2:00PM Water Cooler 1/17/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Just when we thought things couldn’t get more exciting, the U.S. uranium mining industry is asking the Commerce Department to initiate another Section 232 investigation into the national security risks of uranium imports. The request comes as the Trump administration considers what actions it could take in similar national security probes of steel and aluminum imports” [Politico].


Obama Legacy

This is an excellent, J’accuse-level thread:

“The Resistance”

The word “promo” caught my eye:

So I clicked through link in the quote and downloaded the “THE RESISTANCE TURNS ONE”* (it’s a PDF).

I noticed two things: First, there’s no article about the structure of “The Resistance” as a political entity. We have a section entitled “Leading the Resistance,” where there are “Nine Profiles in Courage” like Colin Kaepernick (and hats off to him) as well as Clintonite Rebecca Solnit. But there’s no indication that these nine “leaders” are even communicating with each other, let alone that they share political views, or have adopted common strategies and tactics. How are they leading? And what are they leading? It seems that whatever “the Resistance” might be, it’s not a movement, because there’s no evidence that it has the characteristics of a movement.

Second, as an old-timer from the world of publishing, I thought I’d check the health of The Nation by taking an inventory of its advertising. Here are the full page ads (and there’s virtually nothing else):

As an old codger myself, I think I can say, without being ageist, that I sense a certain theme (except perhaps the last ad; who, after all, does not enjoy, of a quiet, leisurely afternoon, unscrewing the cap from a bottle of wine before opening the Twitter?). And what those ads mean to me is that either the appeal of “the Resistance” is really quite limited, or that the Nation and its readers are completely disconnected from it (except, perhaps, as soi disant “leaders”).

As Greenwald remarks, in the context of the Democrat Party voting Hitler — Hitler also being a Russian puppet, apparently — vast warrantless surveillance powers:

NOTE * Usage note on “turns one”: You should always watch out for category errors where political systems are treated as people. The Bush administration constantly talked of “young democracies” — for example, Iraq — as if democracies aged like people. Here, The Nation marks the birthday of “The Resistance” as if it were a baby.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Democrats’ Savior” [Stuart Rothenberg, Inside Elections]. Excerpt A: “[I]t was Obama’s vision for the country — diversity, equality, fairness and bipartisan cooperation — that made him so attractive, even to nonideological voters.” Excerpt B: “Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2 points in 2016 even though key Democratic demographic groups underperformed.” Disposing of the headline immediately, the joke is that Trump is the Democrats’ savior, because he’s united them (dubious). Does Rothenberg not see that A contradicts B? If Clinton and Obama’s “vision” was the same, and vision is what does the trick — and not charisma on the one hand or policy on the other — then why did demographic groups “underperform” for Clinton? This particularly warmed over piece is just another apologia for the Obama Coalition, which in my view does not exist, except as a fetish in some sectors of the political class.

“DNC overhaul struggles as Sanders-Clinton rivalries persist” [The Hill]. “[Former Sanders campaign manager Jeff] Weaver said, though, that there won’t ever be a point when Sanders gives the DNC access to his voter data. ‘I don’t think you should expect that to happen. If people think the Sanders list is just an ATM, they’re sadly mistaken,’ he said. ‘It’s a list of millions of people who are motivated by a certain policy agenda. If they think it can be easily transferred, I think it’s a fantasy.'” What is Weaver, anyhow? A Russian puppet?

“Former Obama officials are defending the White House doctor as he takes heat for saying Trump is in ‘excellent’ health” [Business Insider]. Maybe the doctor is a Russian puppet?

“There Is No Rampaging #MeToo Mob” [Slate]. On Aziz Ansari: “It would indeed be tragic if Grace had—in a professional sense—fatally shot without reason the only good young Muslim man in America as he was riding through town in an open convertible, but that isn’t precisely what has happened here.” I don’t get this; I thought Ansari had a good identity, not a bad one. Maybe Ansari is a Russian puppet too?

Stats Watch

Industrial Production, December 2017: “Another surge in mining and a bounce in utilities offset another disappointment for manufacturing to drive industrial production up” [Econoday]. “Mining production, up a year-on-year 11.5 percent, has been rising in large monthly clips including December at 1.6 percent. Utility production often swings month-to-month based on weather and rose 5.6 percent in December in contrast to the yearly change which is very modest at plus 1.8 percent… The lack of strength in manufacturing volumes in this report, which is produced by the Federal Reserve, has been a consistent surprise and stands out against factory orders data where year-on-year shipments and new orders growth, measured in dollar terms and produced by the Commerce Department, is in the mid-to-high single digits and, most importantly, is showing acceleration.” And: “US industry surged back to life in 2017, posting the biggest increase in output in seven years, with the largest gain in the mining sector, the Federal Reserve said on Jan. 17” [Industry Week]. Less of the heavy breathing, please. Nevertheless: “There was insignificant revision to the existing data over the last 6 months. The best way to view this is the 3 month rolling averages which improved. Industrial production is in a long term upward trend” [Econintersect]. But: “Capacity utilization at 77.9% is 2.0% below the average from 1972 to 2015 and below the pre-recession level of 80.8% in December 2007” [Calculated Risk].

Housing Market Index, January 2018: “Sentiment remains very strong among the nation’s home builders” [Econoday]. “A key strength in January, as it especially was in December, is the traffic component.” And: “This was slightly below the consensus forecast, and a strong reading” [Calculated Risk]. But: “Up more than expected this month, but last month revised down, inline with a recent pattern of reporting a better than expected number that subsequently gets revised down to where it no longer looks so good” [Mosler Economics].

Real Estate: “Two-day shipping has helped double warehouse land prices” [Recode]. “[I]n order to ship goods to customers within a day or two — a time frame popularized by the likes of Amazon that has now become expected — e-commerce companies need to locate their distribution warehouses as close to their customers as possible. Industrially zoned land, especially near cities, is already hard to come by. And new construction has consistently been unable to meet demand, though it’s starting to catch up. All of this has led the average cost of land for large warehouses to double last year to over $100,000 an acre, from about $50,000 in 2016, according to data from real estate firm CBRE.”

Retail: “Resale is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. First Research estimates the resale industry in the U.S. to have annual revenues of approximately $17 billion including revenue from antique stores which are 13% of their statistics. Goodwill Industries alone generated $5.37 billion in retail sales from more than 2,000 Not For Profit resale stores and online sales in 2014” [The Association of Resale Professionals]. “Resale shopping attracts consumers from all economic levels. There is no typical resale shopper, just as there is no typical resale shop. No one is immune to the excitement of finding a treasure and saving money. Shrewd shoppers take advantage of the opportunity resale offers to save money on apparel, furniture and other consumer goods. These savings can add quality to life when used for vacations, entertainment, funding college and retirement accounts, and expanding family activities. According to America’s Research Group, a consumer research firm, about 16 – 18% of Americans will shop at a thrift store during a given year.” I went looking for this data inspired by alert reader ambrit’s comment on cast iron skillets here. Do any readers know of an index or a site that tracks resales data on a monthly basis? And perhaps also covers dollar stores?

Retail: “No One Wants Your Used Clothes Anymore” [Bloomberg]. “Fashion trends are accelerating, new clothes are becoming as cheap as used ones, and poor countries are turning their backs on the secondhand trade. Without significant changes in the way that clothes are made and marketed, this could add up to an environmental disaster in the making.”

The Bezzle: “5 key reasons bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies have lost a stunning $400 billion in 10 days” [MarketWatch]. “Futures for bitcoin on exchange platforms are set to expire this month. January bitcoin futures on Cboe Global Markets Inc. were set to expire on Wednesday, down 42% over the past 30 days at $10,447, while those trading for the same month on the CME Group Inc. are due to expire on Jan. 26. Those futures also are down about 42% at $10,455. Expiring futures contracts, in theory, can add to volatility.” However, since prices fo bitcoin et al are still quite high, bitcoin is (presumably) not levered, and ownership is highly concentrated, does this really matter?

The Bezzle: “Cryptocurrency bloodbath continues as bitcoin falls below $10,000” [Ars Technica]. “The big question is what will happen after this shake-up is over. We might find out that the run-up of the last few months was a purely speculative boom, in which case Bitcoin might never recover its earlier highs. On the other hand, people might see bitcoin’s low price—at least compared to a few days ago—as a buying opportunity, causing bitcoin’s price to start rising once again.” I believe that’s called a “bull trap”?

