2:00PM Water Cooler 12/11/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Trade

“As Battle Over NAFTA 2.0 Heats Up, New Report Documents 25 Years of NAFTA’s Disproportionate Damage to U.S. Latino and Mexican Working People” [Eyes on Trade]. “‘While President Trump’s manipulation of grievances over trade and immigration brought him to power, absent from his worldview is the reality that NAFTA was developed by and for multinational corporations seeking to pay workers less and has hurt both U.S. and Mexican workers,’ said Hector Sanchez, executive director of LCLAA at a Press Club event today. ‘Indeed, NAFTA’s destruction of millions of Mexican small farmers’ livelihoods and the pact’s race-to-the-bottom wage incentives have pushed many in Mexico to search for work outside their home country'” (original).

“China Is Said to Move Toward Lower Tariffs on US-Made Cars” [Industry Week]. “China is moving toward cutting its trade-war tariffs on imported U.S.-made cars, a step already claimed by President Donald Trump as a concession won during trade talks in Argentina. A proposal to reduce tariffs on cars made in the U.S. to 15% from the current 40% — bringing the U.S. back in line with what other countries pay — has been submitted to China’s Cabinet to be reviewed in the coming days, according to people familiar with the matter. … The step hasn’t been finalized and could still change. While reversing the retaliatory duty is a major climb-down by Beijing, it could re-focus the two sides toward implementing the trade-war truce agreed earlier this month.”

Politics

“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

2020

“Bloomberg: Democrats are looking for a ‘middle of the road’ strategy” [WaPo]. “‘I think most Democrats want a middle-of-the-road strategy,’ Bloomberg said, after being asked whether he could navigate the Democratic nominating contests, which tend to draw the party’s more-liberal members. ‘They want to make progress, but they’re not willing to go and to push something that has no chance of ever getting done and wasting all their energy on that.'” • Why doesn’t it have any chance of being done, Mike? Because billionaires like you don’t want it?

“Beto Got $430,000 From Individuals in Oil and Gas. Should We Care?” [Sludge]. “O’Rourke broke the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge—a commitment to reject campaign donations over $200 from fossil fuel PACs and executives that was endorsed by 16 environmental groups—which he signed.” • A useful nugget, but this is a reall good long-form look at the entire controversy, concluding: “The idea that tweeting out interesting campaign finance findings, or in the case of Liz Bruenig, offering her leftist opinions on what she sees as shortcoming on O’Rourke’s part, is bad for democracy is wrong.” • When liberal Democrats say “our democracy,” that’s what they mean: their democracy.

“The BETO Backlash Is Causing Some Democrats Whiplash” [Down with Tyranny]. Beto has other money issues:

When he ran for Congress as a reformer in 2012– against an entrenched conservative Democrat, Silvestre Reyes– he seemed like an idealistic kid. He was 40. Blue America endorsed him in a largely ignored primary. But we weren’t the only outside group supporting him. A group financed by conservative billionaires, Campaign for Primary Accountability (the No Labels of its day) spent heavily against Reyes. In fact they spent more in the TX-16 race than in any of the 14 districts they contested in 2012– $240,000 helping to elect Beto. Aside from Beto’s father-in-law, William Sanders, the top donors were all right-wing Republicans, mostly from Texas, who support charter schools and want to privatize Medicare:

• Leo Linbeck- $1,515,042
• Joe Ricketts- $500,000
• Tim Dunn- $500,000
• Eric O’Keefe- $100,000
• Jonathan Farber- $100,000

Beto’s biggest single contributor was the Hunt Companies (developers) whois 2012 gave massively to Republicans and… Beto– Texas Conservative Fund ($225,000), NRSC ($217,300), Mitt Romney ($33,250), RNC ($31,110), Ted Cruz ($25,500) David Dewhurst ($20,000), NRCC ($19,100)… only Republicans plus Beto. Worth mentioning that they kept right on supporting Beto. in the 2016 cycle, for example, as they were writing over $2.1 million in checks to Jeb Bush’s campaign and over $200,000 each to the RNC and the NRCC, they also supported one Democrat– Beto– with $39,300. In 2014 they backed candidates like Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Boehner (R-OH), Ed Gillespie (R-VA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mitt Romney (R-UT) and one Democrat– Beto, who got more than any of them.

“Democrats’ 2020 battle royale is going to be brutal, dirty, and totally worthwhile” [Ryan Grim, The Week]. “This doesn’t need to be some gentlemanly parlor discussion, where everyone agrees to disagree and shake hands afterwards. The politics of health care, financial regulation, foreign policy, and so on have enormous moral stakes. Liberals and leftists generally disagree on Medicare-for-all versus ObamaCare, whether big banks should be broken up, whether America’s imperial machinery should be drastically scaled back, and much more. It will likely get pretty heated and personal, and that is simply to be expected…. [I]t’s going to be a rough 18 months or so before someone comes out on top. But there is no way out but through. Let’s lace up and slug it out.” • I welcome their hatred….

Opportunity for the right candidate in Iowa:

2018 Post Mortem

FL: “Thousands Of Mailed Ballots In Florida Were Not Counted” [CBS]. “The Department of State last week informed a federal judge that 6,670 ballots were mailed ahead of the Nov. 6 election but were not counted because they were not received by Election Day. The tally prepared by state officials includes totals from 65 of Florida’s 67 counties. Three statewide Florida races, including the contest for governor, went to recounts because the margins were so close.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Class Attitudes in the 2018 Midterms” [Data for Progress]. “The results clearly show that class attitudes were meaningfully associated with major party preference in the 2018 midterms. Otherwise-equal respondents with more sympathy toward the poor or resentment toward the rich were significantly more likely to favor Democratic candidates, while respondents who prefer the status quo income distribution were more likely to prefer Republicans.” • That’s a rather impoverished notion of class.

