2:00PM Water Cooler 11/24/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

OK, 3:00. But it’s the holidaze! I said I’d be on light duty today, and I meant it. Talk amongst yourselves. However, I’m going to include two plants, at reader request. What the heck, make it three.

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please put it in the subject line. Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant #1 (DD):

Today’s plant #2 (DD):

Today’s plant #3 (DD):

DD writes: “Photos of decay and rebirth in a Northwest forest.”

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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. Jonathan Holland Becnel

    Is it possible for naked capitalism to be liasons for the various political groups that readers are involved in?

    1. Carla

      Hardly for me to say, but I would think Yves, Lambert, Jeri-Lynn & Company have their hands quite full doing what they’re doing now, and doing it exceptionally well at that.

    2. Oregoncharles

      A tempting suggestion. I think you’d have to post contact information – websites, etc. – in the Comments, and I’d run it past the hosts FIRST (the “blogger @ nakedcapitalism” address should work.) They don’t necessarily want to host promotions for particular groups.

      Maybe better: set up a website specifically for co-ordination, then post it here. I’d certainly participate. We recommend websites all the time. Might even get it into Links!

      Generally, there’s a lot of co-ordination among related groups already, but it’s harder at the national level.

  2. CalypsoFacto

    I can’t stop thinking about this link from a few weeks back at NC: Korea’s Alt-right and how to fight them. From the article:

    Taken together, it was not simply that the conservative government added some trolling firepower Korea’s right wing with fake comments and tweets. Rather, the conservative government was the entire game. The conservative government created political storylines, fed them to the right-wing media that the government itself created, used the right-wing civic groups to repeat them—until they became the mainstream opinion. The dissident voices were harassed, defamed, fired, and silenced, through pressures applied to media and search engine sites.

    Foily, but does the us.gov have an indirect financial stake in Twitter? What about Breitbart? Gotta wonder which oligarchs benefit from ending net neutrality?

  3. Enquiring Mind

    Those downed trees make handy shelter backdrops when you’re out sans-tent or sleeping bag. Use some branches for a roof, and to stop any ground-level drafts. Some rotting trees have peelable bark to accomplish the same goal. Watch out for slivers when handling the wood and bark. If rocks are available, use under a fire to store heat for later sleeping warmth (after fire out and ashes covered up) and to reflect it, too. I did all that on a mini-Outward Bound adventure almost 50 years ago, a wonderful time to be alive.

    1. subgenius

      When traipsing about the backwoods, minimalist style, these come in very handy…they fit in a pocket and keep you out of the way of critters…


      Worth having something to put under your sleeping bag, though…as it compresses under weight and does a poor job of insulating you. I use a short sleeping pad, and have spent months sleeping this way over the years, even in winter.

  4. Chris

    Thank you, EM. I used similar old growth when I served in the ADF as the fallen trunks were ideal to strap your hootchie up and get a quick lean to shelter.

    BTW – I think we all reminisce about a kinder world some time in the last century…

    I rarely hear anyone say it is a great time to be alive today as by most measures many of our lives are actually getting worse.

    Our politicians and their donor class are often heard saying how great the world is, full of opportunity. Funny about that.

    I could go on a related tangent about how corporations (under license from our governments) have more rights and powers than people. How unlike people, their only social responsibility is the making of profits for their owners. Employment, environment, consumers, the law? Pffftt!

    What do others think? Was thanksgiving a good distraction? It’s always good to gather friends and family…

    1. Wukchumni

      Thanksgiving was heavy lifting for us, we went to my wife’s sister’s house, and her 25 year old son had relapsed recently after having spent a month in a rehab place for heroin. He had the look of somebody that was embalmed, and picked at his plate like he was using a pair of tweezers, leaving 85% of it untouched. I suspect we’ll be back soon for a celebration of his life, sadly.

