2:00PM Water Cooler 5/7/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I have to add in a few more primaries and a little bit more political material. –lambert UPDATE 2:30PM Done.


“The NAFTA nations’ top trade officials will resume high-level talks today as pressure mounts for them to land a preliminary deal in the next couple of weeks. On Sunday negotiators from the U.S., Mexico and Canada resumed technical talks in Washington to discuss a number of thorny issues, including on automotive rules of origin, a sunset clause, dispute settlement and the seasonal produce proposal, Mexico’s chief negotiator Kenneth Smith Ramos said in a series of tweets over the weekend” [Politico].



Remember Cloobeck?


“Pelosi Says Democrats Have Cash and Environment to Win House” [RealClearPolitics]. ” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that House Democrats have the fundraising, the issues and the political atmosphere on their side to win back the majority in November. These factors, and an activated party base that’s helped Democrats win in special elections across the country this year are the ‘small droplets of water’ that create a wave, Pelosi said headlining a county Democratic Party banquet in Des Moines. ‘This is not going to be big margins,’ she said. ‘It is going to be small margins in many places.'” Yes. If the Democrats got big margins, they’d have to govern. Can’t have that.

UPDATE “Wrong-way Democrats: Will a “blue dog” blue wave pave the way for future disaster?” [Salon]. “On the other hand, the party’s core political functionaries remain wedded to a backward-looking and demonstrably failed model. Despite polling that suggests strong swing-district support for a progressive economic agenda, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is trying to win with a bevy of “me too” GOP-lite candidates. That may well work in the short run, as it did most dramatically in the wave elections of 2006 and 2008, but could set the party up for further failure in office and deeper disillusion down the road.” That’s not a bug…

UPDATE “Vulture Capitalist Ken Langone Wants To Combat Bernie By Financing The Republican Wing Of The Democratic Party” [Down with Tyranny]. “This cycle, understanding the ramifications of the coming blue wave, Langone is donating to centrist Democratic PACs in an attempt to shape the character of the Democratic majority. He’s working diligently to save the House for the Wall Street and corporate elites. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Wolf reported that when Langone saw Bernie’s rallies (on TV of course) during the 2016 presidential campaign, he was ‘shocked by the number of young people there….'” I tried to find a photo of Booker and Langone, but nothing yet…

Primaries tomorrow, Tuesday May 8 (a non-exhaustive list):

UPDATE IN-09: “Meet the Democrats Looking to Unseat Hollingsworth” [Nuvo]. “It’s a shame Liz Watson and Dan Canon are running for the same congressional seat in Indiana’s 9th District. Decent Democratic candidates are hard enough to find in Indiana, so excellent ones are downright mythical. Canon and Watson are both excellent candidates, and either one will be a formidable challenger to Republican Trey Hollingsworth in the fall…. Canon sincerely believes our state can be a catalyst for national change, that Indiana Democrats can pressure “safe blue-district” Democrats by advocating for ambitious but much-needed reforms such as a guaranteed jobs program. He’s been endorsed by The People for Bernie Sanders, Political Revolution, the Democratic Socialists of America’s Louisville and Southern Indiana chapters, and Justice Democrats. Watson is a Bloomington native and the former labor policy director and chief labor counsel for Democrats on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. She’s been responsible for dragging the Democratic Party toward more pro-labor policy positions. She led the policy development for the $15 minimum wage in the House while Sen. Bernie Sanders and his staff led that policy development in the Senate. So far, 28 labor unions have endorsed Watson, and it’s easy to see why….As Canon told me, ‘This isn’t Bernie versus Hillary,’ by which he meant this isn’t a primary between the social-democratic and neoliberal wings of the Democratic Party. Both Watson and Canon care about the right things; both probably agree on nine out of 10 policies. If your reaction to the current political situation is ‘this is bullshit,’ then you’re probably for Canon. If your reaction to it is ‘this is ridiculous,’ then you’re probably for Watson.”

NC-09 (Likely R): “Political fireworks in NC’s 9th Congressional District” [Anson Record]. “McCready launched his campaign a year ago and has proven his ability to both raise money and put together an organization. He fits the district, too. His background in finance suits the country clubbers who make up southeast Charlotte and western Union County, while his standing as an Iraq War vet appeals to the patriotic voters in the rural counties that surround Fort Bragg. Meanwhile, on the Republican side, incumbent Robert Pittenger and his opponent, Mark Harris, are busy wrapping themselves around Donald Trump. Polls show Pittenger in the lead, but his embrace of Trumpism may hurt him with the button-down suburbanites he needs to win. If Harris manages to pull off an upset, he’s probably too conservative to win in a general election. McCready’s primary opponent, Christian Cano, has been relentlessly attacking McCready on social media and in forums. According to Cano, McCready hasn’t passed enough Democratic litmus tests and he’s a “DINO.” Cano called McCready a “coward” and says he considers McCready a Republican. Cano’s a small tent Democrat, a guy who believes that only people who think just like him deserve consideration. He believes there’s a big enough Democratic base to overcome the conservative nature of the district. He couldn’t be more wrong. To win in districts like NC-09, Democrats need to win back Democratic voters and conservative-leaning independents in the rural counties who have been voting Republican for years and they need to win business conservatives in southeast Charlotte and western Union County where almost half the voters reside. McCready has a shot at both those sets of voters. Cano, with his dogmatic approach to politics, couldn’t reach either even if he raised enough money to communicate with them. Cano represents a threat to the blue wave he likes to hashtag.” Guess which candidate the DCCC is backing? That’s right. The militarist with the finance background who appeals to country clubbers. No polling that I can find, of course.

NC-13 (Likely R): “Local Democrats tell DCCC to butt out of the 13th Congressional primary” [Triad City Beat]. “Democratic Party delegates for North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District passed a resolution today requesting that the DCCC, the House Democrats’ fundraising arm, stay out of the primary election as voters select a nominee to challenge Republican incumbent Ted Budd in the state’s most heavily contested congressional race. The resolution approved today by the NC 13th District Democrats during their annual convention at GTCC’s Jamestown campus called support by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ‘a disruptive and undemocratic force,’ while calling on the state party to ‘demand that the DCCC support of candidates during the primary election process be forbidden.’ The DCCC named Kathy Manning, a Greensboro philanthropist and heir to the Kay Chemical fortune who is running in the 13th district, to its “Red to Blue” list shortly after she announced her campaign in December 2017. The committee describes ‘Red to Blue’ as “a highly competitive and battle-tested program at the DCCC that arms top-tier candidates with organizational and fundraising support to help them continue to run strong campaigns.” Manning’s fundraising totals — $530,000 before filing had even begun — prompted two prospective African-American candidates, Bruce Davis and Beniah McMiller, to bow out of the race. Manning faces one opponent in the Democratic primary — Adam Coker, a long-haul truck driver who has been campaigning almost continuously since early 2017. To date, Manning has raised $1.3 million, compared to $54,475 by Coker.”

OH-12 (Likely R): “The next House special election Republicans are terrified they might lose” [Vox]. “The Democratic primary isn’t nearly as dramatic. Democrats think they have a few viable candidates: Danny O’Connor, the Franklin County recorder who has the endorsement of former Gov. Ted Strickland and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and is raising the most money; Zach Scott, a former Franklin County sheriff with strong name recognition; and John Russell, a local farmer with ties to area progressive grassroots groups.” The DCCC doesn’t have a dog in this fight, or if they do, they’re backing them covertly, and not as part of the Red-to-Blue program.