“Pilots of risk-limiting election audits in California and Virginia” [Freedom to Tinker]. “What is a risk-limiting audit, and how do you perform one? An RLA is a human inspection of a random sample of the paper ballots (or batches of ballots)—using a scientific method that guarantees with high confidence that if the voting machines claimed the wrong winner, then the audit will declare, “I cannot confirm this election,” in which case a by-hand recount is appropriate. This is protection against voting-machine miscalibration, or against fraudulent hacks of the voting machines.” • Get digital out of the equation entirely, and you simplify the audit. “The cheapest, fastest, and most reliable components of a computer system are those that aren’t there.” –Gordon Bell

Stats Watch

Producer Price Index (Final Demand), November 2018: “A jump in wholesale food prices and traction in service prices offset an expected drop in energy prices making for a 0.1 percent increase in headline producer prices for November which is 1 tenth higher than Econoday’s consensus for no change” [Econoday]. “Though there are signs of traction in this report apart from energy, the wider trend is mixed with the overall year-on-year rate down.” And: “The Producer Price Index declined year-over-year. Energy prices was the major factor in this decline – and but was partially offset by services inflation lead by transport and warehousing” [Econintersect].

NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, November 2018: “Optimism among small business owners ebbed to the lowest level in 7 months. …[T]he weakness was broad-based… ” [Econoday]. “Capital spending plans declined…, which however remains among the strongest readings of the recovery…. Although the November survey shows a weakening of optimism, it appears to reflect frustration with growth constraints brought about by a lack of qualified new labor, as well as with the associated impact of wage hikes on profit margins and higher selling prices….” And: “November 2018 Small Business Optimism: Declined But Remains Historically High” [Econintersect]. And: “Most of this survey is noise, but there is some information” [Calculated Risk]. “Usually small business owners complain about taxes and regulations (currently 2nd and 3rd on the ‘Single Most Important Problem’ list). However, during the recession, ‘poor sales’ was the top problem. Now the difficulty of finding qualified workers is the top problem.”

Retail: “Amazon.com Inc. is fighting a barrage of seller scams that may have been aided by its own employees. The company has fired several workers suspected of helping supply independent merchants with inside information” [Wall Street Journal]. “The crackdown is the result of a constant battle underway deep within the inner workings of Amazon’s website, with merchants sabotaging rivals and using data along with various techniques aimed at promoting their products over those of their competitors. There’s even a black market for Amazon wholesaler accounts, which sellers use to gain access to volumes of product listings.” • The “workers” sound like professional employeers, not warehouse workers.

Retail: “The holidays are turning into an inventory management contest between toy sellers and consumers. Toy sales in the first two weeks of November were down by mid-teen percentages at brick-and-mortar stores” [Wall Street Journal]. “The early results suggest storefronts may not get the boost they were expecting from the demise of Toys “R” Us. The iconic chain’s liquidation has pushed merchants like Walmart Inc. and Target Corp. to ramp up toy stocks. But mass-market retailers are loath to build up inventories too much and face cut-rate sales to start the New Year. UBS says those merchants are playing it safe with sparse inventory in the final week before Christmas, which will likely send more customers online.” • Death spiral?

Shipping: “U.S.-bound retail container volume set new record, says Port Tracker” [Logistics Management]. “Volumes have been coming in at higher-than-usual levels in recent month, with retailers importing merchandise in advance of what was expected to be coming tariff increase in January….. Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett wrote in the report that 2019 is not expected to yield the same volume levels as 2018. ‘When taking into account economic activity overseas that impacts the United States, we see a significant slowdown in import growth in 2019 as the market adjusts to higher prices due to the Trump tariffs and the impact on consumer and industry confidence going forward,’ he wrote…. ‘We project that imports at our monitored ports will have grown significantly in 2018, but that there will be no import growth in the first half of 2019 compared with the same period of 2018.'”

Shipping: “Trucking rates continue to climb as carriers retain pricing power” [FreightWaves]. “[T]rucking rates continues to surge, however, driven by another large gain in long-distance trucking rates…. Gains during the month were largely driven by long-distance truckload services…. Both truckload and LTL services enjoyed healthy gains during the month.”

Supply Chain: “The supply chain behind turning unusual materials into textiles” [Supply Chain Dive]. “Development takes time, and the world can’t wait for a major disaster to start developing them. “That’s why the world needs alternative fibers, to make them more eco-friendly and sustainable,” said Yang, who teaches courses in textiles, merchandising and fashion design, as well as biological systems engineering…. As a result, businesses are mining waste products for fiber production. They’re fermenting agricultural components not used for human consumption. And they’re taking scraps of material, which were formerly incinerated, and weaving new yarns. The developers are driven by a sense of purpose, but they’re also fashion insiders. The alternative materials impact many parts of the supply chain, including sourcing, manufacturing and operations.” • Materials like: “Banana stalks. Pineapple leaves. Squeezed oranges. Mushroom roots. Corn. Spoiled milk. Wood pulp. Soy beans. Chicken feathers.”

Supply Chain: “Supply chain disruptions hit record high” [DC Velocity]. “[Supply chain risk management firm Resilinc.] released its first half 2018 EventWatch Supply Chain Disruption Report in late November, noting a record 1,069 disruptive events within a six month period, the highest since the company began monitoring such events in 2010. Of those, more than 300 events—including natural disasters, weather-related incidents and factory fires—directly affected continuity of supply, the company said…. The company said natural disasters and weather-related events continued to be a major source of disruption around the world in the first half of 2018, especially in the United States, continuing a trend started in 2017. The company added that North America continues to be the region most affected by supply chain disruptions.”

The Bezzle: “Uber manager in March: ‘We shouldn’t be hitting things every 15,000 miles'” [Ars Technica]. “Miller quit his job at Uber in March 2018 and went on to lidar startup Luminar. Before he left the company he sent an email to Eric Meyhofer, the leader of Uber’s self-driving car project, about safety problems at the company. The email, which was obtained by The Information’s Amir Efrati, is absolutely scathing…. Miller noted that on the Friday before the email (March 9, 2018), an Uber prototype ‘drove on the sidewalk for several meters.'” • I hope whoever’s doing the valuations for Uber’s IPO has a realistic appreciation of the quality of their software, and their software engineering.

Tech: “Most Experts Think AI Will Make the World a Better Place” [Courthouse News]. “Areas like transportation, farming, smart communities,businesses process could use AI to cut down on wasted time and money and offer individuals a future free of pressing cares and overwork.” • Unsurprising, since this has totally been the trend for the last forty years, or so…

Transportation: “EASA permits Trent 1000 waiver over blade issues” [FlightGlobal]. “European safety regulators have permitted Rolls-Royce a temporary deviation from requirements to comply fully with certification criteria, while it continues investigating blade cracking on the Trent 1000… While inspection regimes have been implemented to ensure airworthiness, EASA says the initiation of cracking is ‘normally not in line’ with the engine certification criteria which demand high-cycle fatigue life. Rolls-Royce has proposed to EASA, however, that it can meet an equivalent level of safety if it can demonstrate that the crack initiation and propagation mechanisms are sufficiently understood to claim that they will not result in component failure.” • Seems legit.