      1. ChiGal in Carolina

        Relapse is a part of recovery. There is a LOT of crappy, one size fits all treatment out there. If she has not already read it, I highly recommend Recovery Options by Joseph Volpicelli and Mia Slavovitz. There are as many paths out of addiction as there are into it. Harm reduction is terribly important, and it is a sin and a shame that we are still treating addiction as a criminal rather than health issue. No one needs to die

        1. ChiGal in Carolina

          [ran out of time] when there is an effective antidote to overdose and the drug itself is less harmful to internal organs over long-term use than alcohol or cigarettes. It is the stigma that kills by preventing practical, effective responses, not the fact of use itself.

      2. Chris

        thank you Wuchumni. Yes, sorry to hear of your family’s troubles. I hope his family and the man can find a way forward. Too young

  5. ambrit

    Just in time for the holidays, we’re seeing more homeless people wandering around the town. It’s an eclectic mix of peoples now; singletons with backpacks, singletons muttering to themselves as they walk along, couples, the occasional family group. The opening manager gets to the store at 5:30 AM to open up. She sees groups of people sleeping rough on the sidewalk in front of the stores. They wake up and get moving by 6:00 AM, she says. The strip mall security, armed no less, start rousting the obviously deplorables about 7:00 AM. I’m a bit scruffy looking, not having to interact with customers much now, I being a “back room boy” at present. It took a week for the security people to get used to me not being a homeless. “Move on bud.” “I work here friend.” “You do? Prove it.” So I show my store swipe card, and all is right with the world yet again.
    Dickens would have recognized America today, and felt quite at home.

    1. fresno dan

      November 24, 2017 at 4:36 pm

      I’m surprised they settled for a swipe card….I would have expected a request for citizenship papers, drivers license, blood type, and your genomic profile. But I guess their not as rigorous at the strip malls…

    2. freedeomny

      My sis lives in Saratoga Springs, NY….a beautiful little upstate town. I only visit once or twice a year, but was surprised over the past year how many homeless people there are. On the streets. In a cold place.

      I wish I could say something real. But I can’t.

      1. ambrit

        You recognize the ‘real,’ and that’s good enough.
        Take care and watch your sis’ back. The real deplorables will do whatever it takes to survive. If any of us get in the way, look out.

        1. JBird

          There always seems to large numbers of commenters at news sites that are very verciferious in saying all the homeless are addicts/crazy/con artists/losers or some combination of such. No matter that the homeless population is growing faster than the population and that having a job no longer guarantees at least a room like it used to it’s always the homeless person fault.m

          I have a very hard time believing that most of the homeless want to be so.

          1. Indrid Cold

            I’m in Portland OR and were aswarm with sidewalk campers. Literally. With tents. They’ve formed little clusters of tents and tarpaulin yurts in every bit of city land. A lot of them work and can’t afford a car so they just live in the industrial backlots. A lot of them are young doomed people drawn to Portlands rep as a place the cops can’t bust you for sidewalk camping. I see domestic disputes as relationships formed over a dream of spending the last dollar of some whiplash settlement to buy a bus ticket to PDX disintegrate amidst public beat ups. A big proportion are in fact addicts. I see needles all over on my bike commute. It’s a catastrophe that’s just beginning. Regular citizens can’t afford rents anymore thanks to the NY Times luring every trustafarian and their boomer retired parents from Brooklyn here. Yeah I get that you can’t afford to retire in Brooklyn Heights, but whatever happened to Florida. Go home.

            1. JBird

              A lot of trustafarians seem to go Haight-Ashbury although the Summer of Love is a long time gone. They do seem to keep the overpriced head-shops in bread though. :-)

              Anywhere near Baghdad by Bay there is plenty of work, but housing is so high that plenty of natives wind up homeless or move into their cars. It’s rather annoying to have some young techie able to move here, and be able to pay the actual rent of a $2500/micro 1 bedroom, and have everything that made the Bay so great disappear. It’s like a Paradise if you’re monied and healthy. For most of us, it’s been economic Purgatory at best. It’s a sick, sick joke that making less than 80k makes you eligible for housing aid but there isn’t any. Unless ( maybe, sometimes ) you’re a homeless family.

              Anywhere with reasonable housing usually does not work except some minimum wage stuff. One can commute 75 miles each way. I know of people doing that.

