2:00PM Water Cooler 1/11/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Trade

“Obstacles remain in securing trade peace after US-China talks” [South China Morning Post]. “Chinese and American negotiators had to go the extra mile to avoid failure in their latest talks to end the trade war. Otherwise the differences between them were too many and too wide and they have failed to narrow them too often. The relatively low vice-ministerial level of the delegations did not hold out much hope. But halfway through a 90-day truce struck by presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump before the United States imposes more threatened tariffs, the need to at least forge a basis for progress was paramount. On that test the talks can be counted a success. An early indication was that the scheduled two days of talks became three. This reflected sincerity in seeking a result and showed discussion had gone into detailed issues. Even before that, the surprise appearance at the start by China’s top trade negotiator Liu He sent a clear message: the Chinese side was taking the meeting very seriously ahead of his expected visit to the US later this month for more substantive talks.”

Politics

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

2020

Beto:

In a dentist’s chair?

Harris:

Some clever person on the left should aggregate organic stories like this — a tiny account — turn them into a video, and nuke Harris’s campaign with it. Because she deserves it.

“Gillibrand Hires New Aides, Signaling Presidential Run Is Imminent” [New York Times]. “Ms. Gillibrand has recruited Meredith Kelly, formerly the top spokeswoman at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to serve as communications director for her prospective 2020 campaign, two people familiar with the decision said. Ms. Kelly was part of the team at the House committee that helped the party capture the majority in 2018, overseeing the group’s media strategy during the midterm elections.” • Oooh, DCCC. That’s a good sign.

“Joe Biden is the Hillary Clinton of 2020” [Matthew Yglesias, Vox]. “What brought Clinton down was public exposure not to her personality — which was sparkling enough to make her the most admired woman in America for 17 years straight before losing the claim to Michelle Obama in 2018 — but extended public scrutiny of every detail of a decades-long career in public life. This, in turn, is the exact same problem Biden will inevitably face as a presidential candidate. Americans like outsiders and fresh faces, not veteran insiders who bear the scars of every political controversy of the past two generations…. As Democrats gear up to take on Trump, the party’s best shot is to do anything possible to avoid repeating the 2016 experience of defending decades’ worth of twists and turns on various issues from the Iraq War to LGBTQ rights to banking deregulation.” • So, skateboards!

“Majority of Democrats Want Candidates to Be More Like Bernie Sanders, Poll Finds” [Newsweek]. “The polling firm asked: ‘Do you wish the candidates who run for Congress this year will be more or less like Bernie Sanders?’ A full 57 percent of Democratic respondents said ‘more like Bernie Sanders’ in response. Sixteen percent said less while 27 percent responded ‘not sure.’ Not surprisingly, Sanders was less popular with conservatives. Only 13 percent of Republicans said they wanted candidates to be more like Sanders, while 74 percent said less. Independents were split. Twenty-seven percent said more like Sanders, while 35 percent said less, and 38 percent said ‘not sure.'” • Those numbers for Independents show Sanders has some work to do, but on the bright side, the work is there to do.

2019

AOC goes to Washington, and doesn’t have to service donors four hours a day, every day, because she doesn’t take DCCC’s dirty money. So she has time to do more interesting and useful things:

AOC’s Chief of Staff confirms:

Of course, in Pelosi’s world, perhaps “call time” is a Representative’s work?

2016 Post Mortem

“I Was Sexually Harassed on Bernie Sanders’s 2016 Campaign. I Will Not Be Weaponized or Dismissed.” [Giulianna Di Lauro Velez, The Intercept]. “I told my story to bring attention to the sexist environment that is unfortunately endemic to most workspaces, including political campaigns. However, I was disheartened to discover that the takeaway by many pundits was not that sexism and harassment is pervasive, but that Sanders was somehow uniquely culpable…. [M]y story should not be taken to confirm the ‘Bernie bro’ mythology. It should be taken to confirm the pervasiveness of sexism in professional life and distill the hard truths that all campaigns should learn from.” • Good for her, because she’ll never eat brunch in this town again….

Related, perhaps:

If you think your campaign manager, in retrospect, has turned out to have butchered a major part of your campaign, and left a trail of scattered landmines on the path to your next campaign, then yes, you might not want him back, even if you trust him for other reasons. (Sanders has known Weaver since 1990. How to find a campaign manager who isn’t a mere mercenary, or worse, a mole?)

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Exasperated Democrats try to rein in Ocasio-Cortez” [Politico (RH)]. “[M]ost of them have kept their criticism of Ocasio-Cortez private, fearful she’ll sic her massive following on them by firing off a tweet.” • Hmm. Remind you of anyone, tactically? Well worth a read, and the subject of a lot of well-deserved dunking on the Twitter. Here is the key paragraph:

Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) is playing a key role. Like Ocasio-Cortez, Velázquez knocked off a longtime Democratic incumbent to win her seat, and they share Puerto Rican roots.*

In private conversations** with Ocasio-Cortez over the past few months, Velázquez counseled Ocasio-Cortez against targeting her Democratic colleagues in future elections. The two had a “long, long conversation” about the dynamics of Congress and Washington, and how there shouldn’t be a “litmus test” for every district, Velázquez said in a recent interview.

Velázquez, in other words, is enforcing Pelosi’s theory of the party:

[PELOSI:] Our party is a big tent, our districts are very different***, one from the other. Each of our members is elected to be the independent representative of their district. So nobody’s district is representative of somebody’s else’s district.

Notice how Pelosi’s theory — that what seems to be true about Democrats, that they share no consistent principles, is in fact true — empowers two subclasses in the political class: (A) Donors, since every representative can make whatever commitments to donors they like, and (b) Democratic strategists and consultants who, in the absence of candidates who actually stand for anything, can bill at high rates (ultimately, those same donors) for devising the various narratives and little marks of authenticity that make for “electability.” Obviously, I think Democrat incumbents should be primaried, especially when they suck, which is very often, and it will be interesting to see whether Pelosi barfs up her theory and sponsors a challenger — for AOC.

NOTES * I see. Only Puerto Ricans can talk to Puerto Ricans. ** Not “private” for very long, eh? *** Ideologically, this is an assault on universal concrete material benefits, especially for the working class. Everybody doesn’t need #MedicareForAll? No matter what district they’re in? Really? How about Social Security?

And speaking of exasperated Democrats:

And speaking of Democrat donors: “Black man claims he fled Dem. donor Ed Buck’s apartment after being injected with meth” [Grio]. “‘He was quite open about being very generous to the Black community,’ [Jermaine Gagnon] said.” • Wowsers. (And see this long comment from alert reader Unna yesterday.)

“As Democratic Elites Reunite With Neocons, the Party’s Voters Are Becoming Far More Militaristic and Pro-War Than Republicans” [Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept]. ‘But what is remarkable about the new polling data on Syria is that the vast bulk of support for keeping troops there comes from Democratic Party voters, while Republicans and independents overwhelming favor their removal. The numbers are stark: Of people who voted for Clinton in 2016, only 26 percent support withdrawing troops from Syria, while 59 percent oppose it. Trump voters overwhelmingly support withdraw by 76 percent to 14 percent.” • Those of you who followed my midterms worksheets will recall that the liberal Democrat establishment packed the ballot with MILOs (candidates with Military, Intelligence, and Law enforcement backgrounds, or Other things, like being a DA), preparing the way for further militarization of the Party, and ultimately for war.

* * *

“What We’re Building: A Report on Base-Building in DSA Nationally” (PDF) [DSA]. “We directly asked DSA chapters what they are working on and analyzed the results.” Summary finding:

  • In terms of issues, DSA chapters work on housing justice (43%) nearly as much as healthcare justice (45%), outpacing labor (38.5%) and

    criminal justice (33%).

  • Tactically, chapters use electoral work (57%) and mutual aid (48%) almost equally when organizing.
  • Almost as many chapters run brake light clinics (25%) as advocate for Medicare for All (M4A) federal legislation (34%).

I think brake lights are great, because not only do they bring material benefits — like not getting stopped by the cops and whacked, if you’re black, or funding your city’s budget through fines, if you’re anybody — you bring DSA members in contact with actual, real-life working people. Who can that not be helpful to #MedicareForAll organizing?

