong, it’s pretty clear we’re below them in pretty much every measurable metric — healthcare, education, infrastructure, technology — imaginable.

          Lunch hour’s over, more when I get back.

    3. Michael C.

      Trudeau has reincarnated what Obama did to the political left in the US, and more broadly what the Democratic Party has done to labor since the end of WWII. Of course, labor was complicit in the arrangement, and until labor breaks with the political parties and asserts independence at every turn, this replay will not cease. I think of Debs quote about the danger of following leaders (personalities, and though he meant labor ones, political ones apply too) when he said, “I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition; as it is now the capitalists use your heads and your hands.”

  2. Marco

    Does giving $$ count as participation? I donated in response to Tulsi’s latest fundraising email (the first I received since the primary). I cannot muster the will-power to donate to anyone else. My requirement being a track-record of defiance against DNC and Team Blue elite.

    1. Katharine

      I gambled a little on BNC to try to help them develop a track record, since organizations as well as people can suffer from the “experience required” Catch-22; and I occasionally offer them my unsolicited opinion (poor dears–I know). I was interested in a recent email that requested funds to help them purchase voter lists for candidates. This seemed to imply that whoever needed lists was either not running as a Democrat or not trusting to the security of VAN. The latter possibility seemed very interesting, given BNC founders’ experience in the Sanders campaign. Does anyone else here know anything about this?

      1. Mike Mc

        Went one early (post-primary pre-election) BNC confab early fall 2016 in Omaha. Interesting but I think depression from Trump’s election blew a big hole in progressives’ sails for a while.

        Women’s March here was expected to draw 3,000 or so… over 14,000 showed up! Mild weather helped, but women of all stripes genuinely peeved at Trump’s wins and general demeanor.

        Sanders rally two weeks ago helped, trying to connect with local member of DSA – Democratic Socialists of America – because as a die-hard Berniecrat DSA seems like last best hope for reviving the Democratic Party… or superseding it if need be.

        FD: Sixty something working techno peasant, spent over 30 years in county Democratic Party, depressing to see how Clintonistas/Obamanites/DNC has destroyed Dem Party structure root and branch.

      2. Elizabeth Burton

        I make monthly donations to Our Revolution and Brand New Congress/Justice Democrats. I just got an email from BNC announcing their first actual candidate; up till now, they’ve been focused on finding people willing to run. Otherwise, I prefer to support progressive candidates directly, since they’re not likely to get a lot of attention from the establishment. Although, I see DCCC has shelled out some money to Rob Quist. Not going to assume that’s sign of anything other than kissing up in hopes of assuaging the progressives p’ed off about Kansas.

        I think anyone who tries to make judgment on the various movements would be jumping the gun at this point. I tend to gravitate to those I see laying actual foundations for long-term activity, not being one who believes in miracles.

      3. kat

        The dems where I live sell their lists to candidates. You don’t automatically get them. Our lists are also semi bad. They don’t have enough data and candidates don’t sell their updated lists back.

      4. Adam Reilly

        Even Democrats need to buy the lists I believe (They could potentially get them from the DNC, but it makes sense that the state DNC wouldn’t want to play nice with BNC candidates)

        That said, I got the entire state of CA voter roll+electoral history for $30, but other states may be more expensive. Granted, this data comes in a format that I suspect an average grassroots candidate would not be able to properly use, so there could be additional costs for data people.

  3. Huey Long

    I’m a card carrying, dues paying, proud Union member working in NYC’s FIRE sector.

    We’re in good shape at the moment as the masters of the universe we work for are putting up plenty of new buildings and the existing buildings are chock full of tenants. (I’m a building engineer by trade)

    My union’s top concerns at the moment are fighting right-to-work legislation, the Kentucky River NLRB decision, and lobbying entrench ourselves further into the city fire code to keep us from getting the H-1b treatment.

    The membership is split across what I call the “News-Post spectrum,” with the Post readers supporting the Trumpster and the News readers opposed.

    1. PKMKII

      I know the NYC construction unions were fighting for better training from their employers, whatever happened with that?

      1. Huey Long

        I’m not sure, but I can tell you those guys and gals are getting their asses handed to them.