UPDATE WV Senate: “Blankenship surging on eve of West Virginia Senate primary” [Politico]. “Particularly concerning to Republicans is Blankenship’s TV spending. Over the final six days of the race, the self-funding coal baron is set to spend over $640,000 on commercials, according to media buying totals — more than Jenkins and Morrisey combined. Blankenship has spent over $2.5 million on TV ads in total, far more than his rivals. Senior Republicans say they are also distressed that Jenkins and Morrisey spent nearly all of the campaign savaging each other. Further complicating matters is that a Democratic super PAC, Duty and Country, convinced that Jenkins would pose a formidable challenge to Manchin, has invested $1.8 million targeting him in an effort to keep him from winning the GOP primary. The bloodbath could ultimately benefit Blankenship, who has faced far fewer incoming attacks.” Oh, the Pied Piper strategy. What could go wrong?

May 15:

PA-10 (Likely R): “Congressional Candidate Burns Assault Rifle in New PA-10 Ad” [Politics PA]. “10th Congressional candidate George Scott launched his first ad of the Democratic primary that will peak interest among many, it features him burning an assault rifle. The ad demonstrates Scott’s ‘commitment to ending gun violence by burning an assault rifle in a bonfire’ according to a release from the campaign. ‘I’ve served in the Army all over the world. And I was trained to use guns like these. But Donald Trump’s loyal soldiers like Scott Perry exploit God and guns to score political points,’ Scott says in the ad. ”

PA-10: “Ding Launches First Ad in PA-10 Primary” [Politics PA]. “Ding’s first ad tells the story of his two-year investigation that analyzed the effects of COX-2 inhibitor drugs. He found that products such as Vioxx caused kidney damage and heart arrhythmia, and that the drug maker was aware of these risks and did not alert the public. These drugs were eventually pulled from the market, due in part to Ding’s research. ‘I have spent my public health career fighting against corrupt drug companies that put profit over people.’ said Ding. ‘I will take that fight to Washington to tackle the most pressing public health issues facing our country. I spent my career fighting to protect families, and right now we need to fight Donald Trump for all our families,” Ding says in the ad.’ Ding is running against George Scott, Robert Howe, Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson in the primary.

Comment: Google News is becoming ever more miserably inadequate and crapified. They only supply a limited number of stories, and unbelievably you can’t even filter by date.

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MN: “Richard Painter tests the limits of the anti-Trump campaign” [Minnesota Post]. “Minnesota might see the candidate most opposed to President Donald Trump running anywhere in the country this midterm election year. That candidate is not a staunchly progressive Democrat, but someone who once worked in a Republican White House: Richard W. Painter, the University of Minnesota law professor and frequent cable news talking head who has made himself into an unlikely hero of the anti-Trump #Resistance. After saying he was exploring a bid for U.S. Senate in March, Painter announced on April 30 that he’d officially be running as a Democrat against incumbent DFL Sen. Tina Smith, who was appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton to fill the seat vacated by Al Franken in January. Painter, once the chief ethics counsel in the George W. Bush White House, has emerged as a prominent critic of the Trump administration — and an eager one. To his 460,000 Twitter followers, Painter supplies a constant feed of scathing tweets about Trump, covering everything from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into his camp’s ties with Russia to the president’s business interests; the ethical lapses by cabinet members to Stormy Daniels’ legal maneuvering. The 57-year old Harvard and Yale-educated lawyer, clad in his uniform blue blazer and maroon-and-yellow tie, is also a constant presence on MSNBC, delighting liberal audiences as he shouts down Trump surrogates and right-wing pundits.” But he’s not even a Democrat….

2016 Post Mortem

UPDATE “Hillary Clinton Thought About Moving to New Zealand After Losing Election to Trump” [Newsweek]. “Clinton recalled how her Kiwi friends suggested she move to New Zealand at a talk on Monday. ‘And I appreciated the offers. Gave them some thought,’ she said at an event organized in Auckland by The Growth Faculty with ticket prices starting at NZ$195 ($135) and soaring to $595 ($415) for special seats.” At least Peter Thiel could afford to attend…

UPDATE “Live: Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in NZ” [New Zealand Herald]. Live blog: “Clinton referred to 2016 as ‘the perfect storm,’ talking about anger among voters ‘the information warfare waged from within the Kremlin’ and a media that focused on her emails as the most important story. She said it was clear Russian agents had used YouTube and social media to plant stories intended to target Clinton. She said Russia was still doing what it could to turn Americans against each other.” Clinton is exhibiting extraordinary, Sanders-level message discipline. How strange that she can’t do this on policy when campaigning but only in defeat. (To be fair, Clinton, on the trail, is quite disciplined about insulting people she regards as unlikely to vote for her.)

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Watch Live: Sanders Joins Philly DA Larry Krasner for Roundtable Discussion on America’s ‘Broken’ Criminal Justice System” [Common Dreams]. “Denouncing a criminal justice system that ‘incarcerates 2.2 million people and disproportionately incarcerates people of color,’ Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, author and professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and Civil Rights Corps litigation director Premal Dharia for a roundtable conversation on possible solutions to America’s mass incarceration crisis.’There can be no debate, whether you are a conservative or liberal or something in between, that we have a broken criminal justice system,’ Sanders said during the discussion, moderated by Daniel Denvir, host of ‘The Dig’ podcast.”

Stats Watch

There are no interesting official stats today.

Employment Situation: Handy chart [Mosler Economics].

Construction: “Here is another monthly update on framing lumber prices. Early in 2013 lumber prices came close to the housing bubble highs – and now prices are well above the bubble highs” [Calculated Risk]. “There is a seasonal pattern for lumber prices. Prices frequently peak around May, and bottom around October or November – although there is quite a bit of seasonal variability. Rising costs – both material and labor – will be headwinds for the building industry this year.”

Commodities: “China lithium top player boosts investment in emerging Australian miner” [Mining.com]. “Sichuan Yahua Industrial Group, one of China’s largest lithium hydroxide and carbonate producers, is injecting further funds into emerging Australian lithium producer Core Exploration (ASX:CXO) as Chinese companies continue to aggressively try securing supply of the key ingredient needed for making the batteries that power electric cars…. With demand for EVs set to skyrocket in the next decade, Chinese companies have inked several deals in the past year to secure steady lithium supplies with mine developers in Australia, South America, Canada and Africa.”

Commodities: “Meteoric Resources adds Lorrain Cobalt Project to portfolio” [Finfeed]. “The strategic acquisition bolsters MEI’s dominance in the prolific cobalt-silver belt in Ontario. The region is historically the most productive cobalt mining camp in Canada, having produced 50 million pounds of cobalt and 600 million ounces of silver over a 60-year period. However, this is an early stage play… Exploration at the project will begin immediately, with MEI geologists mobilising on site this week to commenced detailed mapping and undertake a comprehensive rock chip sampling program, which will include sampling from historical shafts and pits.”

Commodities: “Oil prices have surged above $70—here are 4 key reasons behind the rally” [MarketWatch]. “Supply concerns surrounding the possible reinstatement of sanctions on Iran aren’t the only reason for the climb in U.S. benchmark oil prices above $70 a barrel to their highest levels since late 2014. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ efforts since the start of last year to curb global production have had the biggest influence on crude values, along with growing demand for oil and Venezuela’s output woes.”

Commodities: “Nestle and Starbucks Set Deal to Expand Their Coffee Empires” [247 Wall Street]. So now Nestle’s coffee will taste burnt?