The Bezzle: “Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble” [New York Times]. “The true believers behind blockchain platforms like Ethereum argue that a network of distributed trust is one of those advances in software architecture that will prove, in the long run, to have historic significance. That promise has helped fuel the huge jump in cryptocurrency valuations. But in a way, the Bitcoin bubble may ultimately turn out to be a distraction from the true significance of the blockchain. The real promise of these new technologies, many of their evangelists believe, lies not in displacing our currencies but in replacing much of what we now think of as the internet, while at the same time returning the online world to a more decentralized and egalitarian system. If you believe the evangelists, the blockchain is the future. But it is also a way of getting back to the internet’s roots.”

The Bezzle: “A User’s Guide to the Dawn of Robot Driving” [Bloomberg]. The deck: “The driverless future starts in 2018.” And: “The first robot rides will operate at low speeds, moving cautiously enough even in dense traffic that urban planners may add specifically defined pickup areas and slow lanes for automated vehicles. That will help prevent rear-enders and other similar crashes that result from impatient, inattentive humans. There will also probably be human minders, either on board or monitoring remotely, poised to take control if artificial intelligence needs to be replaced with the biological variety.” There it is: The demand for infrastructural spending (because when you can’t fix your algo, control your inputs). Do note that none of the putative benefits of robot cars apply in these scenarios; it will be hard to show any benefits whatever, other than the “cool” factor, and there will certainly not be the lives saved that robot car public relations claims.

Tech: “Maersk, IBM launch first blockchain joint venture for trade, transportation” [DC Velocity]. “After more than 18 months of theorizing and tinkering, Maersk Line and IBM Corp. today announced the formation of a joint venture to apply blockchain technology, a distributed ledger that creates a transparent and indelible trail of each transaction, to global trade and transportation.”

Five Horsemen: “Facebook fades to last place as Zuck lightens up” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Jan 17 2018

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 80 Extreme Greed (previous close: 75, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 75 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jan 17 at 1:11pm.

Health Care

“Ryan suggests room for bipartisanship on ObamaCare” [The Hill]. “House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Friday there might be an opportunity for a bipartisan deal to shore up ObamaCare’s insurance markets. Ryan expressed optimism that Congress could pass a bill similar to one sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) The bill would provide billions of dollars to states to help establish high-risk pools or reinsurance programs, mechanisms that help cover the costs of expensive patients.” Ryan pivots because of the challenge in his district? Mosler comments: “They are inching their way towards single payer, as once you’ve decided not to let people die in the streets the ‘process’ will get you there, one way or another.”


“Safeguarding our soils” [Nature]. “Healthy soils are essential for the growth of crops, filtration of water, functioning of ecosystems, and storage of vast amounts of carbon that would otherwise escape to the atmosphere. They are also under threat…. Natural drivers of soil degradation are exacerbated through human activities such as agriculture, deforestation, and urban development. Soil is essentially a non-renewable resource, much like fossil fuels, and once destroyed it is, for all practical purposes, lost forever. It is now estimated that as much as one-third of global soils are degraded, with up to 970 million tons of soil lost annually to erosion through poor management practices in Europe alone, and 24 billion tons lost globally.”

Neoliberal Epidemics

We’ll just hope it’s nothing worse than the flu:

“Across the United States, maternal mortality — when a mother dies from pregnancy-related complications while pregnant or within 42 days of giving birth — jumped by 27 percent between 2000 and 2014, according to a 2016 study published in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology” [Texas Tribune]. “But researchers were stunned by Texas, where the maternal mortality rate had apparently doubled between 2010 and 2012.” Holy moley! A shithole within a shithole!

“Did Americans Turn to Opioids Out of Despair – or Just Because They Were There?” [New York Magazine]. “Economist Christopher Ruhm collected county-level data on what Case and Deaton dubbed “deaths of despair” — drug overdoses, suicides, and alcohol-induced deaths. He then looked at five measures of economic health in each county: rates of poverty and unemployment, the relative vulnerability of local industries to competition from foreign imports, median household income, and home prices. The conventional narrative would suggest that the worse the economic conditions are in a given county, the higher its “despair death” rate. But Ruhm found only a weak correlation between economic hardship and the prevalence of such deaths. He concludes that, at most, poor economic conditions can explain only 10 percent of the increase in drug overdose deaths since 1999. Ruhm’s paper suggests that economic and social conditions have received undue emphasis in the media’s accounts of the opioid crisis, in particular. This isn’t a demand story — not primarily, anyway. Despair may have made certain American communities more vulnerable to the epidemic. Economic and social factors may have contributed to the kindling — but the explosion in the supply of opioids was a flamethrower.”

“Utility wants to add 1,000-plus tons of air pollutants to Dearborn’s skies” [Detroit Free Press]. Didn’t I just read that there’s no safe level of air pollution?

Class Warfare

“They would come to me” [London Review of Books]. A review of Catherine MacKinnon’s Butterfly Politics. “More troubling to my mind, but broached far less often, is the question of whether it makes sense for feminists to attempt to change the world by changing the law. The worry isn’t so much that strengthening the hand of a patriarchal state can only be bad for women; MacKinnon doesn’t want to strengthen the state exactly, but to adjust the law so that state power is exercised in a way that promotes sex equality instead of maintaining and entrenching male dominance….. [I]t isn’t clear that feminists should treat legal objectives as central, either as ends in themselves or as engines of social change.” At this point we might contrast the gay movement (spitballing here, but: direct action, especially in the form of “coming out”) and the women’s movement (heavily focused on legal objectives, as in defending Roe v. Wade; an approach perhaps congenial to credentialed professionals). The gays were successful; the women’s movement was not. (Not to say that the women’s movement hasn’t had an impact, and for the good. But not only has Roe v. Wade been rolled back, another legal objective, the Equal Rights Amendment, did not pass, and is further from achievement than ever.) The recent establishment of a $13 million fund for help working class women to sue for sexual misconduct — that is, to make such suits billable for the (presumably female) lawyers bringing such suits on their behalf — continues the focus on legal objectives. Heaven forfend that working class women should be funded to organize and act collectively!

“Ideological Training for the New Economy” [Jacobin]. “According to Michel Foucault’s concept of ‘governmentality,’ modern power is exercised less through coercive force than through the dissemination of particular discourses and ideologies; once these ideologies are internalized, people conduct themselves accordingly, effectively governing themselves and lessening the need for explicit coercion. At Jump Start Job Club, this modern form of power is on full display. One week, jobless members heard from a motivational ‘career coach.'” Nets out positive for the coach, though!

“The Democrats Need to Reinvigorate Labor by Repealing Taft-Hartley” [Progressive Army]. “Possibly the most devastating amendment of the legislation was the prohibition of secondary boycotts, which prevented companies that weren’t directly involved with the company in question, from refusing to cooperate or conduct business with that specific company. Effectively this allows the business community to organize and conspire against the working class, while preventing the workers and unions from organizing in a similar fashion.”

News of the Wired

“Zap your brain for a better you” [Engadget]. No. (This is another CES story, in case you hadn’t guessed.)

“Our Best Hope for Civil Discourse Online Is On … Reddit” [Wired]. “So I had this opinion, and as you can tell I adored it; it made the crooked places in my brain straight and the rough places plain. As the opinion gave me comfort, I grew more tenacious. I amassed an arsenal made of words sharpened to a fine point. I was all but spoiling for a fight.” Fun!

Antidote to technological triumphalism (1):

Antidote to technological triumphalism (2):

He’s right; this is a good thread.

“Philip K. Dick and the Fake Humans” [Boston Review]. This:

Standard utopias and standard dystopias are each perfect after their own particular fashion. We live somewhere queasier—a world in which technology is developing in ways that make it increasingly hard to distinguish human beings from artificial things. The world that the Internet and social media have created is less a system than an ecology, a proliferation of unexpected niches, and entities created and adapted to exploit them in deceptive ways. Vast commercial architectures are being colonized by quasi-autonomous parasites. Scammers have built algorithms to write fake books from scratch to sell on Amazon, compiling and modifying text from other books and online sources such as Wikipedia, to fool buyers or to take advantage of loopholes in Amazon’s compensation structure [Holy moley!]. Much of the world’s financial system is made out of bots—automated systems designed to continually probe markets for fleeting arbitrage opportunities. Less sophisticated programs plague online commerce systems such as eBay and Amazon, occasionally with extraordinary consequences, as when two warring bots bid the price of a biology book up to $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping).

In other words, we live in Philip K. Dick’s future, not George Orwell’s or Aldous Huxley’s.

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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 place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (via):

Forbidden Drive, Fairmount Park, Philly.