Stats Watch

Consumer Price Index, December 2018: “A swing lower for energy costs pulled down headline consumer prices in December which, at the core rate, were steady and moderate” [Econoday]. “The turn lower for overall prices may, based on the ongoing rebound in oil prices, firm back slightly in the next report for January, yet price pressures at the consumer level remain tame and are not raising any urgency for Federal Reserve rate hikes.” And: “December 2018 CPI: Year-over-Year Inflation Rate Moderates to 1.9%” [Econintersect]. “Energy was the main driver for the year-over-year decline. Core inflation remains above 2.0 % year-over-year. Medical cost inflation continues to outpace the CPI-U.” And: “Key Measures Show Inflation about the same in December as in November on YoY Basis” [Calculated Risk]. “On a monthly basis, median CPI was at 2.4% annualized, trimmed-mean CPI was at 2.5% annualized, and core CPI was at 2.6% annualized. Using these measures, inflation was about the same in December on a year-over-year basis as in November. Overall, these measures are at or above the Fed’s 2% target (Core PCE is below 2%).” And: “Inflation nightmare on Main Street? Hardly. Easing prices take pressure off economy” [MarketWatch]. “Worries about inflation and an overheating economy had spurred the Federal Reserve to jack up interest four times last year. The higher cost of borrowing dented housing sales, sparked a stock-market meltdown in December and fueled talk about a possible recession for the first time in almost 10 years. Turns out, though, that underlying price pressures may not be all that worrisome.” • Oopsie. Thanks, guys.

Commodities: “The tremendous potential of deep-sea mud as a source of rare-earth elements” [Nature]. “Deep-sea mud containing over 5,000 ppm total REY content was discovered in the western North Pacific Ocean near Minamitorishima Island, Japan, in 2013. This [rare-earth elements and yttrium (REY)]-rich mud has great potential as a rare-earth metal resource because of the enormous amount available and its advantageous mineralogical features.” • Go long deep-sea mud!

Retail: “Strong economy does little to lift department store sales” [Associated Press]. “Macy’s and Kohl’s reported lackluster numbers on Thursday, [investors] were taken aback, sending retail stocks into a tailspin and calling into question whether such mall-based chains can compete in a changing landscape where shoppers are shifting more of their spending online…. Shares of Macy’s plummeted nearly 18 percent Thursday, suffering its worst one-day decline. Kohl’s stock closed down nearly 5 percent. Even Target’s stock took a hit, falling nearly 3 percent despite showing strong holiday sales.”

Retail: “Billions are at stake in the Bezos divorce. Here’s what it means for Amazon shareholders. (AMZN)” [Business Insider]. “Some analysts on Wall Street who cover the stock say there’s little shareholders should worry about — unless the major life event turns into a business distraction…. The divorce proceedings won’t affect shareholders mostly because of the company’s size, said Molly Kenny, the principal in the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny in Bellevue, Washington. While there might a shakeup at a smaller company whose leader is going through a divorce, given Amazon’s size and what’s at stake, it’s unlikely in this situation.”

Shipping: “Fears of cargo cartel spark probe into ‘super alliance’ at Hong Kong container terminal” [South China Morning Post]. “Hong Kong’s competition watchdog has opened an unprecedented investigation into whether a new ‘super alliance’ between four of the five operators at one of the world’s busiest container ports breaches antitrust regulations….

The Bezzle: “Lazy Prices” [Lauren Cohen, Christopher Malloy, Quoc Nguyen NBER]. “Using the complete history of regular quarterly and annual filings by U.S. corporations from 1995-2014, we show that when firms make an active change in their reporting practices, this conveys an important signal about future firm operations. Changes to the language and construction of financial reports also have strong implications for firms’ future returns: a portfolio that shorts “changers” and buys “non-changers” earns up to 188 basis points in monthly alphas (over 22% per year) in the future. Changes in language referring to the executive (CEO and CFO) team, regarding litigation, or in the risk factor section of the documents are especially informative for future returns. We show that changes to the 10-Ks predict future earnings, profitability, future news announcements, and even future firm-level bankruptcies. Unlike typical underreaction patterns in asset prices, we find no announcement effect associated with these changes—with returns only accruing when the information is later revealed through news, events, or earnings—suggesting that investors are inattentive to these simple changes across the universe of public firms.” • Arbitrage this now, before the advantage disappears! (The article came out in September 2018, but the Times only linked to it yesterday.)

Tech: “AT&T decides 4G is now “5G,” starts issuing icon-changing software updates” [Ars Technica]. “Welcome to AT&T’s 5G plan, where perception and marketing is all that matters. AT&T is just going to start calling 4G LTE “5G E.” The company started rolling out a software update to several Android phones over the weekend, and what was called “4G” yesterday is now called “5G” today. Through the power of marketing, AT&T now has “5G” in over 400 markets!… The whole 5G rollout is turning into a huge mess, and AT&T isn’t helping matters. …. Smartphone hardware has a laundry list of first-generation issues to overcome, and you’re probably better off just skipping the flood of 5G phones that will be out this year.”

Tech: “The way SoftBank invests in startups just doesn’t work, says Khosla Ventures’ Keith Rabois” [Recode]. Khosla Ventures partner Keith Rabois: “[Softbank has] deferred some companies’ aspirations of going public. I think it’s created a crutch for other companies that really don’t have an economic model that’s working, and it’s created a bank account that people can tap into and not have to solve their business problems. I personally believe that scarcity to capital is a good thing, that desperation breeds innovation, and that you need constraints to actually execute well and innovate. If someone gives you this pile of money, I think it creates a lot of excuses and soft thinking.” • No kidding.

Tech: “More Start-Ups Have an Unfamiliar Message for Venture Capitalists: Get Lost” [New York Times]. “On a sunny Saturday morning in New York a few months ago, a group of 50 start-up founders gathered in the dank basement of a Lower East Side bar. They scribbled notes at long tables, sipping coffee and LaCroix while a stack of pizza boxes emanated the odor of hot garlic. One by one, they gave testimonials taking aim at something nearly sacred in the technology industry: venture capital… But for every unicorn, there are countless other start-ups that grew too fast, burned through investors’ money and died — possibly unnecessarily. Start-up business plans are designed for the rosiest possible outcome, and the money intensifies both successes and failures. Social media is littered with tales of companies that withered under the pressure of hypergrowth, were crushed by so-called “toxic V.C.s” or were forced to raise too much venture capital — something known as the ‘foie gras effect.'”

Concentration: “Prescription Drug Costs Driven By Manufacturer Price Hikes, Not Innovation” [NPR] (original). “The skyrocketing cost of many prescription drugs in the U.S. can be blamed primarily on price increases, not expensive new therapies or improvements in existing medications as drug companies frequently claim, a new study shows….. Since rising costs aren’t paying for improved treatments, policy makers may want to take action, says Dr. William Shrank, chief medical officer of the UPMC Health Plan, who is also an author on the study. ‘This observation supports policy efforts designed to control health care spending by capping price inflation to some reasonable level,’ he says.”

Concentration: “The Merger That Could Kill Your Favorite Magazine” [Open Markets Institute]. “[P]ublishers’ jobs may soon get even more difficult if the Department of Justice fails to block printer Quad/Graphics’ $1.4 billion bid to buy its only major competitor in the business of printing physical magazines, LSC Communications… Even with the spread of digital publications, many readers, publishers, and advertisers still see value in physical copies. Indeed, some magazines – including Rolling Stone – have recommitted over the last year to printing their product. Yet if the deal is approved, even major publications like Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, and Reader’s Digest will become dependent on Quad/Graphics to print and distribute their product.” • Re: Physical copies. In my experience, the FT and NYT are far more readable on paper than online. Not only is the physical act of reading itself a pleasure, I always, without exception, find useful and interesting stories I would otherwise have missed.

Transportation: “Intel and Warner Bros. show off Batman experience for self-driving car” [VentureBeat]. “The interior of the Intel Warner Bros. autonomous vehicle, a retrofitted 2019 BMW X5, is equipped with advanced technology, a large screen TV, projectors, mobile devices, sensory and haptic feedback, and immersive audio and lights to bring passengers on a virtual ride moderated by Batman’s trusted butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Gotham City’s imagery comes in via the side windows, and Alfred’s voice greets you.” • I don’t see what the Acela doesn’t already do this. If the Acela were an immersive environment, passengers wouldn’t risk looking out the window at miles of deindustrialized hellscape.