        Non-Union labor is the norm out in the boros and is becoming the norm on residential construction jobs in Manhattan.

        There’s also a lobbying effort going on to replace the NYC crane operator exam with a national exam, thereby enabling scabs from out of state to undercut Union crane operators.

        1. HopeLB

          Huey Long you might want to become a multi-billionaire by taking your skill set on the road, on the costal road in particular, where you can offer your expertise in reconfiguring the foundations of low lying costal homes to become bouyant, floating upward as the sea level rises. Maybe anchor them to the owner’s submerged property but definitely have a bay of kayaks/small motor boats at the ready for provisioning.


    Five Charged with Running Drug Op Under Uber Disguise

    Prosecutors say they sold cocaine and heroin to more than 100 customers in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan.

    They allegedly would make the deliveries in cars decked out in Uber logos and stickers in order to seem inconspicuous.

    The old “selling drugs out of an ice cream truck” ploy, updated for Web 3.0

    1. Huey Long

      They busted a delivery service serving 100 customers in a city of 10 million people. Way-to-go NYPD….

  5. cocomaan

    Sort of related to activism, we attended our (very small) township’s Board meeting recently about a property issue.

    The place was packed. People I’d never seen there before were in attendance. The meeting proceedings were extremely chatty and the whole thing dragged for two hours.

    One woman brought up gerrymandering. Never seen that before! We have two thousand people in our entire township, you can’t gerrymander it well because nobody lives there! So that was interesting.

  6. Michael Fiorillo

    I’m a NYC public school teacher and a member of the UFT, the largest union local in the country.

    Our situation is very depressing on a lot of levels. Teachers are exhausted and demoralized from the twenty years of scapegoating we’ve been subjected to, by Democrats and Republicans alike. Teachers and their unions have been the target because they are the strongest institutional obstacle to the hostile takeover of the public schools, which NC readers will not be surprised to hear was accelerated by Obama, and is likely to go into hyper-drive with Trump/De Vos.

    Unfortunately, our local and national leadership goes out of its way to “collaborate” (yes, they actually use that term) with the arrogant know-nothings, vicious sons-of-bitches, soulless opportunists and garden-variety looters who are busy sinking their fangs into the public education budget honey pots.

    Outside of the schools, the union is gearing up to fight the proposal for a new Constitutional Convention in NYS, which would endanger public sector pensions and forest preserves in the Catskill and Adirondack mountains. The union, to its credit, is beginning to mobilize on that front.

    Unfortunately, our rank and file is so apathetic, uninformed and demoralized (the first two traits actively cultivated by the union leadership over many years for its own selfish purposes) that when/if a national right-to-work (for less) law is passed, the dues-paying segment of teachers will likely fall by half. That’s in NYC, a “union town.”

    But that’s what happens when your union is a one-party state – the leadership caucus has been in power for over half a century (!), and is the last of the great urban political machines – and “collaborates” with the boss.

    1. Huey Long

      +1 on union dues/right to work for less

      In my union, the faction I refer to as the “NY Post Readers” always bitches up a storm about their union dues.

      Dues are too much, blah blah blah, the union reps make too much, the reps waste all our dues money on junkets (total bs), the union doesn’t do jack for us, I could use that money for xyz, etc.

      These clowns have all bought the working man’s version of the galt’s gulch fable hook, line, and sinker.

      My usual response is to ask them if they like their healthcare, pension, work rules, and contract. I then ask them how long they think the squillionaires are going to keep all that in place without the threat of a strike, or who’s gonna have their back when some sadistic manager hands them a bs write up.

      Nobody ever has much of a retort, and this’ll get them to quiet down, but the dirty looks they give me afterwards tell me that they really do believe that if they weren’t paying union dues, the money they save would propel them into the squillionaire class.

      They don’t seem to get that the squillionaires aren’t their buddies and that these greedy bastards want us all to work for free.

      1. Darius

        I’m in a so-called right to work state. We can never get union membership above 40 percent. We use so much energy on recruiting we don’t have much left to represent our members. We also are losing ground in each new contract.

    2. Kurtismayfield

      The NEA and UFT collaboration with the neoliberal’s really has to end. Do you see your leadership supporting Cuomo at all for a 2020 run? I don’t see our local doing squat for him considering the protests we put up every year for state testing.