* * *

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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. fresno dan

    “There Is No Rampaging #MeToo Mob” [Slate]. On Aziz Ansari: “It would indeed be tragic if Grace had—in a professional sense—fatally shot without reason the only good young Muslim man in America as he was riding through town in an open convertible, but that isn’t precisely what has happened here.” I don’t get this; I thought Ansari had a good identity, not a bad one. Maybe Ansari is a Russian puppet too?
    A young ?22? year old woman has sex with a man, who she knew for ?24? or ?48? hours, because either or
    1. he is wealthy
    2. he is famous
    3. his charm, sterling character, and professed devotion to her
    and as it turns out, apparently 3 is not true at all. And this is something someone would want to admit to?

    1. urd

      Even if all three points are true, it means she should have to experience what she claims occurred? I feel like this is some variant of slut-shaming.

      While I withhold final judgement until more information comes to light, what I’ve read so far is sickening.

      Human intimacy can be tricky, but this is inexcusable.

      1. voteforno6

        Please keep in mind that this is only her side of the story. Relations between people can be rather tricky to sort out. Why must we assume that one side is more accurate than the other, especially considering that this is an anonymous, unverified account of what happened? If people really feel that this is worthy of public debate and judgment, then it would be only fair for Mr. Ansari’s accuser to come forward publicly and openly. Presumably, he knows who it is, and as far as I can tell, he hasn’t outed her, which means that he’s already demonstrated far greater consideration for her privacy than she has for his.

        1. Oregoncharles

          He doesn’t want to be a villain, as well as a jerk.

          The man isn’t stupid, just self-inflated.

        2. Romancing The Loan

          Grace the photographer is apparently well-known enough in the industry for the publication to have approached her over the rumors of the cadlike behavior she experienced from Ansari rather than the other way around. His apology admitted the date occurred, and was a little slimy in saying she was upset only “after reflection” when she was crying in the cab on the way home and texting people, including him, the next day.

          As even his aged defenders admit, nearly all women have experienced this sort of pushy, aggressive sexual behavior from men who deliberately pretend to misunderstand the sort of polite, indirect refusals that people, especially younger women, are heavily pressured to provide (especially to someone older, richer, more famous and in the same industry.) See this link for a fun discussion of how indirect communication of refusals is normal and perfectly well understood in every other context. I’ve been sexually rejected by men in the past on a depressing number of occasions myself (nothing ventured, nothing gained!) and when it involved them “freezing up” or “pulling away” or suggesting we do something other than make out (or anything else that supposedly required mind-reading here) it was immediately apparent and I immediately stopped because it’s gross and unsexy to foist your attentions on someone who at best has to be wheedled into tepid acceptance of your loathsome body.

          The original article is both unnecessarily prurient and very badly done in a number of ways, but there’s enough there to see that he knew what he was doing and at least in general terms that’s a conversation that does deserve to be part of the public debate. What he was doing isn’t rape, mind you, but it’s also no longer remotely within the realm of acceptable behavior on a date and this is a societal shift that is imo worthy of comment and discussion. That she could have (and should have, apparently) just pushed him away and walked out at a much earlier point doesn’t make the sort of boundary-testing described any more polite or warranted. His standup and show being all about how despite being rich, famous, at least kind of cute if not handsome, yet still repeatedly unlucky in love makes much more sense now. I will still enjoy him on Park and Rec reruns, where he plays an entitled, oversexed fool with great skill.

          1. voteforno6

            I’m certainly not saying that the alleged behavior was appropriate. The problem I have with this is the anonymous nature of the accusation. Maybe her perceptions of everything are exactly as they happened. She would be the rare person to be able to remember so clearly such an intimate and emotional encounter. Even if that is the case, what about the next time, when someone else is anonymously accused of being a cad? Are we to believe that as well? What chance would that person have of defending himself or herself? The temptation to level an accusation would certainly be there for someone with an ax to grind.

            1. Romancing The Loan

              As you said, he knows who she is. If any of those things hadn’t happened he’d have made a point of denying them, or even sued her for slander. That hasn’t happened.

              And we all know what happens to Grace if her full name gets out, don’t we?

          2. Oregoncharles

            When I came of age, the kind of pushiness Ansari displayed (I’m inclined to believe her) was pretty normal, even expected by some women. I’m not saying I ever did it; that was one skill I didn’t have. I think it was because it gave the women a degree of deniability. Obviously, it’s a terrible plan; I was hoping it had gone away. I think what’s really going on here is a very strong sense of entitlement not because he’s male but because he’s a star. We see the same sort of self-inflation from high school football players, who are also dangerously physical, and some politicians. I think that may also have motivated her reluctance to push him away, though she isn’t going to say so.

            As I said below, what bothers me the most about it, and a lot of the commentary, is the idea that she “shouldn’t have to” assert herself. His behavior was out of line, but it also directly reflects our courtship norms – I’ve said this before. It’s his job to ask, hers to refuse if she isn’t interested (of course, she was, or she wouldn’t have gone to his place), or if she doesn’t like what he’s doing. That’s what equality is like. There’s no indication she was actually coerced; she had reasonable options. I don’t think either one of them was doing it right.

            .Presumably he knew he had it wrong when she went home crying. That isn’t supposed to happen.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              > it also directly reflects our courtship norms – I’ve said this before. It’s his job to ask, hers to refuse

              I suppose one could see this whole controversy as a nuanced form of “Lysistratic non-action.”.

              Lysistratic Nonaction is #57 of Gene Sharp’s “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action,” categorized interestingly enough under “Ostracism.”

              So we’re to ostracize Ansari for caddish behavior. This is fine, or not fine, depending on what your views of the emerging norms he is said to have violated might be. It certainly seems different to me from the behavior that Weinstein or Louis CK engaged in, but if the discussion is about the nature of consent, then perhaps it isn’t. (The whole discussion seems awfully class-bound, to me, also; another flap in the media world. Nobody seems to be greatly concerned about the consent the (possibly female) Uber driver who took her home might have had in their particular, and precarious, situation. That’s because, and as usual, social relations is all over there, in a silo of its own, a different silo from sexual relations.)

        3. urd

          As I said, I withhold final judgement until more information is presented.

          However, her account has been very open and honest, revealing details I wouldn’t think someone would want to make up. He has been less than open about what happened. Speaks volumes to me.

          1. voteforno6

            However, her account has been very open and honest, revealing details I wouldn’t think someone would want to make up.

            Open and honest? We don’t know that for sure. For that matter, we don’t even know her name. Apparently, though, anonymous accusations are always to be believed, as long as they confirm what we already know.

          2. freedeomny

            In my day we would have called Grace’s a bad date….but we (my crowd) also would have gotten out of there much sooner (or not although Ansari sounds clumsy). We would have realized it for what it was – a guy who just wanted sex. Did Grace not get that? I don’t understand why she didn’t leave….

      2. fresno dan

        January 17, 2018 at 3:28 pm

        From the original article:
        Whether Ansari didn’t notice Grace’s reticence or knowingly ignored it is impossible for her to say. “I know I was physically giving off cues that I wasn’t interested. I don’t think that was noticed at all, or if it was, it was ignored.”

        Ansari wanted to have sex. She said she remembers him asking again and again, “Where do you want me to fuck you?” while she was still seated on the countertop. She says she found the question tough to answer because she says she didn’t want to fuck him at all.
        “Even if all three points are true, it means she should have to experience what she claims occurred? I feel like this is some variant of slut-shaming.”

        I have no problem with women f*cking as much as they want – I encourage it, especially with regards to me. I don’t want to shame anyone for having sex – I want to shame them for having sex and than pretending that it happened and they couldn’t have stopped it WHEN THERE WAS NOTHING keeping them from leaving. What I have a big problem with is that somehow this woman seems to SERIOUSLY put forward the proposition that Aziz wanted, and ONLY wanted to, f*ck her – and that SOMEHOW, she couldn’t say NO because …why again????she….didn’t want to hurt his feelings??????
        WHY DID she stay with Aziz when it was OBVIOUS, OBVIOUS, OBVIOUS that ALL he wanted was sex, IF SHE DIDN’T WANT SEX????? Has this woman no agency? Has she no common sense? If love was what she wanted, it was OBVIOUS that she wasn’t going to get it from Aziz. If not LOVE, what DID SHE WANT??????
        Where were all these woman who can’t say no when I was young??? They sure as hell knew to say no to me….

    2. Rates

      When’s the best time to commit a killing? When there’s a serial killer on the loose.

      Maybe Aziz is guilty of all that, we definitely need to see more, but at the same time, like any movement it can be abused as well.

  2. WheresOurTeddy

    “Did Americans Turn to Opioids Out of Despair – or Just Because They Were There?” [New York Magazine].

