2:00PM Water Cooler 12/28/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Trump’s Trade War Comes With an Unexpected Bonus: More Trade” [Bloomberg]. “In fact, President Donald Trump’s assault on globalization has had a paradoxical effect on world trade flows. A rush to get ahead of new and higher tariffs, particularly on U.S. imports from China, has motivated retailers and other American companies to increase orders, which has helped boost volumes at the country’s ports…. ‘Many people want to shout that the sky is falling on trade because of these trade measures’ such as tariffs imposed by the Trump administration, WTO chief economist Robert Koopman said. But for now, ‘we think 2018 is going to end up with a fairly solid year.'”


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


“Why the Bernie Movement Must Crush Beto O’Rourke” [Jonathon Chait, New York Magazine]. “Baffled liberals, many still nursing wounds from 2016, see the passionate intensity of the Bernie movement as a personality cult, propelled by unthinking devotion to him (or spite at the party that they believe rigged the primary against him). It is anything but. The socialist left belongs to Sanders simply because there is no other presidential candidate who meets their exacting ideological criteria. They see O’Rourke as a threat to their project because, in important ways, he is.”

“Yes, Bernie Should Run” [Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone]. “[T]he Sanders platform would massively disenfranchise the traditional financial backers of the modern Democratic Party: Wall Street, pharmaceutical and insurance companies, Silicon Valley, lobbyists and corporate law firms, etc. Whether it’s now or later, whoever takes on those interests is going to take a hell of a beating. That Sanders seems willing to be that person seems reason enough to embrace another run. Someone has to take up those fights eventually. It might be a while before anyone else volunteers for the job.”

“Bloomberg says he’ll insist presidential candidates have climate change plans” [Politico]. Bloomberg: “‘I can tell you one thing, I don’t know whether I’m going to run or not, but I will be out there demanding that anybody that’s running has a plan,” he said in the ‘Meet the Press’ interview. ‘And I want to hear the plan, and I want everybody to look at it and say whether it’s doable.'” • For some definition of “doable.”

“In Iowa, Democrats see 2020 as head vs. heart moment” [Associated Press]. “‘We’d be kidding ourselves if we kept looking for Obama in every single presidential hopeful,’ said Deidre DeJear, Iowa Democrats’ 2018 candidate for Iowa secretary of state who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign as a college student. ‘But people are ready for change. They don’t know what change looks like. But when it shows up, they know what it feels like.'” • Oh. Feelings.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Heartwarming bipartisan moments in a polarizing 2018” [Politico]. “George W. Bush was spotted hugging Nancy Pelosi, the longtime Democratic Party leader, and discreetly passing Michelle Obama a candy or mint – just like he did at Sen. John McCain’s funeral this summer. The moment went viral online and was widely praised as a touching gesture of friendship over politics.” • Discreet? Like both parties didn’t know they were sending a message through the cameras? Feh.

Stats Watch

Chicago Purchasing Manager’s Index, December 2018: “Unusually robust and sustained growth is once again the signal from the Chicago PMI” [Econoday]. “Growth in new orders and employment did ease in December but not backlog orders or production which posted solid gains. Indications of easing in capacity stress are special positives as supplier deliveries improved and prices paid, despite continuing reports of tariff-related pressures on metal and lumber costs, fell for a fifth straight month and by the largest monthly margin in nearly four years.” And: “The Fed manufacturing surveys have been trending down – and the but ISM manufacturing and Chicago ISM trends are stronger” [Econintersect]. And: “This was above the consensus forecast” [Calculated Risk].

Pending Home Sales Index, November 2018: “Existing home sales have been leveling but the signal from pending home sales points to a new downturn” [Econoday]. And: “below expectations” [Calculated Risk].

International Trade in Goods, November 2018: “This report has been delayed and will be released when the government reopens” [Econoday].

Wholesale Inventories [Advance], November 2018: “This report has been delayed and will be released when the government reopens” [Econoday]. d

Weekly Leading Index: “21 December 2018 ECRI’s WLI Growth Rate Index Worsens and Remains In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “The current forecast is a slight economic contraction six months from today.”

Commodities: “Grand Theft Cobalt: Rotterdam” [Bloomberg]. “London’s cobalt experts could only speculate on how someone could steal 112 tons of rare metal from a secure warehouse.” • Reminds me that metal theft

Retail: “The Jolly and Folly of Holiday Decor for Retailers” [strategy+business]. “Across seven experiments with about 2,000 randomly selected participants, the authors [study here] found that the presence of symbols associated with Christmas tended to make people with religious backgrounds feel more forgiving toward salespeople who made a mistake or directly disappointed them during a transaction. But there’s a flip side to that forgiving spirit: Consumers with religious upbringings were also more likely to look harshly upon retail workers who treated other shoppers poorly when Christmas decorations were in view…. It struck the participants as hypocritical to see an employee treat someone else poorly when there was Christmas iconography in the background.”

The Bezzle: “Remember Bitcoin? Some Investors Might Want to Forget” [New York Times]. “For a few sweet months of 2018, all of Silicon Valley was wrapped up in frenzied easy money and a fantasy of remaking the world order with cryptocurrencies and a related technology called the blockchain. A flood of joy hit the Bay Area…. For a few sweet months of 2018, all of Silicon Valley was wrapped up in frenzied easy money and a fantasy of remaking the world order with cryptocurrencies and a related technology called the blockchain. A flood of joy hit the Bay Area.”

The Bezzle: “China’s Bitmain Technology and Huobi plan layoffs as cryptocurrency crunch begins to bite” [South China Morning Post]. “Two of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency companies have confirmed lay-off plans amid an industry crunch that has seen US$170 billion wiped off bitcoin’s market value this year…. Chinese companies Bitmain, Canaan, and Ebang – the world’s top three suppliers of computers used to create new units of digital money – have all proposed initial public offerings in Hong Kong this year. The city’s market regulator and stock exchange operator, however, are reluctant to approve IPOs for any cryptocurrency-related businesses citing the lack of regulations in the industry.”

The Bezzle: “Brooklyn’s Extraction Lab, Home of the $18 Coffee, Has Closed” [Brooklyn Reporter]. “In addition to its expensive coffee, the company was known for its flagship product known as the “steampunk,” a $15,000 coffee and tea brewer operated through an iPad app…. Many high-end cafes around America purchased the product. However, now that the company has closed, its servers will be shutting off and the machines will no longer work.” • BWA-HA-HA-HA! That’s even worse than Juicero!

Concentration: “Amazon Prime is getting worse, and it’s making me question the nature of reality” [Fast Company]. “This holiday, I’ve noticed things that are in stock and labeled ‘Prime’ have nonsensical shipping dates. I’m not alone in experiencing Shipping Shock™. Complaints about slow Prime shipping abound across the internet. Quora literally has a thread asking, “Has Amazon slowed down their free shipping speed intentionally?” The ‘top answer’ with 22,000 views is a customer rant about late shipments. Many others chime in to confirm the slowdowns, and offer conspiracy theories as to what could be going on…. There is no justice for the consumer when all they face is a machine. There is no underpaid clerk to heroically accept the rants of a scorned consumer, to call in a manager who can make things right. Instead, we get rejection by algorithm–gaslighting through interface design.” • As the punchline to the old joke goes: “Because they can.”

Concentration: “AT&T makes it more expensive to cancel DirecTV or Internet service” [Ars Technica]. “AT&T will start charging customers for the full month after they cancel TV or Internet service, ending its customer-friendly practice of providing a prorated credit for the final month…. ‘We’re making this change so our video and broadband services follow the same billing policies as our mobility services,’ AT&T wrote.’ • Why is that a good reason?

Infrastrucure: “911 emergency services go down across the US after CenturyLink outage” [Tech Crunch]. “911 emergency services in several states across the U.S. remain down after a massive outage at a CenturyLink data center…. CenturyLink, one of the largest telecommunications providers in the U.S., provides internet and phone backbone services to major cell carriers, including AT&T and Verizon. Data center or fiber issues can have a knock-on effect to other companies, cutting out service and causing cell site blackouts.” • Time to bring back the landline, I guess. I don’t recall this happening with copper.

Infrastructure: This thread has less than ideal sourcing, but read the responses:

Elites may not believe the country’s a teardown — see the Con Ed blast in Queens that turned the sky blue — but they’re certainly acting like they do.

The Fed: “The Fed’s Risky Plan to Boost Unemployment” [Narayana Kocherlakota, Bloomberg]. “The U.S. Federal Reserve appears to be planning a risky endeavor: Sometime in the first half of the next decade, it intends to slow the economy enough to increase unemployment by about 1.4 million people — all in the name of reducing inflation by around a tenth of one percent. I can’t help but wonder whether the costs will outweigh the benefits.” • Oddly, or not, you don’t hear liberals yammering about this; all you hear about is Fed independence.

Imperial Collapse Watch

Very pretty:

I wonder if 1,374 drones could take out an aircraft carrier. How about 13,740?


“Extreme Botany: The Precarious Science of Endangered Rare Plants” [Yale Environment 360]. “Plant conservation relies heavily on seed banking. Ideally, seeds are strategically collected from wild populations to ensure that as much of a species’ genetic diversity as possible has been captured. However, a considerable number of plants are so-called exceptional species that cannot be preserved in conventional seed banks. Some are so rare that they suffer from inbreeding and other genetic ailments that impede reproduction, and they don’t produce enough seeds to be banked. Some produce “recalcitrant” seeds that cannot be stored in seed banks because they can’t survive drying and freezing.”

Health Care

“As life expectancy falls across US, Mass. bucks trend” [Boston Globe]. “The average life expectancy in Massachusetts has changed little since 2006, hovering around 80 years, with small fluctuations. It peaked at 80 years and 11 months in 2012 and 2013.” • But it’s not bucking the trend very much, so far as I can tell. Lots of interesting disparities.

“Insured, But Indebted: Couple Works 5 Jobs To Pay Off Medical Bills” [NPR]. “‘The only thing we can do is just keep working,’ Tiffany said. ‘I always wonder: How does everybody else do it?'”