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        Cuomo is loathed by teachers, even the relatively apolitical ones, not that Unity Caucus (the ruling political party in the union) gives a flying flock what we think. Nevertheless, they likely would have to use backstage maneuvers, at least in the primaries. They probably couldn’t openly support him unless/until he became the nominee (which hopefully/likely won’t happen, because he’s brittle, sleazy and aggressively unlikeable).

        The union leadership might do something along the lines of what they did last time Cuomo ran for governor in 2014: they threatened to withdraw funding from the Working Families Party if it nominated the excellent Zephyr Teachout, who was challenging Cuomo on the WFP and Democratic lines.

        By the way, and of more than local note, Teachout, one of the better ones among Democrats and clearly of the Party’s left wing, won virtually all the rural, Trump-voting counties upstate when she ran in the Democratic primary against Cuomo in 2014; it was his large majorities in the cities that won it for him. Maybe there’s something to look at there for the future.

        In fairness to the union leadership, I also have to say that many in the rank and file are not just exhausted, overwhelmed, demoralized, cynical, apathetic, and naive, but stupid.

        Yes, stupid, and so easily manipulated… at a time when, along with Social Security, destroying public education is the holy grail and wet dream of the Overclass.

        Stupid, and with a reflexive conformist response to (frequently authoritarian/abusive/inane) workplace demands, news and public events. It’s far from a majority, but more than you might think and more than should be. So there’s also the reality that, awful as the union leadership is, they’re still far more progressive and humane than many of the people they represent. It’s estimated that up to a third of NYC teachers voted for Donnie. Of that 30-33%, a minority were volatility voters, as Lambert calls them, who could give you a reasoned and informed argument for their vote, but most of them voted for Trump out of an acid reflux-inducing stew of misguided frustration, resentment, susceptibility to misdirection and manipulation, willful ignorance and yes, racism/bigotry.

        Tough times ahead for the ideal of universal public schools, staffed by experienced, career-oriented teachers, counselors, etc., as a vehicle for democratic participation. Indeed, the ideological wing of so-called education reform wants to destroy it for precisely that reason.

  7. JohnnyGL


    Interesting interview with a vet who was also a diplomat with the State Dept. Now the guy is a senior fellow at Center for International Policy.

    He says Taliban wants to negotiate and US doesn’t want to hear it, and only wants a military win.

    Apparently, Norway has been stepping in and managed to make progress with Mullah Omar, US leaders weren’t interested.

    He also talks about the high desertion rate in Afghan security forces partially comes from revulsion around the widespread use of torture among Afghan security forces and general disgust at working for corrupt drug lords.

    1. Adamski

      Thank you for posting this, your description is much more interesting than the title, so I would have missed it even though I subscribe to the Youtube channel

    2. sid_finster

      I was under the impression that most of the Afghan security forces were conscripts, so the local districts have a way of using this conscription to get rid of drug addicts, losers, thieves and other undesirables.

      Correct me if I am wrong.

  8. Ranger Rick

    No, no, and I was once upon a time part of a grocer’s union, but not by choice (closed shop).

    I’m an independent and I take my lumps.

  9. pat

    Thanks for the Bob and Ray episode, “…broadcast from approximately coast to coast.”

  10. DJG

    I attended the kickoff meeting of Our Revolution Illinois / Chicago on 22 April. It was held at the Chicago Teachers Union headquarters. About 150 people attended, which is a good number, because it was also Earth Day and there was a climate march that afternoon.

    Chuy Garcia gave a very good speech, and he dropped hints of running for mayor again. Another person making mayor-run noises was sitting in front of me. I’m not sure what he thought of the warm reception for Garcia.

    Words much in use: policy. services we deserve.

    Much stress on unity and benefits for everyone across the city.

    Tom Tresser, scourge of the city budget, gave a great presentation. He has a book out, Chicago Is Not Broke, which is important in that it lets the air out of the lie that there just isn’t enough money for us to have nice things. There’s plenty of money. And the book also proposes a post-office bank.