The Bezzle: “New MIT System Lets Self-Driving Cars Go Almost Anywhere” [Forbes]. ” a team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) developed a way for autonomous cars to read and anticipate their local surroundings rather than relying on gigabytes of 3D map data. The framework is called MapLite and it combines GPS using only the most basic topographic maps from OpenStreetMap [i.e., not Google Maps] with LIDAR and IMU sensors that monitor road conditions…. While systems like MapLite could open up more roads to autonomous cars, it’s still a long road to be on par with human drivers. The researchers say their system can’t account for major changes in elevation, so mountain roads are a no-go for now.”

The Bezzle: “artist visualizes the lengthy terms of services of large corporations like facebook and instagram” [Design Boom]. “pointing out that these terms are actual legal contracts between the user and the online service provider, yarovinsky’s ‘I agree’ project visualizes the contractual obligations users agree to when subscribing for a free or paid service/app. according to the designer, the average person reads at a rate of 200 words per minute while a standard ‘terms of service’ agreement contains 11.972 words which means that even if a user did attempt to read the terms before agreeing to them, it would take approximately 60 minutes. the terms were printed using standard legal contract font size and typeface, and hung on the academy’s gallery space, while the project is on show during aalto university’s visualizing knowledge conference in finland.” No, there aren’t any initial caps in the original because design. Anyhow, here they are (via):

Coincidentally, Stoller remarks:

Five Horsemen: “Apple spikes higher as Amazon shares again challenge the $1,600 ceiling” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen May 7 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “The mania-panic index rose to 51 (complacency) after Friday’s up session” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood]. (The NakedCap mania-panic index is an equally-weighted average of seven technical indicators derived from stock indexes, volatility (VIX), Treasuries, junk bonds, equity options, and internal measures of new highs vs new lows and up volume vs down volume … each converted to a scale of 0 to 100 before averaging, using thirty years of history for five of the seven series.)

Mania panic index May 4 2018

Rapture Index: Closes up 2 on earthquakes. “A huge quake hits Hawaii” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 183. Biggest jump in a long time.


“Volcanoes Line West Coast and Alaska” [247 Wall Street]. Not the most impressive headline, but with handy map of “threat levels.” And yikes:

“America’s Last-Ditch Climate Strategy of Retreat Isn’t Going So Well” [Bloomberg]. “After two vicious floods [on the Susquehanna River], Sidney, N.Y., decided to pull back from the river. Seven years later, things haven’t turned out as planned… As Sidney keeps missing its twin goals of emptying a neighborhood that can no longer be protected and building a new one on dry land, the risk increases that more people will drift away, taking Sidney’s future with them. The delays also tarnish the model this village was supposed to provide the rest of the country. Instead, Sidney underscores how hard it is to overcome the U.S. disaster policy’s emphasis on rebuilding in place. ‘I was hopeful that a project like this could show something could change,’ Johnson-Bennett says. Does she think it worked? ‘No,’ she replies after a pause. She’s been sitting for more than an hour at the McDonald’s up the hill from the village, talking about an unlikely effort to prove the government didn’t have to keep repeating the same mistakes. For the first time, she sounds defeated.”

Jobs Guarantee

“Smile” [Interfluidity]. “Let’s get this part out of the way. I’m for [the JG], if it’s well implemented. What about a UBI? I’m for that too, if it’s well implemented. Do we need both? Well, they do complement each other: Pairing a job guarantee with a UBI would mitigate the risk that the “guarantee” would transmogrify under political pressure into a punitive workfare program. Pairing a UBI with a job guarantee would mitigate the risk that we neglect the broader project of integrating one another into a vibrant society, that we let a check in the mail substitute for human engagement. If we could get both a UBI and a JG, that’d be great. (Of course, if we did get both, we’d want the numbers to be different than either as a standalone.) However, I am not so worried about an embarrassment of riches. We’ll be fortunate to get one, either one, implemented well enough not to subvert its purpose. I see no reason not to advocate both.”

Neoliberal Epidemics

“Women With Breast Cancer Delay Care When Faced With High Deductibles” [New York Times]. “Women who had just learned they had breast cancer were more likely to delay getting care if their deductibles were high, the study showed. A review of several years of medical claims exposed a pattern: Women confronting such immediate expenses put off getting diagnostic imaging and biopsies, postponing treatment…. And they delayed beginning chemotherapy by an average of seven months, said Dr. J. Frank Wharam, a Harvard researcher and one of the authors of the study, published earlier this year in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. ‘Slight delays added up to long delays,’ Dr. Wharam said. While the study did not look at how the women fared after treatment, cancer doctors warn that even short gaps between diagnosis and treatment can affect the outcome. Survival rates are higher for patients with some cancers if they are treated early. ‘What we see here is an unintended consequence of sharing costs,’ said Dr. Ethan Basch, the director of cancer outcomes research at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, who was not involved in the study.” Really? Unintended? Actuaries are that dumb? It looks like a case of Rule #2 of Neoliberalism, to me.

Guillotine Watch

Now would be a good time to buy gold (1):

Now would be a good time to buy gold (2):

Class Warfare

“AI will spell the end of capitalism” [Feng Xiang, Washington Post]. “If AI rationally allocates resources through big data analysis, and if robust feedback loops can supplant the imperfections of ‘the invisible hand’ while fairly sharing the vast wealth it creates, a planned economy that actually works could at last be achievable.” I think “rationally” is doing a lot of work, there.

“The black-white wealth gap is fueled by student debt” [MarketWatch]. “Indeed, the study [here] finds that the gap in student debt held by black and white borrowers grows by 6.8% each year. As a result, black young adults hold 10.4% less wealth on average than their white counterparts due to differences in student-loan debt.”

“Warren Buffett’s mortgage companies set up to cater to white clients” [Reveal News]. “But as they’ve become major players in cities across America, Berkshire Hathaway’s affiliated mortgage companies have followed a consistent pattern. Government lending data reviewed by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting shows the companies direct their lending toward white borrowers and white neighborhoods, even in population centers such as Philadelphia where a majority of residents are people of color…. Legal experts said Berkshire Hathaway’s mortgage companies were carrying out the very practices outlawed by the Fair Housing Act, a 50-year-old law that banned racial discrimination in lending, by locating their branches in white neighborhoods, employing mortgage consultants who – from their websites – appear to be overwhelmingly white and lending mostly to white borrowers. … “It sounds to me like they are intentionally avoiding doing business with people of color,” said Allison Bethel, director of the fair housing clinic at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago…. The figures were especially stark for Trident, which placed all of its 55 loan centers across Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in majority-white neighborhoods, Reveal’s analysis found. The analysis also showed 92 percent of the company’s conventional home loan applications came from borrowers in majority-white neighborhoods. When Trident did lend in neighborhoods where the majority of residents were people of color, most of the loans still went to whites. Berkshire Hathaway’s mortgage business has the hallmarks of one that could be prosecuted for “failure to serve” under the Fair Housing Act, according to Eric Halperin, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw fair lending cases during President Barack Obama’s first term.”

Bertie Wooster has been doing very well:

“Capitalism and the constitution of the self” [Carl Beijer]. “There is little doubt on the liberal-left that power and ideology work to impose socially-constructed identities upon us from the moment we are born, and that these identities can become a deeply rooted, psychologically entrenched part of the way that we see ourselves. Should we be surprised, then, to discover that capitalism does this too – by blurring, from the very beginning, the cognitive line between our selves and our property? …. To the extent that capitalists really think of their property as in some sense an “extension of their persons,” they will presumably act with the same instinctive irrational violence that you would expect if they were personally in danger. If there’s anything to this, then Lacan may provide us with the germ of an explanation for the frequent failure of left argumentation to foster class consciousness. The psychological compulsion to defend and rationalize the self is not something that you can persuade people to stop doing; neither logic nor appeals to conscience are going to get people to abandon a right to property that they see as a fundamental part of who they are.”