    Nothing media loves more than to remove agency from anyone but the victims. Wages are flat for 50 years, education and housing costs 10x what it did in the 70s, but yeah, if the pills are there, we in the Economic Sacrifice Zones just take ’em, because we’re all white trash deplorables who deserve our squalor and early deaths.

    A search of the article for “Mercer” or “Purdue” brought up zero results.

    Which is the shithole country again?

    1. Sid Finster

      Russia in the 1990s went through its own little opioids crisis, fueled by economic despair and dirt-cheap Central Asian heroin.

      Now that the economic despair has largely subsided, the opioids crisis has as well, even though Central Asia is still there and still growing poppies.

    2. curlydan

      also, a model that explains 10% of the opioid increase in (what I’m guessing) is a regression model is actually decent for the social sciences. If the R-squared just on economic data is 10% or 0.1, then the correlation (or little r) could be a little over +0.3.

      Never expect strong correlations or R-squared values in the social sciences. It rarely happens. The data are too noisy.

        1. curlydan

          I haven’t had a chance to dive into Case-Deaton’s statistics, but whenever I look at county level economic data for projects at work, I can’t get good R-squared values (e.g. nothing about 25%). Most of the time, there’s just too much variability. It’s very possible to have low R-squared values but high strong significance on individual variables.

  3. WheresOurTeddy

    Thank you for the twitter link of the thread on the Obama years.
    Nice to have it all in one place. Will send people this link whenever they start to break out the hagiographies of saint barry

    1. crittermom

      I appreciated the thread, as well.
      Most impactful to me, of course, was his HAMP ‘solution’ & buddies like Holder saying the banks were too big to prosecute.

      I’m amazed at how many folks still think he was ‘the best pres evah’, giving me a nasty look when I refer to him as ‘Obummer’.

      1. Geraldo Frio

        Can not believe how many folks still genuinely believe that BO is a decent, ethical man. I’ve stopped trying to debate this error but am glad to have seen Esha’s concise rebuttal. Good to know I’m not alone.

  4. Clive

    That whole “the Resistance turns one” — not sure what word to describe it but I’ll settle for self-promotion (which I got away with because of the hyphenation) reminds me QVC where they have product “anniversary days”. Which always struck me as odd. Now, if you’re maybe like Ford Motor Company or, erm, JP Morgan and you have something akin to a decent wodge of history to your name or brand, then, okay, that’s maybe something to remark on.

    But “celebrating 10 years of Yankee Candles” or “commemorating 8 years bringing you Thomas Kinkade — Painter of Light (TM) always struck me as a very odd thing to do. Just because something has been going on for a while and now it has been going on for another year longer doesn’t necessarily make it any good. And it also seemed to me a tad desperate a thing to do — can’t the marketing team think of anything better to say?

    But I put it down to a cultural misunderstanding. QVC tries to anglicise itself, but the effect is like me trying to Americanise myself — it works somewhat, but only patchily and gives itself away in awkward stumbling now and then. However, I am pleased to now discover that these sorts of strained faux celebrations really are as jarring — or at the very least a little inexplicable — and create an odd sensation in the reader or viewer to a US audience too.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      I signed up for email from The (Mc)Resistance just to see whether they actually stood for anything. So far, after a year, the only thing they seem to stand for is gossiping about Trump and asking for money. So, I’d say their intimate relationship with the Democrat establishment is rather clear.

      As for The Nation, I have great fear they have been infiltrated, a la Ramparts et al., and are slowly being groomed to become another mouthpiece for the Deep State. I watched it happen to Mother Jones, the current incarnation of which would be spat upon by the woman whose good name they have tarnished.

      1. Arizona Slim

        I’ve been having some fun with the Trump gossipers on my Faceborg feed. Quite a few of them are still in a lather about the s-hole countries comment.

        Well, I suggest, perhaps The Donald needs to up his cussing game. I mean, come on, s-hole? Is that all he’s got?

        The guy needs to call Bill Clinton and take some lessons. Because the Big Dog really knows how to cuss. Or he could delve into history and study the Nixon White House tapes. Without the deleted expletives.

        It’s so easy to poke fun at the gossipers. Try it, people!

        1. Duck1

          Seems like we have been in this hissy-fit regime of politics at least since Carter, which in many ways had to do with the resignation of Nixon. I use hissy-fit to not Godwin the thread and though somewhat sexist, epitomizes the ageing ingenues of both sexes who grace all three leading branches of government. Find me an individual who is not scooping all available detritus into their ample pockets, well feel the Bern.
          Sort of a Phil Dick counter universe: big dog resigns, Gore reigns, 911 don’t happen, HRC follows Gore without Iraq/Afghanistan war/occupations. The nerds continue micro-dosing is SV, while the lords puddle in cuddles or something under the influence of bespoke E. Very drole.

      2. Tom Denman

        The Revolution [if it happens] Will Not Be Televised. But one has only to watch a few minutes of CNN to see that the “resistance” enjoys substantial corporate sponsorship.

    2. Wukchumni

      An English friend once related that everything seems to be World Famous in the USA, sullying the meaning.

      1. Duck1

        In SF their Coney Island was called Playland and there was this food establishment which I lived near for a while which was World Famous Bull Pup Enchiladas.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > “the Resistance turns one”

      I was stunned by the badness. Since I only read The Nation for the articles, and I tend to encounter them one at a time, I rarely look at the Nation as a whole, entire publication.

      And readers, do feel free to redistribute that graphic…

  5. Katy

    Sometimes I talk to people and I say “computers haven’t developed one single bit since 1984” and they get mad at me

    On technological triumphalism, why can I stream HD video on my iPhone with perfect sound and picture clarity, but when I make phone calls on it, it sounds like a garbled mess?

    1. Summer

      I’d guess it’s got a lot to do with the microphones in phones.
      With streaming video, they aren’t speaking at you through the phone mics.

      1. Katy

        Right. So why didn’t Apple think to put better microphones in their phones?

        It makes me want to make things. If only I owned the means of production!

        1. Summer

          I wouldn’t doubt there are better phone mics, but something tells me the idea got crapified by an economic system that can turn any invention to crap.

    2. hunkerdown

      To be fair, HD video isn’t so latency-sensitive and has a lot more bandwidth available to it before “loss” of signal, so there are more time and bits available to use to correct and/or resend. VoLTE uses channels where those time and bits are available. If your provider and your phone offer VoLTE, you might try it. US providers treat them as the same plain old minutes you were using before.

      The mics are fine. It’s the tiny sliver of bandwidth per channel, the lossy compression methods that throw away everything they can to fit a voice channel into just a few kilobits per second, and the heroic air encoding methods running so close to the edge of Just Barely Works and cramming every bit they can into a radio channel only 1kHz wide, what suck. To be more than fair to the carriers, bandwidth does cost them billions of dollars a pop, and there is pressure to squeeze every last channel that can possibly be had out of their assigned block.

      Signed, a newly minted General Class ham, waiting on my call sign.

  6. Max

    My girlfriend is an avid thrifter and we often spend several hours on the weekend going to thrift stores. Her aunt actually makes a decent second income from reselling clothes and furniture on Etsy, although the hourly return is not great. Personally, I have found that thrifting makes for a cheap date and it can be fun to see the hodgepodge of random stuff that people donate. I agree that there is no one type of customer, my experience has been that thrift stores attract a very wide cross section of humanity.

    I have been told that the most serious bargain hunters eventually graduate to estate sales, which are supposedly CUTTHROAT.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Yes, estate sales are the big time, though my biggest catch was in a thrift store – I donated another 20 bucks once I found out what I had. Trouble is I have a hard time cashing in, because I’m reluctant to sell my trophies.

      The biggest problem with estate sales is that you have to be there early in the morning to get first crack. Even so, I’ve made good finds even on the second day. The big finds are the excitement, but the ordinary practical items (like an extension ladder) pay for your time. And you have to be willing walk out with nothing.

    2. Wukchumni

      If you die w/o heirs in L.A. County, the Public Administrator would sell your goods, and there used to be an auction once a month in Pico Rivera of their worldly possessions, that everybody called “the dead people’s auction” and it was great fun.

      It was soup to nuts, from tables full of kitchen utensils, furniture, 30 or so tv’s, jewelry, books, records, etc., and a motley collection of cars, one might be a 1973 Pinto that hadn’t been started since the Ford administration and the next one was a 1937 Cord.

      One time I went and Hervé Villechaize’s stuff was up for bids, including an exercycle for a midget!