    I also attended a meeting of the Fortieth Ward Alliance, which is a kind of discussion group and organizing forum. Again, the theme was unity, services for all, and education for all. Troy LaRaviere talked about the many successes of the Chicago Public Schools. What a shock! Unionized teachers deliver results! Who’da thunk it?

    So here in Chicago, with our culture of civic crankiness, and my neighborhood has been cranky for years, also being a center of gay/lesbian activism, there are some rays of light. And we are doing things without any direction from Moskva, mirabile dictu.

    Now to clean out some of our truly execrable conserva-Dems. Yes, Sen. Steans, that includes you.

    Finally, I’d like to point out to those commenters who don’t like to march that sometimes you also have to attend meetings and listen to lots of speakers. In other words, democracy isn’t an efficient and businesslike use of your time. And that is why democracy works.

  11. Stephen Tynan

    I’m a nurse and a dues-paying Wobblie.
    Last year, I ran the grassroots offices for the Sanders campaign in Sonoma and Marin counties.
    Now I’m organizing for Draft Bernie for a New Political Party.
    It may seem a bit Quixotic, but I’m all for wresting the political process from the death grip of the duopoly.
    I was involved with #NoDAPL. Canvassing, organizing protests, voter reg, making materials: tshirts, buttons, flyers, signage. Activity keeps me from despair over the current situation. I spend a lot of time talking people down off the ledge.

    1. Huey Long

      A dues paying wobbly!!! I didn’t know those still existed!!!

      A hat tip to you my friend.

      I’m in an AFL union loaded with ‘wingers, but it is the AFL after all.

      1. clinical wasteman

        They do indeed, and in this part of the world too: https://iww.org.uk/.
        They don’t seem to have any illusions about current scope of action compared with c.1910, but here at least they’re quietly serious about the long term stakes, and a lot less narcissistically sectarian than Trotskyist microparties or some strains of the anarchist movement.
        Same goes for Solidarity Federation (http://www.solfed.org.uk/), which does identify specifically as anarcho-syndicalist but somewhat overlaps with IWW politically or just in terms of personal friendships.
        Neither discourages joining/staying in whatever union happens to ‘represent’ most of the people you work with.
        But the most hopeful thing I’ve seen recently in terms or workplace organizing in London is the wildfire growth of CAIWU (Cleaning and Allied Workers Union, (http://caiwu.org.uk/wp/) and before it (ok, before yet another depressing split), the IWGB (https://iwgb.org.uk/). These last two groups stand out for two reasons: one, they’re not interested in protesting and going home feeling better, they only care about winning, which is what they repeatedly do. If there’s a secret to that, it can be summed up as: “never compromise“. Two, they don’t represent legally and economically ‘precarious’ workers from above, they were formed and are led by those people. Often their immediate bosses are agencies/labor arbitrage brokers engaged by eg. banks or government departments to provide cleaners, security guards etc. CAIWU in particular tend to bypass the brokers and scare the life out of the top-level employer instead, and it works (see website). Neither the first nor the last local example of the way that immigrant workers (‘legal’ and otherwise) are not undermining but making formidable the self-defence of the ‘native’ working class.

        [Dis/claimer: I’m not a member of any of those organizations, but I know people in most of them and have friends in CAIWU and SolFed. CAIWU — wisely in my opinion — welcomes support from but doesn’t recruit amongst even the most proletarianized/precarious ‘white collar’ workers, as a precaution against havoc of the type wrought when postgrad intellectuals tried to take over other like-minded groups not long ago.]

    2. John k

      Really wish you luck drafting Bernie. I think there has not been better third party opp since 1856. 40% indies! Dems bailing! If not now, when? If not us, who?

    3. Zephyrum

      Stephen, I loved seeing Sanders’ Petaluma HQ buzzing like a beehive up to the primary. Then nothing. The young ‘uns are there when the right person appears. Please post about your new irons in the fire. -Z-

  12. Adam Eran

    I’ve participated in local Democratic clubs, and helped elect the party delegates. Lots of California Dems and union activists participated in those party elections. One day after the Sandernistas won the party elections, Democrats introduced SB562, a single-payer healthcare proposal.