Farming — a.k.a. peasanting — is hard work:

Permaculture, no-till, it’s still risky…

News of The Wired

“Liz Phair on ‘Girly-Sound,’ what guys don’t get about “Exile in Guyville” & what changed after Trump” [Salon]. I got off the popular music train in the mid-80s, which in retrospect was a terrible mistake, because I missed a lot. Since this is a family blog, I would include the YouTube, but Phair’s material is spectacular and “still germane,” as we say.

I don’t think our systems are actually this bad:

Car repair mavens take note. Epic thread:

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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 (TH):

TH: “California Orange Poppies (state flower) line a path at the ‘Environmental Nature Center’ in Newport Beach, California. The center was developed over time by the High School that it borders, and various volunteer groups. Their (accomplished) mission was to create a xeriscape of native plants.” What an inviting garden path!

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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. Jason Boxman

    I’m glad you called out that breast cancer story quote. That jumped right out at me too… it’s EXACTLY the intended consequence of costing sharing.

    1. HotFlash

      Um, yup. That was my mom’s reaction to her diagnosis. She insisted that we all come ‘home’ for family Christmas since, she said, it would be the last one. Because the deductible started new again in January. In fact, my dad insisted, as he had pretty good coverage from his old job (back before that kind of stuff got dissolved), she did get treatment and died about 10 years later after two remissions and a lot of good times.

      But yeah, in her shoes I probably would have said the same. Oh, and my dad, who died a week ago today of lung cancer, said after his December diagnosis, “No chemo, no radiation, no heroics.”

    2. Lunker Walleye

      My sympathies, HotFlash. Jumped out at me since I’m currently undergoing treatment but do have Medicare and supplemental, and feeling privileged for it right now.

      There are groups out there who can help with funding breast cancer treatment. Links do not work for me but go to https://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/FinancialResources.html. There are others who purport to give aid, too.
      Unfortunately one should not have to jump over any more hurdles at a time when things are coming at you fast. If one has an aggressive cancer of course it is best to receive treatment asap but you can’t know that until you have pathology done. Ugh.

  2. Ed

    I am curious as to the attitudes expressed with regard to the Hawaiian volcanoes. People who move to Kansas have never seen “The Wizard of Oz”? People who moved to California never heard the word “fault”? People who like life on the Florida Keys never experienced a hurricane? The island chain is a string of volcanic rock.

    1. Arizona Slim

      What amazes me is how close the photographers and videographers to the lava spurts.

      I mean, come on. There is nothing stopping that volcano from going SPURT!

      And lava showers are just as fatal as they’ve always been.

      1. rd

        While erupting volcanoes are inherently unsafe, Hawaiian volcanic eruptions are very safe compared to plate margin subduction zone volcanoes (e.g. US West Coast, Indonesia, Japan). However, Hawaii is only there because it is a volcano, so you have to expect the potential for volcanic destruction similar to flooding if you live in a floodplain.

        The Hawaiian Island chain is the latest of a series of intraplate seamounts that dot the Pacific ocean. Because their magma comes directly from deep in the earth’s mantler, there is very little water and other gaseous compounds in it and very few minerals associated with the earth’s crust. It is a generally well-behaved basalt magma that makes layers or “shields” that build up the islands. There is virtually no ash thrown into the air and the explosions are local and minor. When the tectonic plate moves away from the magma plume, that volcano shuts down and gradually erodes while a new one is formed.

        The plate margin volcanoes, like Mount St. Helen’s, are caused by the earth’s crust of one tectonic plate sliding under another one in a “subduction zone” resulting in a high silica content, water etc. in the magma. These tend to be fairly violent volcanoes with large explosions blowing the top off the mountain (Mount St. Helens, Krakatoa, Tambora, Pompeii). That puts massive ash clouds into the air as well as lots of lava hurled out into the air. They tend to have steep slides as the silica-rich magma is pretty stable once the initial explosive violence is done. These regions also tend to be associated with the really big earthquakes and tsunamis, such as Fukashima, the Indonesian earthquakes, the Alaska 1964 quake, and the expected “Big One” of the Pacific Northwest.

        Poorly understood volcanoes include Yellowstone that seems to be a hybrid of a intraplate volcano like Hawaii overlain by lighter silica-rich continental crust with water. It has made massive basalt flows that cover much of Washington State (Columbia and Snake River Plateaus) similar to Hawaii but have also had massive explosions in the past several million years like Mount St. Helens, Krakatoa, and Tambora that leave behind large depressions (e.g. Crater Lake). The interaction of surface water with the magma can be observed regularly through the spouting of the large geysers, like Old Faithful.

        1. Oregoncharles

          I think the Columbian basalt flows came from vents in Washington. Some of them flowed all the way to the Pacific, hence the beautiful offshore “stacks” – actually volcanic plugs. Very different kind of rock from the current Cascade volcanoes. There is a theory that the same plume caused the Columbian flows, before it moved over to Yellowstone. Future eruptions might be to the NE, though they’ve now established a massive magma chamber under Yellowstone.

          It’s almost as if the Earth is trying to shake us off.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Why did the lava cross the road?

      Because it damn well felt like it.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      I just thought the lava imagery was fascinating (and of course if Gaia decided to sterilize everything and start over, lava would be one way to do it….)

  3. DWD


    Enjoy your efforts, thank you.

    The Universal Job Guarantee would be a very good thing but contrary to how I have seen it presented, I would prefer to have it in competition for entry wage workers and offering advancement into supervisory and administrative positions. If you can get a decent job working for some facet of government, this would then require private employers to compete for workers by offering more money per hour, better (any would be an improvement I suppose) benefits, and better working conditions.

    If you truly want to improve the lot of the majority of working people, this would do it.

    Of course they would never do it this way.

    1. HotFlash

      I saw something, I think, similar back in the ’60’s/’70’s here in Canada. The govt was not merely the ’employer of last resort’, but the *model* employer, and this was true at every level of govt. Benefits, security, wages — all of that. And that was what set the floor for private industry. It has changed since then, not for the better. I do not know the time-table, but I will see what I can find out.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > The govt was not merely the ’employer of last resort’, but the *model* employer, and this was true at every level of govt.

        That is exactly it. Very good framing. I’d like to hear more about that program, and what happened to it (i.e., I suppose, who sabotaged it).

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      The JG is in fact setting a baseline for private wages and working conditions, through competition (which doesn’t seem to be something that people like Booker are focusing on, perhaps because they think they can dilute or co-opt it). I don’t see any discussion about moving into supervisory administrative positions, but I don’t know of a theoretical reason it can’t be done.

  4. Altandmain

    Another example of student debt going completely out of control.


    I’m sure there are many more where that came from. Apparently it is older citizens that owe more:


    This whole thing will be a long term drag on the economy. Some form of debt jubilee is the only real way forward. Politically though it has become very difficult to do.

      1. WheresOurTeddy

        treat them like you would any other parasite, for that is what they are.