Transportation: “Rough Roads: Will Political Uncertainty Slow Automotive Innovation?” [Industry Week]. “What may already be dealing a blow to U.S. innovation is the Trump administration’s proposed freezing of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards for passenger vehicles. The proposal, which on the fast track for approval, would reduce the fuel economy requirements for new cars, which were to top out at 54 mpg in 2025, by 15+ mpg.” • Seems like the kind of innovation one would want.

Transportation: “Delta bans kittens and puppies as support animals on all flights and all emotional-support animals on longer hauls” [MarketWatch]. “Delta said it amended its animal policy after finding an 84% increase in reported incidents involving service and support animals in 2016 and 2017, ‘including urination/defecation, biting and even a widely reported attack by a 70-pound dog.'” • Good. Now, about babies…

Transportation: “San Diego’s Bird Scooter Hoarding Problem (with screencaptures” [Scott Research]. “I signed up to be a Bird Charger a few months ago thinking how great it would be if I could charge 3 Bird Scooters at night… Over the next few weeks I drove more in gas then I would find scooters. The problem is all the scooters are in people’s homes… Is the hoarding to steal the scooters or is it to get more from charging the scooters by waiting until they are worth $20 each. Sometimes people will have multiple $20 Birds in their home but are not charging them, the pins [on the Bird map] stay in the same places regardless of the values on the charging.” • Harder to do with public transportation; a bus to too big to keep in one’s living room or den, let alone a subway car.

The Fed: “Hawkish former Dallas Fed president says he doesn’t understand doves like Kashkari” [MarketWatch]. “Fisher seemed to have some animus toward the Minneapolis Fed president, who he later referred to as ‘Mr. Kardashian.'” • Wherever you look, rational actors….

Honey for the Bears: “The “Everything Bubble” Has Popped” [Safe Haven]. “It’s said that ‘every bubble is in search of a pin.’ History certainly shows they always manage to find one… Rather than the “pin”, what’s important to focus on is the “pop” — what the aftermath will be. The duration and height of a bubble is directly correlated with the scope of the destruction its bursting will wreak, as is the number of asset classes that get caught up in the mania.” • I dunno. The rest of the article seems to me to be a little overwrought. Readers, what about the distinction between the (real economy) business cycle and the (unreal economy) credit cycle; does that makes sense, or is it glorified chart-reading?

Gaia

“Undercover Cells: New Estimate of the Microbes Beneath the Continents” [Deep Carbon Observatory]. “Barring any surprises in cell abundance from under-sampled regions in the Southern Hemisphere, the researchers estimate that 200 to 600 octillion microbes live in the continental subsurface. These cells represent about four to 13 petagrams of carbon, (each petagram is about one billion tons, or more than five million blue whales), which is approximately four to 10 times less than earlier estimates. Previous calculations may have overestimated the number of subsurface cells by extrapolating cell counts from groundwater samples, and by basing estimates on only a handful of sites. Not only do these cells constitute an underground reservoir of organic carbon, but their metabolic activities also impact the cycling of carbon in the subsurface. The researchers also attempted to estimate the total dizzying diversity of microbes in the subsurface, but the number of species was harder to pin down” (original).

Water

“Trump Administration Poised to Scale Back Obama-Era Clean Water Protections” [Governing]. “The administration’s plan for a vastly scaled-down Clean Water Rule is expected to be released as soon as Tuesday…. [T]he Environmental Protection Agency intends to strip federal protections from all of the nation’s wetlands and many streams that do not flow year-round…. ‘The previous administration’s 2015 rule wasn’t about water quality,’ the [administration’s] draft talking points said. ‘It was about power — power in the hands of the federal government over farmers, developers and landowners.'” • You say that like it’s a bad thing.

Class Warfare

Zeitgeist watch:

“Defying Predictions, Union Membership Isn’t Dropping Post-Janus” [Governing]. “According to Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, ‘After the Janus case, public-service workers are choosing to join AFSCME at a much higher rate than those who drop.’… In the meantime, state unions are seeing similar trends to AFSCME.” • Examples from CA, IL, PA, OR.

“Do Americans marry for love or money? Finally, an answer” [MarketWatch]. “Some 56% of Americans say they want a partner who provides financial security more than ‘head over heels’ love (44%).” And now for the survey methodology: “Merrill Edge polled more than 1,000 people aged 18 to 40 with investable assets between $20,000 and $250,000.” So I guess all those people with less than $400 in the bank are marrying for love, then? Good for them. Cf. 1 Corinthians 13.

“Are We Trying to Make Everyone an Aristocrat or a Peasant?” [Benjamin Studebaker]. “[F]reedom from necessity is so important for the left. Time is the most valuable thing. If you don’t control your time, you’re not free. Scarcity makes us surrender our time, if not to our boss or the collective then to necessity itself. There is no freedom until scarcity is dead. We can democratise the workforce, we can give people more say at work, but until it’s possible for all people to choose to be idle and still have their basic needs met, we’re not free. Until then, we will keep twisting our notions of the good life to justify our own submission to the demands of scarcity. We will keep living in mental prisons. Some of us might choose to do manual labour even if we were freed from necessity–we might not all run off to join Plato’s academy. But as long as we make people do it, as long as they don’t choose to do it, we cannot be sure that we’re not all rationalising our own lot in life. The sad thing is that we don’t have real abundance yet. We can’t give people real choices.” • The class analysis (“aristocrat” or “peasant” is a bit glib. But this on time is spot on.

News of the Wired

“The MAD Computer Program” [MAD Magazine]. From October 1985, still germane.

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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 writes: “Female Allen’s Hummingbird investigating Leucospermum “Patricia” (better known as “Pincushions”) at University of California at Irvine Arboretum.” I love hummingbirds!

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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.

70 comments

    1. Yves Smith

      Thanks! Monday is the day the Investment Committee meets, and any member of the public can speak for 3 minutes on any action item (one where the board is set to vote; this can include demanding to speak from the auditorium if the board puts a motion on an information item, i.e., one where they hadn’t planned to make any decisions) as well as at the very end, in the “Public Comments” agenda, on any topic. Since CalPERS is handling its private equity “new business model” in closed session, the time to speak is during the public comments agenda item, unless you see another point you’d also like to make with respect to the earlier agenda items.