Mr. Market: “Fear of algorithm trading is really just the fear of the unknown” [Quartz]. “The funny thing is, we’ve always been quite bad at knowing how to attribute market volatility, which long predates algorithm trading. The start of a much-shared satirical Wall Street Journal article from the 1990s sums it up: ‘The market rallied early this morning for reasons nobody understands and nobody predicted. CNBC analysts confidently asserted it had something to do with the Senegalese money supply, but others pointed to revised monthly figures showing a poor tuna haul off the Peruvian coast.’… A separate question, of course, is whether all this market volatility can or should be ascribed to algorithm training as it has been. Despite recent relative placidity, markets have always been volatile. The last three months’ ups-and-downs may have been choppy, but they’re by no means historic. It may also be true that we’re simply talking more about the most minute market moves…. Blame it on the robots if you must—it’s an easy out for those struggling to understand what’s happened already, and what’s going to happen next. The trouble is, it’s not very useful for everyone else.”

Honey for the Bears: “Warning signs for the global economy” [Financial Times]. “The world’s two largest economies slow, while the UK’s financial sector readies for Brexit and the ECB retreats from QE. Structural challenges and limited space for any policy response add to fragility. Here’s the best of this week’s opinion and analysis.” • A useful aggregation.

The Biosphere

“Ocasio-Cortez’s climate genius stroke: Her Green New Deal is the most serious response to the crisis yet” [Bill McKibben, New York Daily News]. “Essentially, through Democratic and Republican administrations, we’ve done far too little. There are a few comprehensive state-level plans: California is acting, and environmental justice groups in New York State, for instance, have painstakingly put together a Climate and Community Protection Act that’s a model for others. But at the federal level, where it really counts, we’ve fallen farther and farther behind the physics of climate change. Which brings us back to Ocasio-Cortez. Her plan for a Green New Deal — endorsed ‘in concept’ in recent days by one presidential aspirant after another — is among the first Washington efforts to approach climate change at the right scale.” • I don’t want to be cranky about his, and I like the GND too, but McKibben’s sigh that “we’ve done far too little” — who’s that “we”? — is such an indictment of the environmental movement as a political entity.

Health Care

“CDC says it’s another severe flu season with up to 7.3 million people sick so far” [CNBC]. “An estimated 6.2 million to 7.3 million people in the United States have been sick with the flu since October… While the numbers are milder than last season, the Influenza Like Illness Level last week was elevated at 4.1 percent, almost twice national baseline…. Thirty-seven percent of U.S. adults were estimated to have been vaccinated last flu season, down 6 percentage points from the previous year, according to the CDC. It estimates that the flu killed more than 80,000 people and caused more than 900,000 hospitalizations last year.”

Class Warfare

“Uses and Abuses of Class Separatism” [Verso]. “[T]here are at least two necessary and sufficient elements in a relation of production. There’s a structural element and an individual element. The structural element is in the relation itself (externally-facing), like a ratio, for example, and the individual element is in how people experience and live the relation (internally-facing)….. The wage relation is a paradigm case of a relation of production. It’s got structural elements, like the exploitative difference between amounts paid to workers compared to profits made by capitalists. It also has experiential elements, like how workers live their wage relations depending on their race, gender, nationality, sexuality, ability. Neither element is sufficient on its own for the relation of production. Neither is dependent on the other. Neither is a function of the other. Both are necessary and sufficient for the relation of production…. Class separatists separate out the structural element of relations of production, name it “class”, and then distinguish this element of relations of production from the individual elements, calling them “identity”…. However, class separatists make a big mistake (maybe their biggest) when they think that structural elements cut across individual elements of relations of production. The way Black women live unequal housing relations is different than indigenous men, queer immigrants, or a straight white people. But class separatists go way too far and think that these individual elements of relations of production (which they tragically call “identity” just like liberals do) need not be foregrounded and given equal political weight in their thinking and organizing. Of course structural elements of relations of production, like rent prices or mold, cut across so many differences. But these elements don’t cut across individual differences. The structural elements are lived through the individual elements. The individual differences are muscles to the structural bones in relations of production. If we try to cut across these muscles, we lose our movement power.” • This article is part of an extremely heatlthy on-going polemic on the left, and well worth a read on that account (It’s also written in English, and not dense jargon. (I do think that “separatists” has the wrong tone.)

“Labor exploitation also happens close to home” [Supply Chain Dive]. “Far too often, customers outsource their moral outrage, as well as their manufacturing, to their top tier suppliers. Turning a blind eye to these tragedies may be the easy choice, especially when the upstream supply chain is halfway around the world. But human trafficking and exploitation are not reserved to low cost countries. We need to acknowledge there are labor exploitations within our domestic supply chain. Knowingly or not, we use suppliers who take advantage of employees, provide poor working conditions and low wages, and purposefully violate laws and regulations. Where is the moral outrage of labor exploitation in the United States?” More:

I remember the employees at a printed circuit board facility with holes in their clothes and burns on their skin due to the acids they worked with. Employees in a small and crowded break room that was crawling with roaches eating their lunch. Workers jammed shoulder to shoulder on assembly benches without enough room to properly do their work. Machinists lacking eye and hearing protection. Barbed wire surrounding an outside break area. Exposed electrical wires and leaking pipes, and clean rooms that were far from clean.

Can’t see this from the Acela windows, though!

News of the Wired

“‘A Minefield’: How Scholars Who Don’t Drink Navigate the Conference Social Scene” [Chronicles of Higher Education]. “These conferences encourage the feeling that if participants worked the hotel-bar network “a little bit better,” they would unlock more professional advantages and opportunities, said a sober professor who attended the MLA conference and asked for anonymity out of fear of being judged by peers. For people who don’t have problems with alcohol, that’s fine, the professor said.” • Maybe, just as on campus, if the expectation wasn’t that people should get hammered, some of the behavioral issues with which we are so famliar might be ameliorated?

“The Year-Long, Undercover Plot To Blow Up EVE Online’s Most Notorious Space Station” [Kotaku]. “Through a combination of massive wealth, admirable player skill, and dogged persistence, the players of Hard Knocks established themselves as the top predator in the wormhole ecosystem. When citadels were first introduced to the game, Hard Knocks was in the unique position to be able to immediately begin construction of the first Keepstar, known as—what else?—Fort Knocks. Building Fort Knocks and placing it in a wormhole took months of planning, hundreds of billions of ISK, and the combined efforts of the entirety of Hard Knocks. Fort Knocks was almost stolen before it was assembled by nefarious industrialists, and the convoy operation to bring the Keepstar safely to Rage narrowly avoided discovery. But the story of building something in EVE is always going to be only the first half of the story. No one has ever done anything great in EVE without someone else wanting to destroy it. Soon after the players of Hard Knocks finished building their sandcastle, players in an alliance called The Initiative began planning to kick it over.” • Seems political.

Caption contest:

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

TH: “These little Allen’s Hummingbirds sure love the Mexican Bush Sage (a name I always want to “fix” to Mexican Sage Bush).”

* * *
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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.

157 comments

  1. NotTimothyGeithner

    “Joe Biden is the Hillary Clinton of 2020”

    Is Joe Biden Hillary Clinton in 2020 or a Hillary style candidate? Because he does strike me as having as much of a point as HRC running in 2020, but HRC is lightyears than Biden. Its not even close. This is insulting. She wasted potential, so its morally damning. Biden is HRC without the selling points.

    Reply
    1. a different chris

      Ugh. Read this again (and I’m a clueless white male):

      personality — which was sparkling enough to make her the most admired woman in America

      How sweet that wimmin’s little personality is!!

      I don’t think her personality is sparkling, and more to the point either way it isn’t how I judge her. And I think Ms. Clinton actually would appreciate that, if not my conclusions. I hope it was her appearance of power that made her popular, you know, just like a member of the opposite sex, no matter how it actually worked out.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The problem isn’t HRC’s personality as much as her policies she’s long been wedded too. The “we came, we saw, he died” problem is out there, but when she isn’t putting on a show, she can be quite good. She should have easily been elected President in 2008.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BEPcJlz2wE

        Aspects of the second coronation process went to her head, but she can be likeable. Not addressing Bill’s crumminess and the Iraq War were killers for her first campaign.