    1. zagonostra

      Who to hold accountable? Well, both the Democratic and Republican Party have let this happen. It’s time to stop supporting these two corrupt, immoral institutions, vote 3’d party(I’m assuming that votes are counted, which I’m not entirely sure of anymore)

      They’ve done unspeakable damage to the young people (and their parents & grandparents) of this nation, a whole generation is now condemned to debt peonage for simply trying to get an education. It’s time to get mad, between healthcare and education cost, there is no chance for the common bloke to get a toe hold on a decent life.

  5. Carolinian

    via Avedon and may have been linked already but this is a good story on the grift that it is Silicon Valley’s business model. If the 20th century version of the future–as described by Brave New World–worshiped Henry Ford our 21st century futurists will someday build statues to Skinner, B.F. Psychological manipulation is their modus operandi with dishonest claims about ad penetration as the excuse.


    In fairness this hard sell approach applies to all media these days. On cable tv the commercials are endless.

    1. Lee

      I too love period dramas. Almost any period will do. One thing I often wonder is to what degree the lives of ordinary people were altered by these bloody squabbles between the elites when the more catastrophic physical effects of military engagements were geographically limited as compared to modern warfare. There’s that Monty Python scene where one peasant asks another, “How do you tell who is king?” The other peasant responds, “He’s the only one not covered in shit.” Or words to that effect.

      Much of what passes for politics these days, as portrayed in the mass media, strikes me as a vicious squabble within a large extended family— a family to which I happily do not belong.

      1. Whoa Molly!

        Re: Period dramas

        The Tudors
        Downton Abbey
        A Place Called Home (1st 4 seasons)

        1. Dune Navigator

          Borgias (both Showtime and Hungarian)
          Peaky Blinders
          King’s War (2012 Chinese series re: Chu-Han contention: readers here might fancy the Han Dynasty’s founding peasant rebel: Liu Bang)

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          I was once on a long haul flight and binge-watched a season of Game of Thrones, followed by a season of Downton Abbey. Putting aside the dragons and swords, they were quite similar….

  6. Summer

    Re : “Comment: Google News is becoming ever more miserably inadequate and crapified. They only supply a limited number of stories, and unbelievably you can’t even filter by date.”

    It’s discouraging historical memory to make manipulation easier.

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      My favorite thing is when I google something and the first result is from 2017, the 2nd from 2010, the 3rd from 2013, the 4th from 2011, and none are what I am looking for.

      Remember when search engines didn’t all suck?

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        For awhile, it was possibly to argue that Google’s algorithmic newsfeed beat curation (which, let us recall, was the first way of “organizing the web,” on the model of directories like the Yellow Pages (remember them?) or back-of-the-book indexes.

        As it turns out, curation beats algo, because it’s not possible to divorce the algo from the business context in which it is created, which now discourages not only search (beyond the first result) but finding, and especially serendipitous finding.

        Surely there’s a business model here. “Search that doesn’t suck”™

  7. readerOfTeaLeaves

    Re: Ken Langone funding ‘centrist Dems’ to beat the Bernie folks.
    Wow, is he ever cynical about voters… yeesh.

    My sense from being among those very smart, incredibly motivated younger voters in the Bernie caucuses — they know they are screwed, they despise being lied to, they loathe political bullshit, and they trust Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert far more than they trust anyone ever connected with Fox.

    For them, Pelosi, et al, have no credibility. DCCC has no credibility.

    Bernie has been saying the same thing *for decades*, and basically, that vote was there for the taking all those years, but the Dems never had enough spine to go after it. Who ever thought that a grampa in his 70s with a New York accent would be the guy with more credibility than the Dems and GOP put together? Truly, life is full of wonders.

    These young voters have been lied to their whole lives, are often saddled with obscene college debt, and now have been bailing out the FIRE sector while working at lower wages with no pensions, and sometimes working more than one job. IOW, they feel screwed, lied to, and told to be an ‘audience’ by DCCC, whereas Bernie kicked their butts and told them they have to work for justice (peacefully!) if they want it. He was like Political Mentor and he has inspired a generation of smart, disgusted younger voters.

    If Ken Langone thinks that money is all it will take to douse the political embers that sprung to life in 2016, good luck with that. Money is about the last thing these voters trust. Especially when it is anywhere near politics.

    Thanks Lambert. You continue to amaze.

    1. Sid Finster

      It’s not that Team D doesn’t have the spine top go for the vote, it’s that Team D does not want to do so.

      Team D wants to be the party of affluent suburban professionals and coastal elites, with enough identity politics tokenism thrown in to make the donors feel they are doing well by doing good and also to prevent electoral implosion.

      If “winning” means having to venture out among icky flyover people and having to make and possibly even having to (gasp!) keep promises to those deplorables, well Team D doesn’t want to do that.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        It is not just that Team D doesn’t want to go for that vote. It is that Team D wants to prevent anyone else from going for that vote.

        By ” Team D” I am roughly thinking of the DCCC, the DNC, the Axis of Hoyer Pelosi, the DLC under whatever cover it hides under these days, etc.

        If BernieDems want to eliminate the power of DCCC etc., they will have to vote against every DCCC-approved candidate every single time. If they want to aSSURE that the DCCC candidate loses, they may have to vote for its Republican opponent. The DCCC and etc. won’t lose power until their touch becomes the radioactive kiss of death which destroys every hopeful career in politics every time it happens.

        1. dcblogger

          If they want to aSSURE that the DCCC candidate loses, they may have to vote for its Republican opponent.

          ahh yes, the Underpants Gnomes theory of reform
          Destroy the Democratic Party

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            I don’t think voting against DCCC candidates is the same as destroying the Democrat Party. It may be the only way to save it. Squandering the 2006 wave led to 2018 – 2006 = 12 years of bad policy (lucrative for some, of course).

          2. drumlin woodchuckles

            I don’t want to destroy the DemParty. I just want to destroy your wing of it. I want to set it free from the malignant Clintonoma and the Yersiniobama pestis infection which you support.

        2. John k

          Yes, absolutely.
          We can’t take over the dems if Dccc keeps adding blue dogs.
          Need to do tea party, primary them, if they’ve got the bucks to win the primary, vote for the rep.
          Their motto is anybody but a progressive, we’ve got return the favor and go anybody but whoever .Dccc supports.

          1. Procopius

            I have a feeling (maybe it’s just a desperate hope) that Blue Dogs aren’t going to do well this year. They did pretty well in 2006 because so many people were so fed up with Bush 43. Then in 2008 a kit if them were riding Obama’s coattails, but they got their asses handed to them in 2010, lost more in 2012, and again in 2014. I thought they were all gone. I can’t imagine where the DCCC keeps finding them. As Harry Truman pointed out, “Given a choice between a fake Republican and a real one, Republican voters are going to go for the real one every time.”

            1. Big River Bandido

              I think you are right. I think Democrats are likely to awake on Nov. 7 with a serious hangover.

              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                The only way to get the Clintobamacrat Dems to wake up with a serious hangover is to MAKE them wake up with it.

        3. Lambert Strether Post author

          > By ” Team D” I am roughly thinking of the DCCC, the DNC, the Axis of Hoyer Pelosi, the DLC under whatever cover it hides under these days, etc.

          Need to include also the donor class, the consultants, state and local apparatchiks, and possibly NGOs like CAP. It’s such a tangled mess and yet it manages to recreate itself very effectively.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            That is of course correct. And a needed reminder.

            The only way I can think of to “get rid” of the donor class is to boycott every candidate which takes the donor class’s money. The anti-donorclass Bernie Dems would need to set up Bernieform methods of raising vast numbers of repeat small-donations. The Bernie effort itself is a good stub to build out from.