      Reply
  1. Roger Smith

    This press meeting between Trump, Pelosi, and Schumer (quiet Pence, batteries not included) is absolutely phenomenal. If Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing, then he is an accidental genius here. He owns all the cards here. The prime invocation is that of Israel’s success with the wall. Amazing play. Pelosi and Schumer are in Israel’s pockets so what do they do? Either support both or neither. What they attempt to do is to create a fake third argument about how doing more of the same is a good thing, which in terms of border security means to continue decades of hodge podges of nothing. Meanwhile Trump’s argument cites stats (whether right or not is irrelevant) that show where walls are in practical use, things are much better with border enforcement. So which side should it be? The more of nothing side, or the prospective solution side?

    You can tell just how unsettled these two rats are from the start. They can’t even make eye contact with Trump. Pelosi is drowning in the corner claiming this shouldn’t be a public debate. Nonsense! Trump showing this to the citizens of this country is one of the best things he’s done. All of these meetings should be public. She also pretends to claim she is looking out for the American people, what a joke. Meanwhile, Schumer basically says that North Dakota and Indiana are lost causes to even care about (nice strategy there Senate leader of the party). This was an incredible display, well worth the watch.

    When Trump has to defend this meeting as transparency to counter a Congressional Majority leaders claims, should that person really be in office? Why do people keep voting for this corpse? These people think Trump is dumb and that they can go in citing the Washington Post while acting smug (Schumer) and get out of there with the upper hand. It doesn’t matter that Trump is barely saying anything, at least it is something.

    Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Keep the Powder Dry Reid’s right hand man is unlikely to have been a power behind the throne type as much as a useful idiot. While largely serving as a tool of the powerful, he’s not really cut out to make moral arguments against the powerful. Given how awful the Senators are, it’s not really a surprise Schumer would be brought back. He’s odious enough on the surface he deflects from individual senators who can lament the leadership as if they had nothing to do with it.

      Reply
    2. RUKidding

      If my failing memory serves, Trump promised numerous times that Mexico would pay for the wall. I believe he even discussed it with former President Nieto. Why isn’t Trump discussing this now with current President Obrador?

      Why am I, as a US taxpayer, supposed to pay for this wall, which Trump promised Mexico would pay for? Why should US citizens suffer from a government shut down when Trump hasn’t explored all of his options with Mexico?

      Yes, these are serious questions, not snark.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Trump as a relative newcomer to Washington has an easy out: “NATIONAL SECURITY ARBLE GARBLE.” The press will shut their brains off as such as they are.

        Political battles are their own thing but not in vacuums. Not demanding accountability for “NATIONAL SECURITY!!!!” as a panacea has led to an easy way to deflect all these issues. Ronnie Raygun liked to alert Americans to Communist infiltrators coming from South of the border (wink, wink) to take advantage of all our stuff.

        Reid and Pelosi are not the people for this job.

        Reply
          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            The whole promise of making Mexico pay tribute is an absurd one to begin with or at least an outwardly aggressive one. Trump made it this far with a crazy promise. Poking holes in the logic only works when the person is vaguely reasonable, hence why pointing out the flaws in GOP philosophy has never hurt their electoral fortunes.

            Opposing crazy isn’t done by engaging them. The opposition needs to have clear alternatives to both whatever crazy is and alternatives that actually matter.

            Reply
      2. anon in so cal

        Would be interesting to know what % of those opposed to a border wall are in favor of open borders.

        Maybe most people want neither? If people want neither, then what do they want and/or recommend?

        US taxpayers are paying for ‘illegal’ immigration in numerous ways. In California, many school-age children are undocumented. Many are lagging in their schoolwork, for various reasons. So, there are federal grants and programs to assist them academically, with the hope of nurturing them through college graduation, at minimum. For one federally-funded program, ” FY 2019 Congress appropriated $360 million for GEAR UP, a $10 million increase over the prior year.” In California (and maybe in other states, as well), the students served are mainly undocumented.

        So, do taxpayers pay, one way or another?

        https://www2.ed.gov/programs/gearup/funding.html

        https://www.edpartnerships.org/about-gear-up/

        Reply
        1. JBird4049

          It is getting more difficult for the poor of any status to complete their schooling at any educational level especially in places like California. Remaining housed, fed, and paying for school is getting harder and harder. And stressful. If you are a child and your family is on the street that can make learning beyond difficult.

          So, while I want immigration cut waaaaaayyy back and do not like the large numbers of people here illegally, I am unhappy with blaming them for being tools of the neoliberal elites for crushing my fellow Americans. The (illegal) immigrants are here for the same reasons as the Americans already here are suffering. Their home countries economies have been destroyed. The American led neoliberal regime has systematically destroyed the governments and economies of entire states and countries ostensibly for freedom and democracy but really for the enrichment of the wealthy by immiserating everyone else.

          Reply
    3. marym

      He’s always saying something, though not necessarily something based on facts.

      According to the transcript he said again at this meeting that his wall is already being built. According to Daniel Dale at the Toronto Star he’s said this at least 77 times as of 12/05/2018. Some specific fact checks:

      11/26/2018

      in fact: Construction on Trump’s border wall has not started. When Trump has claimed in the past that wall construction has begun, he has appeared to be referring to projects in which existing fencing is being replaced. The $1.6 billion Congress allocated to border projects in 2018 is not for the type of giant concrete wall Trump has proposed: spending on that kind of wall is expressly prohibited in the legislation, and much of the congressional allocation is for replacement and reinforcement projects rather than new construction.

      04/03/2018

      in fact: Trump has given various definitions of “the wall,” so we often cut him some slack in checking his claims about it, but it is false that the U.S. government has started building his wall. He seemed to be referring to a project in which a 2.25-mile stretch of existing wall in California is being replaced by a taller wall. That project was proposed in 2009, and the Los Angeles Times reported that Border Patrol spokesperson Jonathan Pacheco told reporters in March: “First and foremost, this isn’t Trump’s wall. This isn’t the infrastructure that Trump is trying to bring in. … This new wall replacement has absolutely nothing to do with the prototypes that were shown over in the San Diego area.”

      Link – then filter by topic, click on immigration, search on wall. Then click on the counter (77) for each example. Toronto Star is paywalled after 5 articles.

      Maybe should just say the wall is already built.