    3. perpetualWAR

      I don’t buy anything full retail except pants, which I have a hard time finding second-hand because of length. I buy second-hand for two reasons: cost and landfill prevention. I hear that clothes make up a huge percentage of our garbage, which is absolutely disgusting when so many people are having hard financial times, including finding items to clothe themselves.

      1. crittermom

        For many years I’ve preferred buying my jeans in thrift stores, where you can you find a good pair of Wranglers or Levis for $1-$5, An added bonus is they’re already broken in–fully shrunken & softened up & comfortable.
        Senior center thrift stores have yielded some of my best buys on other items.

        I rarely buy retail, too. Who can afford to (In addition to the landfill problem)?

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          I can’t buy decent shirts at Macy’s; or rather, if Macy’s hadn’t closed, I wouldn’t be able to buy decent shirts there. Only at the thrift store.

          I used to be able to buy decent pants online; but when I re-ordered the last year, the manufacturer had changed and the pants were crapified — lousy seams, poor cut, cheaper zipper — even though the brand was the same, the item was the same, and the page was the same.

          No wonder online returns are so high.

    4. curlydan

      yes, and if you have kids, thrift stores can be quite useful. Every boy under 15 seems to want a never ending supply of “Under Armour” apparel. That brand label adds $25 to any hoodie. Find a good thrift store and buy that hoodie for $5-$8.

      For the non-branded things, can’t most used clothing be composted? If it’s unwanted, chop it up and throw it in huge compost heap.

      I’m more worried about the Chinese rejecting our cardboard now than I’m worried about Central America rejecting our clothes.

      1. Gaianne

        “For the non-branded things, can’t most used clothing be composted?”

        Natural fibers, such as cotton, hemp, wool, linen (does anyone still use linen?), and silk can be composted, and should break down withing a few years.

        Artificial fibers, such as nylon, rayon, dacron, lycra, spandex, acrylic, and dynel cannot be expected to break down under natural conditions. Potentially they could last thousands of years, and their residues might last millions.

        Don’t put them in your compost bin. You will just clog it up.


      2. Oregoncharles

        Natural fibers can be used as a killing mulch, to suppress weeds or grass and prepare ground. Be prepared to pick zippers and the like out of your dirt. The Permaculture books recommend this use. As Gaianne said, don’t use synthetics this way unless you plan to pick them up later – caked with mud. Cardboard is better, if you can get enough of it.

  7. jawbone

    Here in Northern NJ around Interstates 80 and 287, the trees are stunning as the snow, small amount as it was, is wet and clinging to every branch and twig.

    Wondrous, but, alas, it won’t last. So glad there’s some winter left to enjoy.

  8. Carolinian

    So is it Doctorgate now? Ted Rall had a pretty good column pointing out that practically all of our presidents have been a’holes on some level. Some of us believe FDR was a great man (visit the museum of paraplegic devices at the Georgia Little White House if you don’t agree) but Gore Vidal was undoubtedly right that Roosevelt was also sneaky and manipulative. The Bill Murray film Hyde Park on the Hudson touches on this side of the generational president.

    It’s the people who think that politicians are moral icons who need their heads examined. Trump, it seems, passed his head exam.


    1. Massinissa

      The only president in the last century I can think of who was ‘nice’ is *maybe* Jimmy Carter, and if he wasn’t an a’hole, thatt didn’t seem to get him very far.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Read Ron Kessler’s books about the Secret Service. Suffice to say that Jimmy wasn’t very nice to his detail. OTOH, Reagan and Obama treated their details like gold.

    2. PKMKII

      Depends. If the attitude is, “Trump is an amoral schlub, which is horrible because Presidents should be morally upstanding,” then yes, that’s some ripe denial/naivety. However, if the attitude is, “Trump is an amoral schlub, and the right are blatant hypocrites for suddenly turning off their prude patrol rhetoric just because it’s their guy doing it,” well that’s perfectly valid.

      1. perpetualWAR

        I have a hard time with “Trump is an amoral schlub.” Yet so many people admire Obama.
        Last I looked, Trump did not allow 18 million unlawful foreclosures.
        Yes, Trump is an un-qualified, amoral and racist slob, but Obama allowed the raping and pillaging of the masses, which is far more amoral than Trump so far.


  9. allan

    Minnesota GOP leader seeks cut of big donations [AP]

    The new chairwoman of Minnesota’s Republican Party is seeking a 10 percent commission from large donations to the party, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press.

    Campaign finance experts said they’ve never heard of such an arrangement. …

    The sound you hear is DWS cursing herself for not having thought of this disruptive innovation.

  10. Craig H.

    Those Nation ads remind me of advertisements that aired during my grandmother’s favorite television show: geritol, serutan, polident, and a product with forgotten name which was some solvent(?) for removing bunions and corns from the feet (presumably of senior citizens.)

    I would like to read a short explanation of how Amazon’s pricing system gets used books priced at 3000 dollars. At least once a month I look at a used book there and the price makes no sense. Maybe I don’t understand and some of these things really are pricey collectibles but that is very hard to believe.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      The “third-party” used-book dealers on Amazon price who inflate the price of their wares are basically looking for suckers. And at one point the ones with the really low prices were making their money by inflating the shipping, until Amazon apparently put a stop to it.

      Essentially, few if any of those people have the books they offer. Should they get an order, they immediately go searching for a copy. Easily done for a book in print, less so for one that’s OOP and tougher for a rarity. If they can find a copy, and have a live one willing to pay whatever ridiculous amount they’re asking for, it’s a win.

      I have no idea how well it works.

    2. RUKidding

      Those look like the ads in the Sunday Parade newspaper insert, frankly. Similarly Senior oriented stuff.

      Go figure.

    3. Amfortas the Hippie

      I’ve run into that a lot, whenever I’ve had an extra hundred or two to go on a book buying spree, but I chalked up the high prices to the esoteric titles I’m usually after. Silly me….thinking “supply and demand” were still a thing…
      …and this kinda morphs into the Dickian dystopia offering: The inability to discern what is Real would be more properly termed an “Ontological Crisis’, at least in my little mindworld.
      “Existential Crisis”, to me, connotes more of a question of nihilism and whether it’s worth it.
      The french prolly disagree.
      Similarly, lack of Purpose would be a “Teleological Crisis”, lack of Knowledge/Understanding=”epistemological crisis”.
      But maybe the latter 3 are swept up into the former.
      PK Dick and Kafka(and Baudrillard? Camus?) might be the patron saints of our age, with Neitszche raging on the slopes above<"well, create a value system, you morons!!".

  11. Quanka

    The soils article should be carried in the links tomorrow — importance of this topic cannot be understated. Soil degradation interrupts both the carbon cycle and the water cycle, and this is a far more important factor in climate change than the amount of CO2 in the air.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Yes. Soils store enormous amounts of carbon, even without lacing them with charcoal, and offer the best opportunity to get CO2 out of the air, since that increases fertility. Win-wins like that are pretty rare. But it requires big changes in farming, and firing the chemical companies.

      This from the article is at least partly wrong: ” Soil is essentially a non-renewable resource, much like fossil fuels, and once destroyed it is, for all practical purposes, lost forever.” No, organic methods can create topsoil at an encouraging rate. The limiting factor is the supply of organic matter and other supplements, and the cost of getting them there; but the right plantings also improve and create soil. There’s a whole science about it. I know at OSU the soil scientists were the first to adopt organic methods.

      1. Darius

        It’s a far better use of resources to conserve soil than build up new soil. Nevertheless, good practice on even the most degraded land has myriad benefits.

        There was a thread a while back about whether hydroponics can be organic. It degenerated into a discussion of output resulting from scientific applications of inputs like fertilizer. Soil isn’t an input. It’s a valuable resource that, for practical purposes is mostly nonrenewable. A permaculture approach would result in intense production, conservation of resources and a return of people to the land. Sadly, the entire structure of laws and markets in the US is hostile to such an approach.

    2. Lee

      Silicon Valley occupies 400 square miles of some of the best soil on the planet that in my lifetime were covered primarily by fruit orchards. When the current occupants decamp to Mars perhaps we can remove the asphalt and replant.

      1. Wukchumni

        No home owner in L.A. owns mineral rights, but it’s reckoned that despite the best efforts of the oil industry from around the turn of the century to the 1960’s or so to extract all they could, there is still a lot of petroleum down underfoot that could be got to with more modern methods. And similar to Silicon Valley, there were rather endless orchards in the City of Angles once upon a time.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      Soil is renewable, restorable, and re-carbonizable. On human-lifespan timescales.

      Here is a video made by a rancher-farmer in North Dakota. He lets ag scientists onto his land to do research. He lets customers visit to look at things. If his claims are false, they will be proven false sooner or later.