“Medicare Will Be Good for Everyone — Except CEOs” (interview) [Robert Pollin, Jacobin]. “[The Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts] shows we could cover everyone in the United States with no copays and cut overall health spending by almost a fifth.” Pollin: “Officially we have about 9 percent uninsured at present. But if you look at the Commonwealth Fund, which does very good studies, their survey data shows we have about 26 percent of the population underinsured. By our definition of underinsured, these are people that did not get treatment because it was too expensive. It was going to create a hardship in terms of their budget, so they just didn’t get the treatment.” And: “Administration [9% of total costs], pharmaceutical pricing [6%], and Medicare rates for providers [3%] are the biggest [money-savers under #MedicareForAll]. That gets you to 19 percent total savings to operate Medicare for All compared to our existing system.” • That’s a lot of rice bowls…

Our Famously Free Press

On that New York Times story on Facebook moderation:

Class Warfare

“Why Don’t We Riot Over Wealth Inequality?” [Common Dreams]. “But why do people riot over gas taxes and not massive wealth inequality? Because we feel the economic pain from a gas tax increase more intensely and immediately than structural systems that help a very small set of people to accumulate wealth. All people can understand a gas tax increase. Very few people can explain the income ramifications from the 2017 tax reform approved in the U.S., the largest tax reform of last 31 years.” • Tax reform? Huh? Why not begin with the wage relation, which the 90% share as a common experience?

“Austerity results in ‘social murder’ according to new research” [Phys.org]. “The consequence of austerity in the social security system—severe cuts to benefits and the ‘ratcheting up’ of conditions attached to benefits—is ‘social murder’, according to new research by Lancaster University. Dr. Chris Grover, who heads the University’s Sociology Department, says austerity can be understood as a form of structural violence, violence that is built into society and is expressed in unequal power and unequal life chances, as it is deepens inequalities and injustices, and creates even more poverty.”

“An open letter regarding harassment and discrimination in the economics profession” [Advocates for Diversity in Economics, Medium]. “Last week, Harvard economist Roland Fryer resigned from the executive committee of the American Economic Association (AEA), after a university investigation found he created a hostile and sexualized work environment for the research assistants in his lab.” • As Stokely Carmichael remarked: “If a white man wants to lynch me, that’s his problem. If he’s got the power to lynch me, that’s my problem.” Fryer is black. But he had the power, didn’t he?

News of the Wired

“How Down East storytelling shaped Maine’s humor” [Bangor Daily News] (part two; part three). “I had to shoot my dog.” “Why? Was he mad?” “Well, he weren’t so dahn’ed pleased ’bout it.”

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

Via: Securigera varia, also known as Coronilla varia, is a tough, aggressively-spreading, low-growing legume…. Due to its complex system of creeping rhizomes, crown vetch is often used for erosion control on embankments, roadside plantings, and shorelines.”

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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. John

    The Minsky Millenium” is an excellent article from the most recent print edition of Jacobin that brings attention to some often overlooked aspects of Minsky’s life and work, especially that he was originally a socialist (and wrote for socialist publications for decades) and that his 1975 book John Maynard Keynes is far more radical than Stabilizing an Unstable Economy, published 11 years later. Minsky called for the socialization of the “towering heights,” the “socialization of investment” (an idea vaguely discussed by Keynes that Minsky took very seriously), communal consumption, and progressive taxation to ameliorate the market’s inherent “socially oppressive distribution of wealth” before his views shifted to the right in the 80’s, favoring “stability” above all else. Furthermore, while the mainstream has interpreted the financial crisis as being ‘the Minsky moment,’ the actual ‘Minsky moment’ was the bailout: it’s not that Minsky simply focused on the moment of crisis–he held that the system itself was inherently unstable and that it needed periodic backstopping from the state/central bank to avoid another Great Depression. From the article:

    From a Minskyan perspective, the aftermath of 2008 is a rerun of a story he told about many different instruments, institutions, and markets that made the journey from innovation to crisis and bailout to reconstruction as part of the financial furniture. Once it was the federal-funds market, later certificates of deposit, money market funds, real estate investment trusts. First they ignore you, then they warn about you, then they bail you out, then you become part of the financial furniture and they ignore you again.

    Just as Keynes sought a general theory, not one only for times of trouble, so did Minsky.

    Also, Minsky did not just theorize about the instability of the financial sector, as it is often remembered. His belief that the entire system was unstable included the real economy as well, for he was just as concerned with inflation (having witnessed the 70’s and 80’s) as he was with asset bubbles:

    For Minsky, finance is not something grafted onto capitalism. Finance is not a parasite, or even a separate sphere. The capitalist economy is financial, through and through. He does not just bring financial institutions into the frame; he treats all actors as financial institutions — banks, firms, and households alike.

    Capitalism is fundamentally unstable because expectations of “money later” can set in motion flows of “money today” that have little to do with today’s macroeconomic conditions, and lock in promises of “money later” based on expectations that may not be validated.

    While inflation has since been a non-issue because of its containment through the suppression of wage growth through politics and globalization, and I wonder if he would have revised his views on finance being ‘different’ than the rest of the economy after its exponential growth during the 90’s and 00’s, I thought that the article did an excellent job of reminding readers that Minsky believed the entire system–not just finance–to be inherently unstable, something that is lost on most.

    My (rather vague) take is that he also viewed economics to be inherently political, and I found very compelling the author’s brief discussion of the notion that “restoring confidence by restoring profitability naturally seems like a path of much less political resistance than a plan to end our dependence on private investment. Nothing is more likely to further dampen business confidence than a plan to socialize investment…This is the great paradox of socialist strategy, which no one has yet resolved: its program undermines the basis for the present system before it can build the next. The very weakness that makes capitalism prone to crisis gives it an excellent defense against political attack.” Indeed, the transition to socialism would probably have to be enacted through force by a dictatorship of the proletariat able to resist the ensuing financial hurricane. Yves and others on NC have chronicled the IT and supply chain management & logistics challenges to attempting to buck the system, so I wonder if it would be even possible politically if not proceeding from extremely harsh times (ie much worse than the Great Depression). Perhaps we missed the window for socialism in the industrialized nations with enough prosperity for it to actually be successful.

    I wonder how long we can keep kicking the can though through these ‘Minsky moments.’ Definitely not forever. Perhaps long enough though before climate change does us in (which, sadly, many of us alive today may be around to witness).

  2. Grant

    “They see O’Rourke as a threat to their project because, in important ways, he is.”

    He himself isn’t. He is a person with a not too stellar voting record, a worldview out of step with the rank and file in his party and he has moved on from supporting single payer to supporting single payer, or a public option, or other stuff too. In other words, like the rest of his party, he is vague and often incoherent on policy, doubly when you try to connect his vaguely progressively rhetoric with his not so progressive voting record and worldview. But none of that matters to those lining up behind him, the Obama and Clinton hacks, the Third Way and New Democrat types. To them, his voting record is great, and he is already ahead of the game in regards to sounding progressive in very vague terms, without committing to anything in particular on policy. He is a threat in the sense that he is a commodity that they think he can sell, and it looks like there is a market in the Democratic Party for that commodity. He is charismatic, young, rides a skateboard (how hip and young), and he won’t really change tons on policy and doesn’t threaten those that control his party, or the people in the party-affiliated think tanks. If he, by chance, fails, they will commodify someone else in the same rough area ideologically. He himself is a threat really because of those behind him, and their friends in the media. They are and will remain a threat as long as they maintain control over the two parties. They hoisted a horrific candidate, with far more baggage, onto us in 2016, and those same people are there with even more money to burn. And I don’t trust the rank and file in the Democratic Party to make a decision based largely on policy, which is what will actually impact them and their lives. People can’t pay their bills or afford college based on Beto’s charisma, but Democrats seem to really go all in on the superficial stuff over and over again. So, he could win for all the wrong reasons, and nothing will change, and the context that produced Trump will stay in place. Maybe the Democrats learned a lesson from Obama in this regard, but it doesn’t seem to be the case.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Beto like the other losers doesn’t serve to make Sanders better. If Beto was decent on foreign policy and similarly dismal as he is on other issues, his inclusion could at least raise issues. Instead Beto and et al will largely serve to water down any potential discussion of the issues as a myriad of candidates enter the fray and we all have to get an answer on what brand of cough drop they hope to get from Shrub.

      This is how Joe Biden slithers along. As Vice President where he had no responsibilities with the Dems wedded to the filibuster farce or a Senator from a relative small state, just outside major media areas, he’s never answered more than ditzy style questions (OMG he rides the train! What a wacky guy?!?!).

      It wasn’t perfect, but we saw what Sanders support of Amazon employees could do. If we are discussing cookie recipes or which Tony Hawk game was Beta O’Rourke’s favorite, we aren’t shaping the debate. Even in 2008, John McCain was forced to have his own health care plan as the general proceeded because it was being discussed.

      1. L

        Yes. If anything Beto represents two key factors, first the desperation of party flacks like Chait to find someone, anyone Obama-like to banish Sanders and his actual policies. And second, the entrenchment of the view that politics is not about policy but about “likes” and streaming, and “feelings” and all those other nice marketey terms that can be used to sell “sexy centrism”.

        As someone once said of Al Gore, “He is an old person’s idea of a young person.” Beto is an old party hack’s idea of a hip young outsider. And he is a banker’s ideal version of a “socialist” you know free of actual socialism.

        1. L

          As a followup Chait and others from NYMag are right now discussing his piece on Twitter. In one post Chait notes that supporters of Bernie Sanders often use the term “neoliberal” to lump together both Democrats and Republicans, something which he disagrees with so he, in his view tries to “split the difference.”

          To my mind that makes the case for his irrelevance far more clearly than anyone else could. If you do not concern yourself with the fact “centrist” (neoliberal) Democrats and Republicans that they embrace identical policies and prefer to focus on splitting hairs over who is nice to whom, why should we care what you think?

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > supporters of Bernie Sanders often use the term “neoliberal” to lump together both Democrats and Republicans

            IMNSHO, they are correct.

            That doesn’t mean that both (major) parties are identical. They are not. We have “a two-party system” for a reason.

        2. johnnygl

          I suspect beto’s being pushed because a large chunk of the establishment aren’t convinced biden’s strong enough to keep bernie at bay. Plus, the consultant class needs a fat payday and maybe biden isn’t a prolific enough fundraiser. Young-ish beto has shown some real talent for fundraising…that’s the only language this bunch understands!

          Beating trump is beside the point, the consultants want to haul in those big ad buys.

          A sanders nomination mean all these guys starve for a whole election cycle and they’ve built careers around presidential campaigns. They’re in too deep to change course, now.

          1. L

            Actually beating Trump may be a problem for some of them. Donations this year were higher for the mid-terms than at any prior point with the DCCC picking up 4+ million in September alone.

            Winning, or worse yet having to govern, may be the one nightmare they wish to avoid. But well-funded losses to hateful doom figures like (Cruz Trump) that leave you fighting the good fight for another four years is much more remunerative.