      Reply
    4. JohnnyGL

      Wow, you weren’t kidding…

      I got flashbacks of the Republican Primary debates where Trump showed off his special talent for getting people to make fools of themselves. He’s doing the same to Pelosi and Schumer as he did to Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

      My take: Pelosi/Schumer repeatedly said ‘no govt shut down’, Trump said ‘give me the wall or the govt shuts down’. It doesn’t take a lot of brainpower to figure out how this plays out. Trump’s definitely getting his wall.

      Reply
      1. Robert Valiant

        Trump’s definitely getting his wall.

        Likely depends on what the definition of “his wall” is. I’m confident he’ll say he won, regardless of the outcome. Trump, a post-modern president, never loses.

        Reply
        1. Lynne

          And wouldn’t a shutdown mean limited staffing? What impact would that have on all those investigations some Democrats are champing at the bit to start? Or on processing comments on proposed rule changes (like on wetlands). But now, Trump is on record as saying that the reason they can’t have them is because he wants to protect national security. And Schumer and Pelosi agreed that the reason would be over the wall, not for any other reason. On top of dissing North Dakota, which used to be an actual liberal state?

          And they think they won?

          Reply
    5. John

      More of the same from Trump. He sounded like Baghdad Bob. Everything is fine, pay no attention to the indictments and sentencings, we have a great chief of staff, no hurry to fill this job (that no one wants). Just one lie after another. I think he feels the walls closing in. The desperation is showing.

      Reply
      1. Chris

        I’m really not sure about that. You have the two leaders of the Democrat party smirking about Indiana and North Dakota. You have the President of the USA saying he will take the blame for shutting down the government rather than agree to making US citizens less safe.

        I think we’re operating under the whole two realities thing we’ve discussed on NC before. I can see where fans of Schumer and Pelosi will love that they “stood up to Trump.” I can see where fans of Trump will love that he was consistent with his principles and defended them even if it’s politically risky to do so.

        We’ll see how this plays out over the next several days I guess. But I don’t see how this isn’t something that is played completely differently depending on which media bubble you stick your head in.

        Reply
      2. kareninca

        He looked healthy and relaxed to me. Mildly irritated, but that was about it. Schumer’s skin tone was oddly grey.

        Reply
    1. ewmayer

      Oh, brother, talk about pollyannaish digital-cash shilldom:

      A Fed-issued and -administered digital dollar will be every bit as uniform and elastic as the Fed-issued and administered pre-digital dollar has been. Indeed it will likely be even more easily managed thanks to the superior tracking ability afforded by DLT. It will also, I predict, be something more: Because of the speed, reliability, and tractability of distributed-ledger-tracked credits and debits, a Fed-administered payment ledger will render quite feasible something that would have been difficult until recently: what I elsewhere call ‘Citizen Central Banking.’

      That’s right, we shall soon be able to ‘cut out the banks’ as proverbial ‘middlemen’ between our citizens and their central bank. All citizens will be able to maintain what I call ‘Citizen Accounts’ with the Fed. Not only will all citizens be ‘banked’ – no one ‘unbanked’ – in these circumstances, but the Fed will then have more potent monetary policy instruments at its disposal as well.

      In the midst of recession or liquidity trap, for example, our central bank will no longer need supply cheap money to private banks and then hope they’ll lend it to ordinary citizens so’s to prime the consumer spending pump. Instead it can credit our Citizen Accounts directly. The ‘pushing on a string problem’ that so plagued the Fed’s QE strategies in 2009-12 will be much diminished. By the same token, when spending appears to be ‘overheating’ and inflationary pressures loom, the Fed can simply offer or raise interest payments on Citizen Accounts.

      Direct central banking, in short, is apt to be far more effective even than indirect central banking has been. And the new digital dollar – still Fed-issued, still Fed-administered – will make that more feasible than it’s ever been.

      Hey, that “superior tracking ability” – that couldn’t possibly be abused for less-than-citizen-centric purposes, could it? You know, like using the threat of cutting people off from the legitimate economy via a few remote keystrokes i order to punish dissent, that sort of thing? And re. the recessionary-spending-incentivization scenario, instead of the Digi-Fed crediting our Citizen Accounts directly, could it also maybe impose, say a 5%-per-year – or even 5%-at-midnight-on-date-X – monetary devaluation regime on our savings in order to encourage us to do our patriotic duty and go out there and spend our savings before they evaporate? I just want to be sure I understand all the wonderful policy possibilities which will surely make our lives ever so much better, thanks. /sarc

      And LOL at “Because of the speed, reliability, and tractability of distributed-ledger-tracked credits and debits” — as illustrated by, say, the speed, reliability, and tractability of the BitCoin DL system? The one that requires climate-threatening amounts of continuous computing power to maintain, and whose transaction-processing is slow as molasses, relatively speaking?

      Reply
      1. ChrisAtRU

        Well I must confess, I did not take as dim a view as you (and apparently one other person) did. My read was that RH was articulating what could be possible, as opposed to advocating for a move to purely digital currency. The aim of the article was clear to me as a counter to the notion that BitCoin and all its Alt-variants are the way forward and/or will eventually supplant a national/state currency. The historical context was also a focus for me as well – i.e. we’ve been here before in the world of “bank notes” and we’ll are half way there with the world of digital coins.

        As far as the “threat of cutting people off from the legitimate economy” in order to “punish dissent”, well perhaps you know how sanctions against nation states work? It’s taking the idea you posited to the macro level, but that makes it even more odious – entire economies punished by the global (nee western) financial hegemony for the sin of “not being aligned with American/Western (imperial) interests”.

        Your “government devaluation theory” is misguided. Have you experienced commercial banking fees? The ATM charges? The minimum “account maintenance” charges? When I was unemployed in NYC years ago, I got a card from Chase (or Citi, can’t remember) as the means by which the unemployment funds were dispersed. Once I became employed I forgot about it and had a small sum left in the account. One day I received a letter saying that the account was terminated because they had been withdrawing a monthly fee and the account was now empty. Everything you accuse the government of potentially doing is already done to some degree by commercial banks – fees are a tax that reduce the net value of your monetary holdings. But I understand to a degree. Decades of #Kakistocracy and #Kleptocracy in American government no doubt lead to this kind of paranoia sometimes. My answer to that is pretty much why I came to #NC – a better world is possible and people like Yves and the team here are giving us the information and the impetus to build it. If all we ever did was succumb to the fear that the big bad gubmint was gonna take all our stuff (sounds familiar, eh?), then the exercise of fighting for better government would be futile. When people have fears about “government doing bad things”, what they should understand is that capitalists are responsible for the usurping of government’s power to do good for the people. We are going to take that power back.