          2. Craig H.

            I have a friend of twenty years who is one of the smartest people I have ever known and she and her husband have been living in their van. They seem to be managing pretty well but man that has got to suck. He has a job (not a terrible one), she is going to school (net income from that is at least greater than zero), and they can’t afford rent since June.

            If I want to avoid getting too chipper all I have to do is look at their weather. 42 degrees tonight.

    3. Procopius

      I read an article Dickens wrote for his magazine. I think probably about 1830. Haven’t been able to find it again. He described the starving women outside a charity hostel of some kind. His London was worse, but I expect we’ll get there.

      1. JBird

        One of my teachers makes the point that Dickensian Britain was libertarian so already we have an example of what could be. No guessing really needed.

        Now if we could get some libertarians, even neoliberals, to read some history instead of the ideological fantasies that they actually do read.

    1. fresno dan

      November 24, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      “Special counsel Robert Mueller is already aware of the allegations against Gobbles, and sources say he is expected to roast* him in the coming days.”
      Uh, pretty sure he’s gonna grill him…..

    2. JCC


      I hope Politifact will take the time to investigate this and let us know if it’s really true or just another typical DuffleBlog “Pants On Fire” propaganda piece.

  6. Plenue

    David Graeber is currently attacking Pavlina Tcherneva on Twitter over the issue of a Jobs Guarantee. His point seems to be that he’s upset she’s endorsing a pragmatic solution instead of some vague notion of revolution. Also he’s convinced JG’s have always failed. He’s deploying old anti-New Deal “bullshit jobs” rhetoric. Not a good look.

    1. annie

      you misrepresent graeber’s positions. your ‘also’ (that ‘job guarantees have always failed’) happens to be a main argument. nothing to do with ‘some vague notions of revolution.’

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      It’s not “old anti-New Deal” rhetoric. If you’re interested in what Graeber is really talking about when he discusses “bullshit jobs,” here it is from the man himself:

      But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the “service” sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical, or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza deliverymen) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.

      These are what I propose to call “bullshit jobs.”

      It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working. And here, precisely, lies the mystery. In capitalism, this is precisely what is not supposed to happen. Sure, in the old inefficient socialist states like the Soviet Union, where employment was considered both a right and a sacred duty, the system made up as many jobs as they had to (this is why in Soviet department stores it took three clerks to sell a piece of meat). But, of course, this is the very sort of problem market competition is supposed to fix. According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking firm is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.

      1. JBird

        Too many companies run too lean, income for most is at best stagnant and for an increasing number actually decreasing, those with well paying jobs are often overworked and need to buy time creating services; the 5% that actually have the increasing income and wealth, which is now starting to all collapse into the 1%, who like to spend money on those services. After the third house and the Lamborghini, you bank it or get those services.

        We have plenty of work, but the current business model that most executives/investors/MBAs look at the workers and yes the customers as an unnecessary poison or maybe a necessary evil to be reduced whatever the long term damage to the business is because it’s making money by capitalizing it. If the previous economic model that looked at workers and customers as a profitable investment to run a business and financialization as a sometimes necessary evil, then we would not see the economic mess today.

        But GE and HP are now wealth extraction institutions closer to what Goldman-Sachs is today than the makers of appliances and electronics that they used to be.

      2. Yves Smith

        Graeber is seriously off base. The New Deal did NOT create “bullshit jobs” so he deserves to be shellacked for that alone. His claim that job creation programs have always failed is utterly false.

        As Marshall Auerback wrote:

        The government hired about 60 per cent of the unemployed in public works and conservation projects that planted a billion trees, saved the whooping crane, modernized rural America, and built such diverse projects as the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh, the Montana state capitol, much of the Chicago lakefront, New York’s Lincoln Tunnel and Triborough Bridge complex, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the aircraft carriers Enterprise and Yorktown. It also built or renovated 2,500 hospitals, 45,000 schools, 13,000 parks and playgrounds, 7,800 bridges, 700,000 miles of roads, and a thousand airfields. And it employed 50,000 teachers, rebuilt the country’s entire rural school system, and hired 3,000 writers, musicians, sculptors and painters, including Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock.