        She can also tell a joke and hit the punch line to provoke genuine laughter (a rare commodity). Obama couldn’t do that. When he told a joke, he missed the mark and everyone laughed along because the President or candidate doesn’t tell jokes….its kooky.

        Reply
        1. Another Scott

          You’re forgetting how horrible her campaign was, as well as her stated contempt for the “deplorables.”

          Reply
          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            You’re forgetting how horrible her campaign was,

            I’m not forgetting. I’m blaming her campaigns, the Clinton philosophy, and their machine, not her personality.

            The “deplorables” was very likely a campaign tested line to explain why she wasn’t doing better. And the wealthy Republicans the campaign coveted weren’t crossing over the way they hoped in certain states, and if they implied it was these Romney style Republicans who voted for Trump in the end, it would be a great line. Romney is deplorable.

            The GOP attacked her for a reason in the 90’s. Her personality and status could push major change.

            Reply
            1. sierra7

              HC campaign precisely reflected her…..period.
              Her exhibition when the Libyan leader was murdered, and on television no less shows what kind of evil she carries within.
              As far as Joe B. is concerned he is with the “over the hill” gang…..the centrist Dems.

              Reply
        2. Carey

          A campaign of “I’m with Her!”, never mentioning why that might be so?
          Can you say “presumption”?

          Much, if not most, of America had had more than enough of the Clintons by 1997, and the “deplorables” comment, which She made more than once, was
          just icing on the cake. Then there’s the choice of Tim Kaine..

          Reply
          1. The Rev Kev

            Someone said that he campaign motto was quite true when it said “I’m with Her!” and that in contrast an AOC would have a campaign motto like “I’m with You!”. Seem to recall that Hillary refused all interviews in her campaign until the final stretch which helped gut her campaign.

            Reply
        3. ewmayer

          “She can also tell a joke” — yes, I recall the knee-slappingly brilliant comedic timing of her “we came, we saw, he died” quip – what could be more risible than that naughy, naughty towel-headed Gaddafi getting sodomized to death with a bayonet and the country he led being turned into a neo-medieval extremist-ridden hellhole? I’m sure the folks in Libya are still chuckling over that one, as well! [The FT piece over in today’s links, “Libya: the battle for peace in a failing state”, probably describes the hilarity-filled post-Hillary-quip landscape there in detail, but it’s paywalled, so I’m just guessing.]

          Reply
      2. cocomaan

        When asked by Gallup in an open-ended question to name the woman they admire most, 15% of Americans mentioned Obama, who has been touring the United States promoting her best-selling memoir “Becoming.”

        When it comes to naming a woman, she’s the woman whose came up the most, not the “most admired”.

        These poll questions are stupid.

        Reply
        1. Carey

          By design, maybe? See C. Lasch, maybe our last good-hearted public figure.
          Whistling past the graveyard now, but.. it didn’t have to be like this, and
          there were decent people who said so a ways back.

          Reply
      3. Partyless Poster

        I don’t know if she was the most admired woman but I know in June of 2016 her approval rating was only 1 or 2 points above Trumps.
        People tend to forget she is widely hated by a large part of the citizenry.

        Reply
      4. Darthbobber

        People often bring up the “most admired” thing as if it’s somehow meaningful, but I think most years the “most admired” man or woman in such polls needed less than 20% of respondents to obtain that coveted title.

        Reply
    2. foghorn longhorn

      He has already floated the idea that he is the most ‘qualified’.
      It worked so well for hill, hey why not?

      Reply
    3. DonCoyote

      Biden is a very normal senator whose worst mistakes involved getting caught up in the political norms or fads of the moment. with absolutely no guiding principles or values. Thus “go with the flow Joe” was a discriminatory callous warmonger only because that’s what Democrats of the time were. It’s not his fault. But it seems as if not enough voters can look past that–too bad,

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        with absolutely no guiding principles or values.

        This is the Democratic Party’s problem as well as Biden and Clinton’s. There are politicians like Bernie Sanders that you might vehemently disagree with, but can respect as human beings and politicians too, who have those principles or values. If it is all about the grift eventually people will notice and not vote for you especially if you are not at least perceived better than the alternative.

        Both parties seem unable to grasp this, but as Lambert Strether has mentioned before, if they noticed this, they might have to change the party, and I would add drop the grift. Can’t have that can we? Still, it seems like political suicide in the not very distant future.

        Reply
        1. Carey

          They *do* have guiding principles and values, though; just not ones they can publicly espouse.
          I think the “feckless Dems” idea needs to go away, now, because they are pursuing, and very avidly, their own, tiny, class interest.

          At some time there will surely be things that don’t fit into a Marxist framing, but
          so far..

          Reply
          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > I think the “feckless Dems” idea needs to go away, now, because they are pursuing, and very avidly, their own, tiny, class interest.

            When you think about it, the “coalition of the ascendant” is a committment to lose until the demographic stars align.

            I think the Democrats are feckless, on any matters not involving the interests of their donor class and the their base in the 10%. They’re sloppy a lot of the time, too, but Pelosi just performed an impressive display of raw power, as she should have.

            Reply
    4. Carey

      “but HRC is lightyears than Biden.. She wasted potential..”

      HRC 2016: “Party on!” for the 10%

      Biden 2020: “Happy Dayz are Here Again!” for the 10%

      Potential for what, or, for whom? Just not seeing it.

      Reply
    5. Glen

      It is funny how this is the downfall of Biden: “extended public scrutiny of every detail of a decades-long career in public life. ”

      Because it is EXACTLY what appeals to Sanders supporters. When can we just admit it’s the policies supported by the candidate?

      Instead we get more of this BS: “Americans like outsiders and fresh faces”

      Americans like anybody that is actually going to enact policies that helps Americans rather than elites, the ultra-rich, the donors, and the banksters. It is just easier for outsiders and fresh faces like Obama and Trump to lie to Americans and get elected.

      Reply
      1. Carey

        Yes. #EmptySuits2020: Harris Booker O’Rourke et al, following the Obama playbook. Interesting that, or if, they think it’s going to work again.

        #ClassClassClass2020

        Reply
      1. Carey

        What is “permitted” can change. One task of the many- and I think they/we are up to that task- is saying “WE decide”. Look at the Klowns who are doing it for us now,
        and to the many’s detriment.. They’re their own best counter-argument.

        #losercrats #wewontbumphuckyousobad

        Reply
    1. Carey

      Probably a good idea; NNU seem to have not just talent, but persistence and ferocity
      when needed, too.

      Weaver I don’t trust at all.

      Reply
      1. Carey

        real persistence, not money-getting “persistence”. I tried to join NNU as a member
        at large, and I’m not even a joiner (to my discredit).

        Weaver comment stands +1. So much we-the-many don’t know, but we know a little.

        Reply
      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > persistence and ferocity

        +100. Exactly what is needed.

        On Weaver, it’s not a matter of you trusting him, but Sanders trusting him. There are also levels of trust; Weaver isn’t a mole or a plant.

        Reply
        1. Carey

          On Weaver, it’s not a matter of you trusting him, but Sanders trusting him. There are also levels of trust; Weaver isn’t a mole or a plant.

          Mmm.

          Still taking that under advisement, as (I’m told) they say.

          Reply
    1. bassmule

      Hey man, where’d ya get that lotion?
      I’ve been hurting since I’m up again
      About something called love
      Yeah, love love love
      Well, that’s just hypnotizing chickens

      Well, I’m just a modern guy
      You know I’ve had it in the ear before…

      Lust For Life

      Reply
    2. ambrit

      “What do you mean, upstart mammals? You mean that you came first?!”
      In answer to the question: “What came first, the Chicken or the Yegg?”

      Reply
  2. Duck1

    “But what is remarkable about the new polling data on Syria is that the vast bulk of support for keeping troops there comes from Democratic Party.”

    Wowsers, just wowsers.

    Reply
    1. Pat

      Democratic Party in this case being people who voted for Hillary Clinton. Something that I think skews any poll about a policy action of Donald Trump’s. Just saying, TDS is big in that faction.