            1. JohnnyGL

              Yeah, you might be onto something. I do wonder how many are thinking that taking a dive on 2020 might be the more profitable move.

              I’ve gotta figure that after two years, the outrage machine fundraising drive has got to dry up some. People just get tired of the media freak-outs and get accustomed to Trump’s style.

              But then again…it’s lasted longer than I could have anticipated…

          2. voteforno6

            I’m not sure if that’s quite it. The situation for Democrats in ’20 could be similar to that of Republicans in ’16 – a big field, preventing opposition to Trump to coalesce around a single candidate. So, the establishment Dems could be seeking for a way to peel off enough support from Bernie, that would allow someone more friendly to them to gain sufficient support to beat Bernie outright, or at least get to a second ballot at the convention (that’s when the superdelegates come into play, after all). Bernie has a lot of support amongst millenials, and to the establishment Dems, Beto seems like the kind of candidate that would appeal to millenials, while not threatening their status.

            Will this work? I don’t know. I didn’t pay much attention to O’Rourke during the election, so from a distance he seems like a bit of an empty suit. But, from my perspective, the push for O’Rourke is mostly about stopping Bernie, and not a reflection of a perceived weakness from any other candidate.

          3. octopii

            Bernie unfortunately doesn’t need to be kept at bay. Lot of hate out there for Bernie — not his ideas and consistency, but for being the spoiler in 2016. HRC supporters are not going to get behind Bernie, so Team DNC needs someone more like Obama who’s charismatic and has a voting record they can obfuscate.

            Personally even though I’ve long supported Bernie, I’d rather support Sherrod Brown for 2020. Now y’all go ahead and tear me apart, I’m waiting.

            1. Chris

              Nope. This isn’t a club for fanbois. Plenty of people who contribute to NC and who comment on articles have criticized Bernie. He has issues with what he’s done and what he’s said. His lack of any reasonable foreign policy commentary is going to hurt him if he ever gets in a general election for president. At least Trump has something easy to articulate. “America first – let’s stop being the world police and build walls at home!” Bernie is too squishy on our foreign policy and has mouthed too many RussiaRussiaRussia lines for my taste.

              But I’ll say two things about him that I think you’re alluding to in your comments.

              1, I’ll support anyone who puts forth the kind of domestic policies Bernie is advocating for and demonstrates a consistent and authentic approach to achieving them. If Brown is that person, great. If Bernie is the best, fine. But someone who listens to voters and isn’t trying to kill any challenge to the status quo before it’s even begun is essential. Isn’t it odd that Trump is being accused of listening to his voters and his constituents and being called unreasonable for listening to popular opinion from the extremes who love him? If only we had a Democrat that would listen to voters instead of shrouding themselves in technocracy!

              2, people in the DNC leadership and the corporate elites seem to think that by making this a “war” about Bernie, they’ll beat back his ideas. Maybe that would have worked 10 years ago. Certainly 20 years ago. But now? Now you’d see another person pick up the torch, only they’ll be younger and probably fit the demographic mold that people say the Democrats need to have to win. Like AOC. Too many have lost too much to continue with the status quo. I don’t know when it will happen, but I feel certain that if Bernie or someone like him is procedurally quashed in the next election we’ll get our own Yellow Vest eruption. Only it will be a lot more violent.

          4. Lambert Strether Post author

            > I suspect beto’s being pushed because a large chunk of the establishment aren’t convinced biden’s strong enough to keep bernie at bay.

            Or the liberal Democrat establishment proposes a “human wave” against Sanders. First, the Beto trial balloon. Then somebody else, like Harris. And on and on and on, all the way to a brokered convention. (Superdelegate vote in the second round, remember.)

            1. JohnnyGL

              The “human wave” approach risks the 2016 Repub audition scenario where the establishment loses control of the narrative. Dems won’t want to take that risk, they’re much more of a ‘big decisions are made behind closed doors in smoke-filled rooms’ type of group. After all, that’s what their attorneys argued was completely okay…and argued it in front of a judge, in open court!

              I think there are doubts about Harris, potentially, and real doubts about Booker. The establishment needs someone who can campaign. None of them have good track records as they’ve all been ‘appointed’ into super-safe seats in blue states. Beto’s the only one who’s shown campaigning talent….and even he still lost!

              If they REALLY wanted campaigning competence, they’d pick Stacey Abrams. But, of course, she does voter registration drives and files lawsuits….establishment finds that to be icky. They’d rather be ‘dialing for dollars’ and going to the Hamptons for closed-door fundraising events.

      2. Grant

        I agree entirely. Neera Tanden had her friend at the NY Times, someone that worked with her at the CAP, write a hit piece on Sanders in particular, and the left generally. These people seem to think that the left attaches themselves to people like Sanders in ways they do Beto, which isn’t the case. I prefer Sanders, even though I disagree with him on things, because of his policies and because I trust him to fight for those things, as he has his whole life. Whatever his faults, he has been more impactful as a politician on the left than anyone in this country going back decades. Harris and Booker can pretend to support single payer, who really trusts that they will fight to push it through? If he woke up tomorrow and started to oppose single payer and other issues he has been fighting for, my support would go away, and so would the support he receives from most people that align with him. That is probably true with the New Democrat types supporting Beto, he agrees with them on policy and his superficial appeal is a means to get him power to keep things as they are.
        The fact is that Beto would not be getting support from these powerful interests if he supported what amounts to the type of social democratic policies that Sanders supports, and the social democratic policies the rank and file in the Democratic Party say they support. It says a lot about those people that they look at a healthcare system that will kill tens of thousands of people between now and this time next year, a system that has put in place policies that have led to decades long wage stagnation, inequality, systematic corruption, a massive infrastructure gap, and an environmental crisis that their policies are making worse, among other things, and they simply don’t care. If they aren’t sociopaths, they sure seem to be in that neighborhood, at least functionally in their institutional roles. They have no solutions, no alternatives, little popular support, but they have money and their access to power is threatened. So, Beto, Harris, Booker, anyone but someone like Sanders. And if their candidate can’t beat Trump again, at least they don’t lose their access to power and their nice jobs at hacky think tanks.

        1. L

          I agree. To me the biggest selling point for Bernie Sanders is his long and documented history of actually fighting for, and sometimes winning on, the things he professes to believe in. And it is telling that the thing that Chait and others are working so hard to dismiss is discussion of their wunderkind’s actual voting record.

          1. Richard

            I love how the title of the piece looks like he’s giving well intentioned advice to Bernie and the Bernie wing of the party. At the same time as he red baits and gaslights the s$#% out of everyone. Liberals like Chait gaslight like it’s a bodily function. “Of course we can’t beat trump with populist policy positions! How naive of you to think so!”
            That’s what most of their policing of the left entails.

          2. Grant

            I have never seen a single article by someone like Chait that goes over the decades long macroeconomic trajectory in this country, the explosion in inequality, the impact of private debt, the data on the growth in the costs of things like healthcare, education and housing relative to wages in recent decades, the massive infrastructure gap, the impacts of financialization and austerity, among other things. They don’t go over the studies showing the huge gap between public opinion on the issues and government policy, or things like the recent study on staffers in DC, showing how conservative their assumptions were regarding popular opinion on the issues. There is just no context, not discussion on policy either. These people are many things, but they aren’t stupid, and they know not to provide any real context. If they did, how the hell would Beto, Harris, Booker and the like match up in regards to their policies and solutions with Sanders?

            1. JohnnyGL

              “I have never seen a single article by someone like Chait that…”

              It’s actually much worse than that. Look at this handwaive to brush past the importance of policy, it’s remarkable…

              The voters who pulled the lever for Sanders, by contrast, are ideologically indistinguishable from the rest of the party. Among the minority of voters who identified as “very liberal,” the most left-wing choice, Sanders and Clinton performed about equally. In 2016, Sanders voters actually had more conservative views on economic inequality and changes to Social Security and Medicare than Clinton voters did.

              He’s citing his own piss-poor take on what some studies that actually have some really good data that screams ‘GO LEFT ON ECONOMICS!!!’, but Chait refuses to understand what’s right in front of him! Here’s his crappy take: http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/06/new-study-shows-what-really-happened-in-the-2016-election.html

              Here’s another explanation: the dem party primary electorate of 2016 was being ‘practical’. The party base may want left-leaning positions, but they also want to win and they’ve also been told for decades that ‘incrementalism’ is how things get done. So what happened in 2016? Well, 43-46% of voters didn’t buy the story they were being told by writers like Chait and the rest of pundit-driven media who endlessly pushed Clinton. A majority of the primary voters stuck with the usual script and voted Clinton…maybe they were centrists? But, judging from the data below…the public wants to go left, but they were probably buying the narrative that voting Clinton was the ‘safe’ choice to beat Trump or some other Republican clown.

              Here’s a colleague of Chait’s, Eric Levitz, who actually grappled with the reality of it. http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/07/dems-can-abandon-the-center-because-the-center-doesnt-exist.html

              The Levitz piece is a good read, in and of itself.

              The mental/conceptual world of politics that Chait inhabits is a kind of post-modern hell-hole where voters are kind of dumb, policy doesn’t matter and everything is just personality-driven. To the degree that Sanders got popular in the 2016 primary, Chait sees it revolving entirely around coming across as honest and uncorrupt. He’s partially right, of course, I know a substantial number of conservative leaning voters that think most politicians, dem/rep alike, are just a bunch of weasels. Those people have a kind of grudging respect for Sanders, even if they aren’t big on his policy ideas, they trust that he’s honest because he’s been so consistent for so many years.

              To Chait, Sanders repeating his very clear, consistent agenda ($15/hr min wage, M4A, free state college, money out of politics, etc…) wasn’t about what he was saying, it was about the feelings it gave voters, “oh, he believes in something” and “he’s honest”.

              In Chait’s mind, Beto’s a threat because he’s younger, attractive and personable. Again, the blind spots are telling, Chait isn’t interested in the policy issues raised regarding Beto’s record because he thinks Sanders has a cult around him that’s driven by a radical ideology, not facts.

              I’d argue that people like Chait, in particular, are massive Trump enablers because they don’t think policy or facts matter in politics. If it’s all about personality, and you’re mad as heck because your life has been getting crappier, then, well, why the heck not go vote for the most angry, abusive guy that everyone in DC seemingly hates.

              But again, this doesn’t really explain the substantive reason behind Trump’s rise, which I firmly believe is policy-driven. There’s lots of racist dog-whistling politicians to choose from, but none of them are president, except Trump.