    I also attended the march / hearings for SB562, organized by the nurses. Lambert says “Nurses are badass!”…a slogan they should use on their T-shirts, IMHO.

    SB562 is not fully baked yet, but the opposition (Chamber of Commerce, Manufacturers’ association and Kaiser) offered some interesting studies in that hearing. Apparently a study done in a previous attempt at single payer (from Sheila Kuehl) during the Schwarzenegger administration said that single-payer would be more expensive than current healthcare. With that as cover, Arnold vetoed the legislation.

    The “liberal” Jerry Brown is also asking where we’d get the money, threatening a “Fiscally Responsible[tm]” veto. Previously Brown vetoed money to even study public banking for the state, too. Meanwhile, my conservative friends point to unions and pensions as the primary indicators California is in the thrall of the lefties.

    In that SB562 hearing, no senator confronted the opposition with a simple question: You’re touting a study of potential costs, but actual experience, not studies, worldwide is that single-payer is half as expensive as what we enjoy now. How come?

    …on the other hand, the senators cautioned the nurses not to be rude or too enthusiastic when the opposition to SB562 testified. … So we must be courteous while the the opposition spreads the b.s.

    SB562 was passed out of committee on party lines. It’s implementing language remains to be written, so…devil in details, etc.

    One other nationwide group worth exploring: Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Rather than cap-and-trade, they want an increasingly heavy carbon tax whose proceeds are refunded to the population.

    I like their energy, but I particularly like their narrow focus, and their willingness to train citizen-lobbyists. See their Motivational Interviewing webinar for an example.

    Meanwhile, I’m a little disappointed with Our Revolution. Its presence locally is hard to find, with the bizarre texting / organizing Slack application as their computer tool. But I don’t use the facebook or the tweeter, so I’m a little out of the loop. IMHO, simpler and better would be a blog with comments, but there’s no accounting for taste.

    On the plus side: I have heard from their reps in various public policy venues, and they were represented in the recent climate/science/immigrant/sb562 marches.

    The promise is that Our Revolution’s fundraising could be a counterweight to the Kochs, who will primary anyone who steps out of line. I’m still looking for Our Revolution’s strategies to recruit and get the money to the candidates. Anyone else in this boat?

    Finally, as evidence the Kochs are actively promoting their libertarian values, the Institute for Harmony and Prosperity opened its offices in the toniest section of California’s capitol. They are apparently reaching out to the video-savvy yout’ here with propaganda videos. The hilarious one on their website has an attractive girl pointedly questioning a fellow student about the way he used his libertarianism to confront a professor in a class they attended. Not only does the libertarian win the argument with the girl, he gets a date with her! Ha! Take that lefties!

    They were inviting Democrats to debate “Resolved: The Obama administration was a success.” I offered to be a debater if they would stipulate the Obama administration’s goal was failure…and that it failed was a type of success. (“There’s no success like failure, and failure’s no success at all”–Bob Dylan)

    …the ever-reliable interwebs say Harmony & Prosperity is well-staffed has a half million dollars in the bank. Meanwhile local environmental organizations are begging for money to make a much smaller payroll. [sigh!]

    But virtue is it’s own reward, right?

    1. a different chris

      Re the Institute for Harmony and Prosperity (visualizing the Amish, here, not sure that’s what they were going for..)

      Lord there are no morons like Libertarian morons. Other types of morons know they are dumb at at least some level. Anyway, the third of their three keys to success (or whatever lame sales pitch name it was they glommed onto):

      3) Stealing a person’s property always decreases his or her happiness or life satisfaction.

      That instantly reminded me of Jerry Seinfield, in the bad section of town, tossing the keys of his hated car to the shadowy guy. And of course the whole “possessed by everything you own” insight that we westerners (me included) never quite can get a grip on except always in hindsight.

  13. Colonel Smithers

    Is there anyone watching the debate between Le Pen and Macron? I am on TV5 as I type. Even Stevens so far, it seems.

  14. perpetualWAR

    I just un-registered to vote because I am choosing to not recognize or legitimize this sham of a process.

      1. Katharine

        The picture in today’s Trib article supports your description, and though they say a height wasn’t given it looks from the drawing like at least eight stories. Obama said he is confident closing Cornell Drive will not be adding to commuting times. Right. Not even with hundreds of thousands of visitors a year adding to the traffic.