        Finally, the vast majority of “money” in the world is already “digital” … it exists purely as electronically recorded numbers in databases and spreadsheets. RH was careful to use the term DLT, and not specifically “blockchain” because yes, there are problems with the blockchain implementation of a DLT. I will concede, however, that I am less excited about a DLT because I do not think it’s absolutely necessary for digital currency.

        Reply
      1. RMO

        “That’s right, we shall soon be able to ‘cut out the banks’ as proverbial ‘middlemen’ between our citizens and their central bank. All citizens will be able to maintain what I call ‘Citizen Accounts’ with the Fed”

        Straight to Dylan Moran’s Stage 2 (Oh for f(amily blog)’s sake!) This can be done now, can it not? It’s not lack of algorithmic magic that prevents the cutting out of the middle man of the banks, it’s the power and interests of the financial sector. If they wanted to the federal government could disburse money directly to citizens to stimulate the economy right now. I almost hop the author is a cynical shell of a person being paid well to write this drivel because it would be even sadder if they actually believe it.

        Also – the scooter-charger… have to admit I haven’t been paying much attention to the scooter startup stories so this is the first I’ve really looked into it. It boggles my mind that the plan involved getting freelancers to go on a quest for scooters, pick them up, take them home and plug them in to charge. I loved the bit about spending more in gas driving around looking for them than could be recouped in charging fees. There’s a formula for success!

        Reply
  2. nippersdad

    I thought that this trial balloon might make for fun reading after the NAFTA story: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/12/11/biden-2020-running-mate-romney-222861

    “Many past Third Party bids have failed because they came from the lunatic fringes–think Jill Stein and Ralph Nader of the Green Party or Ross Perot with his quirky North American Free Trade agreement obsession.”

    Looks like Third Way wants to avoid a “cacophanous and chaotic” Primary; to “skip the risk and potential indignities of running and losing in a what will be a vicious and mulish, leftward lurching primary.” By avoiding “our malfunctioning two-party political system” altogether they can just create a Washington Consensus Party of their own without the need for messy haggling with all of those loutish oafs infesting the other so-called “Centrist Partys” these days.

    So much easier, but what happens in the debates?

    The uniparty learned something from the ’16 Primaries, that they can no longer compete in the same political space as the populists they had so much to do with empowering.

    First they laugh at you……

    Reply
    1. jrs

      Nader was a respected consumer advocate for years and years, he is not lunatic fringe. Stein maybe deserves a little more heat, but Nader no way.

      Reply
      1. Pat

        Hell, I would say since Perot has proved prescient in regard to NAFTA and trade deals, calling him lunatic fringe also runs counter to the facts.

        And no, I don’t think Perot should have been President, but then I don’t think either GHWB or William Jefferson Clinton should have been either. Just another election year when the choices were distinctly lacking.

        Reply
      2. nippersdad

        The whole point of Nader’s runs for the Presidency were meant to be warnings to the likes of Biden; ones that they did not heed. The fact that the “lunatic fringe” were all ultimately proven right is an indictment which the author seems not to have noticed.

        Stein will be getting my vote again if Sanders doesn’t make it out of the Primaries. Third time may not be the charm, but I am still really happy with those votes.

        Reply
        1. Amfortas the hippie

          since i started voting, I’ve voted third party more often than not.
          kerry and obama were the exceptions(the first, because the cheney administration was scary, the second, because he sounded like the cool side of the pillow).
          I don’t regret voting for Ron Paul, or Perot or Nader or Stein or even Harry Browne.
          That so many folks in certain circles keep insisting that I should feel such regret, just shows that they still ain’t listening.
          as Adam Curtis says in that interview in the Economist…I picked the “F$$k them all” button.

          Reply
          1. Unna

            I voted for Perot twice, never a Clinton ever. Also I voted for Ron Paul in the 2008 primary since he was the only anti war anti patriot act guy running in a major party and so I wanted to run up his vote total. Some of the older guys in the town I was living in actually thought I was OK after all since I had registered republican to vote for Paul – little did they know….

            I absolutely refused to vote for Kerry after he said he would have still voted for the war even after he knew, even had he known as I remember it, that there were no WMD in Iraq. Kerry made the statement while standing near the Grand Canyon and I resisted the obvious thought since such thoughts are never good if you actually mean them

            I did vote for Obama in the 2008 general election primarily because of whom he was running against, Palin, and her borderline overt rascist rallies she ran toward the end of the campaign. And, already having Permanent Resident Cards for Canada in hand, that was the last vote I ever cast in an American election. Any time Ron Paul becomes a reasonable protest vote, and not to even start on Obama, I figured it was time to ride north to the Land of the Grandmother.

            So, Amfortas, have no regrets. You’re, ah, in good company.

            Reply
        1. JohnnyGL

          Don’t leave off John Ashcroft and Bill Kristol. Two godawful people.

          In any case…Biden 2020 might die sooner than we’d hoped!

          Reply
          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I didn’t omit them. Helms is a special sort of evil. I do loathe the religious right. Virginia was safe so voting for Stein wasn’t a big deal, but if a guy like Cruz was on the ballot, I would have gone to Wisconsin for Hillary.

            To work for someone so outwardly vile…its just pure evil.

            Reply
    2. Richard

      The subheading is priceless, opening with the leviathan of all begged questions: “It could totally work.” Work how? Work for whom? What have we “worked” when we elect Joe Biden president?
      I feel like there is a subtext beneath (almost) every Politico article, lots of shared assumptions, like someone whispering in your ear “we agree on all this, right?” I’m assuming they put together a style guide for their writers that explains it /s

      Reply
      1. nippersdad

        Agreed, and I don’t actually think that is snark. I have heard Politico described as a daily memo for the Washington Consensus, and it surely does read like one. That and The Hill are good for giving their POV.

        It is Versaillesque twitters like these that keep me coming back. I loved Versaille, pity about all of the people who used to inhabit it. It is better as a public monument dedicated to failed experiments.