              Trump’s campaign was driven by trade, immigration, military adventurism, and DC corruption. He carved out a policy space for himself that made heads explode (and still does). Chait can’t fit this into his framework because his mental model is broken because he can’t come to grips with the idea that 1) policy differences matter and 2) voters make complex decisions.

              He’s a useless pundit.

              Sorry for the long rant, a big thank you to anyone who bothered to read it.

              1. tegnost

                as usual an excellent post by jgl, ISTM trump moved into bernie territory to beat clinton, and then delivered (ISDS anyone? TPP done on day one. Who thinks clinton would have done that? Indeed the PTB were pretty sure she’d get it done)
                and if we’re lucky, and the dnc/dccc crowd tries to go centrist republcan as they have been doing, maybe he’ll crush them with m4a and free state college (btw, most clinton dems i know don’t make the distinction…i say don’t worry, harvard and yale will never be free…) Just one more thing, my dear sister loves hillary, hates bernie, says she’ll never vote for him. So then trump I guess? It’s funny to see the lesser of two evils shoe on the other foot…

                1. JohnnyGL

                  Thanks for throwing me some love…one always wonders if anyone reads that far deep into the comments that belatedly.

                  As for this…” my dear sister loves hillary, hates bernie, says she’ll never vote for him.”

                  1) If/when Bernie’s the nominee, is she prepared to stomach 4 more years of Trump?
                  2) People will once again find Bernie’s massive crowds to be infectious.
                  3) The contrast of Bernie’s clarity with other candidates’ waffling and poll-tested mushy language will sap their support.

      3. Pat

        Had a discussion with someone last night whose biggest ‘expressed’ gripe about Sanders was they didn’t think they could win. I stopped them dead with the request to name ANY of the Democratic names being bandied about who could win against Trump. After a bit of a back and forth we did end on O’Rourke. Once I started in on the voting record AND the waffling on Medicare for All with a follow up on whether they had actually seen anything by him and did they find him charismatic. Once again, stopped dead in their tracks.

        I’m having to explain to a lot of people that the usual suspects who run the Democratic Party and their donors are desperately trying to find someone to run against Trump who will not mean any real change. They started with Harris and have now moved on to O’Rourke. That right now this is all about game theory. They like the status quo, they do not desire any real change but have to find an acceptable holographic candidate to present to the American public that can take Sanders, who does represent change, out. This someone will be able to say a whole lot of nothing but leave the public thinking they will bring the ‘hope and change’ Obama didn’t. So far it isn’t happening.

        2020 is going to be another change election year. The thing is, that unlike the Dems and their donors, I don’t really believe that changing back to the status quo the Clinton/Bush/Obama years is what voters want either. This far out I figured it was going to be Clinton Bush redux in 2016. So take my predictions with a giant boulder size grain of salt. But right now I figure on the Democratic Convention going to the second ballot where the superdelegates ignore front runner Sanders and go for a Harris or O’Rourke or Castro or if the identity candidates are making the donors nervous old standby Biden. Leading to a another loss in the general.

        1. Carolinian

          There was that recent poll–think I saw it here–that said Biden would beat Trump whereas Sanders was only even with the pres. Certainly the press, and they are a big factor, would go for Biden, try to sink Bernie.

          BAR says Bernie should run because it would split and maybe reform the Dem party, not because he would win.

          1. JohnnyGL

            Polls at this point are mostly about name-recognition. Biden and Bernie have it, Beto doesn’t.

            We have to see how they campaign to get our answer. Polls shift…by a lot…

            BAR is often brilliant, but also often frustrating. I swear, they’d rather see the Democratic Party split than pass Medicare for All. Sorry guys, the Greens aren’t going to benefit if the two dominant parties fracture. In any case, BAR’s obsession with getting a 3rd party into the mainstream ignores the experiences of most other western countries that have more parties and their politics look awfully similar to ours, with neoliberal corruption rife throughout.

            1. Fred1

              Establishment Ds have claimed that Sanders’ candidacy in 2016, among other things, caused HRC to lose. I think they’re right. In fact, I think he was the main reason. I say this as one who wants candidates to run on a platform of Universal Concrete Material Benefits, not a Clinton apologist.

              What Sanders did in 2016 was a proof of concept that can be repeated in 2020. While establishment Ds seem to acknowledge this danger to them, they have done very little other than calling him names to reduce this risk. The only solution for them is for Sanders to shut up and go away. But he’s not going to do that, now is he?

              So it appears that all they’re trying to do is deprive Sanders of the nomination, which even if successful, will not prevent his candidacy from again mortally wounding their preferred candidate, whoever that might be. It seems like they don’t care.

              I want Sanders to run and win. Of course, if he won, he would have no congressional support, no MSM support, and no obvious support among the career bureaucracy. For instance, I don’t think he could get someone like Teachout confirmed as AG or Kelton confirmed as SoT. But so what?

              This is a 30 to 40 project at best, and it has to start somewhere. Sanders will have at least 4 years to reframe the political debate, so as to enlarge the policy space of what is possible. Whoever follows him will have to take advantage of what he has done.

              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                > Establishment Ds have claimed that Sanders’ candidacy in 2016, among other things, caused HRC to lose. I think they’re right

                “Nice little Party you have here….” or “The people who can destroy a thing, they control it.”

                1. Yves Smith

                  Hillary caused Hillary to lose. Her “deplorables” remark was the 2016 version of Romney’s dissing of the 47% who don’t pay taxes (which was false anyhow given sales, gas, property [included in rents] and payroll taxes.

                  Had her original coronation strategy worked, she would have come up v. Trump with even less road-testing of her messaging and would have done worse (as in the air would have come out of her balloon later). We’ve seen already that Brooklyn had no idea how to use her warchest effectively. The few commercials of hers that I saw sucked.

                  1. Big Tap

                    Clinton and her campaign had many self inflicted wounds. Another reason Hillary lost were the people who she couldn’t inspire to vote at all. Many of the registered voters who decided to stay home may have had Democratic party learnings. She needed to get that large group out to the polls and she didn’t succeed.




                2. JohnnyGL

                  I can’t see Bernie actually having this kind of chat the way Steny Hoyer did with that first-time candidate for congress, (in Colorado, maybe?) that he politely told to GTFO of the race, because the party had already made its choice.

                  Bernie sees his role as a builder, not as much of an arm-twister. He’d much rather inspire a million people to yell at their congressional rep than threaten to sink the party in 2020 and beyond.

                  Besides, he knows if he did that, it’d leak to the press in 5 seconds and be on the front page of Politico…”Bernie threatened us!!!”

          2. Yves Smith

            I would love to know how that poll was constructed. If it was an online poll, it was junk.

            I also find it inconceivable that any properly-constructed poll would not show Sanders beating Trump by a handsome margin. For starters, Sanders is and for a while has been the most popular politician in America.

            Every 1:1 poll in 2016 of Sanders v. Trump showed Sanders beating Trump by a minimum of 10 points, some as much as 20. Sanders has if anything more name recognition now and Trump has failed to deliver on many campaign promises, like reinstating Glass Steagall, rebuilding infrastructure, etc. His economic populism has been shown to be empty.

            So there is zero reason for Sanders to be polling worse v. Trump than in 2016. So the change must be due to polling methods.

            1. JohnnyGL

              I think it was a CNN poll we saw awhile ago. I think NC had it mentioned.

              In any case, polls are flaky this early. Normal people aren’t thinking about 2020 at all and no one’s campaigning, yet.

              Once Sanders hits the campaign trail and the crowds come back, he’ll repeat his very succinct, clear agenda. Other competitors will either have to come up with their own (made squishy by donor class requirements) or they’ll try to keep campaigning while being vague and sticking to a ‘unify and get Trump out’ theme.

              If it’s not clear on the trail, it’ll be crystal clear in debates when Sanders tells people EXACTLY what he will do and the others waffle around a bit.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          If that happens, and if Sanders once again supports the DemParty nominee based on United Front theories and instincts from the 1930s ( which could still be good theories and instincts in the right circumstances), I hope the DemPrez and DemVice nominee will at least be tolerable, like Warren or some such.

          If they are unacceptable, like all the Usual Suspects, then one hopes all the SanderBackers are ready to either not vote for President at all, or vote some Third Party choice of pure desire. I have trouble imagining another DemChoice as nastily trumpogenic as Clinton. So if the DemTicket is merely awful rather than evil, one hopes all the SanderBackers will vote for “something else” so we can see if there are enough disappointed SanderBackers to default-defeat the DemTicket by sullen subtraction.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > Sanders once again supports the DemParty nominee based on United Front theories and instincts from the 1930s (which could still be good theories and instincts in the right circumstances),

            I doubt very much that would be the correct thing to do. The liberal Democrats had their chance to do the right thing. Their instant response was to defenestrate Ellison and control the essential piece of machinery for ratifying a rigged process, the Rules and Bylaws committee, by purging every Sanders supporter from it.

            The post-2016 DNC meeting was, as it were, Das Rheingold for the Götterdämmerung to come…

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              I am not saying that I think it would be the correct thing to do. I am merely saying that I think it is what Sanders would do in that scenario.

              If it plays out that way, with Sanders being again denied the DemParty nomination in favor of some Clintobama mainstreamer, it will fall to all the millions of individual SanderBackers to make their millions of individual decisions about whether – with the very greatest of affection and respect to Political Wise Elder Sanders – to ignore his earnest advice to support the Dem Ticket and withhold all their votes from it to see if it could get elected without the SanderBacker vote.

              If the DemTicket is merely awful instead of outright evil, that is what I will do. I will vote for some Purity Pony Third Party choice and hope enough other SanderBackers do the same that the DemTicket loses by sullen voter subtraction.

              By the way, I have thought of a disparaging nickname for Deval Patrick and Cory Booker . . . . the Obobbsey Twins. In case anyone wants to use it.

        3. Oregoncharles

          @ Pat: “Leading to a another loss in the general.” Well, it is still the Republicans’ turn. Two full terms at a time – that’s the deal, certainly since Clinton, and most of the time since the 2-term limit was adopted.

    2. marku52

      The DNC elites think he is another stylish-but-empty suit they can shove across the line to keep the grift going. Make a bunch of mushy feel-good statements and then do nothing. “Those nasty republicans wouldn’t let me…..”

      If he wins, then we get Trump 2.0

      1. foghorn longhorn

        Unless Bernie runs, we will get Trump 2.0.
        Bank on that.
        If he plays his hole card of M4All, the pubbies will rule for awhile.