            We can’t stop the Blue Doggie Dem Donors from donating. We can only hope to undermine their efforts and make them irrelevant.

  8. Katy

    Needs to be factored into the jobs guarantee: Are You in a BS Job? (Posted by Thomas Frank on his FB page)

    Could a jobs guarantee get rid of BS jobs, or would it create more of them?

    1. Arizona Slim

      Oh, brother. Is this one true.

      When I worked in the groves of academe, I was in proximity to many people who were officially classified as staff or administrative, but they didn’t have much work to do. They knew that their jobs were BS. Heck, the whole office did!

      So, how did they fill their time? Well, one of my office mates used her handy-dandy computer to write a book. A couple of the guys started a consulting business. And another guy just wandered around the office, looking for people to talk to.

        1. WobblyTelomeres

          Been a while since I read that. Maybe 45 years?

          A quote:

          One of the commonest things to do with savings is to lend them to some Government. In view of the fact that the bulk of the public expenditure of most civilized Governments consists in payment for past wars or preparation for future wars, the man who lends his money to a Government is in the same position as the bad men in Shakespeare who hire murderers. The net result of the man’s economical habits is to increase the armed forces of the State to which he lends his savings. Obviously it would be better if he spent the money, even if he spent it in drink or gambling.

          Good stuff.

      1. ambrit

        And yet, there are examples like the backhoe operator I worked with on a job in Alabama. He would make sports book during the seasons. He would stop the digging for a minute and talk into his cell phone for a moment. then he would write something down in a pocket sized notebook he always kept in his shirt pocket. I asked him, what gives? “I’m taking bets on such and such a game. The point spread is in my favour. ” “How much do you handle during an average week?” I asked. “Oh,” he thought for a moment, “Usually I’ll be exposed to about five to seven grand any week.”
        He was a d=–n good operator, in many ways.

  9. Summer

    “AI will spell the end of capitalism” [Feng Xiang, Washington Post]. “If AI rationally allocates resources through big data analysis, and if robust feedback loops can supplant the imperfections of ‘the invisible hand’ while fairly sharing the vast wealth it creates, a planned economy that actually works could at last be achievable.” I think “rationally” is doing a lot of work, there.”

    The “imperfections” of the “invisible hand” to them are that the hands are all too visible…once awake.
    “Robust feedback loops” : already plenty of those and they too are stuck on stupid.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      There will still be an Invisible Tentacles. The Invisible Tentacles of the cabal of engineers and coders who design and program the AI in their image.

      1. hunkerdown

        I am mildly surprised to see no mention of Cockshott’s research on this some 25 years ago, proving the applicability of computers to economic planning by balancing a toy economy of 3705 goods in under 3.5 minutes using neural nets, on what are small and slow machines by today’s standards. He also figured that a million-product economy would require on the order of 10-100 billion operations to balance, well within near real-time feasibility of a modest network of modern desktop PCs. On the other hand, he figured that a brute-force linear programming solution for the Soviet economy would require a computer with one petabyte of memory, a quantity that was daunting then, but simply big today.

        Feng’s statement, “individuals and private companies should not be allowed to possess any exclusive cutting-edge technology or core AI platforms,” worries me, since I can’t tell whether he is really calling upon AI to be regulated as if a munition, and therefore for the technologies of automated economic planning to be made obscure to the people they supposedly serve, and thereby opened to ruling-class manipulation. Considering the simplicity and the well-solved nature of the economic planning problem, I have to assume this is so, or that he’s hustling for grants.

        One of the destructive corollaries of the endowment effect is shown in (especially) Western societies’ tendency to spend more resources on gatekeeping resources than the resources themselves are worth.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          I never heard of Cockshott before. It could be that no-one else here heard of it before either.
          So revealing it to the readership in a comment shows one of the values and uses of a blog like this.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            I still remember the National Lampoon “news” story headline about that event.

            “Allende shoots self 47 times in head, pausing only twice to reload.”

    2. False Solace

      If AI controlled the economy and it truly did allocate wealth fairly, elites would go to war against it. How’s that for the next version of the Terminator franchise :)

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      police in riot gear at your local Macy’s.

      Just kidding, your local Macy’s already went out of business.

    2. drexciya

      This is not new; it has been done in The Netherlands as well. Unfortunately, this has been prohibited now, so it’s back to public-unfriendly actions.

  10. rcv4usa2sos

    Just because something destructive is generally anticipated doesn’t diminish its awesomeness once it occurs, nor one’s empathy with the affected. As you yourself point out, natural disasters occur everywhere, and climate change is rapidly exacerbating many of them while simultaneously introducing entirely new ones, so it’s not as if the people of Hawai’i simply being resettled somewhere without volcanoes might ultimately be their saving grace.

  11. Lee

    Class War

    Thousands of University of California Service Workers Set to Strike

    Todd Stenhouse, a spokesman for ASFCME Local 3299, the union that represents UC service workers, says the system’s low-wage workers can’t keep up with the state’s rising cost of living.

    “You have these $35,000, $40,000-a-year career custodians do the most physically demanding jobs at UC, [and] UC wants to pay even less,” Stenhouse said.

    This is happening, he says, while University of California executives continue to make more money. ASFCME released a report last month that found that the pay disparity between the highest paid UC employees and the median worker grew between 2005 and 2015, and that top administrator salaries went up 64 percent during the same period.

    Stenhouse says that women and people of color are typically the most adversely affected by this type of wage disparity. “What you have now is a university, a public university, that is literally becoming a monument to inequality in the state of California,” he said.
    Gotta love this student’s remark:

    But some students, like conservation resource studies major Grace Ferguson, say they’re more focused on finals than on walkouts.

    “I really enjoy that this campus is really involved in a lot of social movements”, Ferguson said, “but I really am frustrated when they make going to school harder.”

    Also, UCB is once again intending to build student housing on the Peoples’ Park site. I guess the days of the Free Speech movement, the Third World Strike, Peoples’ Park et al are over. Having gotten maced, tear gassed, clubbed and shotgunned at (but not hit) back in the day, I’m feeling a bit gloomy about the old Alma Mater. However, I do have to admit that being a UC student nowadays is a lot more economically risky and burdensome than it was in my time.

    1. Adelle Chattre

      Even though Hate Man passed away last year, there are still plenty of people who’ll step up to defend the park. See you there!

      1. Fiery Hunt

        People’s Park is a cesspool….drug addicted crazies and the like. Has been for 30 years.
        Berkeley likes to pretend it’s very progressive but the cost of an apartment is easily $1600 for a studio.
        And the cost of that education today? $35,000+ a year…

        Pave it.

        1. Lee

          The park and the drug addicts in it are victims of malign neglect: an offensive patch of flyover country in the midst of left coast bounty. The true obscenity lies not in the park but the system that both surrounds and it creates it.

      1. Procopius

        It probably wasn’t necessary. The old saying is, “If you want to be a leader, look at which way the crowd is marching and run to get out in front of it.” The DNC/DCCC/Blue Dogs/New Dems were all determined to do that and Clinton just wanted to look like he was in charge.

    1. Darius

      I’ve read only that Obama loathes the left, so he put up an intersectional phony in his own mold and pulled out all the stops for him. That’s how the Democrats got Perez.

    2. Whoa Molly!

      The Clintons really DO believe they are entitled to rule. The presidency is theirs by divine right. Thus insane rage at Sanders.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        “We” in general will probably need to start thinking about how to direct enough resources against Chelsea Clinton once she starts running for something that “we” in general can make sure to abort every attempt she makes at starting a political career.