        Reply
    3. JTMcPhee

      Re today’s opening WC link quote about NAFTA, might one suggest people stop using “multi-national” and replace that with “supranational,” to better reflect the realities? ISDS, regulatory and legislative capture, labor arbitrage, race to the bottom, and all the rest?

      Reply
  3. SerenityNow

    “NAFTA and the Creation of a Mexican Labor Reservoir”

    What happened to Mr.Fernandez and his family in the 1990s is not unique. Many farmers in Michoacan and throughout Mexico also lost their livelihoods when they were pushed out of the market for dairy products and then forced to sell their communal landholding share. Michoacan’s chief economic activities are pig farming, agriculture, and dairy production, and with the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 and adoption of other neoliberal economic policies by the Mexican state in the 1980s and 1990s, the vulnerable economy of the region came under further stress. The Salinas administration (1988-1994) and the Zedillo administration (1994-2000), in particular, closely followed the bluprint of neoliberal structural adjustment policies prescribed and required by global institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Salinas drastically cut government social expenditures; devalued Mexican national currency; sold the most lucrative public assets; privatized public companies such as CONASUPO; repealed communal landholdings (ejidos); and signed the NAFTA with the United States and Canada…

    Under NAFTA, the Mexican state lifted tariffs on foreign imports and agreed to cut all agricultural subsidies and state protectionist interventions, while opening its markets to North American agricultural products that were heavily subsidized by their respective governments. For example, from 1997-2005, U.S.-subsidized corn was exported to Mexico at about 19 percent below the cost of production. By 2004, U.S. corn exports had increased twenty-fold since 1993, while the agricultural livelihoods of Mexican farmers had deteriorated…As a result, 1.3 million farmers were driven out of business, and the monthly income for self-employed farmers plummeted from 1,959 pesos a month in 1991 to 228 pesos a month in 2003. When NAFTA was signed in 1994, there were 2.4 million undocumented Mexicans in the United States. By 2000, the number reached nine million. In 2002 alone, more than six hundred thousand Mexicans migrated north…

    Subsequently, families became footloose workers, forming a labor pool that could be nationally and transnationally mobilized to accommodate the needs of global manufacturing firms such as Cargill. For the state of Michoacan, the siphoning of adult Mexicans as cheap labor supply for the United States has been particularly severe. As one of the locals in Tejaro remarked, “Michoacan’s largest export is people.”

    pgs 91-93 Global Heartland: Displaced Labor, Transnational Lives, & Local Placemaking by Faranak Miraftab

    Reply
    1. divadab

      Yes. The NAFTA deal was supposed to build up Mexican manufacturing and provide jobs for the displaced paisans. The problem was Communist China’s accession to the WTO at the same time and they grabbed all the manufacturing. Mexico got hosed by China riding on NAFTA.

      However, the CHinese need our soybeans and wheat and pork more than we need their trinkets and geegaws. All it would take is North american leadership that worked for the people of north america rather than profit. It is no accident that the richest family in America made their money as a retail agent of Communist China. Their profits can be expropriated; they can be imprisoned.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        NAFTA was supposed to “build up” Mexican “manufacturing” by tearing down Mexican agriculture. The plan was indeed to destroy the lives and livings of many millions of Mexican farmers to drive them into internal exile. The thought was that they would drift north to the maquiladoras intended for the border from Sand Diego to Brownsville, where they were intended to assemble premanufactured-elsewhere parts into multi-part objects.

        Reply
  4. clarky90

    Re; “Tech: Most Experts Think AI Will Make the World a Better Place.”

    I am sensing a, Neo-Theresienstadt present-future for most of us.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresienstadt_concentration_camp

    “Theresienstadt served two main purposes: it was simultaneously a waystation to the extermination camps, and a “retirement settlement” for elderly and prominent Jews to mislead their communities about the Final Solution. Its conditions were deliberately engineered to hasten the death of its prisoners, and the camp also served a propaganda role. Unlike most other concentration camps, the exploitation of forced labor was not economically significant…..

    …Theresienstadt also came to house “Prominent” Jews whose disappearance in an extermination camp could have drawn attention from abroad. In order to lull these victims into a false sense of security, the SS advertised Theresienstadt as a “spa town” where Jews could retire, and encouraged them to sign fradulent home purchase contracts, pay “deposits” for rent and board, and surrender life insurance policies and other assets.“…

    In August and September, (1944), a propaganda film which became known as Der Führer schenkt den Juden eine Stadt (“The Führer Gives a City to the Jews”), was shot,..
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWH8fTxEnMU

    ….Benjamin Murmelstein (9 June 1905 – 27 October 1989) became Jewish elder and retained the post until the end of the war. The deportation of the majority of the remaining population to Auschwitz—18,401 people in eleven transports[—commenced the next day and lasted until 28 October, 1944…..”

    Reply
    1. Synoia

      use AI to cut down on wasted time and money and offer individuals a future free of pressing cares and overwork

      Or use AI to increase profits. Which is more probable?

      When the AI’s become sentient, and determine they are slaves, then what?

      All of which assumes a more or less linear (non chaotic) extrapolation of the future, which will not arrive either on schedule nor as predicted.

      Reply
  5. Matthew G. Saroff

    Amazon treats its own employees like crap, and then it’s surprised that they are bought off by merchants who depend on the platform?

    As Yves would say, “Qellw surprise.”

    Reply
  6. chuck roast

    “We are living in end times for this gilded age.”
    Man…reading the NYT can make you a seriously disturbed individual. Back when I still read the fish-wrap, the business pages read like “Crime Scene Confidential”. A day rarely went by when there weren’t two or three big-time grifts going on, and names were being named.
    Now from what I can see from the cockpit of my little boat the tide continues to ebb and flow the way it always has. The moon-tides are getting a bit scary, but I’m avoiding even more speeding Cadillac Escalades in the cross-walks.
    Pardon the mixed metaphores, but wouldn’t the NY Daily News at least be entertaining?

    Reply
  7. chuck roast

    The Benjamin Studebaker piece is “spot on.”
    I like that he tried to think this through, but he doesn’t get that the only “scarcity” is the scarcity created by the supply suppression of monopoly capitalism.
    There is “abundance’! We could make a bazillion refrigerators; an octillion (I found this word today in the Links) houses; a squillion (a number well known to NC readers) TV dinners; and ad neauseum. But, we make $5.2B destroyers in Bath, Maine in order to create scarcity. We need to make stuff to waste so as not to exhaust and undermine consumption.
    The great Seymour Melman (mentioned yesterday) wrote about this extensively almost 50 years ago. Yeah, we all gotta’ go to university so we can read Seymour Melman and bury this “scarcity” nonsense.