      Reply
        1. Carl

          Huh. Yep, I just checked. I’m one of those who disappeared in the last 10 years. The new war-mongering is just icing on the cake.

          Reply
            1. Procopius

              I thought that was actually a big part of Hillary’s platform. One of the reasons I was so reluctant to vote for her was her attitude toward war — I believed she was strongly in favor of attacking Russia. Was I wrong?

              Reply
        2. Carey

          I’m stoked that Our Dems are setting up these purity tests (corporatist division). Just in: Dems win Prez 2024 with 7% of the vote!

          super awesome legitimacy and tranquility™

          tranquil I like that [nearby gunshots heard at brunch]

          Reply
    2. trainreq

      Given the question asked this is essentially push polling. “Do you agree with President Trump…” Most lefties would rather give a limb than agree with anything Trump. To my mind that kind of question doesn’t pass the laugh test. It seems intended to give the illusion support. I wonder what entity really paid for that poll.

      Reply
      1. Arizona Slim

        There are times when I do agree with President Trump. The recent decision to withdraw from Syria comes to mind. But I guess that makes me a backward deplorable.

        Reply
        1. Carey

          I admit to using the “President Trump” locution when dealing with complacent war-mongering liberals, and enjoying it a little too much. ;)

          Reply
      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Most lefties would rather give a limb than agree with anything Trump

        So you’re saying that TDS has successfully laid the groundwork for war, especially with Russia?

        (Also, liberals certainly; not necessarily the left, especially on liberal warmongering.)

        Reply
        1. Trainreq

          Sorry, meant to say liberals. Being a progressive type I tend not to think of myself as a leftie for whatever reason.

          Reply
  3. Rob Urie

    ” It also has experiential elements, like how workers live their wage relations depending on their race, gender, nationality, sexuality, ability. ”

    This reads like it is supposed to mean something.

    So Kanye West and my neighbor who works the night shift at Dunkin Donuts live their wage relations the same way because they are both black?

    Reply
      1. Rob Urie

        The tension is between the categorical and the particular.

        Given enough categories, no one is like anyone else.

        Hence my comment, ‘this reads like it is supposed to mean something.’

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Given enough categories, no one is like anyone else.

          Very true, but not the point the writer is making. Quoting again:

          The wage relation is a paradigm case of a relation of production. It’s got structural elements, like the exploitative difference between amounts paid to workers compared to profits made by capitalists. It also has experiential elements, like how workers live their wage relations depending on their race, gender, nationality, sexuality, ability. Neither element is sufficient on its own for the relation of production.

          How a dichotomy can be construed as a proliferation of caregories eludes me.

          Reply
    1. JohnnyGL

      No way, your neighbor working the nightshift doesn’t have to deal with the Kardashians on a daily basis. How can anyone put a price on that?!?!?!

      The mental health benefits can’t be quantified!!!

      Reply
    2. makedoanmend

      In addition to the class distinctions societies make about the rich compared to the working/working-poor classes, there are additional distinctions that societies make about race and so on. There is another layer of subjective conclusions utilised based upon race that cuts across class issues taken in isolation.

      In fact, it might not be uncommon for a rich black man and his poor counterpart to experience similar issues with law enforcement in some societies.

      So, while a rich white person might make subjective conclusions about the poor white counterpart, the subjective assessment would generally end there. (Although it almost never does.)

      It all feeds into class manipulation that works something like this: “as long as some shmuck is lower on the ladder than me for reasons other than comparative wealth or lack thereof, I don’t feel so bad”. The added dynamics allow a system of wealth inequality to operate and perpetuate more readily than would otherwise be the case. The cosmetic obscures the material circumstances that would naturally bind the working class together in addition to the class structures perpetuated by the 1%. The complexity of factors works or is made to work in favour of the rich.

      Reply
    3. Geof

      While I appreciate the mild tone of the article, for me it doesn’t make its case.

      “there are at least two necessary and sufficient elements in a relation of production. There’s a structural element and an individual element . . . in how people experience and live the relation”

      Sure. But this does not follow:

      “If you agree that a relation of production is both structural and individual—that both are necessary and sufficient for a relation of production—you can’t claim that one or the other has any priority by definition. To understand a relation of production you have to account for both elements by definition.”

      Both may be necessary, but that does not make them equal. He criticizes the idea that structure is more fundamental, but implies it himself when he describes these as “layers.”

      While the structural element of the wage relation is universal, the individual element varies – on an individual basis obviously, but also for groups. Individual relations are neccassary, but not *these particular ones*.

      American racism, for instance, and the privileges granted to white labourers, was invented by plantation owners to prevent solidarity. The structure came first, the individual application came later.

      Nor are all kind of individual relations of a kind. While modern racism was invented by capitalists, many (probably most) aspects of sex relations were not – (all?) non-capitalist urban societies were also male-dominated. (There are some caveats here, but the basic point remains: the history and relationship with capitalism is different.)

      One can imagine a capitalism that exploits on the basis of other things (e.g. eye colour, the kind of hat one wears, how many children one has, handedness), just as one can imagine a capitalism that forgoes some categories of today (as pursued by equal-representation-among-the-top-10% liberal identitarians). But one cannot imagine capitalism without wage labour.

      It seems likely that to legitimaze itself capitalism would always draw *some* distinction between more and less privileged groups, but it could be a completely arbitrary distinction, like those who eat boiled eggs big end first or little end first. From the point of view of individuals, of course lived experience matters – indeed, from this perspective, individual relations have priority over structural considerations. If you’re mobilizing people, it matters more than abstractions about commodity fetishes or whatever.

      But again, this does not make these two elements *equal*. They aren’t. Tactically, I would say, engage productively with individual identities – but keep your eyes on the prize of the universal condition.

      Reply
      1. Left in Wisconsin

        That’s also how I saw it. I have yet to encounter anyone making the – racism is as big a problem, or bigger, than class – who seriously believes class is a serious problem. It’s not a question of which problem is bigger – they are DIFFERENT problems. But the fact is, if you solve the class problem, you do solve a lot of the race problem. But not vice versa.

        Reply
      2. Darthbobber

        Yes. Without the structural element, it’s impossible to have ANY individual experience of it. And it’s existence imposes certain commonalities on all the individual manifestations.

        I suppose one could say that conversely, if no individual human beings existed, there could be no structured human society, but as long as humans DO exist, that point would seem pointless.

        Reply
  4. Gary

    Hypnotizing a chicken… funny you should bring that up. When I was a pre-school boy on the farm & ranch in Texas, someone showed me how to hypnotize chickens. First you catch one and calm it down. Then you lay it on it’s back and hold it with one of your hands. You circle your finger over it’s eyes until you get it’s attention. As their eyes follow your finger you move it to the ground and draw a line in the sand and gently remove your hand. They will stare at the line until something disturbs them. I have made wagon wheel patterns out of multiple chickens in a circle.
    It really works.

    Reply
  5. DJG

    Hmmm. We may have to call in Adolph Reed for an intervention.

    Giulianna di Lauro (from the original article, with a very Italian-sounding name) is now retracting, bobbing, and weaving in the Intercept article. Now she is Giulianna de Lauro Velez to assure us of her Hispanic Outreach Coordinator bona fides. And she has become a woman of color, too.

    By her standards, I also am a Person of Color. And I enjoyed this spaghetti bowl paragraph in her piece:

    By blindly attacking anyone who raises valid concerns about sexism because it’s “not a good look” for the senator, they are actually making him look worse. Ironically, in their defense of Sanders’s campaign, these individuals are behaving as if acknowledging the presence of sexism and sexual harassment in his campaign is akin to calling Sanders a sexist — the implication that the establishment media seems keen to draw.

    Figurati, Giulianna!

    You can see why someone like Adolph Reed would have written that insightful article a few days back about “performative ethnicity” and all…

    Reposting Reed:

    https://nonsite.org/editorial/what-materialist-black-political-history-actually-looks-like

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I disagree. I don’t see her cashing in from this article, as my comment indicates. It’s not “her job,” as Reed would say. You’ve got her confused with Marcotte, Doyle, et al.