        The Trib appears to be on board, describing the area as “a sliver of land just south of the Museum of Science and Industry,” which from the map shown in the Guardian would appear to be inaccurate on both counts.


        1. barefoot charley

          Nyuck Nyuck, as the smart people say. Cornell Drive was controversially doubled decades ago when vastly increased traffic was routed through Jackson Park. Now they’ll double the lakefront lanes, not until now crapified. Credit to Obama for vastly increasing the population of employables (who live in mysteriously apparated huge redevelopments) on the South Side with his developer friends–traffic down there never used to suck.

        2. marym

          It’s really ugly. So much for the Obamas and their cool style. Sad for our lakefront. Also, it sounds as though it’s Obama who doesn’t want the working class driving through.

    1. DJG

      If Friends of the Park won’t fight it, and they won’t, because Obama isn’t quite the interloper that Lucas was, and if Center for Neighborhood Technology, which also has a successful track record, won’t, then there goes a big slice of Jackson Park.

      I also have this feeling that the Obama Compound is his goodbye kiss to Chicago. I’m sure that easier access to the unlimited coastal money is going to have him cutting ties.

      1. Katharine

        After doing that, he’d better say good-bye. With all the vacant land there still is nearby, destroying parkland is a good way to lose friends and make enemies.

        1. down2long

          I like to think of it as Obama’s #PresidentialMausoleum and Legacy Graveyard. Has a certain ring to it, besides being true.

          I so want to start to start a kickstarter campaign to buy out the Obama’s and the #3Clintons future speech fees – maybe fund it like Bowie Bonds, when he packaged his future song royalties into bonds. Except in this case the reward would be never to hear another word uttered by the Hill, Bill, and Chel, and no more Obamarama drama. Working title for the find: #PleaseSTFU. Open to suggestions. Obama’s book deal is exempt. Maybe he’ll outsell Cuomo and get 2,500 units moved. Wouldn’t want to stand in the way of a publisher seeking to buy influence instead getting creamed for $65M. Seems only right.

      2. alex morfesis

        “Friends of the” ones who hire my husband to get the variance…and “Center for” city hall collaborations ?? pffft…mayhaps they changed since those wondrous days I recall sitting in made for television media scripted “approved oppo” community theater events…

  15. June Goodwin

    I’ve been hoping there are hundreds of thousands of Bernie supporters (like me) who are lying in wait, shelling out the occasional $ for specific candidates – e.g. Quist in Montana – just waiting for clear direction while picking an issue (in my case Medicare for All – single payer in DC and in Sacramento) to support meantime. When Nina Turner or Bernie ask for money, I give.

    Are we really out there/here? Yoo hoo.

    I’m beyond-leery of most Democratic politicians, but closely watching every twist and turn of the Bannon/Trump presidency and the Clinton/Obama self justifications. I still think there are enough fair, smart, moral Americans out here who will stand up.

    1. curlydan

      At this point, pretty much whatever candidate can credibly push Medicare for All and/or free public university tuition gets my vote…even (shudder) Zuckerberg might get it if he jumped on the bandwagon. Medicare for All is that important.

      1. jawbone

        Zuckerberg? Not so good on privacy rights, in my view.

        And we could know that he lives up to his statements, promises?

        I shudder at the choice the French people will have to make: A far right nationalist who has learned to change her talking points to appeal more to the middle or a Rothschild banker baby, who did some miserable austerity things to the French working under Hollande, but now seems to be saying trust me, I’m my own man. Or at least the front for the Corporatists and Big Money globalists….

        I don’t think I’ll ever be able to vote for some newbie to politics. Obama had just enough legislative history to be seen, with a lot of digging, as a Corporatist Dem. So, I knew not to vote for him. Some of the others running? So little history, at least knowable history. Scary when it seems there’s no honoring of promises to the voters.

        Bernie I trusted bcz his history was clear.

      2. Michael Fiorillo

        If Zuckerberg considers his ostensible customers to be “Dumb F&%#s,” (his timeless quote, not my libel), then what would he think of the voting masses?