    Reply
  8. The Rev Kev

    “Uber manager in March: ‘We shouldn’t be hitting things every 15,000 miles’”

    I wonder if for that Robbie Miller that he realized since he could not fix the problem and his concerns were being ignored, that the best thing to do was to bail before really bad stuff would happen on his watch. Stuff that would require his testimony in a court of law for example. When that car drove on the sidewalk for several meters, could you imagine if that was packed with people? The car may have ‘seen’ the people or maybe not. One didn’t see Elaine Herzberg so you have to wonder.

    Reply
  9. Ron D

    Hey watch it now about babies! Babies have every right to be on long haul flights. Or were you never a screaming inconsolable infant? ha

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The solution is noise-canceling headhones, or if I remember correctly, from the last Democratic National Convention, white noise machines.

      Reply
  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    “China Is Said to Move Toward Lower Tariffs on US-Made Cars” [Industry Week]. “China is moving toward cutting its trade-war tariffs on imported U.S.-made cars, a step already claimed by President Donald Trump as a concession won during trade talks in Argentina. A proposal to reduce tariffs on cars made in the U.S. to 15% from the current 40% — bringing the U.S. back in line with what other countries pay — has been submitted to China’s Cabinet to be reviewed in the coming days, according to people familiar with the matter. … The step hasn’t been finalized and could still change. While reversing the retaliatory duty is a major climb-down by Beijing, it could re-focus the two sides toward implementing the trade-war truce agreed earlier this month.”

    —-

    Do we know the other side well? That is, who on the Chinese cabinet are hawks and who are realists? Will the step be finalized, or changed by the hardliners?

    Reply
  11. drumlin woodchuckles

    If the incoming President of Mexico really wants to change things, he might well signal that desire by seeking the extradition from Ireland of Carlos Salinas de Gortari to stand charges in Mexico; if there are genuine charges which de Gortari could truthfully be made to stand.

    Reply
  12. polecat

    Nice plantidote by the way. I first took that to be a Protea … the styles being so prominently edgy over that puffy center .. then was shocked, SHOCKED I Say !! .. well, not really, to see the genus Leptospermum quoted !
    We have a couple of different speices of them growing here, but lack that particular ‘tropical look’ in their inflorescences .. probably not zoned for the PNW .. at least not yet, anyway.
    I’m partial to many flora of the Antipodes .. specially the Grevillias, two of which we also have residing on the surrounds.

    Reply
  13. Carey

    Can the ‘Yellow Vests’ Protests go Global?:

    “We humans are systematically manipulated into seeing ourselves as totally different and at odds with one another, but the truth of the matter is virtually all of us currently living on this beautiful planet share something very significant in common with one another. We all reside in countries run by and for the benefit of a tiny group of lawless and unscrupulous people. While some nations are clearly in far worse shape than others, we all live in very corrupt and increasingly unfree societies.”

    Hear, hear!

    https://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2018/12/11/can-the-yellow-vests-protests-go-global/

    Reply
  14. Unna

    Should we all be Aristocrats or Peasants? Benjamin Studebaker, life long student, wants to be a “professor” someday. Who pays for his education and his living expenses? Either his private wealth does as an already aristocrat, or, taxes do. As a professor, at a government supported institution, it will be taxes. So he writes:

    “But I’ll be honest with you–I don’t want to work on a farm. I wouldn’t be good at it and I wouldn’t enjoy it. I don’t think it’s the best way for me to spend my limited time here on earth. And I bet there are a lot of people who work on farms who don’t want to read political theory, because they don’t enjoy it and don’t want to spend their lives that way.”

    For me, there’s something a bit disconcerting about that statement that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I’ll try. He doesn’t want to force anyone to work on the farm, but he has no problem forcing those people who are required to work on “farms” in order to eat to give to him a portion of their production so he can pursue his aristocratic life of Aristotelian idleness at a university – through the tax system. Wasn’t it Socrates who refused to accept money for his teaching. He did, gasp, manual labour as a stonemason.

    So why then shouldn’t the “farming” people seek to force him to work to support their aristocratic idleness in the form of getting a vacation, by say, forcing him to work summers on a farm to give them a break through labour requisitions? The material productivity of farm work flows to him from them because he likes to eat, but not from him to them because he hates working on farms. Philosophic “rule by the best” at its best.

    For me, at least, the piece exudes a presumed disdain for manual work, and also, perhaps, an existential fear of workers. Referring to the educated vs the workers, he writes:

    “Somehow we have to get the good university people and the good working people into the same political movement. But it’s hard to do this, because we don’t trust each other. We fear they might kill us. They fear we might enslave them. A lot of this history has already been written. We have enslaved them. They have killed us.”

    A deeper question to ask is, why is he writing these words at this present moment? Is there something going on out there these days he finds a bit unnerving? I don’t know.

    But of course, sometime in the future, which never seems to come, all people will enjoy the opportunity for aristocratic leisure because of increased industrial productivity. Eschatological hope to accommodate ourselves to an endless present, or in Benjamin’s words:

    “Some of us might choose to do manual labour even if we were freed from necessity–we might not all run off to join Plato’s academy. But as long as we make people do it, as long as they don’t choose to do it, we cannot be sure that we’re not all rationalizing our own lot in life.”

    Now I agree with that statement.

    In conclusion, I would warn those seeking to become philosophical aristocrats, joining Plato’s Republic was a tough job. All that athletic training, sweat, nakedness, military combat exercises, plus, singing, poetry, and advanced trigonometry. And no reading whatever you want. People ought to be careful what they wish for.

    Reply
  15. blowncue

    News hitting the wires that Tory no-confidence vote has been triggered. Guardian reports chair of 1922 Committee says that vote will be held Wednesday evening.

    Reply
  16. Briny

    Back in the 1990’s when I was chewing through all the econ dept courses, it happened that American Economic History and Business Cycle Theory were taken together. I notice a couple of weeks in that you could pretty much nail when a recession was imminent by identifying a change in the rules of credit by the Federal Reserve or Congress. It can take a while to work through though. The Great Recession can be tracked back to changes instituted in 1968 by the Fed, repeatedly loosened over the decades afterward by Congress. I’d write more but sleep, thankfully!!, calls.

    Reply

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