      So here is the link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yPjoh9YJMk

      1. blennylips

        I cannot remember, so, I am reading “The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl” by Timothy Egan. Pretty harrowing, and that’s just the static electricity!

        The cause of the dust bowl rings a few bells:

        BY THE SUMMER OF 1929, the United States had a food surplus, and every town along the rail lines of the southern plains sprouted a tower of unsold wheat, stacked in piles outside grain elevators. There was a glut in Europe as well, after Russia resumed exporting its wheat. As trains approached Liberal, Guymon, Texhoma, Boise City, or Dalhart on the straight lines across the High Plains, the wheat mounds were the first things to appear on the horizon, towers of grain that nobody wanted. It was a sign of prosperity but also a warning of things to come. The balance was tipping. Prices headed down, below $1.50 a bushel, then below a dollar, then seventy-five cents a bushel—a third of the market high point from just a few years earlier. Farmers had two choices: they could cut back, hoping supplies would tighten and prices would rise, or they could plant more as a way to make the same money on higher output.

        Guess which they choose.

  12. Quantum Bob

    From summer of 2017, but not widely seen.

    This is MIT roboticist Rodney Brook’s take on the self driving car:

    “Here’s another reason why I’m skeptical about autonomous cars: The United States and most other countries haven’t even managed to fully automate their mass-transit systems. So how are we supposed to achieve the far more difficult task of completely automating cars?”


    My apologies if this has already been posted.

    1. Summer

      It’s not about the mass-transit autonomous tech being more difficult or less difficult, the politicians are under orders to turn the public over the private. Wherever mass-transit profits will be privatized and losses will be socialized is where you would see any investment.
      Autonomous cars and trucks are billions of individual loans ready to be turned into other financial products.

      But, as pointed out in water cooler post, the autonomous cars will only be autonomous with redesigned infrastructure and more regulations on autonomous humans. Yeah, it should be written as “autonomous” cars.

  13. Oregoncharles

    “On Aziz Ansari:” Evidently he’s a lousy lover, overcome with his own self-importance. But there’s a vital question: if she didn’t like it, why didn’t she get up and walk out? Creepy though it is, I read her description of the encounter; she was perfectly free to go, or to push him away. Her actual behavior sent a mixed message: “I don’t like it, but….he’s a STAR!” No wonder he feels entitled.

    OK, I’ll say it. “I’m just a poor weak woman, you have to take care of me” is not a feminist position, but that’s exactly what this story pushes. It’s a fundamental issue with #MeToo: it was designed to draw out as many stories as possible, to establish that we have a big problem. Mission accomplished. But there’s no vetting nor any way to categorize the stories. The wide net guarantees that some will be questionable, and some will be untrue or vindictive. Long run, maybe dealing with it will give us a better understanding, if that’s possible. I hope Ansari will take this one to heart. But the casualties in the meantime are a little daunting, and I don’t see anyone really adding a lot of clarity. Where is Ann Landers when we need her?

    1. PKMKII

      Vet how, exactly? Barring some Black Mirror-esque mind scanning technology, I don’t see how you get past “he said, she said.” Which tends to devolve into, what party feels more trustworthy. And that’s when the various bigoted -isms, or the reactions against said -isms, start putting their fingers on the scale.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Even if we just take the stories at their word (they’re just stories, at that level), they call for thought about what they really mean. They range all the way from rape to snowflakery; those call for different responses.

    2. Lee

      Most of the women I know and have known would have easily extricated themselves either politely or with a knee to the groin if necessary. There is no indication that he physically overwhelmed her, threatened her with violence, or that he could damage her ability to earn a living. Or did I miss something?

  14. Sid Finster

    On, my feminists, did you learn nothing from Marx?

    If you want change, get your hands on the means of production. No amount of wokeness, no intersectionality, no law or anything else matters.

    Or, as attributed to Meyer Rothschild, speaking at a time when Jews could neither vote nor serve in Parliament: “Give me control a nation’s currency, and I care not who writes its laws.”

    1. Oregoncharles

      That may have already happened. Because women live longer, they tend to inherit the assets. The fly in that ointment is class.

  15. hemeantwell

    According to Michel Foucault’s concept of ‘governmentality,’ modern power is exercised less through coercive force than through the dissemination of particular discourses and ideologies; once these ideologies are internalized, people conduct themselves accordingly, effectively governing themselves and lessening the need for explicit coercion

    I so wish that these ideas had not become associated with Foucault when they can be found in many authors who preceded him, including the Frankfurt School and sociologists like Melvin Kohn. Foucault’s political trajectory terminated in a state-phobic neoliberalism. He was so oriented to the pernicious aspects of power that he concluded it should not be accumulated for any purpose. The prescriptions he arrived at via his ‘biopolitical’ analysis are bizarre, ending up in a utopian vision that sounds like it draws on the model of a babe in the womb, prior to what he construes as its inevitable deformation in socialization processes. The emphasis on microaggressions and the implied yearning for a bliss of unperturbed security are derivative of this nonsense.

  16. Wukchumni

    “A key strength in January, as it especially was in December, is the traffic component.” And: “This was slightly below the consensus forecast, and a strong reading” [Calculated Risk]. But: “Up more than expected this month, but last month revised down, inline with a recent pattern of reporting a better than expected number that subsequently gets revised down to where it no longer looks so good” [Mosler Economics].

    I’ll take it under revisement…

  17. lyman alpha blob

    In other words, we live in Philip K. Dick’s future, not George Orwell’s or Aldous Huxley’s.

    I don’t know – I see a lot of ‘four legs good two legs bad’, ‘memory hole’ and ‘soma’ happening too. Does it have to be one or the other?

    1. RUKidding

      Has always seemed like a mix for me, but right now, I’d say Orwell’s ahead at least by a neck.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think Dick gets the accretive, random, jerry-built nature of our dystopia correct. Orwell’s vision of totalitarianism doesn’t do that. Orwell’s world is poor and decayed, it is true, but at least Winston doesn’t have to put a nickel he doesn’t have into his refrigerator to open it.

  18. Left in Wisconsin

    “The Democrats Need to Reinvigorate Labor by Repealing Taft-Hartley” [Progressive Army]. “Possibly the most devastating amendment of the legislation was the prohibition of secondary boycotts…”

    Completely agree with this statement (though the next phrase completely mangles the definition of secondary boycotts, which are more colloquially known as “sympathy strikes” – strikes by not-directly-affected workers in support of those directly affected).

    What the advocates of card check (alone) don’t seem to get is that it isn’t unions (as organizations) that yield higher wages (and other benefits to working people), it is union power. Now, in the public sector, where exist the only unions many people know, union power is a political thing. But in the private economy, it is an economic power thing. There are still a handful of private workplaces where collective action could yield worker power – Amazon warehouses are exhibit A for me, and I don’t for the life of me understand why the Teamsters aren’t doing all they can to organize them; also as noted here at NC, some “lean” workplaces, though short-term worker power in some situations may well lead to medium- or long-term disinvestment – but for the most part, even with a union, working people in the private sector in this country, as George Constanza would say, have no “hand.” Sympathy strikes allow workers with hand to come to the aid of workers without. There is even a word for this – solidarity.

    It is highly unlikely that the union organizing that did take place in this country in the period 1933-1947 would have occurred without frequent recourse to sympathy strikes.

      1. Mark Anderlik

        Exactly! And one could consider the practice of sexism, racism, homophobia, etc to be undermining solidarity as well. The 99% have the power to make revolution, but we succumb to the outlawing or undermining of our potential solidarity. Its called “divide and conquer” for a reason. That is why the struggles to work through and beyond patriarchy, as we see today, are just as important to the labor movement as is the reclaiming the legal right for secondary boycotts and sympathy strikes.

  19. shinola

    The autonomous vehicle hype rages on.

    -Designated slow lanes & pickup areas. Downtown Kansas City already has these for its’ new – wait for it – street cars! But alas, they still have on board human operators which is probably a wasteful downside according to the Bloomberg author who presents this as a “pro” for automated taxis:

    “Pros: No driver to tip, and the fare is likely to be lower because robo-taxis cost less than half as much to operate as human-driven cabs. Drivers account for as much as 60 percent of the cost of cab.” Damned humans are just so overpriced.
    (notice the wiggle word “likely”; as if corp’s would actually pass on savings to customers rather than pad the bottom line)

    Again, I will posit there will no widespread release of fully autonomous vehicles “into the wild” until the co’s that build them can figure out a way to offload the liability for (the inevitable) accidents onto someone else.