        This happens to be my recurrent nightmare, that the race for Democratic nomination is between Chelsea Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg. If so, then please force feed me rat poison right now.

        1. Marina Bart

          No worries. Either might “win” the Democratic nomination, but neither will win the presidency. No way, no how.

          Of course, that might stick us with a second Trump term.

          Yet another reason to try to purge out the corporate Dems before 2020. A very urgent reason.

  16. a different chris

    Well, we can add this to what we learned about Ms. Clinton’s refusal to even talk to North Korea:

    “When we were approached by Taliban surrogates my instructions from the embassy was, “Do not talk to them. Negotiation is not what we’re here for.”

    America doesn’t talk to anybody unless they’ve already surrendered. Nice. And of course nobody really needs to surrender because it’s a big world and we hilariously think it impresses anybody when we MOAB less than 100 people (Note I’m using the latest prop…uh, information. I still suspect it was at best 3 dozen) in a world of 7 billion.

    Self-licking ice cream cone for the MIL, that’s what we’ve got here.

  17. David, by the lake

    Not supporting the Dems. Working locally to build a resilient community as best I can. The national scene is not salvageable and certainly not worth investment of my time and energy.

  18. nippersmom

    The house of Nipper is donating to the campaign of Stephen R. Jaffe, the employment lawyer and Berniecrat primarying Pelosi.

  19. kareninca

    A few days ago, a fellow volunteer told me that he had to be up bright and early for a march. I didn’t say anything, so he added, “I really, really like having a girlfriend.” He is 60 years old, never married, and I think this is his third girlfriend ever. It doesn’t help that he’s been unemployed and living for decades with his ever-increasingly demented mother, in the family’s $2 million house (a crapshack bought for 60k in the 70s). His girlfriend is 65 and has three kids from three different guys. The male-female ratio in Silicon Valley is not a kind one to males.

    I asked him if he were going to wear a pussy hat; he said no; he refused to wear hats. But I could sense uncertainty in his voice. I didn’t bother to ask what the march was for, but I later figured out due to the timing that it concerned climate change.

    1. curlydan

      Agree that single payer would help more, but Consumer Reports was a bit over the top in their defense of ACA. Probably a better title for that article would have been “How ACA was one of many factors that drove down personal bankruptcy”.

      For the author to say ACA “kicked in” in 2011 is a bit much. A few small things kicked in 2011 but it really didn’t get rolling until 2014 (with the marketplaces) or 4-5 years into the charts presented.

      Then they had the cancer survivor prominently quoted saying “health insurance saved my life”. Wow. No, she and her doctors saved her life. Her health insurance was a middle man redistributing money in the process of her and her doctors saving her life.

      1. Craig

        Wow, deep thought…maybe that redistribution actually allowed her to have a doctor…naw that couldn’t be it.

  20. Ernesto Lyon

    BBC is covering the French Presidential debate.

    Le Pen: Your France is a trading room
    Posted at
    “The France that you defend isn’t France, it’s a trading room,” she tells Macron, hinting at his past as an investment banker and economy minister.

    She says her vision of France is about solidarity, culture and hope.

    “France was thrown into chaos by your [political] friends,” she says.


    1. St Jacques

      Brilliant attack on that fake centrist. No surprise that the corporate owned mass media present Macron as a “centrist” and Le Pen as “extreme right” when in fact, as she’s making clear, he’s a Trojan horse for the corporatists and bankers and globalism. If anything, it’s Le Pen who’s the “centrist” in her social policies. It was truly telling when Macron visited the hospital and let slip about improving things for clients instead of talking about patients – he automatically thinks in terms of and profits and losses and business opportunities,. Scratch his carefully constructed “centrist” image and you’ll see a corporatist neoliberal at large.

    2. Carla

      Wow, “solidarity, culture and hope” — I think she just won the election right there.

  21. CitizenSissy

    Twenty-year UFCW member and shop steward here, working in the nonprofit sector. I’m still shaking my head at the number of bargaining unit Trump supporters, given his decades-long history of screwing employees, suppliers, and contractors.

    OT anyone catch Victorian Slum House on PBS last night? Reality show recreating squalid 1860s East End London slum conditions. I’d love to see an American version with neoliberals enduring early 20th century sweatshops, factories, coal mines and meat packing plants without all those pesky workplace safety and labor laws.