        Graeber is exhibiting the worst sort of class snobbery. To him, the only work that has any value is “creative”. So first, he dismisses the huge amount of mundane labor that people do being part of society. People have to pick up after themselves and their kids. Someone has to pick up garbage, maintain electrical lines, build and repair streets and bridges, take care of sick people and clean hospitals, repair shoes, do all sorts of routine but nevertheless cumulatively important clerical and administrative work, debug software, handle problems of upset customers, etc. Graeber holds all of this, and by extension, the people who work in those roles, with contempt. This is just the of attitude that Thomas Frank chronicled at length in Listen, Liberal: the preening self-regard of the top 10%.

        Guess what? The overwhelming majority of people are not creative and have no aspirations to being “creative”. They want to have a happy family, some creature comforts, financial security, friends, and some leisure time and activities. The overwhelming majority of professionals just want to have social status and a good income. I grew up in blue collar towns and the adults weren’t yearning to write novels. The men were proud to be good breadwinners and parents. They might play sports or hunt or fish or play cards with their buddies for leisure. The more cerebral might read books or listen to music.

        And I hate to sound cruel, but of the remaining minority, there are also too many of them who think they have talent who don’t. Sturgeon’s law applies: 90% of everything is crap. Lambert’s mother was a literary publisher and editor, and she and he could attest that there are lots of people writing bad poetry, as in virtually everything submitted to her was unpublishable. It’s one thing for people to do this for fun. It’s another for them to nurture the misguided hope that they might be the next Ezra Pound or W.H. Auden or Seamus Heaney.

        And there is tons of important work that needs to be done, such as fixing our infrastructure (30% of water is wasted due to leaky municipal water systems), building more energy-efficient structures and energy delivery systems, providing day care on a widespread basis, after-school programs for children from lower-economic backgrounds….I’m sure readers can add to this list.

        Graeber has spent his entire careeer in academia, and it shows. I’ve met him and he also has Aspergers, so his understanding of social relations is a bit abstract.

        What is bad about the world of work today is that the lack of labor bargaining power has led to more and more oppressive management of workers, such as the expectation among white collar workers to work beyond a 40 hour work week and be available evenings and weekends, and for lower level service workers, unpredictable schedules and high-pressure, high-surveillance management.

        A UBI allows managers to abuse workers even more by reducing what they have to pay. That is what happened in England during the Speenhamland system, which started in the mid 1790s and lasted till 1832. A job guarantee sets a minimum for wages and work conditions that the private sector has to meet.

          1. el_tel

            Thanks Yves. I always had this feeling that Graeber had a fair number of broad analyses right but didn’t have the specifics correct, nor the solutions. I’ve always hesitated to use him as a reference to back up assertions.

      3. Plenue

        I’m well aware of his writings on meaningless jobs. And there’s a lot of truth to what he has to say on that subject. Where he’s wrong is in assuming that a JG will mostly lead to those kind of BS positions. This is the kind of fear-mongering about meaningless ‘make-work’ that was deployed against the New Deal. There’s two different concepts here that Graeber has managed to confuse and mix together in his own mind.

        1. JBird

          I have only a very limited knowledge of even the New Deal’s jobs program except that everything it did do we need done again.

          My response was to Graeber’s disbelief at why some of those jobs he dislikes exist and not enough of the “good” jobs. The current free market capitalist regime doesn’t see the profit in actually doing those wealth creating activities instead of those wealth extraction activities. However building cars, housing, vaccines, or publishing books seems to be boring unlike vampiric debt creation, and stock buybacks. Which is similar to what Graeber and Smith are disagreeing over (I think)

  7. Altandmain

    Although we have Prime Minister that is supportive of net neutrality, it is not enshrined in the law.

    This move could affect Canadians too:



    This may be an acceleration of the US in decline. It is likely that the ISPs will become even bigger rent seekers than they are now. Companies like Comcast, already widely disliked in the US, will likely become even more abusive. I think that the future of innovation in the US in technology, combined with the cutbacks to research and education will diminish.

    Hopefully once the full extent of the damage is clear, the backlash will be able to force net neutrality. There really needs to be a public internet service. Like water, electricity, road maintenance, internet service has become a essential part of the modern world. It is no a luxury anymore. You cannot do things like look for a job without severely limiting yourself without internet access.