  20. Pelham

    Re robot cars: So do you suppose it will be the private-sector idiots who are investing so massively in this stuff who insist that taxpayers bear the crushing infrastructure burden required by their folly? I suppose that’s how it will play out.

    Relatedly, I glanced at a survey this morning that found some huge percentage of the US public (I think it was over 70%) is hostile to the prospect of self-driving cars, albeit for various reasons.

  21. Wukchumni

    I knew a fellow in L.A. on the west side of town, pre-internet, that used to make a tidy living frequenting garage and estate sales. He was an expert in jewelry, art, and assorted smalls, and he told me his ace in the hole was when costume jewelry got mixed with the real thing, it all looked like crap, and was priced accordingly.

  22. Roady

    Here’s one for Esha’s twitter history of the Trump years in no particular order:

    Hundreds of Afghans in Logar province pitched in to recognize President Donald Trump with a gold medal for bravery after his administration suspended aid to Pakistan.

    Community members from tribal leaders down to cobblers chipped in 45,000 afghanis, or about $650, to pay for the handcrafted gold medallion, which was presented to the U.S. Embassy on Saturday.


    1. Darius

      Obama’s most egregious policy was his sustained inadequate response to the recession. Just bandaids followed by a full embrace of austerity. We have never recovered. The political reaction was Trump’ election.

  23. Wukchumni

    “But researchers were stunned by Texas, where the maternal mortality rate had apparently doubled between 2010 and 2012.” Holy moley! A shithole within a shithole!

    Interesting how it correlates to the closing of health clinics for women in the Lone Star state, god forbid they want to get an abortion.

  24. marym

    El Salvador eyes Qatar jobs for migrants leaving US

    El Salvador is seeking to reach an agreement with Qatar to allow Salvadoran migrants who are forced to leave the United States to work temporarily in the Gulf country, a spokesperson for the Salvadoran presidency said on Tuesday.

    Last week, US President Donald Trump’s administration said that as of September 2019, it would eliminate the temporary protected status, or TPS, that allows about 200,000 Salvadorans to live in the United States without fear of deportation.

  25. Tom Stone

    I don’t understand why Bitcoin has dropped so much in price, after all it is backed by the full faith and credit of…nevermind.

  26. nihil obstet

    In the 70s and 80s, feminists focused heavily on cultural and ideological issues as well as seeking legal remedies. Remember, “The personal is political.” The situation for gays and for women is really different. A gay relationship does not have to contend with cultural unequal assignments to the two individuals. But despite enormous progress, The man in most heterosexual relationships still expects the woman to do most of the emotional labor and a disproportionate share of non-paying-job work for the couple. In a workplace all the men, gay and straight alike, wear the standard work uniform with modest different details, signaling a universality of being; women must decide among a range of outfits, which leaves them open to individual psychologizing about what signals their choices send.

    LGBT individuals face discrimination and even danger in many situations. But in many situations gay men enjoy the privileges of being male, while women are restricted. Yes, it’s against the law to attack someone walking alone across a parking lot, but a man can feel a lot safer going to a meeting on his own at night than a woman can.

    The article is bone-headed about the difficulties faced by the different groups.

  27. Summer

    The Bezzle: “Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble” [New York Times]
    “But in a way, the Bitcoin bubble may ultimately turn out to be a distraction from the true significance of the blockchain. The real promise of these new technologies, many of their evangelists believe, lies not in displacing our currencies but in replacing much of what we now think of as the internet, while at the same time returning the online world to a more decentralized and egalitarian system.”

    “I’ve managed to complete a secure transaction without any of the traditional institutions that we rely on to establish trust.”

    “The results of that verification are then broadcast to the wider network again, where more machines enter into a kind of competition to perform complex mathematical calculations, the winner of which gets to record that transaction in the single, canonical record of every transaction ever made in the history of Ethereum. Because those transactions are registered in a sequence of “blocks” of data, that record is called the blockchain.”

    Y’know, machines compete (?!?!) and do a mathy thingamajig. What’s not to trust?

    Hey, NY Times, remember this guy?

    But Mr. Toyama disagrees: “Technology — even when it’s equally distributed — isn’t a bridge, but a jack. It widens existing disparities.”

  28. Wukchumni

    My condo on the dark side of the moon has also fallen sharply in value since peaking earlier in the month, just like Bitcoin.

    Should I be worried?

          1. JCC

            As well as this:


            Down and out
            It can’t be helped but there’s a lot of it about
            With, without
            And who’ll deny it’s what the fighting’s all about?
            Out of the way, it’s a busy day
            I’ve got things on my mind
            For the want of the price of tea and a slice
            The old man died

  29. Wukchumni

    Would opioid users be ingesting cocaine instead if it was merely a matter of price separating the high, if the latter cost the same?

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      aye. I have issues with that linked article.
      On the one hand, of the many people I’ve known in my life who were…charitably…”waste cases”, yes: they would huff gasoline or freon from the neighbor’s ac unit if there was nothing else available. it was all about escape for them, if they were aware of it or not.
      But those folks seem to be rather rare, and all of them that I have known were products of abuse of one kind or another.
      But the Case/Deaton cohort, while still looking for escape, are not lost causes….and I see all around me IRL (anecdotal) evidence that it IS despair that drives it.
      The former bunch has always been there. The latter have only recently appeared on the scene(10-15 years out here).
      Both have similarities to each other, but the latter is caused by systemic abuse(like the devaluation of currency), rather than acute, individual abuse.
      If the causitive factors are not mitigated, the C/D folks just might morph into a “waste case” nihilism, and that would be bad for everybody.(the proverbial Mutant Zombie Bikers of Doomer nightmares)
      At first, the C/D folks I’ve known were drawn to Meth…work longer/more jobs/overtime, etc…and still have energy to go to little league or whatever.Had Cocaine been readily available, that would have served them nicely.
      But that stone just keeps rolling back down, and then they need a tooth pulled(cheaper than fixing it/preventing it), and discover Vicodin/Oxy, and the world seems less dark and painful, and daytime TV less odious.
      The Johann Hari Model…that we need better cages…gels more closely with observed reality in my view.
      Give these folks something meaningful to do, and a sense of purpose, and this problem will go away.
      the incidence of suicide(attempted and successful)/overdose(sim)/alcohol poisoning/alcohol psychosis are all much more prevalent on my scanner than they used to be…and it’s followed the deepening of our local economic depression.
      The straw that finally drove me away from Democratic circles was the total disdain for these folks…”they get what they deserve”, etc.
      Doesn’t look very “liberal” or “progressive”, to me.

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        It is irrational. I have a friend that I’ve known for 45 years who never invests. Like Lambert. The more I learn, the more I think they are both right.

  30. Tim

    Urban planners designing SLOW lanes for autonomous cars?

    Wait, what?

    I thought the idea is we could “daisy chain” these things electronically and run them at 100 miles per hour down mainstreet, perfectly timed with the smart grid traffic lights.


    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      I was told we were all going to telecommute. That’s what the video phones were for.

      We need to give the next generation some better fairytales.

  31. Dave

    The salary differential between Blacks and Whites is 30%. The salary differential between men and women is 20%. The salary differential between workers and parasite Banksters is a million billion gazillion percent. So, let’s drone on and on about racism and sexism.

  32. Kurtismayfield

    DoL rule change on tips would hit working women hard

    This is insane..my sibling works as wait staff and on weekends pulls home around $200 a night in tips. Can you imagine how this conversation will go.

    Manager: How much in tips are you reporting tonight.
    Wait staff: $150 dollars
    Manager: Ok give me $80 dollars of that (so you just make minimum wage with your $3.50 an hour that I am paying you.)

    It’s insane. I would not be surprised if a state doesn’t Sue the DoL. This is such an anti labor policy.

    1. knowbuddhau

      We use tip-pooling and -sharing where I work. It works great. (I was once told that it pays for my position. But back then I was getting fewer than half the hours I am now, and no one’s saying anything. Kinda thinking it was bs. Helps, maybe, not “funds entirely.”)

      I’m one of those over-educated janitors you might have heard about. Takes me all week to earn in wages what a good bartender can make in one night. But they wouldn’t make a dime without a house to front in.

      Whole lot of money goes through that place. I make sure I pull my weight, and then some. It’s only natural to share and share alike.

      The books are open. Just had a long staff meeting about it. There’s no discord over it in the house that I know of.

      The owners are two of the hardest working people I’ve worked for. They offer people actual livelihoods, not just jobs. Not as many as they’ve explicitly said they’d like to, no, and not at the levels they’d like to, either, but they’re honestly trying.