      Reply
    2. Darthbobber

      That “spaghetti bowl” paragraph is perfectly sensible to me. And I don’t see Reed’s piece as at all applicable. Also don’t see why you’d conclude that dropping Velez from the name was anything but a repertorial or editorial choice at The Times.

      Reply
  6. Jason Boxman

    I recall I first read about Congress members not bothering to show up to work when Alan Grayson sat on one of the committees and he was present and other freshmen on the committee were off fundraising. It was a hearing about the financial crisis or some such. This was probably 2009.

    At least the Democrat Party is consistent. I’m never surprised by the vacuous self service.

    Reply
    1. Carey

      ” I’m never surprised by the vacuous self service.”

      If only that’s all Our Democrats did.. “we service ourselves for small $$”

      Set a limit, and I’m in.

      Reply
      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        A Norwegian tramp steamer captain I know ran for local office in the tiny island nation of Vanuatu, the slogan he printed on the top of his campaign posters was “Mi Stealem Smol”.
        (Translated from the local Bislama language: “I will only steal a small amount”)

        Reply
  7. Louis Fyne

    I heard a wonderfully cynical and conspiratorial theory re. Amazon….

    (purely hypothetical) “25-year itch” Jeff Bezos sees that Amazon/AWS growth is slowing down wants to monetize his Amazon holdings for his kids and wife, what better (and legal) way than to divorce his wife and watch as she converts her shares to cash with more freedom than Jeff.

    Kill two birds with one stone. :)

    Reply
    1. JohnnyGL

      Insider trading/looting disguised as a divorce!

      “I’ve got tremendous confidence in this company, I’m only selling because of personal reasons!”

      Reply
    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      I thought this at first too, but the Enquirer has the details of his girlfriend. Believe it or not, but I don’t believe the Enquirer would allow itself to be used like this.

      I believe he’s a shark. Closing up on Amazon wouldn’t be in his wheel house.

      Reply
    3. none

      I remember reading one of the Enron guys did something like that. Got divorced which resulted (intentionally according to the cynical theory) in a court-ordered sale of a lot of Enron stock as part of the divorce proceedings, thus cashing out before the anticipated Enron collapse without having it count as insider trading.

      Reply
    4. Summer

      I expressed the same suspicion to some guys at the office who heard the story and got really concerned about Jeff’s billions (as if they were their own).
      I said divorces at this level aren’t exactly the same as others.

      Reply
    1. Carey

      ..everything going according to plan, then. I wonder if we’ll understand soon that
      we will have to save us, all efforts of our friendly™ corporate overlords aside.
      I smile a little, though, thinking of what’s in store for their soft selves.. Heh!

      Reply
  8. DJG

    Lambert: Deep-sea mud? I recall when that discovery was first announced. Hmm, I thought to myself, small Japanese island. What could possibly go wrong?

    Gojira (Godzilla), of course.

    And there’s this (lifted from Wikipedia):

    When inquired if Godzilla was “good or bad”, producer Shogo Tomiyama likened it to a Shinto “God of Destruction” which lacks moral agency and cannot be held to human standards of good and evil. “He totally destroys everything and then there is a rebirth. Something new and fresh can begin.”

    In the original Japanese films, Godzilla and all the other monsters are referred to with gender-neutral pronouns equivalent to “it”,[62] while in the English dubbed versions, Godzilla is explicitly described as a male, such as in the title of Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. The creature in the 1998 Godzilla film was depicted laying eggs through parthenogenesis.

    You may want to go long on deep-sea mud. I’m skeptical of Godzillian partenogenesis.

    Reply
  9. Darthbobber

    Velez piece in the Intercept. This is the problem. The weaponizing makes discussion of the very real problem virtually impossible.

    And note that while part of the weaponizing was done in the NYT piece which made use of her story for that purpose, her demurrer to the narrative the Times and others chose to use her story in service of appears only in the (vastly less widely distributed) Intercept. Good luck getting it into the Times, except perhaps burying it in the comment thread.

    Double bind for the victims. It’s naive, in the existing environment, to think the Times, Politico, Vanity Fair, et al will use the information for anything except drive-by shootings directed at the left, but to just shut up about an unquestionably real problem to avoid that is hardly an alternative.

    I don’t think these stories are generally fabricated at all. Not only are they what you would expect in just about any subset of American society, they also fit with things I’ve seen off and on in 45 years or so of political campaigns.

    Reply
  10. Carey

    Some just mind-boggling R3 stuff, found at The Automatic Earth:

    https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-theresa-may-vladimir-putin-second-referendum-leave-eu-boris-johnson-a8721011.html

    and CJ Hopkins’s latest:

    “..But, seriously, all that actually happened back in the Summer of 2016 was the global capitalist ruling classes recognized that they had a problem. The problem that they recognized they had (and continue to have, and are now acutely aware of) is that no one is enjoying global capitalism … except the global capitalist ruling classes. The whole smiley-happy, supranational, neo-feudal corporate empire concept is not going over very well with the masses, or at least not with the unwashed masses. People started voting for right-wing parties, and Brexit, and other “populist” measures (not because they had suddenly transformed into Nazis, but because the Right was acknowledging and exploiting their anger with the advance of global neoliberalism, while liberals and the Identity Politics Left were slow jamming the TPP with Obama and babbling about transgender bathrooms, and such)..”

    https://consentfactory.org/2019/01/10/the-war-on-populism/

    Reply
  11. Darthbobber

    “Exasperated Dems and AOC”
    1. Is there anything on Politico anymore that isn’t basically stenography with slight rewording of whatever scuttlebutt crap is shopped to them by various players?
    2. It’s the 11th of January. What have we seen thus far of the allegedly prodigious lawmaking chops of the house democratic majority? Taking advice from these people about how to legislate successfully is like taking advice from General Gamelin about how best to militarily defend a country.

    3. Taken literally, the advice means that AOC (and by implication anybody else meaningfully to the left of the “leadership” [Capos]) should stay entirely within the limits of what said leadership approves. Which is obviously a recipe for stasis. (And I think this IS the literal intended message.

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Regarding 3, to stay within the limits, unfortunately, or realistically, that is the situation when one tries to take over/reform from within.

      The status quo will set rules and limits, and one’s job is to overcome them. Nothing less should be expected.

      And sometimes you pretend to cooperate (endorse Hillary, vote for Pelosi), and other times, you don’t want to pretend.

      Reply
    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      1. No, but there never was. What was newsworthy was the clear out of touch nature of both the press and elite political types (not really policy makers because they don’t do this anymore). You could learn the importance of Pelosi or how donors view immediate political changes.

      2. Gamelin was once an accomplished veteran, so his disaster was magnified.

      3. Washington is also Hollywood for Ugly People. AOC being a real leader and more importantly from New York City*, the praise of people who aren’t brown nosers is a threat and a reminder the current DC crop is really just part of Ugly Hollywood.

      *This separates her from Sanders or Sanders before his Presidential run. Even Liz Warren. Her celebrity comes from being in the White House, not working at Harvard or teaching deaf kids. Maybe not Manhattan at the moment, but New York is THE REAL AMERICA. A champion style politician there will be the champion everywhere and can be on their own. We are already calling AOC (FDR, JFK, LBJ; this is why I use her initials) without the benefit of having marked call sheets.

      Reply
      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        As a matter of strategizing, is it better to take on the most challenging district or the easiest?

        The route through the easiest could readily boost confidence, through early victories, though it could as well give false indications.

        On the other hand, by going to the hardest ones,one might not see victories immediately, but the sound whould be heard around the world….not counting surprised ones (“I was not looking. Try throwing that fastball by me again”).

        Is that Texas district hard, easy or somewhere in the middle?

        Reply
        1. nippersdad

          From the beginning Justice Dems have said that they are going to concentrate their efforts on safe seats. Just spit balling here, I know nothing about Texas Districts, they must have looked at the ease with which Beta was discredited and thought that Cuellar would be a good mark. Probably not a bad rationale if they can capitalize on it early. If they don’t have Sirota on speed dial they need to get onto it.

          This is also probably just their first primary challenge announcement.

          Reply
          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I like it when the fight is loudly announced, so that no one would excuse the victory as a surprise or sneak attack.

            (“The fastball is coming.”)