        1. foghorn longhorn

          He, being Trump, in the comment above.
          As Lambert says, the dems are leaving the power lying in the street, somebody will pick it up.
          For all his faults, Trump doesn’t seem scared of shaking the pillars of common wisdom.

          1. JohnnyGL

            He’s daring to criticize the Federal Reserve….GASP!!!! That most hallowed of all institutions with near-zero democratic accountability!!!

            Where’s Lambert’s old quote when you need it… “I hate it when Trump is right!”

      2. SpringTexan

        That’s exactly what the Dem elites think and though I think Beto is a centrist and I don’t support him for prez (DID support him for senator here in Texas), he is NOT as malleable as they imagine. I admired his refusal to hire any of their pet political consultants (why his campaign did well) and his earlier quitting on the required “dialling-for-dollars” as a House member after he was enraged he was asked to explain a vote he didn’t like to donors. Many things I like about Beto and I’d like to see him run for Lt. Gov. next time in Texas. But not for president. But yes the Beto of their imagination is indeed an empty suit. I hope he’ll have the sense not to run.

        The Dem establishment also wanted to suck off some of the funds he raised cuz they felt it was “wasted” on a Texas campaign where Cruz would win — O’Rourke to his credit absolutely refused and said ppl gave the money to HIM for HIS campaign. (And in the end it benefitted us in Texas immensely cuz of the down-ballot effect that elected a bunch of better reps and judges.) O’Rourke also really talked to and listened to people and visited in all areas. He also had an awesome grassroots door-to-door operation that again gave responsibility to ordinary ppl. He’s not the typical DNC sort but they fancy he is.

        But he’s no Bernie, either — he’s not really very left. But he does have some genuine good points and Texas owes him a debt. I wouldn’t contribute to a presidential run but was happy to send $$ to his Texas campaign.

        1. JohnnyGL

          Interesting commentary.

          I envision a debate scene in a Trump vs. O’Rourke contest where the following happens –

          Trump says: “you support medicare for all, which will bankrupt this country.”

          O’Rourke: “I think all americans deserve access to affordable, quality health care”

          Trump: “see, he won’t even defend it”

          Campaign ads pound him on it, O’Rourke evades and loses the election.

          1. Octopii

            Trump will likely be in jail, deemed psychologically unfit, or dead by the 2020 campaign. Consider our candidates debating Pence instead.

            1. Chris

              In jail for what, exactly? The strongest case people could have against him now inolve campaign finance violations. Which carries a penalty of a fine, no jail time.

              Dead is possible.

              Psychologically unfit would essentially be a coup. If El Presidente Trump is removed from office by anything other than electoral means you’ll have civil war. He’ll become the martyr he envisions himself to be. Please don’t throw him into that briar patch. Seriously, please don’t do it.

            2. Yves Smith

              Help me. This is Dem fantasy.

              Please tell me what criminal theory you have. The Russia stuff is BS. And unless Trump took cash (as in currency in suitcases), gold, or some other form of payment for real estate outside of the banking system, he cannot have engaged in money laundering. Banks are responsible for the anti-money laundering checks, not real estate owners. (Although he does have those casinos, but no one seems interested in them, oddly).

              Even if Mueller were to get Trump on a process crime (perjury), the President’s power of pardon for Federal infractions is unlimited. He could pardon himself.

            3. Lambert Strether Post author

              > psychologically unfit

              This talking point crops up periodically. Then Trump goes on TV and talks coherently for an hour, and it goes away again. IOW, this is not an organic talking point.

              There’s also the larger question of whether anybody who wants to be President is psychologically bit (Lincoln and FDR, yes, but Buchanan? Wilson? Nixon? The later Reagan? Bush the Younger?)

    3. John

      The Democrats didn’t have any lessons to learn because they didn’t make a mistake. They didn’t want to win the election. It’s much easier to lead a #resistance against a monster like Trump than it is to actually govern and balance the demands of a populace fed up with technocratic centrism with the interests of the donor classes.

      And “superficiality” is very important, but most important is towing the party line. To have success within the Democratic Party, you must first promise not to do anything that will upset the party leadership and second, if possible, be a woman or person of color or have some “hip” qualities, like Macron in France, for example (hard to find people with this condition but those that do have a big advantage).

      To win a presidential election, however, you probably have to be a white male (unless you’re a Republican), and if you’re a Democrat, you better hail from the South (before Obama, the past four Democratic candidates to win the popular vote were from the South). Once you’ve secured the nomination (assuming you don’t have the leadership completely against you, which has never happened before but would have happened to Bernie), policy doesn’t matter so much because the general populace does not understand nor does not vote based on policy. Republicans hated Obama and Hillary much more than Bernie Sanders, for example, even though he is much further to the left. They hate AOC even more than any of those because she’s a young Latina with radical views (it’s about the most terrifying thing they can imagine).

      1. shinola

        Don’t know about Dem’s in general, but I think a certain Hillary person really, really wanted to win. Probably already had new curtains picked out for the oval office.

      2. neo-realist

        Republicans hated Obama and HIllary more than Sanders, even though they find the policies of Sanders more hateful, because they were in the most powerful seats of power, while they believe that Sanders is perceived as being too radical to get elected by the populace to get into a position of power.

        I think the intense hatred of AOC is based on somebody of her background as you mentioned beating somebody resembling themselves—a conservative white male hack—and the possibility that she may be…….the future of politics, at the risk of sounding optimistic:).

      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        You know . . . considering how many nonSoutherners were ready to vote for a Southern president, it wouldn’t kill Southerners to be ready to vote for a nonSouthern president. Sanders might be the purest nonSoutherner upon which to base such an experiment.

      4. Lambert Strether Post author

        > They didn’t want to win the election.

        Read the last or next to the last chapter of Chasing Hillary, where the author is flying in Clinton’s campaign plane, and (IIRC) all the 2008 cronies are oozing into Clinton’s part of the cabin. They most certainly wanted to win, and thought they had won. Clinton’s refusal to come out of her room and address her sobbing supporters under the glass ceiling of the Javits Center on election night is also a good indicator of dashed expectations.

        Now, it is true the Democrats pay little penalty for losing. There’s always K Street! Or book tours. But that’s not the same thing as not wanting to win.

    4. Rosario

      I see O’Rourke as an Obama 2008 analog. I’ve (hopefully) learned enough since 2008 to not make that mistake again.

      Democrat nomenklatura pushing O’Rouke over Sanders is like asking for three cards when dealt a full house. Unless, of course, they don’t really want to win. Maybe that is too tin-foil hat of me. Probably more like, they’d rather burn it all down then not win on precisely their terms.

      1. Richard

        As Taft answered about the republican party after a similar scorched earth policy to destroy the progressive movement:
        Q: Won’t your actions be the ruin of the party?
        Taft: Perhaps, but we’ll be in charge of the ruins.
        (not exact quote)

      2. integer

        they’d rather burn it all down then not win on precisely their terms.

        This is precisely the dynamic described by the Iron Law of Institutions:

        The people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution “fail” while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to “succeed” if that requires them to lose power within the institution.

        FWIW I think of O’Rourke as a US version of Justin Trudeau.

    5. djrichard

      What does the public need? Socialism and related policies.

      What is the public going to get? WWF keyfabe. Trump is comfortable with the cartoon version of himself and will bring that to the ring. Who will be in the other corner of that ring? It won’t be somebody slinging policy around. That’s not what a WWF match wants or needs? That is, it’s not what the media wants or needs that WWF match to be. And by that point in the election season, the population will be Tee’d up to want the match that the media has been hounding for. The 2018 election was just a taste of things to come.

      So, who will be the cartoon anti-thesis to Trump’s cartoon? The most opposite to me seems to be Mueller. If Trump was up for re-election in 2018, I don’t think anybody would have done better against Trump that Mueller. I think he could probably have won it with Trump being on his heels the way he was. But unfortunately Mueller will have to play his cards next year and I suspect they’re going to be disappointing.

      Withstanding Mueller, Hillary fits the bill. “Defender of the faith against the pirate leader of the barbarian hoards. Deplorable hoards mind you that stormed the ramparts. But did they really succeed? Seems like we need another contest between these two titans to really have a decision.” [Kind of like Brexit 2 – the people’s choice can never be too sacred. /snark]

      Ah but would Hillary win? [Clenches teeth and sucks breath the way the Japanese do.]

      Beto could meet some of that billing. Not necessarily as defender of the faith, but most certainly as the more ravishing pirate. After all, who would want to be seduced by Trump? We all want to be seduced by Beto.

      But is there any there there? Beto’s strategy has got to be getting through the election without letting anybody find out.

      After that, it’s whoever can position themselves for this melee. Biden? Sure he can do a good cartoon of himself and if he needs to warp it to what is needed for this title match, he’ll be game. Bernie? He’s developed a fun cartoon version of himself as well. But will he be willing to warp it to what’s needed for this title match? I’m not sure. And even if he could and would, is that what we would want to see? I’m not sure.

      The keyfabe has already been cast for this title match. The media did their job. Now the match is simply waiting for the right combatants.

      1. djrichard

        But of course. Mitt! https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/mitt-romney-the-president-shapes-the-public-character-of-the-nation-trumps-character-falls-short/2019/01/01/37a3c8c2-0d1a-11e9-8938-5898adc28fa2_story.html

        Besides Hillary, who else would better wear the mantle of “defender of the faith” and “protector of the empire”? Hillary, time to pass the baton.

        Mitt could probably even improve his chances if he switched his party membership to the democratic party.

  3. willf

    “Why the Bernie Movement Must Crush Beto O’Rourke” [Jonathon Chait, New York Magazine].

    Chait might as well have titled his piece “Why Establishment Democrats Need to Smear Sanders’ Supporters Early and Often for 2020”.

    It wasn’t really “Bernie supporters” as a monolith that published true information about O’Rourke’s voting record, but the Establishment Dems sure are working hard to make it seem like that’s what happened. The whole “They’re scared of Beto” meme is pretty transparent.

    1. Chris

      I keep seeing this and I really don’t understand it. If the centrists are so convinced their ideas are better, take on Bernie’s policies and prove it! He is weak on foreign policy. He is down with RussiaRussiaRussia. He has said things as a result of supporting the Democrats and HRC that could hurt him in Democrat primaries. So…why all the urgency to smear him and make it look like you’re not interested in a fair contest?

      I foresee a contest where the Beto boosters commit electoral suicide rather than let Bernie or someone similar win (again) which results in so few people voting in 2020 that Republican majorities are regained and Trump is re-elected.