    Actually I am concerned about the future of websites like Naked Capitalism. I would not put it above the American ISPs to demand extra money or else they will block it.

    1. Sid_finster

      ISPs will not block NC for more money.

      Rather, ISPs will block sites like NC as a way for them to demonstrate their continued usefulness to the Deep State, and thus secure Deep State support for their continued rent seeking.

      1. Yves Smith

        Don’t be so sure. Public companies are relentless about squeezing income out of every source they can find. Look at how retailers are expected to use dynamic pricing to charge customer different amounts for the same product based on what they can infer by snooping their smart phone. And Comcast and Time Warner have never been in the business of currying favor with the military-surveillance complex. They turn data over when asked because it is cheaper to cooperate than fight.

        Look at all of the famed tricks and traps of consumer banks. Once ISPs are set loose, why should they behave any differently?

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Perhaps “demanding money” could be the underhanded mechanism by which the ISPs could block blogs and sites like Naked Capitalism without overtly identifying themselves as doing so. They could simply discover how much money Naked Capitalism could not possibly afford to pay, and then demand that amount of money to permit Naked Capitalism to run on the ISP’s system.

    2. Octopii

      I was recently astounded to find an opt-out control in my Comcast account for ad insertion at the ISP level. This function allows Comcast to replace any ad (or ads) on any website with one they deem more “relevant” to me, their customer, based on the traffic from my router. The control was enabled automatically – perhaps that was in the fine print of their terms of service.

      So I think “net neutrality” is already gone.

  8. Synoia

    I have discovered through some deep tinkering, because we are building a product to make you private and anonymous, if the the “HTTP 1.1” string is deleted from the browser on sending data, web sites reply with the content and without the HTTP header.

    The HTTP header contains all manner of evil insertions.

    The solution to inserted cont is the Firefox browser with the HTTPS everywhere plug in.

    A further refinement is to put the “bad site” list in your hosts file. It is a list of over 13,000 sites which do “bad things “mvps source file” at mvps.org

    I will explore more.

  9. readerOfTeaLeaves

    What on earth is happening in the world?! Larry Summers is in my browser window talking about how the tax bill is ‘…for what? …so we can try to bring corporations home from the Cayman Islands… rather than having stricter, more appropriate rules that assure that you can’t move your income to the Cayman Islands…?’

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upPfYrttROU, see Minute 19:55

    Have I gone completely nuts?

    1. kimsarah

      They refused to pay 35 percent and will certainly also refuse to pay 15 or 20 percent. They want to pay zero. The only thing they’ll pay is the 4 to 8 percent on their Cayman Islands cash to return it home with a tax holiday, to stuff it in their pockets. Greed has no statute of limitations.

      1. Procopius

        The money is already here. It just hasn’t been acknowledged as here for accounting purposes. That means it can’t be distributed to managers, CEOs, and shareholders as dividends and bonuses.

  10. el_tel

    One of the issues I’m keen on (as readers might have noticed) is how single payer might get implemented in the US – *if* it gets to be an actual real issue for debate in government. One the one hand the US has far more real (and monetary *if* stupid constraints on “funding” are relaxed/abolished) resources than a lot of us in other countries where single payer rules.

    I’ve heard the criticism that even in the US you’d have to wait 7-10 years to get more doctors/nurses properly trained up. But that slightly misses the point – a lot of the problems with (for instance) older people relate to loneliness – having the “carer” who does their meals-on-wheels etc more frequently and who has more time to chat to them does a lot for their well-being. And that’s NOT something requiring years of retraining of people currently un/underemployed. I’ve read the pithy comment “Japan needs to retrain a load of teachers to be carers” and it has certain relevance here but is a bit extreme. Get the universal job guarantee to get currently un/underemployed to do jobs that don’t require loads of training, but which would give them a “sense of self-worth”, would “give older people more contact” and you go a long way towards improving the well-being of the country. Of course GDP would be exposed (even further) as not something that should be used to judge a country’s “wealth”well-being” but that’s a good thing.

Comments are closed.