            If he is a good mark and it is not the toughest test, let’s remind ourselves not too get over confident…the hardest tests lie ahead.

            Reply
  12. Summer

    Re: “Exasperated Democrats try to rein in Ocasio-Cortez” [Politico (RH)].

    No matter how many ways you read it, the message from the Democratic Party establishment:
    Once you get in office, forget about your constituency unless they are big donors or demonstrably conservative.

    Reply
  13. nippersdad

    This is interesting. Dems have been searching for something to impeach Trump for, and it may be that he and the Republican Party have given it to them on a silver platter.

    https://www.rawstory.com/2019/01/checkmate-shutdown-impeachable-offense-trump-vetoes-bill-reopen-government/?fbclid=IwAR2jy2RfHJ6sO3XpcfATEaOsu8poie0429JQATloftI8pF0RBrZQxwrtsHI

    So how would it go over with Trump’s base were McConnell et al to be held accountable for their idol being impeached? Seems pretty ironclad for conviction in the House. The (small) potential for a Pence Admin. would be a big price to pay for the ensuing circus, but a circus it would be……and who doesn’t like circuses?

    Reply
        1. Carey

          Would the two Falwell sons be far enough to the, what, I’ll call it The Lord’s
          side? Mr. Pence seems like that big, glisteningly sharp weight hanging above one’s neck, personified. If that dude gets a chance at all, to do what he’d so
          much like to do, he’ll do it (I had a little experience with similar right-wing religionists when I was very young). Way scarier than Trump, if you ask me.

          Reply
      1. nippersdad

        Haven’t they all been recommendations from the Federalist Society? I thought Pence was the one who first turned Trump on to that resource. He would probably push another conservative catholic justice like Scalia to replace Ginsburg.

        But he would be far more effective interfacing with legislators than Trump has proven to be. He would have taken that twenty five billion for a select few “Dreamers” deal last year in a heartbeat and left the Dems without an immigration platform for 2020. IMHO, He is smooth in a way that even Obama couldn’t have hoped to become.

        Reply
        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Would he have picked someone even more conservative from the same Federal Society list, unless Trump already did the last two times (would be outdone by Pence the next time)?

          Reply
          1. nippersdad

            Oh, I definitely think so.

            Again, not an expert, but it looked to me that Kavanaugh, for example, was selected by Trump because of his similar background. Pence is more ideological. He would get the hardest core of the hardest core whether he liked him/her or not.

            Just my $.02, and probably worth a lot less.

            Reply
            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Stength in numbers – 1,300 of us with $0.02 opinion each and that’s enough for a donation of $26.00.

              Reply
        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Haven’t they all been recommendations from the Federalist Society? I thought Pence was the one who first turned Trump on to that resource.Haven’t they all been recommendations from the Federalist Society? I thought Pence was the one who first turned Trump on to that resource.

          The Federalist Society is the Republican go-to source for judges, so if it hadn’t been Pence, it would be somebody else.

          Pence is indeed smooth. I wonder what the Christian Right’s views on impeachment are?

          Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I agree with the reasoning except Shrub (I know) is the only President I can think of after Monroe who seemed to view the veto in this fashion. Of course, “high crimes and misdemeanors” simply means getting enough support.

      Killing a king (the President and impeachment is a more civilized version to avoid bloodshed) is only murder if you don’t have the popularity to rule in his stead. Its murder if you kill an unpopular king and don’t stick around. After the Declaration of Independence was signed, they went out and tore and melted down a statue of George III in lieu of the actual king.

      Reply
      1. Carey

        Thanks for that link! It would work like that, though, wouldn’t it?
        I won’t get into [familyblogging] other examples..

        heh oh what sweet wine we drinketh

        Reply
      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Does anyone remember that classic Start Trek episode which starts with Dr. McCoy saying to Captain Kirk . . . ” It’s Life, Jim. But not as we know it!”

        Well . . . It’s Intelligence, Jim. But not as we know it!

        Reply
  14. The Rev Kev

    “Labor exploitation happens close home”

    Amateur hour stuff this. When one owner said that you had to be tough and not have a high moral standard that was exact confirmation of what I thought was going on. It is not tough this but playing power games to hype up the ego of owners like him. It is not the way that professionals do solid work. It certainly has little in common with the Toyota Way-

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Toyota_Way

    Reply
    1. Left in Wisconsin

      Agreed. Despite what one hears from economists, most manufacturing left in USA is low-tech (plastics, light sheet-metal, etc) that is not cost-effective to outsource because there just isn’t much cost advantage to be achieved.

      That said, there is a lot of bullsh1t in “The Toyota Way”TM. What is a real thing is the Toyota Production System, which is an assembly-line production system. The respect part of the Toyota Way is completely contingent – if your union has socialist tendencies, we will have to bust it and replace it with a company union; that promise of lifetime employment? all good as long as sales hold up and we keep most of the supply chain off the books; and, we’re all good with unlimited unscheduled overtime, right? Because, respect.

      Reply
  15. kareninca

    I had a conversation a few days ago with a fellow volunteer who I would guess is in his early 60s (I am 55). He is white, has a college degree but is not well off at all, and at least until very recently thought Obama was a nice guy. He started by telling me that he has decided that he doesn’t like old people. He wasn’t joking. He told me that he could only think of a handful of old people whom he could stand. Then he told me he didn’t like the regular Democrats anymore, because they were for the rich,, but he liked the things AOC was saying. I told him that really he and I were not so young ourselves. And that some people actually thought it was the boomers who had ruined everything (not the “old” people). But that I didn’t think that any of that was right; that I thought old people were great and that that dividing people up into age brackets to get them to hate each other was a bad thing. I don’t think I got through to him. I think he thinks in order to like AOC’s policies and in order to be “with it” he has to hate old people.

    I realize that no-one will like this post and I’m sorry about that but I thought it was a horrible conversation and so here you are. This guy has never struck me as being stupider than most people I meet. I think the ridiculing Pelosi and Schumer on the basis of their age (not here, but it is widespread online) instead of their political positions is very bad and won’t end well.

    Reply
    1. Left in Wisconsin

      If it’s a new idea to someone, they are bound to react poorly the first, or second, or third time they are challenged with it. Eventually, if they are able to change their own mind, they will. And then they will tell you that this is what they have always thought, and that you are throwing shade when you accuse them of having once thought what they previously once thought.

      Reply
      1. Carey

        Thank you, very much, for this comment.

        I think that when one is presenting a new, “better” idea, if the purveyor
        wants it to spread, it needs to be expressed very clearly, and with a
        minimum of jargon.

        Again, thank you for saying that.

        #notthebrightestbulb

        Reply
        1. Carey

          “very clearly, if possible..” would have been better, and more accurate.

          I’ve noticed, though, that many of the ideas that are, somehow, hard to
          simply express to the hoi polloi end up being scams. Reading ten pages
          on bitcoin and the like, and not being able to comprehend the Great
          Advantage of same, (other than front-running a scam) comes to mind.

          One POV.

          Reply
      2. kareninca

        But he had no problem with AOCs ideas; they were just fine for him. He understood her perfectly well; she’s not saying anything complicated and he had no comprehension problem. He liked her views. The issue is that he felt it meant he had to hate old people. Even though he is one himself. That is something different from having trouble with a new idea.

        Reply
    2. RopeADope

      Many people seem to be misunderstanding why the boomer generation is so bad and it has led to ageist attacks. The primary argument for why the boomer’s are so awful is due to the period of time when their adult identity was formed. There had been a study within the past 6 months to a year or so that reaffirmed what should be fairly common knowledge and why the President has an age requirement of 35. Adult males finish forming their outlook on the world at around 37 years of age, females a little younger at around 35/36 years of age.

      It becomes necessary to look at the main events that were occurring when our politicians were still in adult development. Obama had zero significant crisis occur during his formative years, this is why he was such a terrible president, as he lacked the awareness to respond. Hillary Clinton only had the stagflation crisis to draw experience on so 2016 can be easily explained.The financial crisis and the Cheney-led turn to a fascist state occurred from 2001 to 2009 which means that Kamela Harris had already formed her understanding of the world and was and will always be unable to address these issues and is not electable for 2020.