        1. MDBill

          Just re-registered as a Dem (after quitting following the 2016 primary) just so I can vote for Chelsea and against neoliberal Ben Cardin. I fully realize it will make not a shred of difference in the outcome. The day after the primaries, it’s back to unaffiliated for me.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            The problem is that Chelsea was raised in the neoliberal tradition and I suspect she is equally neoliberal. Her unique distinction is being the scion of the Clinton Political Crime Family . . . and her parents’ hope of regaining relevance and control within the DemParty and making their family of Fraudulent Foundations a lucrative bribe-magnet/ influence-selling racket again.

            Does Cardin pose those particular dangers?

  12. Pelham

    Re the job guarantee and UBI, here’s a more realistic idea:

    1) We know that any healthy society needs to reproduce itself. That means 2.1 babies per woman;

    2) We know that the healthiest families are intact with two adults and children;

    3) We know that it takes a minimum of $130,000 a year (USA Today) for a family of four to have a minimally acceptable middle-class life without falling into debt peonage;

    4) We know that the optimal arrangement is for one adult to work full-time outside the home while the other adult manages the home and the kids;

    5) Therefore a realistic job guarantee/UBI should guarantee $130,000 annually (adjusted each year for inflation) to only households with two adults and at least two children, with one and only one full-time job (public or private) allotted to and mandated for each family.

    6) For spousal equity, the outside paycheck would go to the stay-at-home spouse, who would be formally entrusted with family finances as part of his or her household duties. This would be both empowering and would acknowledge the preeminent importance of maintaining the household and nuclear-family unit over whatever crappy, fractional work the spouse working outside the home happens to be occupied with.

    Anything short of the above is just a slower route to national oblivion.

    1. Hepativore

      I have heard of a variant of the universal basic income in the form of a “negative income tax”. I do not know why this would be better or worse than the normal universal basic income model. I myself am neutral on the idea of a jobs guarantee vs. a basic income, and I assume that an optimal system would be a mixture of both. This is for the reason that paying people to do busywork like digging holes or running in circles would hypothetically be wasting both the government’s time and theirs and a universal basic income might make more sense.

      There is much work to be done as well, but eventually you are going to run into the situation of there being more people than there are jobs to support them, and we may be there already. Also many of the things that need to be done such as infrastructure remodeling and development are not simply things that an untrained layman can simply do off of the street.

      Now, a jobs guarantee might be something like a transitional program to ease into a universal basic income. Along the way, I wonder how we would be able to push for the social change needed for people to determine their own paths in life while on a universal basic income and how to do things like budget and learn how to live a life without a “career” as we have traditionally defined it. We would have to put more emphasis on individual happiness and how to develop ourselves as people without a “job” occupying much of our time anymore. That might sound too utopian, but we would need to stop ourselves from thinking of people on something on a universal basic income are simply “freeloaders” especially in a place like the US were neoliberalism has drilled this mindset into us for decades.

      There are many questions to be answered, but I do not think that funding a universal basic income would be as insurmountable as we might think at first. Poverty and its co-morbid conditions cause many problems, some of which are very expensive looking at it from a purely financial standpoint. There is also the fact that you would have to redesign the tax system of the US and several other developed nations so that companies and private billionares would not be able to escape paying their share by hiding their assets overseas or in domestic tax shelters and programs. That alone should give us a large source of funding right there.

      Finally, I know that many of us on Naked Capitalism and elsewhere object to the idea of a universal basic income over a jobs guarantee on the grounds that it is also championed by right-wing kleptocrats and Silicone Valley con men and would severely botch or hamper its effectivity or execution. However, they could and would do the same thing to a jobs guarantee program if given the chance, so the financial goons and our corporate overlords are going to have to be brought to heel one way or the other.

    2. Grebo

      1) We know that there are too many people and a reduction is inevitable one way or another.

      2) We know that the healthiest families have several generations living together.

      3) We know it takes a miracle to avoid falling into debt peonage in the USA today.

      4) We know the optimal arrangement is for each family to have a home.

      5) Therefore we need a multi-generational downsizing miracle.

      6) And less authoritarianism.

    3. WheresOurTeddy

      You may be on to something here, as your program takes a tax code already completely slanted against the unmarried and childless and makes it even more so, and this entire economy is set up to punish people who don’t get married, have children, and take out mortgages. Our rulers could prattle on about “working families” while continuing to ignore those of us who either don’t want kids (yes we exist) or are smart enough to know that for those who aren’t high-born or well-connected, having children = poverty.

      People would marry their friends and adopt 2 kids just for the money. I would. Then again, in my rural part of the country, unless you work for yourself, $130K is a pipe dream. Hell, $65K is a pipe dream.

  13. hemeantwell

    To the extent that capitalists really think of their property as in some sense an “extension of their persons,” they will presumably act with the same instinctive irrational violence that you would expect if they were personally in danger. If there’s anything to this, then Lacan may provide us with the germ of an explanation for the frequent failure of left argumentation to foster class consciousness. The psychological compulsion to defend and rationalize the self is not something that you can persuade people to stop doing; neither logic nor appeals to conscience are going to get people to abandon a right to property that they see as a fundamental part of who they are.”

    Please don’t think that you need to turn to Lacan to understand this. Like any cultists, Lacanians are inclined to ignore competing theories. You can find the same ideas in the works of the Frankfurt School, for example. But, shorn of psychoanalytic terms, you can also find similar arguments in writers such as E.P. Thompson, who wrote about the fierce attachments British workers had for some tokens of the good life.

    And also note that the statement seems to foreclose any possibility of enlightenment, i.e. to having a less consumption-based identity. Historically, that’s sheer hooey, and politically useless.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the statement seems to foreclose any possibility of enlightenment

      I don’t think the article, taken as a whole, does this.

      In any case, accurate diagnosis, sadly, does not imply a cure. (Though I personally think enlightenment is coming one way or another….)

      1. hemeantwell

        Re the possibility of enlightenment, I was banking on a similarity to other Lacan-oriented work I’ve seen. Zizek is remarkable in this regard. As best as I can discern, Lacan’s attack on ego psychology has made it difficult for his followers to talk about liberatory psychoanalytically-informed reflection. Zizek tends to place his political bets on convulsive breaks from the fascinations of capitalism, breaks that are understood more as a suspension of rationality, since rationality is presumed to be system rationality, than an expression of it. It’s a position that puts him in something of a bind since he’s been promoting a reappraisal of Lenin (good thing!) who himself thought of socialism as a very rational endeavor. (If you’re interested, I’ve written about this at ideologystop.info.)

  14. marym

    Sessions: Parents, children entering U.S. illegally will be separated

    The Trump administration plans to take a tougher approach to families that enter the U.S. illegally by separating parents from their children, instead of keeping them in detention together.

    The tougher enforcement policy is another attempt to reduce the flow of illegal immigration from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Customs and Border Protection says the number of attempted border crossings by people found to be inadmissible was three times higher in April than it was during the same month last year.

    So sad and horrifying that despite such an anti-immigration administration, more people than last year are still desperate enough to try to enter the country.

    Is there any challenge the US faces that Trump and his administration have met with a policy that isn’t by design cruel, damaging, violent, or vengeful?

  15. ewmayer

    o “Volcanoes Line West Coast and Alaska” [247 Wall Street] … And yikes:

    uploading this here so you guys actually understand how insane this whole thing in hawai'i is

    One might counter with “No – ‘insane’ is living on or near one of the world’s most active volcanos and expecting it not to do what it does.”