      1. jo6pac

        Smearing bernie is easier than having to say something that makes sense. That’s all they know how to do just like their friends the repugs.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Jimmy Dore has a new video up where he talks about a “poll” showing that “Progressives” prefer Biden over Bernie by 83%. Totally legit of course (smirk, smirk, snark, snark).

      2. Jeff W

        If the centrists are so convinced their ideas are better, take on Bernie’s policies and prove it!

        I’m not sure whether they’re “convinced their ideas are better” but what they do know is that Bernie’s policies are overwhelmingly popular overall. Meanwhile, the arguments against those policies are premised in either neoliberalism or a tacit acceptance/resignation that our political system is too corrupt or broken to get Bernie’s policies passed. With a public sick of neoliberal policies (even if it can’t label them as such) and a corrupt/broken political system (as it’s been for over a decade), the centrists can barely do anything else other than smear Bernie—whether or not they think their ideas are better, the public isn’t buying it.

    2. Elizabeth Burton

      What’s interesting is the David Sirota piece at Capital & Main that engendered the whole “war on Beto” s***storm focused solely on his voting record and funding sources, both carefully researched and fact-checked. He didn’t even get into the fact Beto’s wife is an heiress who’s getting fat checks from the taxpayers for running a big charter-school corporation. If he had, no doubt he’d now be labeled a misogynist. I suspect this because someone on Twitter was referring to Beto as “Robert” and was condemned for being racist. For using Beto’s actual name instead of his boyhood nickname (which I noted at the time surely qualifies as “cultural appropriation”, right?)

      I’m not sure right now whether this reveals the Democrat establishment’s desperation to find a candidate they can sell a la Obama to defeat Sanders, or a growing realization on their part that Sanders supporters aren’t the ignorant, undereducated fools they apparently think we are. And that we are making inroads into revealing to other people how the media megaphone is being used to manipulate them.

      I do know one outcome was the creation of a Twitter account for the alleged purpose of recruiting people to learn the facts and use them to counter the megaphone. I don’t know yet if that’s what will actually ensue, but I figured I’d sign on and keep watch. (I also noted that as an old White woman I am really sick of being referred to as a “Bernie Bro”, but I digress)

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        hopefully, what happened to the R’s in the 2016 primary will happen to the Dems in 2020.
        Of course, in the case of Bernie, there’s no secretive clintonian machinery to push him through, a la Pied Piper(I remain astonished that so few in Team Blueland want to talk about that,lol)
        I, too, see desperation…they keep trotting out the flavor of the day, and it just won’t stick.(full dis, I voted for Beto for Texas Senate, but I prolly would have voted for biden(or better, my cat) if he had run against Cruz. what I’ve learned about Beto since(that I didn’t have time to learn then) has made me distrust him, to say the least)
        “everything’s fine”, “stay the course”…or “let’s party like it’s 2008!”…ain’t gonna cut it.
        I look forward to new lows of perfidy and betrayal and technocratic philosopher queens telling us how dumb we all are.
        I sincerely hope that if there’s DNC, et al shenanigans in this coming Primary, that—if they cannot be overcome—Bernie goes balls to the wall and jumpstarts a third party.
        If they are as desperate as they seem, now…they might be even more obvious and over the top than last time.
        I see the dem primary 2020 as maybe the most important election of my lifetime..because if the clintonists win again, our only hope of a new direction is trump.(sigh)

        1. nippersdad

          Re voting for Beto; here in Georgia we had Stacey Abrams. Same deal. She had some strange vibes to overcome in order to vote for her…but the opposition was pretty repulsive. Funnily, it came as no surprise the other day when we saw that she is now on the Board of CAP and is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Interesting that such things were never front and center in her campaign./s

          Even when one is suspicious, it really is hard to find out about their actual stances prior to voting. Looking around for someone to vote for is like finding Waldo in a picture of vulture capitalists these days.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > it really is hard to find out about their actual stances prior to voting

            Yep. Like Harris and Warren co-sponsoring S1804. Fine, as far as it goes, better that they do than they don’t, but where they saying the same thing a decade ago when there was no political opportunity?

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              that was the first election in a long time where I didn’t do due diligence.(living out of car due to wife’s cancer)
              I feel almost guilty about that…which is in itself uncomfortable.
              But my vote doesn’t make a lot of difference, especially outside the D/R Binary(Texas(=Goptea) has apparently ended straight ticket.)
              it’s often hard to find decent political coverage of Texas(and as I keep saying, Texgov is increasingly obscure…websites and emails function poorly, if at all.Site of Texas Lege goes unupdated.)
              especially from a Liberal, let alone Lefty, perspective.(seems Burnt Orange Report, and several others, are defunct)
              I’d never heard of Sema until after the primary.
              It just occurred to me that perhaps the election took place on Facebook?
              …and I feel so distant from it and detached because I no longer go there?
              I keep seeing things that lean towards some great watershed event (https://www.texasobserver.org/the-gop-machine-in-texas-seems-to-finally-have-slipped-a-gear/ ) but I don’t feel it. the politico-philsophical-sociological changes I see have little to do with party identification….are more organic and subtle.

      2. Eclair

        ” … as an old White woman I am really sick of being referred to as a “Bernie Bro” …”

        As am I, Elizabeth. Do you think we should form a ladies’ auxiliary, the “Bernie Broads?”

          1. ambrit

            Sometimes the jokes write themselves.
            Apologies to all the ‘niche’ groups I’m about to offend, but, live with it.
            “Hillary/Michelle 2020. For a Broad Consensus.”
            Identity politics writ large.

        1. aletheia33

          me third, however, i think if i were a young or not-young white or non-white, etc., etc., male sanders supporter i would be really sick of being referred to as a “bernie bro”.

          one has to give them credit for making sh*t like this stick. they are a formidable force for destruction of everything of any real value. they deal in deception and confusion and they do it very well.

      3. The Rev Kev

        ‘an old White woman’
        Tut. Tut. Tut. I myself would never use such a phrase as being too semantically loaded. As for the word ‘old’, I have been reliably informed that women do not have birthdays. They merely have anniversaries of their 21st birthday.

    3. Big River Bandido

      Even when being half truthful, Chait trolls with the worst of them. Pay him no mind. The manufactured fakeness of the O’Rourke boom is testament to the desperation of the panicked house liberals in their quest for a neoliberal champion — anyone — to stop Bernie Sanders. Things are so bad they’re even waiving seniority requirements — as long as you’re 50 or nearly so, and don’t oppose the junta.

      I think the liberals’ scrambling will all be for naught, but lots of fun to watch. The more neoliberal candidates that enter the Democrat primaries, the more they split their votes up amongst themselves — but they’re not going to take much support from Sanders. The blow-dried, empty-suit, manufactured candidacy which the Clintonites, Blairites and Macronites perfected has passed its sell-by date, and its electoral coalition has been sundered. There’s no viable pathway to the presidency for a business-as-usual Washington insider who lost his only statewide race.

  4. WJ

    Ah, Bloomberg, the Arbiter of Doability.

    Note that what Bloomberg means by “doable” is “acceptable to economically-interested third-way industry and finance types like me.”

    This story (and comment about what is purportedly “doable”) is not unrelated to the death of the Green New Deal covered in Links earlier today.

    The appeal to the quasi-standard of “doability” is designed to distract people from the fact that climate change plans are, in the first instance, *political* plans. Hence to a very large degree, what is “doable” in any plan is a function of how much political will is behind it. Bloomberg does not want any climate change plans that will adversely affect his profiting from incrementalist and/or ‘market’ driven initiatives, and he masks this by implying that any plan which effectively challenged the oligarchic status quo would not be “doable.” As it wouldn’t be, if the oligarchs were left in charge to run it. But it would become so if we–via Sanders, or Cortez or whomever–just stopped listening. Hence the war on him and her.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      speaking of war….
      in the twitthread about decaying infrastructure, there’s a link(?) to another, which is germane to what follows= https://twitter.com/hashtag/EatTheRich?src=hash
      (and this one contains this image: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DuRgJVJVYAARzgC.jpg )
      add in the bloomberg bit on how “…. the Fed is planning to eliminate over a million jobs — and put millions more at risk — in order to avoid a tiny deviation from its inflation target….”
      plus what “my” critter has been up to (Mike Conaway, consigliore of the bush crimenfamilia): https://www.texasobserver.org/texas-republicans-fail-to-kick-a-million-people-off-food-stamps-after-trying-for-a-year/

      and the Physorg thing about Social Murder(!!)
      I mean, My Dog!
      Vichy Dems unilaterally dismiss Green New Deal…and I’ll bet beer that I can easily go get excoriated as Vlad for even mentioning any of this in certain places.
      From under the oak, it sure looks like we’re getting into shameless indifference, if not some passive-aggressive culling program.
      have we determined a price at which these people will answer the phone? https://whoismyrepresentative.com/

      1. Mike Barry

        Instead of eliminating a million jobs, we could reduce the work week Or does that make too much sense?.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Only makes sense if somehow pay is increased to “compensate.” Which gets into a circular thing, since the only levers the Fed has are interest rates and jaw-jaw and money. Such a huge Kremlinological set of navel-gazers and pundits and financialists, pawing through the entrails of the Minutes of the FOMC and other oracular pronouncements, all their algos attuned to tiny bits of text and numbers that end up driving us mopes over one cliff after another.

          Or so it seems to me.

    2. Grant

      There are no solutions to the climate crisis that people like Bloomberg offer. I appreciate that he wants some plans, but the radical changes needed are well to the left of anything even Sanders is offering, and Bloomberg already thinks Sanders is too radical. Markets miss lots of information, and so markets themselves are key drivers in environmental degradation. Too many things with negative non-market impacts being produced, not enough of things with positive non-market impacts being produced. Lots of that information cannot be encoded in prices (no matter what neoclassical types claim), but even if it could, everything would increase in price, and that alone would require radical changes. We need an economic system that relies less on markets and market information. We also need a system that realizes limits in regards to consumption and pollution generation, which capitalism does not, but can also simultaneously deal with the fact that finance and the monetary system do not have natural resource constraints. There is also no realistic way for complex market systems to operate within sustainable limits in regards to consumption and pollution generation without some form of national planning. Would Bloomberg back anything like that? Of course not. What is the point of demanding a plan, but not being willing to do what is actually needed to at least mitigate what is coming for us, forget trying to avoid ecological collapse? One big issue, which Frank Ackerman has covered (great book, Can We Afford the Future?), is the huge gap between what economists claim is “realistic” in regards to tacking climate change and the environmental crisis overall, versus what is actually needed. The economists seem to think that if they deem something to be too radical, that objective reality changes and we suddenly have more time than we do. We have a given amount of time, structural and radical changes are needed, and anything less leads to everything collapsing. Is it pragmatic for it to collapse in twenty years versus fifteen? It seems that many of those in power have chosen capitalism, and they have the power to impose that decision on us. I would like to hear them explain their decision to their grandkids, but my guess is that they just avoid thinking about that, if they truly care at all.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Has the GND been actually and officially killed, a stake driven through its heart and the carcass buried at a crossroads at midnight? Seems to be some continued vitality, despite what the despoilers assure us is the case, to augment our mope sense of futility and resignation…

        2. Grant

          Thanks, I will check it out. Kelton is a hero of mine. The paper she co-authored recently on the mechanisms regarding eliminating student loan debt is great too. Goes into the macroeconomic impacts at the national and local level. Good stuff.