    1. jawbone

      When I saw the bit about how the poorest with still a bit of money could sleep standing up, with their armpits resting on rope, head bent forward, I wondered how anyone could rest well that way. Oh my.

      I immediately thought about the new move for even less legroom for coach passengers. Standing up with ropes for support might make a comeback in the “friendly skies,” eh?

      People with a bit more money could pay 4 pence to sleep in a narrow coffinish space with 5-6″ edging (maybe lower) between sleepers. Actually, very narrow coffin….

      Those who could afford the top of the line accommodation got a very thin mattress ad somewhat wider space.

      2/3rd’s of income went to food, 1/3rd to housing. Tough times in 1860’s East End slums.

      Next episode covers the 1870’s. Seven decades in all. Probably some Repubs and Corporatist Dems and their monied supporters are looking at this series to get new ideas for “helping” the poor of the 21st C. Everything old is new again.

  22. kat

    I went to a BNC meeting last fall. Their strategy isn’t gonna work in my deep red state. I joined the dem party and ran (and won) to be a committee member. I figured that was the best way to make change here.
    National democrats ruin messaging for red state democrats. We are highly untrusted just for having a D next to our name. And we’re highly religious. That doesn’t help our cause because they can’t see beyond abortion.

  23. Montanamaven

    I’m thinking of going to the local Republican Party dinner. They meet once a month at a different restaurant in this small town in upstate NY. I accidentally ended up at the last one as I was at the bar. They were a nice bunch of people. I formed the first ever Democratic Central Committee in small town in Montana and it eventually was a disaster. The dormant Republicans decided to take us on and they were super mean. But the town, in general, is kind of mean. The state Dems are controlled by DC. Baucus had an iron fist over everything until Schweitzer came around in 2000. Schweitzer took Baucus on and it was fun for a time. Schweitzer was setting himself up for a run in 2016, but he made a very stupid comment about Southern men. “men in the South, they are a little effeminate”. and that Eric Cantor set off his “gay-dar”. Too bad, he was always w wild card and never dull.
    So I ended my fling with the Democrats and have been wandering in the wilderness. I will gladly participate in strikes and was ready to walk the picket line for the WGA, but they settled yesterday. But no way am I going to any of these new “left” groups. Unless you can really participate they are also dreadfully dull.
    I will report on my forays into the local upstate NY Republicans.

  24. dcblogger

    coming home on the bus I saw that LaFayette Park is COMPLETELY fenced in, so no one can enter the park. Nixon did not do that until the second year of his term (I think) and then only for the very big demonstrations. I think he is supposed to sign some horrible anti-GLBT legislation or executive order tonight, so I guess he thinks there will be a demonstration. or mebbe he plans to leave those fences up as long as he is in office.

    in a way it is a good sign. it means he is afraid. on the other hand, that sort of fear can have very very negative consequences.

    1. Carla

      On the other hand, consider where the last 40 years of the political class NOT fearing us has gotten us.

  25. Swamp Yankee

    I’m involved with local efforts to — inter alia — stop the McMansionification of our small New England town. I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m hearing statements from Old WASPs that are cause for celebration and would not have been uttered ten or fifteen years ago (e.g., “Wealth is ruining this town!”).

    The pro-development forces lost on their crucial article at Town Meeting in March by a 4-to-1 margin — thank God for direct democracy — but these forces of 1%er real estate colonialism never rest and are regrouping for a new assault on the integrity of our community, including, crucially, its waterways (which cannot handle the waste proposed by the developers).

    Nevertheless, despite much of the local establishment being in bed with developers, I do believe that small-scale democratic awakenings seem to be occurring in this neck of the woods, and that actual, broad-based, popular resistance (as opposed to “le gauche hashtag” version) is both possible and, indeed, quite promising here. The local power elites were genuinely shaken by the outpouring of rage on the part of the democratic element in our little polity at Town Meeting, and I think that is significant.

    I see similar efforts in neighboring towns, and there’s a lot of quickening, in every sense of the word, as Spring finally begins to take hold here, east of the East Coast….

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