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      tornadoes in the middle, hurricanes in the east, earthquakes in the west, choose whichever you think you’ll survive best

      At least Hawai’i is pretty.

    2. Wukchumni

      One of my hobbies is looking for prehistoric rock basins in the Sierra Nevada, and they are sunk into flat-ish granite boulders, with dimensions of around 3-4 feet wide and 3-4 feet deep. Nobody really knows how they were made, and there are over 1,000 of them on a north to south radius, almost all @ 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

      In 1929, a report was written about them, and in some basins full of duff that were excavated, there was 6 inches of lava dust, and the last volcano in California to have sent dust our way was over 1,000 years ago…

      “AMONG the many unsolved riddles that have been handed
      down by the early inhabitants of this continent to the
      present occupants is one which, so far as known, is confined
      to a single county of California, in fact, to a small section of the
      Sierra Nevada in and adjacent to Sequoia National Park.

      In that region there occur numerous smoothly rounded basins
      artfully hollowed out of the solid granite, the work of a prehistoric
      race of men of whom the present Indians know nothing. These
      cavities measure as a rule from four to five feet in diameter and
      from one to two feet in depth, and are shaped like huge wash bowls
      with smoothly curving sides and bottoms. To local residents they
      have been known for many years. But no critical examination of
      them has been made hitherto. At first they were thought to have
      been worn by the action of running water, and reports of the
      occurrence of such basins in locations where streams cannot have
      existed were given but scant credence.”


      1. Oregoncharles

        On a somewhat similar note: Apaches from southern Mexico reported that they never made arrowheads or metates (stone bowls for grinding grain); they just picked them up off the ground. They littered the place.

        That was the Chaco Canyon area.

    3. Oregoncharles

      Right on the east rift zone probably wasn’t a good place for a neighborhood. Put it down to poor land planning.

  16. Darius

    The Mosler chart almost single-handedly explains why Trump is president. It also shows why, to many, voting for the Democrats is a waste of time and effort.

  17. The Rev Kev

    “America’s Last-Ditch Climate Strategy of Retreat Isn’t Going So Well”

    Had something similar happen near where we live in a town called Grantham. They got hit hard by floods back in 2011 and about a dozen people lost their lives-


    A coupla months later the State government decided to bite the bullet and move the whole town to higher ground as it was recognized that sooner or later the same thing would happen again. There is a clip about this below but an interesting part of it was one guy mentioning that the insurance companies wanted to just pay for the whole town to be redone in the same place-


  18. Octopii

    Eric Schneiderman sexual assault accusations just published in the NYT. Is he being Spitzered, one wonders.

  19. ambrit

    About those ‘golden’ chicken wings. The caption boggles the mind. Kardashians have friends???
    At that level of ‘influence’ I’d suspect that ‘cliques’ become ‘claques.’
    To shamelessly steal from the “Car Talk” guys; ‘Clique’ and ‘Claque,’ the Excess Brothers. “Don’t network like my brother.” “No. Don’t network like my brother!”
    See you in the Hamptons!

    1. cnchal

      > Kardashians have friends???

      We both know they have entourages, like the mustache tweezers and stirrup polishers in David Graeber’s bullshit jawbs article.

      Chloe was a minor player, which is one reason she could be so clear-eyed about what was really going on. As another academic put it, “Every dean needs his vice dean and subdean, and each of them needs a management team, secretaries, admin staff, all of them only there to make it harder for us to teach, to research, to carry out the most basic functions of our jobs.” University professors have to spend increasing proportions of their days performing tasks which exist only to make overpaid academic managers feel good about themselves. These managers surround themselves with officious armies of functionaries who are little more than the kind of feudal retainer a medieval knight might employ to tweeze his mustache or polish the stirrups on his saddle before a joust.

  20. The Rev Kev

    “Hillary Clinton Thought About Moving to New Zealand After Losing Election to Trump”

    That boat has long since sailed. New Zealand used to be run by a Prime Minister named John Key that in a former life was a banker who picked up the nickname of the “smiling assassin”. It was in this era that NC started to get more and more stories on shenanigans coming out of New Zealand. I think that Clinton would have found herself among friends with people like Peter Thiel and John Key. But now New Zealand has a new Prime Minister named Jacinda Ardern who sounds like that she would be more comfortable in the company of Bernie Sanders (she called capitalism a “blatant failure”). In any case, New Zealand is over 4,000 kilometers away from Australia and if Clinton was in New Zealand that is still far too close for my liking.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Weird that. When I put ‘distance Australia to New Zealand’ into Google it came up with that figure but doing it again can see that it is from the center of each country. Out of curiosity, any idea why NZ media’s fawning behaviour? I thought the red pantsuit a bit over the top myself. A hangover from the Key years perhaps?

        1. Conrad

          All of New Zealand’s actual TV journalists decamped for Al Jazeera ages ago?

          That or the classic colonial cringe. Gotta serve the Imperial Masters (even the failed ones) after all.

    1. ChrisPacific

      She might be able to help us with our Russian spy problem. We can’t seem to find any, so we didn’t expel any Russians and are probably offside with the US State Department in consequence. I bet she would track them down for us in short order.

  21. Luke

    May 7, 2018 at 4:07 pm
    “Re the job guarantee and UBI, here’s a more realistic idea:

    1) We know that any healthy society needs to reproduce itself. That means 2.1 babies per woman;

    2) We know that the healthiest families are intact with two adults and children;

    3) We know that it takes a minimum of $130,000 a year (USA Today) for a family of four to have a minimally acceptable middle-class life without falling into debt peonage;

    4) We know that the optimal arrangement is for one adult to work full-time outside the home while the other adult manages the home and the kids;

    5) Therefore a realistic job guarantee/UBI should guarantee $130,000 annually (adjusted each year for inflation) to only households with two adults and at least two children, with one and only one full-time job (public or private) allotted to and mandated for each family.

    6) For spousal equity, the outside paycheck would go to the stay-at-home spouse, who would be formally entrusted with family finances as part of his or her household duties. This would be both empowering and would acknowledge the preeminent importance of maintaining the household and nuclear-family unit over whatever crappy, fractional work the spouse working outside the home happens to be occupied with.

    Pelham, you’ve got multiple deficiencies with your proposal.

    First, what about people who are clearly unable to be peaceable (nonviolent, nonMuslim, not thieves or otherwise PITAs to neighbors), let alone law-abiding productive and healthy-living (avoiders of recreational chemical abuse, nonillegal aliens, show up to work and do the actual job, nonretarded IQs, nonincestous/ homosexual/ polygamous/into bestiality, having sex outside their marriage, keeping up their property, confining their animals, etc.)? Those people hardly need encouraging in their lifestyles, let alone reproducing.

    Second, there is the commonly view among the peaceful productive basically wrong with subsidizing the nonproductive to increase their numbers and power. This is why restrictions on political activism (not just voting, but demonstrating, petitioning, etc.) and reproduction by those on welfare are so perennially appealing, as well as seeming wise.

    Third, you already have the husband/father set up to look nonessential, through the paycheck coming not through his demonstrated value to the world in a free market, but via what amounts to charity. This is more likely than not going to lead to his wife’s hypergamy leading her to viewing him as nonattractive (her becoming exclusively unpleasant, deadbedding, wife infidelity. cuckolding, and wife-filed frivorce court ex-husband rape, here they come) and giving his paycheck directly to her? You might as well just skip the married and father living there part, since it’s not going to last, and go straight to the inner-city bastardy-R-Us housing projects.

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