        3. Amfortas the hippie

          That was an excellent summation.
          I guess I’ll hafta paint “Green New Deal” on my tailgate, too.
          along side the only Bernie sticker for 100 miles, a “gay marriage flag” and “Medicare for All+”.

          as the Vox article mentions, towards the end, Dem “leadership” are like prairie dogs…poking their heads up to look around once in a while.(maybe a new mascot idea?)
          It takes stones to do something big…and dammit, if I can be forthright and unapologetic HERE, of all places…what’s their excuse?

  5. Wukchumni

    The emperor’s new clothes is being considered a contender in 2020, but the $700 jacket had no comment.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      You mean the jacket his son gave him? Or that in comparison to an Emperor’s clothes, $700 is cheap (it isn’t). Not sure of the point of this joke. And if you have to explain it…

      1. Wukchumni

        Seeing as the main stream media coverage of Bernie as a contender is transparent-as in not there, he’d almost have to be naked to garner attention.

        Isn’t it amusing how to some a $700 garment is egregious, and one of the few times the cost of cloth has ever been mentioned on the coverage of male politicians?

        I only own a $350 Patagonia jacket, and it’s served me well for 20+ years, so $700 doesn’t sound extreme, and I understand it’s a bit cooler back east.

        Whereas with women of power, we always are treated to what a frock they’re wearing costs. A very common practice now, but only fairly recently, it being a no gauche zone heretofore.

    1. jo6pac

      I don’t know what the problem is? I wonder if it could be years of no replace for old pipes? The cause of the fire up north in Calli was lines and towers nearly 100yrs old with no/deferred maintenance. This is in Calli were systems are only 100yrs old not like the east coast. What could wrong?

      It’s like the rest of Amerika:-(

  6. roxy

    “Why the Bernie Movement Must Crush Beto O’Rourke” [Jonathon Chait, New York Magazine].

    “O’Rourke projects a classic handsome, toothy, Kennedy-esque charm that reliably makes Democrats swoon.”

    Oh please. When they started slinging this line of reasoning during the Texas senate campaign I had to wonder what photos these people were looking at. Why not team him up with Joe Kennedy III as VP and get it over with.

  7. Big Tap

    Their appears to be a coordinated media campaign to attack the David Sirota article and the Left simultaneously. Regarding Jonathon Chait and the rest of the establishment Democratic and ‘Third Way’ media they let the cat out of the bag on who big money may support in 2020 (sorry Kamala Harris). They also have Joe Biden on speed dial. Let see articles by NBC (Comcast), New York magazine, comments by Neera Tanden, the Atlantic (Peter Beinart), and twitter troll attacks. All seem to know that Bernie needs to be attacked and destroyed to help their cause.




  8. crittermom

    Infrastructure: 911 outage

    I lost my CenturyLink internet service all day yesterday but that was nothing similar to losing 911 service as described. Wow.

    When it was back up & I was able to check my email, I’d gotten an automated ‘past due’ notice from CenturyLink! (I have yet to even receive my bill, not due for weeks). Another Oops.

    Yet another example of that ‘eggs.. basket’ saying?

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      According to some, it was clearly the Russians responsible. I’m waiting to see if that makes it into the media.

      1. cm

        Chinese are far more likely than Russian, seeking retaliation.

        CenturyLink’s explanations do not add up, unless they do not have a xmas freeze (which would be insanely irresponsible).

        Good reading here.

        Unless Century Link was in pushing out changes (which again is completely irresponsible during a freeze), this IMO looks like Chinese, given there were at least five simultaneous outages across the US. Their initial report of fiber cut in WA were incorrect. Not sure how you get that one wrong……

      2. juliania

        No, it was Sri Lanka. They didn’t want us all to be aware of the swift demise of the top order of their cricket batting team on the third day of the deciding test match in sunny Christchurch, NZ – said demise delivered by the swift and impeccable bowling skills of Trent Boult in the space of only ten runs – some sort of record, but don’t ask me what. (can be researched at cricinfo.com, so all is not lost.)

        We’re onto you, Sri Lanka.

    2. Glen

      I would expect to see more system failures such as these:

      Transformer failure and fire in NY
      Downed power lines in CA starting wildfires
      Bridge failures
      911 outage

      Much of these failures can be attributed to a lack of maintenance or upgrade. In part, these are the results of a reduction or complete elimination of maintenance of these systems. This “maintenance strategy” is nicknamed “run to failure”. It is implemented to reduce personnel (and costs).

      My career as an engineer has been to design, build, program, and support equipment used to manufacture product. I have been involved in management lead efforts to reduce overhead costs where managers are pushing to eliminate preventive maintenance. This is a sound strategy for some equipment where a failure will not injure people, does not significantly impact operations, and is not in violation of local, state, and federal regulations. One example would be a desktop PC. Many items such as smartphones are now being designed to not be serviced or repaired.

      However, in almost all of these efforts management would be pushing to reduce or eliminate all preventive maintenance and would have to stopped by the engineering and maintenance people on the team.

      Over time, this has resulted in a significant shift in company culture. People willing to implement these types of strategies are promoted and advanced. I am not surprised when I read that corporate CEOs can be characterized as sociopaths. I have witnessed something very similar at my work.

      I blame Wall St and the financialization of every aspect of our society. The results of cost cutting and outsourcing were very predictable. We are now the richest third world country on the planet. What I cannot see is just how this ends, but I will expect this trend to continue until things just fall apart.

      Unfortunately, the elites that are running our country have been trained to only react to the next three months profit. They are not capable of responding to infrastructure collapse and global climate change.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        People who depend on functioning life-support grids to keep them alive will die when the grids die. If important grids die in mega-million population cities, how many of the urban mega-millions would outlive the grids which keep them alive?

        Whereas decrepit suburbs decaying into semi-rural slum village status will still permit some slumburbanites to stay alive on harvested rainwater/snowater, grown food, etc.

        The obvious answer to the urban mega-millions would be: fix and maintain the survival-support grid infrastructure. The overclass would rather see the survival-support grids all break down and die in hopes that the dead grids would kill the urban megamillions through life-support withdrawal.
        Jackpot design engineering.

  9. Shonde

    “Time to bring back the landline, I guess. I don’t recall this happening with copper.”
    In about 2016, my landline provider in California, Cox Communications, told me that I had to switch to a modem system since they no longer were going to service the copper. At least they provided a modem for my no longer really “landline” with an 8 hours backup battery in case we lost electricity.

    When I moved to Minnesota this last May, I initially signed up for landline service with CenturyLink being assured by the customer service rep that I would be on the old copper system. Come installation day, the rep told me he was installing a modem for my landline service and I could no longer connect with the old copper. Century Link did not even provide a backup battery in case of outages. I switched service providers and now have battery backup but still no copper.

    Why do I want the old copper system landline? If I remember correctly, it was in 2011 that all of San Diego County lost power when a transformer in Arizona malfunctioned. I think it took a couple of days to bring electricity back on line. My old copper system phone worked since I had one corded phone. Since the cell towers had lost power, no cell phones worked. Everything reliant on electricity went dark.

    1. ambrit

      If I remember correctly, the old copper wire based ‘landline’ systems were 12 volt systems that had their own, individual power generators. The telephone company was it’s own power company, or at the least maintained a backup power generation system. Imagine the ‘streamlining’ and ‘added efficiencies’ the telephone managers and investors would get from this reduction in necessary capital investments!
      I can’t wait for the EMP attack.
      For the DIY crowd: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Get-Emergency-Power-from-a-Phone-Line/

      1. foghorn longhorn

        They are/were 48v DC thru a buge bank of batteries, with generator backup.
        Ring voltage is/was 120v AC.
        Ex GTE, back in the day.

        1. ambrit

          Thanks for this confirmation of the utility of ‘institutional memory.’
          Ah. I knew that the systems were DC, just not the voltages involved.
          I could not for the life of me imagine a combined AC/DC power system, unless, of course, I were looking, askance, at the elites inside, or below?, the Beltway.

    2. How is it legal

      It’s a fascist crime, in my opinion, what’s been allowed, literally given away, and destroyed behind the scenes for over a decade of unreported LOBBYING now, to derail copper line services across the country – which many still rely on. AT&T, Verizon et al, literally lying to customers then forcing them onto modems. Landline services not being repaired for days, despite no major outages. As to AT&T, so much for the basic phone services which were required decades upon decades ago, in return for allowing such a Monopoly to a for profit telecommunications company.

      That’s not even to mention the horrid reception issues (just for one) on the moderately priced cellphones which are the only ones that millions can even afford, and elderly people navigate; along with the fact that there are still those who have no other choice but dial-up internet connections, or cannot afford anything but dial-up for an internet connection.

      I’ve been suspecting for a long time now that the US Government is on board with it because the wiretapping/surveilling on landlines is far more complicated and has far more defense against it in court.

      I’d love to see a list of those Billionaires and Millionaires on Wall Street, and in Silicon Valley, who still refuse to give up their landlines (and old fashioned, in one’s own residence, answering machines), while the rest of us have them literally stolen from us with no recourse.

      1. foghorn longhorn

        A decade?
        Ronnie Raygun started the dismantling/deregulation back in 1984.
        You are very correct about the wiretapping/surveilling. Intercepting wireless data is basically the wild, wild west, i.e. no rules at all.

        1. How is it legal

          A decade?

          Actually, I wrote: for over a decade

          I knew it was over a decade, but didn’t know when exactly that lobbying to specifically undo the copper landlines to fiber and modems began – thereby utterly undermining the Basic Phone Services, and Emergency Phone Services – e.g. during Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, et al; where there’s nowhere to juice up ones cell phone if they are a ‘nobody’, and US phone booths are becoming, or already are, extinct in many neighborhoods.