      Exceptions to this basic rule of politicians fall into 2 categories. 1) People like Bernie Sanders who have always been consistent on certain issues and not shaped by the easy times as so many others are. and 2) People like FDR who after they had formed their worldview then had a traumatic enough personal experience that their worldview is altered as FDR had with his polio.

      Reply
      1. Carey

        Way too simplistic, in my opinion. Started badly with “many people seem to be misunderstanding..”; also, “why Boomers are so bad.. is, I think, begging the question.

        “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his
        not understanding it” -Upton Sinclair, from paraphrasing memory.

        Reply
        1. RopeADope

          I believe it was linked in the NC daily links, I just cannot remember what the title of the article was that referenced it.

          Reply
        1. RopeADope

          That raises an interesting question about the bifurcation of that generation between those that served and those that stayed in college. I wonder if the credentialism focus of that generation is due to some psychological self programming where pursuit of college degree means escape from the horror (of Vietnam). I wonder if anyone has shown what % of the boomer political class came out of college and what % served in the war.

          Reply
          1. The Rev Kev

            Might be something in that. Bush went into the Texas Air National Guard to escape the war and Cheney sought continuous decrements as he said that he had ‘other priorities’ than dodging bullets in SE Asia. There are other political figures with similar track records. Back during the Reagan years people noted that those who liked the idea of a ‘limited nuclear war’ were also the ones who dodged going to ‘Nam when the war was going on.

            Reply
      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Many people seem to be misunderstanding why the boomer generation is so bad and it has led to ageist attacks.

        Because Warren Bufffet (88) and that Walmart greeter (75) are both where they are because of when were born.

        Reply
      1. nippersdad

        I suspect that they will soon discover that there is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women’s war crimes. Just imagine a couple years of having Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya dragged up out of the weeds and dissected in a way that should have been done in ’16!

        There may be hope for the left leaning anti-war contingent after all.

        Reply
      2. ambrit

        No. Hillary will run again herself. Just as she put up with Bills predatory penis to get some of the power and glory of the White House, she will sabotage anyone who gets in her way, on her Third Way way to the White House herself.

        Reply
  16. Carey

    Having read the ‘Exasperated Democrats try to rein in AOC’ bit, I’ll ask again, and not
    just rhetorically: what is a “Democrat”? And what does “support fellow Democrats”
    mean?

    I thought it was a good, nicely Mockingbirded piece in its way: “We’re so scared, incredibly scared, of having *one** moderately-people-supporting human, out of 535 in the House…

    *discounting Pressley until well-proven otherwise.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > what is a “Democrat”?

      I’ll try–

      * A Democrat is a candidate or incumbent on the ballot on the Democrats line, plus “Democrat-adjacent.” As Pelosi explains, Democrats are not distinguishable from Republicans on any principled basis.

      * A Democrat is a candidate or incumbent of the party that expresses the class interests of professionals (Thomas Frank).

      > And what does “support fellow Democrats”

      Don’t buck the leadership, unless it’s your turn to be a revolving hero.

      Reply
  17. Darthbobber

    Verso piece on “class separatism”. It’s all very well to take the truism that every relation of production has a structural element and an individual element (or, more accurately, a welter of individual elements) and just run with that. But-the structural aspect (which is the major part of what Marx tracks in capital, the grundrisse, and theories of surplus value), imposes constraints and commonalities on ALL of the individual experiences. Try having an individual experience of surplus value being extracted from you if there is no structural mechanism for the extraction of surplus value. Or having different experiences of wage (or unwaged) labor if there is no wage labor.

    I think the author is probably misreading Reed. That’s assuming that he actually read the piece, which is a precondition for a misreading. I’m unable to extract an actual class reductionist line from the work of either Adolph Reed or Walter Benn Michaels, and I’m a reasonably close reader of such texts.

    I find it a little odd that this piece, and many others in the present round of DSA discussions, tend to ignore the relative weakness of working class ties and membership within the organization. Also not sure about the general helpfulness of sounding out the “organizers and workers” of the groups the author would include as parts of the Philadelphia left, since most of the components of that have, from my perspective, been spinning their wheels and striking poses to no great effect for decades. The idea is to get out of the walled garden. Telling, too, that the “race problem” is seen as worth addressing (it is), but that the professional class, petite bourgeois problem that most of our chapters still have comes in for no mention. (Outreach to plain ol’working stiffs generally has yet to be all that effective.)

    Reply
    1. knowbuddhau

      We’re uncouth, and sometimes say the wrong things, or worse, have wrong thoughts. Still, they’re ours. Sometimes we have good reasons for them, other times they’re manufactured BS. I’m all for learning, so if organizers got better ideas, and can deliver them sans condescension, they’ll find me and my uncouth friends eager for ways out of lives of pain.

      Mostly, we don’t like being lectured to by “organizers” for whom it often seems we’re so many cattle to be herded this way and that. Maybe a little less addressing our conditions as organizers see them, less seeing us as reps of your pet groups, and more addressing us, as people.

      Personally, can’t wait to go up to some organizer all serious like and go, “My name’s Cinderfella, what’s yours?” Bet they don’t even know.

      (Just to be clear, I rant not at Darthbobber, but at organizers mining people like so much human capital for their careers.)

      Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Outreach to plain ol’working stiffs generally has yet to be all that effective.

      Why the brake-lights are so good! I’m amazed that they’re a topic for factional infighting!

      Reply
  18. VietnamVet

    The Democrats have morphed into Tail-Gunner Joe McCarthy Republicans. After restarting the Cold War, it was inevitable. Donald Trump appears to have by-passed his National Security Advisor and the Pentagon. According to a military spokesman, the troop withdrawal from Syria has begun. What a weird world. A Democratic Party by and for the 10% profiting from war.

    Reply
    1. Carey

      What times! It’s good to know where Our Democrats stand, though, so we the people can act accordingly, with good humor.

      Something I like is that the
      “Chuck ‘n’ Nancy” meme seems to be taking
      hold. Could be meaningless.. or not. ;)

      Reply
      1. Carey

        Quoting myself (sorry, and it’s not my bent):

        “..so we the people can act accordingly, with good humor.”

        add, “and with vigor” too..

        it can be done, by we-the-many

        Reply
    2. knowbuddhau

      ISTM there are two major parties in our politics (often mistaken for the only) in the same way that there are two armies in a war game. For whose benefit is the whole charade being staged?

      It further STM that, just as in a war game, no one talks about the spooks in crafting their ever so erudite narratives. Where are the security and intelligence forces? We don’t really suppose they’ve stood by and let the economists decide, do we? Isn’t it common these days to fix it all; the science, the wars, and everything, around the policy?

      “Reagan did this” and “Carter did that” — as placeholders for eras, no problem. Neglecting the rest of the Blob, paragraph after paragraph, day in day out, years on end, as if party politics from street level explains it all? Boooring.

      CIA used to have their own president. Some say they’ve killed one, too. They blatantly interfered in 2016, and haven’t stopped. Now the Dems are openly running “former” IC types. But I’m sure that’s got nothing to do with anything.

      Reply
      1. Carey

        Where are the spooks? I’m guessing they’re most everywhere, and that makes
        non-online connections vital, in my opinion. Vital. There are still spaces

        Reply
  19. bruce wilder

    [T]here are at least two necessary and sufficient elements in a relation of production.

    Not to be too didactic, but there is also a necessary third element in the technical requirements of actual performance in production.

    I think it is fair to say the leftish are prone to disdain for prosaic matters of technical efficiency in production (and actual physical or logistic distribution). Getting the job done also matters and cannot be dismissed as unimportant. Any organization of the system of production has to motivate and enable producing the goods. That effective systems of social organization frequently feature authority and domination makes them problematic for egalitarian politics, but wishing that were not so does not solve the policy problems.

    . . . every form of domination, exclusion, and servitude has to be opposed. A neat and idealistic formula, but kind of ridiculous, too, in light of the ubiquitous nature of vertical relations in organizing social cooperation in production.

    Authority and domination are very powerful means of social organization for production, but obviously also highly problematic, since the power relations they create are hard to contain to the context of production alone and the creation of class and social identity markers emerge almost automatically as people specialize in production tasks with some undertaking “subordinate” roles: bosses and workers, doctors and nurses, administrators and teachers and on and on.

    Reply

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