      1. Kurtismayfield

        Nothing in the new rules require tip sharing or pooling. Nor does it require that the management use the money for salary. This new rule can be abused so easily.

        You sound like you have a nice place to work. Not all restaurant owners are providing that.

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          I spent 25 years leaning over a grill. I can count on half a hand the number of Good Bosses I had….and that’s including myself, for the 4 years I got to wear the funny hat as an owner.
          and almost all of my restaurant experience was in the non-corporate part of the industry. what little i saw of the corpfoodworld, it was even worse.(helps to 1. know your boss, and 2. know where he lives)
          In my time, the only waitstaff I knew who preferred “pooling” tips were the lazy and/or surly and/or just plain bad at their jobs ones.
          to put it into the hands of the bossman, must feel like only further insult to all the (tipped)professional men and women I’ve had the pleasure to work with.(there must be a front of the house/back of the house detente, at the very least, for the place to function. customers notice).
          I’ve been aware of the anti-worker bent of our “leaders” for a long time. The majority of the folks I’ve worked with, on the other hand, rarely even have the imagination, or mental framework, or Language!, to even consider such systemic as$holery.(little Unionism in Texas, outside some building trades and toothless and moribund teachers’ unions). “a job is a job is a job…” and “i feel lucky to slave away for that farbot” are the mantras at the lower end of things.
          it’s not only that the government has gone over to the dark side regarding Labor, it’s that we allowed them to…often because we were all worked up about distantly related nonsense. while we’re wailing away on immigrants(or womyn at work, or black people, or the Irish, or whatever), we’re being remodeled and taught to accept less. and most importantly to Ignore the water we swim in.
          The Jacobin article on the amway-like job school is almost identical, in content, to the “Leader in Me” BS that the school foisted on my youngest son. It’s Reeducation, Republican Style.
          (if your interested in that last bit, here’s my play by play of when the missionaries of “abundance” came to Mason, Texas: http://amfortasthehippie.blogspot.com/2012/05/guru-edhari-krishna-hari-hari-krishna.html
          and http://amfortasthehippie.blogspot.com/2012/05/come-back-into-cave-unpacking-coveyism.html )

          all of this is part of the Mindfu%$.
          ongoing for 40+ years, to remake us…from Citizen, into interchangeable parts for the Machine…and to teach us to Like It!
          and to not be able to think of an alternative.

    2. JBird

      Just because a 19 States including Puerto Rico either follow the Federal minimum wage of $2.13 an hour if you are a tipped employee. Why most of those requires the employer covers any tip shortfalls and ensures that an employee makes a generous 5 and change so what is the problem? Don’t you trust our job creators?

  33. knowbuddhau

    “The first robot rides will operate at low speeds, moving cautiously enough even in dense traffic that urban planners may add specifically defined pickup areas and slow lanes for automated vehicles.”

    There’s one in Seattle already. Locals call it “the Monorail.”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I believe they used to call them “trollies.” Of course, it’s a lot better when you get to ride slowly in your very own robot pod, because you don’t have to be with smelly proles, you can sleep, or watch porn on your cell phone, and so forth.

  34. D


    DoL rule change on tips would hit working women hard

    This is insane..my sibling works as wait staff and on weekends pulls home around $200 a night in tips. Can you imagine how this conversation will go. ….

    Oh my, don’t even want to click the link and read what DC is doing now.

    During the 80’s the Government went after waitresses and waiters about writing down their evening tips while working minimum wage jobs – with a horrid vengeance – so those minimum wage workers could pay their fair share of taxes™ which no one making true big bucks was paying at the time, and have not to this day.

    The US Government effectively (and surely knowingly) went after waitresses mostly, as women in those years were never in the high tip making bracket like the exclusive, high end, male only waiters and exclusively male maître ds were . The males made far, far, better bank -as many say -on a comparative basis (as a waitress, I knew quite a few male restaurant workers and liked most of them, just saying my comment is not about disparaging males, it’s just an age old reality for females) and I’m betting that it’s still the case that the predominance of low cost US diners, etcetera feature females waitresses versus male waiters.

    Give your sister a huge hug for me, wish I could do more than that, sickeningly cruel times we live in.

  35. D

    Continuing my above comment,

    And then, certainly in California, with Illegal Mexicans™, and at the least, in the other TOP GDP States of: Texas, Florida and New York Illegal, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans [etcetera]™, there are (KNOWINGLY) 99.9999 % male illegal™ scapegoats bussing those restaurant dishes. Too afraid to click your link, but wouldn’t be surprised if the tips they are given – by the waitresses and waiters –could be subject to ICE, if they don’t report them.

    Meanwhile, not a peep about the $7 – ? billion (including interest and penalties that all minimum wage workers are subject to, with no remorse) Facebook owes in taxes with the Ireland scam.

  36. D

    Part 3 of my above comment:

    That is not to even mention how many Black American Citizens™ were/are never even able to attain any tipping (let alone well tipping) job, in a predominance of restaraunts, well into the current times.

    I see The District of Columbia™’s Malarial Swamp, has not changed much, for heading on 200 hundred years now, it is stil loaded with rats.

  37. JBird

    That’s because job creators should be respected for all the hard work that they do hiring all those employees; whereas too much of the poor are trying to game the system.

  38. D

    David, Re:

    The salary differential between Blacks and Whites is 30%. The salary differential between men and women is 20%. The salary differential between workers and parasite Banksters is a million billion gazillion percent. So, let’s drone on and on about racism and sexism.

    I do understand your point, perfectly well, but it is really helpful when those who made those higher salaries – which differences you noted at 20 to 30%, and aren’t at all small in terms of putting a roof over ones head, at a minimum [1] – at least admit it, and step aside when someone more impoverished and put upon than them requests to be heard. That is not what’s been going on, by any stretch of the imagination.

    [1] And that does not even account for those horrid 24/7 intangible aspects of being considered a lesser human being.

  39. integer

    Trump announces ‘Highly-Anticipated 2017 Fake News Awards’ SBS

    In first place was The New York Times’ Paul Krugman for claiming “on the day of President Trump’s historic, landslide victory that the economy would never recover.”

    Second place was “ABC News’ Brian Ross CHOKES and sends markets in a downward spiral with false report.”

    And third place: “CNN FALSELY reported that candidate Donald Trump and his son Donald J. Trump, Jr. had access to hacked documents from WikiLeaks.”

  40. Michael C.

    On this item in the Water Cooler: “The Democrats Need to Reinvigorate Labor by Repealing Taft-Hartley” [Progressive Army].”

    Since Fed Ex started as an airline and is under the Railroad Act, it is more difficult for unions to organize the company. UPS is under the NLRB, and therefore was unionized piece by piece starting out in the Pacific Northwest and expanding across the country. Fed Ex bought out Roadway Express, a ground service like UPS, and now does exactly the same thing UPS does, but is still under an act that makes it difficult to unionize it. The Republicans have prevented legislation that would address this issue, but of course they always have the usual suspects on the Democratic side to ensure the legislation is not passed.

    Here is Fed-Ex’s take, which of course makes it all about customers and not the right of workers and tries to say it is different than a UPS because Fed-Ex is an airline, even though both companies do exactly the same thing:


    Here is a Mother Jones article on the topic:


  41. dk

    … we live in Philip K. Dick’s future …

    Actually it’s John Brunner’s, not to take anything away from Dick, who masterfully evokes the personal experience of over-technologized culture. Brunner doesn’t lack for character development but writes more about social interactions and offers detailed and realistic visions of the future (now present) world. Working contemporaneously, they probably influenced each other, and certainly drew from the same cultural influences.

    The Sheep Look Up (1972) is particularly prescient, actually somewhat tedious to read today, if one forgets it was published 45 years ago, it was considered absurdist fantasy at the time, lumped in with other Brits like Moorecock and Aldiss.

    His earlier Stand On Zanzibar (1968) is similar but somewhat less gloomy and gritty.

    Shockwave Rider (1975) is another overlooked Brunner work (of which I consider Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984) to be a blatant ripoff):

    Brunner is credited with coining the term “worm” and predicting the emergence of computer viruses[3] in his 1975 novel The Shockwave Rider, in which he used the term to describe software which reproduces itself across a computer network. Together with Stand on Zanzibar, these novels have been called the “Club of Rome Quartet”, named after the Club of Rome, whose 1972 report The Limits to Growth warned of the dire effects of overpopulation.


  42. Paul Jackson

    Antikapitalist is known as the virus that subtracts funds from Forex Brokers. He’s doing his thing, he downloads on the runners’ platforms and, apparently, he’s hidden behind an EA.

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