          I hadn’t known that push was as early as Reagan. Can you give me a search phrase or link?

            1. How is it legal

              While your link is educating, and I thank you for it, I was asking for a search phrase or link as to when the behind the scenes AT&T push to do away with copper landlines, versus fiber and modems (with very short lived batteries, or no batteries at all), happened.

              1. Yves Smith

                Most articles don’t refer to copper as such, and when they do, they take up the AT&T/Verizon etc party line that copper is old fashioned, hard to maintain, that everyone wants to be/needs to be “modern” and have fiber.

                The reality is that this is 100% about the former Baby Bells getting rid of copper in order to get out of FCC “common carrier” restrictions.

                1. foghorn longhorn

                  This was a highly regulated “public utilty” back in the day.
                  Rate increases had to pass through individual State Public Utilty Commissions, which had real teeth and could actually pull the company’s permission to to operate.
                  GTE was close to getting kicked out of New Mexico in 1981, for example.
                  St. Raygun began the dreg process, he also ended the equal time provision for tv and radio, leading to an earful of rush effing limbaugh types.
                  Judge Green might be a useful link, if you are having trouble searching telecom deregulation.

      2. wilroncanada

        Just had an incident here on BC’s coast where the old plug-in land line phone came in handy. Power out for just under two days in our village. Still not all repaired nine days later on some of the Canadian Gulf Islands. Were able to phone BC Hydro to try to get updates, and to phone friends and relatives ( some in the no-hydro zone) to check on them.

      3. JohnnyGL

        My mother had a month-long fight with Verizon over the landline, they charged a hefty fee to come out and fix it after ignoring her and my dad as long as they could. Plus the monthly bill is really high now.

        At this point, I wonder if they’ve pushed out all the maintenance staff via ‘forced retirements’. There was a string of fights around Boston with the Telecommunications workers union having walkouts at several points.

        1. foghorn longhorn

          As an example of deregulation, while regulated repair tickets for residential users had to be fixed in 48 hrs or the PUC would ding you at rate hearings. Business was 24 hrs.
          Now it’s like, whenever bro.

  10. quanka

    re: “Famously Free Press” twitter link: I love how golden boy Ezra says “well it happened to me before I joined the mob” as if that makes it ok. What a tool.

  11. maria gostrey

    Re: the plantidote.

    henry james fans among us recognize “fletch” as the heroines surname in “the spoils of poynton”.

  12. a different chris

    The moment went viral online and was widely praised as a touching gesture of friendship over politics

    I think it was just what normally passes between the members of the aristocracy. In the (previous) Age Of Nobility you would cut off the head of your enemy in battle if you had to, but if he surrendered you sent him to some minor estate or other to hang out. His minions would likely not do so well, but they were of course of a lower class. I believe Vlad the Impaler himself was sent to live somewhere at some point.

    It’s a big club and we ain’t in it.

    1. RMO

      Your last line sums it up nicely.

      Apparently agree-to-disagree “politics” that shouldn’t get in the way of friendship encompasses shredding the Constitution, torture, murder and the supreme war crime as far the DC establishment and the Democratic party elites are concerned.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think it was Democrat elite hive mind selling itself to the wealthy suburban Republicans it hopes to attract; part of the general effort to rehabilitate Bush the Younger, which is being done for the same purpose.

  13. AndrewJ

    Brooklyn Extraction Lab aka Alpha Dominche closed – wow! I installed three of their Steampunk units in Colorado! Including – surprise! – one at Google’s new Boulder building! Crikey. It’s not really like a Juicero, it’s a commercial unit you’ve got to drill a lot of holes in a counter to get in that outsources it’s brain box to a built-in Android tablet. That part never worked quite right. The components seemed a little cheap for a commercial machine, including known-for-leaking John Guest fittings inside the box, and an itty bitty drain line…
    It’s definitely schadenfreude, but it’s a certain kind of feeling to see a poorly-engineered product fold, and know that as a tech I Was Right All Along. Next up, Slayer and San Marco, I hope! Stop building crap, please!
    * I should stress that I was in no way involved with the decision to purchase these machines, I only was the guy to install them…

    1. Carolinian

      So $15,000 is pocket change to Google. They probably tip that to the bellboy.

      My current coffee maker cost $20–very downscale.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Brooklyn Extraction Lab aka Alpha Dominche closed – wow! I installed three of their Steampunk units in Colorado! Including – surprise! – one at Google’s new Boulder building!

      That’s hilarious. Brooklyn Extraction Lab is like Juicero in that it’s a scam, and a crude scam with no life-span.

  14. Steely Glint

    RE: social security austerity
    I listened to Rep. John Larson explain his bill to enhance Social Security today. It was impressive, especially that no person should retire into poverty (which I’ll admit I have done in the sense that although I have some backstops, they are rapidly diminishing)
    He carefully explained that S.S. is not an “entitlement” but rather insurance, and who has not seen their insurance rates go up since the 80s. His plan calls for a tax increase of 50 cents every two weeks over a period of time, raises the cap, and ties S.S, payments to a CPI-E formula which better reflects costs incurred by seniors.

    1. Oregoncharles

      SS is the most regressive tax most of us face; raising it is very neoliberal. Raising the cap and/or taxing unearned income (aka “rents”) would be much better.

      It’s very questionable whether SS is really insurance; for one thing, the payout is unlimited. It’s really a transfer tax, from those still working to the retired, if only because the checks mostly come out of current income. The “trust fund,” while it really exists, is a Greenspan con.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Greenspan certainly designed it as a Greenspan con. That doesn’t mean we have to submit quietly to having it treated that way.

  15. ewmayer

    Re. The Bezzle: “Brooklyn’s Extraction Lab, Home of the $18 Coffee, Has Closed” [Brooklyn Reporter] — Sounds like the Extraction Lab was aptly named … just not in reference to coffee. :)

    Re. Maine humor – brought to my mind the old-west-themed dog joke: So a three-legged dog walks into a saloon in he old west and says “I’m lookin’ fer the man who shot my paw.”

  16. ChristmasAtRU

    Compliments of the season, esteemed editors, moderators and commentariat!

    Thanks for holding it down during the holidays!

    #AusterityResultsInSocialMurder – Did no one consult the Greeks years ago?

    #TheBezzleBitCoin – It never ceases to amaze me the extent to which this digital dung managed to morph into ever increasing money/resource-sapping swill.

    #TheBezzleSteamPunk – Madre de Dios … that IS worse than Juicero.

    #LateStockingStuffer – GalaxyBrainsOf2018

  17. drumlin woodchuckles

    About the $15,000 dollar steampunk machine specifically . . . now that the steampunk machines are all in deep hibernation because the servers went down by which someone could wake them up . . .

    I almost betcha that most of the value is in the analog “extraction-works” part of the steampunk machines. $15,000 is a lot of money to throw away. If a bi-modal master-whiz of digital AND analog technology could figure out how to strip the digital cooties out of the steampunk machine and then retrofit the steampunk with hand-operated switches and dials which would let the owner control all the settings and operations and features of the steampunk machines by flipping switches and turning knobs; that master-whiz could make some money charging people to de-chip their steampunk machines and let them save their $15,000 investment.

    1. AndrewJ

      Could do. Wire up the few solenoids to buttons or even a simple “dumb” control circuit. But then you’d be the first person to blame as the boiler box ages and breaks down. No thanks.
      For the cost of the bills I’d write for conversion and the far-sooner-than-you’d-like breakdowns, you could buy a dozen specialty kettles and pour-over drippers and have enough left over to employ an extra PFY to hand-brew your expensive, micro-origin cups. Plug the holes you drilled in that expensive granite counter, and remember that the nice people at the convention with the pretty new product from a company that nobody had ever heard of are not really your friends.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Then the people who bought steampunk machines should regard this as a very expensive life lesson. If they are in the coffee house and/or tea house bussiness they should just get all the analog-from-the-start tools and machines you describe.

        And perhaps they could buy enough Carolina Biological Supply resin to preserve their detached and removed steampunk machine in a huge block of resin to memorialize it for the ages. They could put it on their front lawn or front lobby or wherever.

  18. BoyDownTheLane

    A) In order to comunicate in an emergency, I send my wife up on the roof with a wet blanket and fire up the wood stove.

    B) Who here knows anything (and will communicate it) regarding Elana Freeland and her two books?

  19. Chris


    House Dems Form New Climate Committee

    Yes, let’s fight for the planet… as long as it doesn’t actually offend our donors. And we’ll ask the chair of the committee to not take any donations from oil, gas, or coal… as long as she’s in office. We promise to consider a Green New Deal… over AOCs dead body.

    I guess this is what Bloomberg means by doable?

    When are the Dems going to figure out that nobody cares what you fight for if you never fight to win :/

  20. tokyodamage

    re: china drones

    People think of ’50s USA as a hawkish, cold-war, conservative paradise, but . . .

    When Russia launched Sputnik, the USA ramped up public-school education in general, and university science in particular. War hawks too saw education as a national security priority.

    Now, when China launches a million drones in public, it’s a .gif and a one-day story. But Trump’s hair, on the other hand. . . .

  21. cnchal

    > “Amazon Prime is getting worse, and it’s making me question the nature of reality”

    . . . There is no justice for the consumer when all they face is a machine. . .

    Quite the rabbit hole. Spoiled brat Amazon customers complain about crapified “Prime” delivery and sellers on Amazon complain about being ripped off by Amazon.

    There is no justice for sellers when all they face is a machine.


    From a comment by FunkyMonkey

    No, I don’t work for Amazon.

    I’m a small business owner, and FBA seller like most of us.

    They have been trying to put me out of business since the June/July time frame. The have stolen my inventory, sabotaged my shipments, activated collectibles that we haven’t had in stock in 4-1/2 years; leaving us to deal with the customers and our metrics. They have lied, planted units in my inventory, produced forged photos. Last week I caught them suppressing my listings from the catalog, and they just started down pricing my items; causing two listings of Webkinz to sell out in 1/2 a day, which I had to ship at 1/2 the price I paid for them wholesale. Now I find there are about 800 listings in my inventory for $1.00.

    I don’t think there’s a person on “Planet Earth” that has been attacked by Amazon as viciously as I have.

    Abuse by Amazon™

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Would this person still be able to find a way to do business off the Amazon? Would others in this same situation?

      Will a tipping point be reached in parts of the Social Mass Mind to where ” this is a NOmazon business” becomes a selling point?

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